During my sixteen year tenure in children’s ministry I have met many angry, defiant children. I won’t get into the details of all these situations—that’s confidential, but I am sure you have also met the angry child. He comes through with his arms folded across his chest, refuses to respond to his name and keeps his lip in a perpetual pout. You touch his shoulder and he flinches or just walks away. Your heart aches and you want to rescue him but what can you do when he won’t respond? Is helping the angry child impossible?
There’s no doubt that some types of anger require professional counseling but in all cases, I find the following passage a good guide. Remember, “Love conquers all!”
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
Be patient. You’ll have to check your pride at the door. To reach the defiant child you need patience. You’ll have to reach out many times and will probably be “rejected” frequently before you break into his world. You can do it!
Be kind. He’ll be angry but you must be kind. He’ll be snappy and sullen but you must be kind. She may say cruel things but you must be kind. (It’s more of a challenge than many people appreciate unless they go through it.) Encourage all your volunteers to show kindness when ministering to all children, especially the broken ones.
Don’t dishonor him. When he does reach out to you, you must recognize the moment. Be willing to abandon your lesson plan for a real moment with him. Here’s another tip–don’t embarrass him. If you have to speak to his parents, do so privately.
Persevere in prayer. It’s going to take on-purpose, targeted prayer! Pray daily for the child and call him by name. God can move in ways we can’t see or understand. You’ll have to trust him to intervene.
If you stick to these three rules, you’ll be successful. Reaching the defiant child takes a lot of love and patience but it’s totally worth it.
Read more from Mimi by visiting her blog at Tools for Kids Church.