Welcome back to a new series on classroom management! If you’re anything like me, keeping order with a gaggle of kids was a huge struggle in the early years of my ministry. Things have certainly improved, but I’ve also realized that classroom management is an area you can never slack in. It’s best to always be prepared and head off problems before they begin.
If you are new to the Growing Kids Ministry blog (or the series), you might want to check out the previous posts in this series:
- What exactly is Classroom Management?
- Five Effective Way to Manage your Classroom
- Procedures: The Key to Keeping Control in the Classroom
In this post, we’ll be talking about some of the unique challenges we face as Children’s Ministry workers. Ready to begin?
Challenge #1: The Guest
After a few weeks of working hard to implement some classroom procedures, by golly, the kids start to get the hang of things! You’ll find that regular distractions are being reduced and you leave each class feeling more and more satisfied. Then, one week, in walks Rodney, a boisterous and somewhat rebellious boy. His family is new to church and it’s clear that he’s not used to sitting still. You want his experience to be encouraging without disrupting the positive momentum in your class.
What do you do?
To begin, you could brief Rodney on some of the key expectations in the classroom. For example, in our Wednesday night program, we have three rules:
- Show self-control by sitting and listening during lesson time
- Respect and honor God by standing during singing time
- Respect your small group leaders by obeying. Show Conviction.
We briefly review the rules each week, bringing new kids up to speed and reminding regular attendees of the expectations. You could have the kids in your class demonstrate the rules for Rodney or you could have a brief video that you show periodically with kids demonstrating proper procedures. Peer pressure is a powerful influence – use it to your advantage.
Next, you could proceed as normal. Hopefully, Rodney will conform to the expectations of the classroom. Chances are, about halfway through class, Rodney will start to stretch his wings a bit and see what you’re really made of. If this happens, be prepared with a response. Something like “Hey Rodney, I know this is your first week, so you probably don’t know what to do yet. In this class, we don’t ______________. Instead, we ____________________. Thanks!”
Generally, kids will fall into line. The real trouble comes when the “new kid” becomes “not so new” and you’re not quite sure when to start cracking down. For me, I generally give kids about 3 weeks to get the hang of things. After that, they are treated just like all the other kids, consequences and all.
Challenge #2: Rotating Teachers
Many ministries rely on rotating teachers for their Sunday school or Children’s Church programs. While this method is great for preventing burn-out, it’s not so great for keeping things consistent in the classroom. So what do you do when you’ve only got a month to implement, practice and solidify routines in the classroom? In this situation, communication with your team teachers is crucial.
Before beginning with your new classroom procedures, see if you can set-up a meeting with the other teachers who are in your rotation. Talk about the benefits of classroom management and let them know about some of the procedures you’re hoping to implement. Chances are, the other teachers will hop right on board. After all, they are looking for a good classroom experience as well. Decide as a team the 2-3 procedures you’ll begin with and decide how to introduce new procedures from here on out. Before switching teachers at the end of each month, write up a little report for the incoming teacher about procedures you’ve implemented or reviewed during your month and notify him or her of any potential problems he or she might experience. Email is also a great way to keep other teachers briefed on the latest happenings in the class.
Additionally, posters are your friend when dealing with rotating teachers. Decide on the three or four “non-negotiable rules” for your class and make a poster to hang in the classroom. This way, students know that rules stay the same no matter who the teacher is.
If your team teachers don’t seem to want to collaborate with you when it comes to classroom management, don’t despair. Kids are very adaptable. They will quickly learn expectations for acceptable behavior and will adjust their behavior accordingly. You might get some complaining in the first week you are back, but things will settle in before you know it. Maybe your team teacher will even notice the vast difference in behavior and ask you about “your secret”. Catch her up to speed and move forward with your shared goals.
Challenge #3: The Beginning of the School Year
Almost all the classroom management books I read discuss the importance of the “beginning of the school year”. It is a fresh start for both the students and the teacher and a very specific time to try something new and difference with students. As kidmin workers, we don’t often have such a clear “start” to the year. This simply allows you to create your own “fresh start” whenever you like. It could be this week or it could be in two months. Not having a clear “new year” marker simply allows you to have more chances to start anew.
The Kingdom Advantage
As Children’s Ministry leaders, we have a unique Kingdom Advantage – the God of the universe is on our side! God cares about every single one of the kids in your classroom and He wants to them to have a positive experience while in His house. Romans 8: 26 tells us the [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness. Even if you don’t know what to pray, the Spirit will intercede on your behalf. Pray for your students. Pray for the kids that you enjoy and especially pray for the kids that are driving you crazy. Send them a card and let them know that you were praying for them. Arrive 15 minute early and pray for each child by name as you touch their chair or look over your attendance sheet. A heart hungry for God will certainly affect classroom behavior – but more than that, it will create children who love God and want to live their life for them. That is what we are really after.
What About You?
What unique challenges have you encountered as a kidmin worker? What are ways you overcome these challenges?