When God called me to serve in children’s ministry I never imagined some of the situations I would face. Over the years I’ve learned that kids bring a lot of baggage with them to church. The biggest danger for sexual abuse on church property is often one child molesting another. The danger for cruelty and emotional abuse is often a group of children bullying one of their own. We have not faced those issues, but we try to protect the children in our church. If your church is committed to reaching the un-reached you can be sure they will bring their mess with them.
Last Wednesday was a bad night. Several key volunteers were out sick and everyone was a little rusty from the Thanksgiving week off. At two minutes before our start time I was making my rounds, greeting the children and doing ministry. Then several children ran up to me and said there was trouble. I hurried down the hallway and found myself in the middle of a 4th grade fist-fight. The two girls had been at odds for weeks and now their conflict had come down to violence in the church bathroom.
My best teacher was on the scene and was struggling to gain control of the situation. Both girls were crying and shouting. After a few minutes to sort out the affair, I determined to send both girls home for the night. I had them call for a ride home and instructed them to wait in two separate areas under volunteer supervision. There was one problem – one of the girls refused to follow even these simple directions. She was belligerent and determined that she would not obey our request to sit quietly until her mother came.
Rather than escalate this power struggle, I left her to stand where she was and set one of our great volunteers to watch her. I was due to teach in the first worship rally or I would have supervised her myself. Our church is blessed with dedicated volunteers, many of whom have teach in the public schools. Their competence minimized the disruption from these events.
When the moms arrived (both girls are from un-churched families), I spent several minutes explaining the situation and our response. Then I made the hard decision. I asked the rebellious girl not to come back until January. Basically this is a one-month suspension from our program. Immediately she broke into tears, but shouted at me that she would not come back even then. I assured her mom that we want her to come, but that all children must follow teacher directions.
I’ve been thinking over these events for several days. This was a painful decision and I pray that God would somehow reach out to that little girl. However, I’m sure that it was the right thing for our program and ultimately for that child’s soul. We handled her with love and even in our discipline showed a large measure of grace.