If you have ever worked a bus route or taught a Sunday school class, then you’ve probably faced a situation that’s made you say, either whispered aloud or in your head, “My kids won’t behave!” You may have thought you were just going to minister to these children in harmony and peace, but it seems that you spend the majority of your time and effort preventing kids from causing property damage. Perhaps it’s not that bad and you struggle with just getting them to stay in their seats! Here are some helpful remedies to improve the conduct of our younger churchgoers, either on a bus or in a Sunday school class.
1. Remember that relationships are the ultimate tool.
Anything else on this list of prescriptions to help your ailing and misbehaving students or riders is secondary when it comes to having a relationship with the individual. It has been said that “Rules and regulations without relationships lead to rebellion or resentment.” If you are just another “rule” in the eyes of a child, you will cause that child to eventually rebel against that rule. He may not necessarily be rebelling against you, as other workers may be able to apply a certain regulation, but he turns away from that rule when you try to enforce it. There has to be that personal relationship. Some children may listen to you for a while just because you are an authority figure, but if you constantly enforce rules upon them without ever showing your concern for them or learning about their lives, they will eventually dissent. Tom Malone said, “In every phase of Sunday school work, there is no substitute for personal contact or visitation.” Once you develop a relationship with and begin to visit the riders and students you work with, I guarantee you will see an improvement in behavior. Obedience from a child is always reliant on the relationship from the authority. If your students are constantly misbehaving, it is probably mainly because your relationship with them is not as good as it should be. In saying that a relationship is vital with children, I want to be very cautious. Be extremely conscious of how your relationship with any individual may appear to others. NEVER, NEVER do anything that would even hint of putting you in a position for an accusation of wrongdoing. Our actions should be so chaste and blameless that no one would even entertain a claim of erroneous behavior. What I mean by having a relationship with the riders is learning and utilizing some of the following:
- Their names – Memorize and use their names constantly when speaking to them. Learn how to spell their names.
- Their families – Learn about their home life, how many siblings they have, the parents’ situation, and their living conditions. Knowing the parents personally will ALWAYS result in better behavior from the children.
- Their activities – Know what they enjoy, like any hobbies or favorite sports.
- Their school life – What is their favorite subject, favorite class, worst grade, or worst subject? I often ask about their worst grade they get in school. It is a different question that causes them to think, and you can relate if that was a bad grade for you in school as well.
- Their likes/dislikes – Ask them what they enjoy about church or what some of their favorite memories of home are.
- Their friends – Find out what kind of friends they have. What activities do they do together? What is the newest “in” thing to do?
2. Have an exciting and engaging program.
To minimize the distractions and disruptions that occur in your ministry, ensure that you have an exciting and engaging program for your students. Executive Vice President of Commonwealth Baptist College, Dr. Jim Jorgenson, has said, “If you do not have a program for your kids, they’ll have one for you.” A major cause of misbehavior is that there is nothing going on for your children that has their attention. Having a program that is informative, instructional, stimulating, and engaging will keep the concentration of your riders so that there is no time for them to misbehave.
3. Have clear and public policies and procedures in place.
Children need to know what is expected of them while they are at church. Do not keep your policies and procedures locked away in a hidden vault below the church building. Inform your workers and your attendees of rules and policies so that they are aware and can help you enforce them on your bus or in your class.
4. Realize that sometimes discipline is necessary.
For me personally, I will try to do everything in my power to deal with a child before severely disciplining him for misbehavior. Expulsion from our ministry—not being allowed back on our buses or in classes at our church—is the final punishment for consistent offenders. I want to put that off as long as possible because I know that what they need to turn their life around cannot be found in their home or at their school or with their friends. They can only find what they require in church. However, if rules are broken, there are times where discipline becomes necessary. Make the situation regarding their discipline extremely clear to the child and parents, and fully inform the leaders of your ministry of the cause and actions taken so that they can document the circumstances.
Please realize that your class or your bus is not the only ministry in America dealing with behavioral issues. Perhaps your kids don’t always behave, but let us all go back to the children in our ministries again this week and work with them so that, with our assistance, they may grow a little closer to Christ.
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Luke Flood serves on staff as the bus director and is responsible for seeing hundreds of people in church on a weekly basis. He is a true product of North Valley Baptist Church. Having grown up in a wonderful Christian family, he attended North Valley Baptist Schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade. After graduation, he attended Golden State Baptist College where he earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees.