Do You Use the "Time Out" in Kids Church?

Print Friendly and PDF

Do "time-outs" work in kids church?
What must parents think when they pop into kids’ church or Sunday School and find Junior sitting solo in time out? From experience, I can give you an idea. “What now?” and “Not here too…” I have been working in kids’ ministry for almost two decades and I totally get how “wonderful” the time out chair can be. It’s probably far superior than the paddling method our parents and grandparents used. Still, I think we can do better. Is time out right for kids’ church? Hmmm.. I’m not so sure.
You all have heard me quote Bill Wilson from Metro Child, “If you don’t put on a program for your kids, they will put one on for you!” Amen to that but sometimes no matter how carefully you plan, no matter how exciting the topic, someone will end up rolling around on the floor, mocking you or just plain refusing to participate. You issue warning after warning which distracts everyone and embarrasses the child who has decided to “show out.” Still nothing gets better. Eventually, Junior won’t come back.
As I said before, I think we can do better. Here is where your volunteer training comes into play. Rather than interrupt the class to banish the child to a faraway child, call forward a trained volunteer.
Imagine this scenario: Amy has a hard time focusing during the Bible story, she kicks the chair in front of her, bored and she isn’t a good reader anyway. She’s just waiting for you to send her to time out or at least call her name a few times. She’s sullen, angry and not receiving the ministry she needs. Then enters Ellen, who approaches the child with a smile and an illustrated Bible. She hunkers down next to Amy and quickly they flip to the story. Amy’s imagination is captured by the pictures and she listens to Ellen’s soothing voice who points at the characters and repeats what you say. The whole classroom breathes a sigh of relief!
During praise and worship, Amy copies Ellen lifting her hands in praise and copying the volunteer’s hand motions. She’s even returning her smile! Phew, finally. Now that’s ministry!
Is this wishful thinking? Nope. It actually happened.
First, I handpicked a few volunteers for this special task. Not all my helpers have the patience for this important job. We talked about smiling (constantly) when we approach a child. We trained on positive reinforcement, recognizing when then child follows the rules with small toys and prizes. We trained on how to praise a child effectively. Just a few weeks later, the child didn’t even wait for Ellen to come to her, she sought her buddy out and together they worshiped.
I know not everyone has a vast army of volunteers at their disposal but if you could find one to begin to work one-on-one while you teach, you will see a difference. I’m praying for you! You can do this!
Read more from Mimi by visiting her blog at Tools for Kids Church.

1 thought on “Do You Use the "Time Out" in Kids Church?”

  1. I love this idea! Many churches have special needs ministries that pair children with buddies, but they usually require parent disclosure first. I love the idea that anyone should have a buddy if they need one, whether or not parents have disclosed any diagnosis or issues. Time-outs are not trauma-informed and do not recognize sensory issues or other challenges associated with autism, ADHD, or other disabilities. Not all parents are at a place of acceptance, some have been traumatized before by bad experiences at church and are afraid to disclose, and some are feeling their own emotions about family issues (like divorce or grief). Some children just have a phase where they need extra support, and some have never been diagnosed due to systemic issues. Girls are under diagnosed with Autism and ADHD due to gender-related issues. I think that having trained volunteers come alongside children who are showing signs they need additional help is crucial. If I do have to pull a child to the side, I use it as a time to discuss what could help them (if they want to try some fidget toys or if they need a movement break before the Bible story) and incorporate them in the classroom.

    I know this is late, but I am a new volunteer and am interested in this topic. I have a disability myself and my close friend who I often co-teach with was a teacher for years.

Leave a Comment