The Necessary Inconveniences
Anything in life worth having is worth working for.” This is a phrase that has been said by many people many different ways for many years. I have learned that the saying holds true especially when it comes to working in children’s ministry. As children’s ministers we have parents, their children and our staffs; three distinct groups of people that we have to work with and understand. Flexibility, patience, understanding and a strong work ethic are tools that are a must with our jobs. Even with those tools, situations will arise and tough scenarios will be presented to you. At these times, instead of looking at the issues that we encounter as “inconveniences” or “obstacles” in our ministry, we must learn to embrace them as opportunities. It might sound cliché, but we must find the silver lining around the clouds that occasionally come our way. Below is a short list of some of the things that we might consider inconveniences and some thoughts as to why these challenges are necessary for us to deal with in order to become better leaders.
The Helicopter Parent
It is not uncommon for parents to be very protective of their children these days. Parents do well to protect their children. The days of taking unannounced field trips are long gone. Parents have expectations about who is teaching their children, where their children will be and how they are being taught. When misunderstandings or frustrations occur, typically it stems from poor communication. This poor communication can originate between the student and their parents, teachers and students or the teachers and parents. It is our job to assure the parents and to make them feel confident in our staff’s abilities to not only watch but teach their children.
A great way to do this is to be accessible to the parents. If a parent comes to you, make sure you know their children’s names and pay enough attention to mention something that their child said in class that was cute or maybe a tough question that they answered. This lets them know you actually care! As a leader, you must feel confident that what you are doing is not only what’s best for the children but also what is acceptable and appropriate in the eyes of the parents. Praying every day for God’s direction is truly the only way that you will be able to accomplish this on a consistent basis. As far as the hovering parent that seems to always want to know what is going on, ask them to be a part of your staff. Either they will accept and hopefully be an invested and vital part of your ministry or they will take the hint and get involved in the adult classes.
The Disinterested or Irresponsible Staff Member
This is a challenge that I know every children’s pastor or Sunday school superintendent has had to deal with at some point in time. The easiest and probably most common way it is dealt with is through not doing anything at all. That is quite honestly the worst possible way of handling disinterested and especially irresponsible staff members. Ignoring the problem is a disservice to everyone involved. The children are not gaining the most out of the limited amount of time that we have with them. Also, your other staff members not only have to pick up that person’s slack but a bad attitude is a contagious disease and can spread very fast!
The moment that you suspect that someone on your staff is not really putting their whole heart into their work or you notice them doing things out of character, you must be proactive by speaking with them. It might be as simple as asking them how they are or what’s on their mind, but a conversation is necessary. If you can figure out the source of the problem, you can solve it much easier. Perhaps the staff member is burnt out and needs a break. Maybe they are going through a rough patch and just need someone to talk to. Whatever it is, you will never regret the decision to act. Once again, inaction is not acceptable.
The Disruptive Child
Unruly or disruptive children are a fact of life when working in children’s ministry. They key is handling it properly. I wish there were a perfect, one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, but there is not. Every child has to be treated and responded to differently if we are truly going to reach them. Many think that if you make a child stop talking and disrupting out of fear of negative consequences, they have been successful. I respectfully disagree. It has been proven through research that positive reinforcement is much more successful long term. I’m in no way suggesting that you let children run wild or be permitted to distract teachers from teaching and other children from learning. I am suggesting that we need to be careful to consider the circumstances and situations that the individual child might be going through at home and in school. Be willing to speak to the child in a respectful way and try to help them if they are in need. The fact is kids are just bad sometimes because they are ornery kids. When that is the case, you shouldn’t be afraid to let them know their actions are unacceptable and that there can and will be consequences if appropriate. These consequences range from not getting to participate in a game all the way to a personal conversation or letter to their parents. Keep in mind that everything we do should be done in love. Some of the children that I enjoy the most in class have been the children that I used to see as inconveniences because they took up so much of my time and effort. The amazing thing is that the time and effort are never wasted!
If you work in children’s ministry long enough, you will unquestionably encounter these and many more situations that might be considered inconveniences. Use them as motivation and approach them as opportunities. Working with children is an honor and no challenge or inconvenience should deter or prevent us from leading with the vision God has given us!
The above article, “The Necessary Inconveniences,” is written by John Wilson. The article was excerpted from Apostolic Witness magazine, March 2013 issue, pages 14-15.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.