A child’s world is not always the bright landscape of “Oompa Loompas” and candy forests that we hope it to be. Kids today face a myriad of fearful challenges often without a solid family structure to offer an important comfort – loving discipline. For the children’s minister, this means an increase in problematic attendees, many coping with varying degrees of trauma and neediness. Ministering to the problem child can wear you down, run you over and swallow you up, if you lose perspective. How can you bring the love of God into the realm of the problem child successfully while maintaining class order? How do you minister to all children equally without causing dissension and discouragement? Get started by reviewing these important steps.
1. Teachable You
Abandon your ideas about what the class should be, or its arrangement and get prepared to change. Yes, there should be order, but prepare for an adjustment period for children who enter. Multi-tasking and preparation are necessary for this season in your ministry. You can do it! The days of standing before a class while eager ears listen may be over for a time, at least until your new child or children become acclimated to the structured environment you have created. As you guide the child, let God guide you. Be teachable and your children will be. It is a kingdom principle that works.
Break your normal lesson into 5-minute blocks. Break up the lesson with object lessons, skits, and games. This requires work, but it is well worth the pay off.
2. Build Relationships
Build a trusting relationship with the child. To build these relationships you need to get out of the classroom, and your comfort zone. Visit the child’s home; eat lunch with him at school after gaining parental permission. Do not “adopt” him but become involved. A weekly phone call or letter will help you establish a good relationship and demonstrate to the child you are there for the long haul. In addition, your positive influence will give her examples of what “good” attention is versus “bad” attention. Once you have the authority, by way of a trusting relationship, you will have the right (in his mind) to correct him. You cannot skip this step; it is integral to helping the child and your entire class.
3. Avoid Segregating
It is a normal mental path to segregate your children, at least mentally, into “church kids” and “problem kids.” While few may admit this, mental segregation not only occurs but also spills over into the classroom. Fight the natural tendency to divide your class with words or task appointments; work towards unity. Everyone knows who the “problem child” or “problem children” are but the remainder of the class, and the church, need you to bring everyone together. In the end, it will help your regular attendees by demonstrating to them how to handle tough ministry situations.
When assigning tasks, don’t rely solely upon the experienced members of the group, use the newcomers too. However, do not reward bad behavior by giving kids a task. At the opposite end of the spectrum, sometimes we assign every fun task to the newcomers to excite them. This should be avoided too.
Ministering to the problem child is not easy but by doing so you are changing the world, one child at a time.