3 Tips for Dealing with Disruptive Children During Your Ministry

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This is a guest post from by Andrew Olsen

Every Children’s Ministry leader has a child in their class who is a ‘storyteller.’  Also known as the kid who talks too much.  Sure, all kid’s like to share, but I’m talking about the kid who feels prompted to tell you his whole life story with the class each time you pause to take a breath.  You know the one I’m talking about.  Yep, he’s the ‘storyteller’ of your class.

We want the ‘storyteller’ to feel valued and loved, but we also want the storyteller (and the rest of the group) to hear the lesson from God’s Word. As Andy Stanley would say, this isn’t “a problem to solve, it’s a tension to manage”.  

Here are three quick tips to help you manage this tension in your ministry. 

1. Storytellers Have a Powerful Spiritual Gift 

They have the unnatural ability to share what’s happening in their life. Their desire to share is like Jeremiah’s desire to preach. Jeremiah describes the difficulty of denying his desire in Jeremiah 20:9 saying, “It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” Rather than forcing their poor little bones to burn, empower your storytellers to speak!  The storyteller’s “gift” can be invaluable to you in a small group, or in any part of your program where you’re trying to create an environment of sharing. It’s the storyteller’s openness that helps the conversation get started.  Your job is to help direct that energy in the right way.  View your storytellers as a blessing to your ministry.

2. Lesson Time is Question Time

These are the 3 steps I use to redirect the storyteller’s gift of sharing to the proper place and time, if they raise their hand or start to talk during the lesson.

  • Step 1: Ask the storyteller, “Do you have a question or a story?”
  • Step 2. If the storyteller answers, “A story” or “Well one time…” redirect them by saying “I want to hear your story, but right now we’re all listening to God’s story from the Bible. Save your story to share in small group time. That’s the best place to share your story.”
  • Step 3: If the storyteller tries to game the system by answering “A question”, but proceeds to tell a story, redirect them by saying something “Oh, that sounds like a story to me.  Save your story for our small group time.”

However, you still had to interrupt the flow of your lesson and the classes’ focus on God’s Word. So let’s go to tip three!

3. Reward Good Listening

As an adult, our minds move faster than a little kid can string words together. Let’s be honest with ourselves. By the time the storyteller has finished “um-ing” his way through an opening sentence, we’re in impatient agony. It takes all the love, joy, peace, patience, long-suffering and all the other fruits of the Spirit for us to slow down and listen. However, listening is hard on their end too. We move from sentence to sentence faster than they can go from word to word. The bottom line is that listening is labor to a child. Jesus said that the laborer is worthy of his hire in Luke 10:7. Therefore, we should reward our kids for doing the labor of listening. 

Try putting a spin on the classic “quiet seat prize” by announcing at the beginning of your lesson: 

“It’s time for us to look into God’s Word and learn a lesson for our lives! Remember, when we open God’s Word, we hear God’s Truth. And when we hear God’s Truth we should listen. Now I know that listening is hard work. So I want to reward you for working hard to hear God’s Truth. I’ll be looking for four people to give a special prize to at the end of the lesson.”

This will communicate the value that you put on listening to the lesson.  This is helpful for every child.  Once you teach them that there is more value in the labor of listening than in the entertainment of interruption, you’ll begin to see a drop in disruptions during your teaching time.

These three tips have helped me manage the tension of keeping the lesson on track and valuing a child’s desire to share, and I hope they will help you, too.

This blog was a guest post from Andrew Olsen.

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