Sunday, October 26, 2014

How Do I Help a Child Who . . . Does NOT Want to Be Here?

Children's Ministry is a place where there are children. This is pretty much a "no-brainer", but because there are children in our children's ministries, while most of the time most of the children participate without any trouble, there are times when we will have to give focused care to specific children. So, for the next week, let's look at specific times when specific children will need focused care . . . starting with the child who does NOT want to be here.

Let me begin this by saying when my children were little, my family lived in Northern California where I was the Children's Director at our church. Our church was fairly large - about 1600 people and we had three services. My children loved church and wanted to be there for all three hour and a half services. This is until the week my daughter turned five. Then, every Sunday for six months, she screamed when we took her to her class. I'm not talking about her just crying or mildly protesting. She out-and-out screamed every Sunday for six months. It was horrible. I knew she liked the teacher and I knew the teacher was excellent, but for some reason she did NOT want to be there and was not shy about letting us . . . and everyone for five square miles know it . . . or at least it felt that way!

After six months of this, she was happy once again to go to church. I was so relieved . . . for one year. Then our son turned five and every Sunday for six months he screamed about going to class. After the six months, like his sister, he was happy to once again go to class.

I was reminded of this when a new family at our church experienced their daughter's unhappiness about going to her class last year. This little girl did NOT want to leave her dad. Her dad did not know what to do, so I shared with him my experience years earlier with my two children and he was noticeably relieved! I told him it would get better and his daughter would come to see the children's ministry is a place where she can actually want to be - like her siblings! In the past year, she has done exactly this!

So, what can we do to help a child who does NOT want to be here? Consider the following . . . 
  • First of all, of course, make sure there are not any safety issues which are causing the child to feel unsafe. 
  • When you are certain nothing is happening which must not happen, then you are ready to assure the child your children's ministry is a safe place where you are so happy they are there to participate! 
  • The single, most important thing you can do is pray for the child.  I'm asking a sweet lady I know to be a prayer partner for this little girl. Along with her teacher's prayers, my prayers, her family's prayers, she will have a special lady who is specifically praying for her. 
  • I'm also specifically watching for her to arrive - we have 4000+ people at our church, so it can feel like a place where there are so many people a child does not know. I sat with her two weeks ago when she was in class and wouldn't go to large group. I found out her favorite color was purple and she loved to color and draw people. Showing interest in a child and finding out about things they like is another way to help a child who does NOT want to be there so they feel comfortable. 
  • Another thing I'm going to try is to have her teacher and class helper join me in sending her an email card - check the cute cards available for free at - be sure to get the parent's permission to email their child before you send them email.
Some children, for reasons you can not discern, feel uncomfortable, even afraid about staying in their class. Take time to be gentle, reassuring and welcoming, cover them in prayer and be patient. It may take a couple weeks . . . or even six months . . . but eventually they will see the children's ministry is a safe place where they want to be!

How do you help children who do NOT want to be at church?

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