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stress-2I have become a firm believer that the blame for many of the discipline issues we face in children’s ministry cannot be placed completely on the children.

After all, most of the time, children are just being children – they have not been deliberately sent by the devil to disrupt your class, service or small-group.

It starts with US. Yes, you and me and our ability to plan ahead, be engaging and go the extra mile. In this way, we aren’t just disciplining children- instead, we can attempt to steer children, who are simply being children, so they can have a positive experience, learn something new, stay safe and encounter an almighty God.

We have to handle the discipline issues before the discipline issues ever start:

Have a PLAN for the Kids from the Moment they Arrive Until the Moment they Leave

Be properly prepared to carry-out that plan in your service or class… Remember: if you are not prepared and you don’t have a plan, the kids are always prepared with their plan… and they will begin carrying it out.

This doesn’t mean you have to be super-rigid and run a military-reform school. You can have free-time, or activity time – but, schedule it and make the time-frame seem intentional.

Give Them Something To Do

When kids enter your room, do you expect them to just sit there and wait until you’re ready? Again, they will interpret that as boring. Have activities and engaging things ready so when kids enter your room, they have something to do besides implement their own plan. We have  game tables with UNO cards, Rock-Em-Sock-Em Robots and Jenga Blocks. We have a LEGO table. We 2 long tables covered with paper so kids can draw whatever they want. We have Speedstacks tables with timers. Occasionally, we have the old Nintendos with Mario Cart hooked-up.

These activity tables not only give the kids something to do when they enter the room, it is a way for them to connect with each other… and it’s a way for our leaders to engage with the kids and build the relational bridge (see below).

Don’t be Boring!

If kids interpret what you’re doing as “boring”, they will have something they interpret as “fun” ready to go. Use variety, and relevant teaching methods. Use a child’s natural intensity level when planning your services. In other-words: put fun, exciting and fast stuff on the front end of your service. Put the serious stuff in the middle. End your service with fun, exciting and fast stuff. See my series on the Kids Are Bored

Aim at the older children with the stuff and aim at the younger children with the length: Use music, graphics, video clips, characters and verbiage the older crowd will relate to… the younger kids will “aspire up” and want to be like the older kids. However, use a minute per year of age for each segment. If the youngest child in your service is 6 – You have 6 minutes max for each segment. See my post on How a Child Interprets Their World

Have Clearly Stated Rules Ahead of Time.

These should be rules that BOTH the child and parent understand… and these should also be rules that CAN BE followed by the child.

Ron Brooks and I differ on our approach – and yet, we are still friends 🙂 Ron’s approach is pushing a positive outcome from the children ie. I Can Listen, I Can Show Respect, etc. For more of Ron’s view on rules, head over to his post.

Mine are direct and straightforward:

  • Don’t Leave Your Seat Without Permission – I emphasize that there will be times that permission is given. I also state that invading someone else’s seat with your hands or feet is leaving your seat.
  • Don’t Talk Without a Microphone – I want the kids to know that there will be times to answer questions, but wait until the microphone is put in front of you. There will be appropriate times to laugh and cheer – but wait for something funny to happen.
  • Wear Your Name Tag – I want our kids to stay safe. I want to know that they are supposed to be in the room. I also want to get to know them and call them by their own names.
  • Everyone Participates: This way, no one person is left out and we get everyone involved.
  • Obey All Rules – This covers the first few rules, but it also covers any instruction or directive that is given by any of our leaders.

Consistently Review the Rules. Kids cannot follow your rules if they don’t know what those rules are each week. We carve-out a time at the very beginning of our service to review the rules. Sometimes it’s quick and takes all of 2 minutes to review and explain the rules. Sometimes something fun happens… like a character enters who has the wrong idea about what the rules are. Sometimes we have a quiz-show and get kids from the audience to state our rules. Either way, guests will know what’s expected and regulars will be reminded.

Consistently Enforcing Those Rules. Make sure you and your leaders know when the best course of action is to sit with a disruptive child; when it’s time to separate children to different seats; when a child should remain afterwards so a discussion with a parent is necessary or when a child should be removed from a service or classroom and a parent needs to be notified. Read my last post on confronting parents.

Offer Incentives. Don’t just skip over this section. I have people all the time think that it’s wrong to bribe kids. Bribery has very little to do with incentives. Here’s my thought: Every kid wants to earn the trophy.  It’s really about the recognition for following the rules. Sometimes offering a tangible reward (candy, points for their team, points or “Bible Bucks” for your prize store, etc) is a great way to reward children – they all want to win the trophy. Other times, just “catching” kids who follow your rules with a lot of positive recognition in front of everyone else will make them want to earn it again. Both methods make others in the room want to earn the same trophy.

Enter a Kids’ World. Be relational. This earns you the right to be heard and respected – thus, eliminating a whole lot of discipline issues. Before I teach a group of kids, I love to walk around, give high-fives, fist bumps and shake hands. I ask funny questions and play as many of the games and activities as I can with the kids. I try to notice new shoes, haircuts, dresses and the toys kids bring with them. It let’s children know that I notice them and see them as a priority – not an afterthought.  See my post on the Stuff I’ve Kept in my Pockets.

Deliberately Approach “Those Kids”. You know the ones… these are the kids that you secretly hope are on vacation each week. They are the children who are consistently rambunctious, disrespectful and you seem to have issues with them any time they are in your class or service. I have had to make it a priority to pray for those kids during the week. I have asked God to give me compassion for these kids we typically define as “problem children”. And I believe that God has given me compassion for these kids.

Walk up to those kids each time they darken your door, get down on their level, look them in the eyes, smile your biggest and most sincere smile and tell them how happy you are that they are there. Ask them about their week, Ask them what was the funnest thing they did that week in school, invite them to play an activity with you. You will notice a difference.

I realize this has been a long post, but hopefully it’s given you some ideas as to how you can handle the discipline issues before they really become issues.

To listen to the radio show with me, Ron Brooks, and Tom Bump on March 20, 2014 – 7:00 PM Mountain Time.

If you missed it or cannot join us, I will post the link to the podcast at a later date.

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  • Continue to communicate vision to your team
  • Find new ways to connect with parents
  • Go be alone once in a while
  • Your enemy is not your pastor, the board, your volunteers or the parents
  • This whole #kidmin calling isn’t about you
  • Drink some coffee
  • Change your voicemail (don’t make it goofy)
  • Find a way to serve another #kidmin leader in your community
  • Find a way to network face to face with other #kidmin leaders
  • Clean up your office, desk or storage closet (it’ll make you feel good!)
  • Hug on your spouse and kids

… that is all for now – trust me, you’ll come up with more.

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Have a very happy Easter – make it incredible for the kids at your church!

  1. Pray
  2. Make the story of Jesus come alive
  3. Greet every kid with anticipation of the day
  4. Give a salvation opportunity
  5. Inspire your leaders all this week leading up to the weekend
  6. Give the kids something to remember their experience by
  7. Present something the kids have never seen before
  8. Keep a record of attendance, salvations, first-time guests, returning guests, etc
  9. Thank God in advance for the victories won
  10. Celebrate your results with your leaders
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The other day I was over on another KidMin Blog …which will remain nameless. Unless, of course,  you care to scour the internet trying to find the blog I’m talking about and post a comment about it here. I’ll give you a hint: can you say “wordpress”?  So, I’m cruising through some past posts and to my surprise, my name came up in regard to a post on my blog.  The person commenting was very complimentary – and that, of course, always makes one feel good. However, a few posts down, someone else wrote:

“I don’t like Jamie Doyle, nor his blog.  He tends to write as if he’s some kind of know-it-all.  He’s not!  He’s very biased and cannot seem to post but few times a year.”

I read that and thought – “WHY DIDN’T SOMEONE TWEET THIS!” I mean, people would’ve been intrigued… And come here to see what the criticism is all about.

The thing I found very interesting is that, this person knows enough about me and must follow my blog to know that I’m a sporadic blogger.  Obviously this person has more time on their hands then I do to spend their days monitoring blogs and bloggers that they don’t like.

I, on the other hand am very interested in spending my time breathing life into KidMin leaders who need to push forward regardless of their circumstances. So let me offer up some advice to my readers, whether they support what I do or criticize it: Find ways to build the kingdom – we really don’t have much time.

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How’s that for a grabbing title?  If I’ve offended you… I don’t care (BTW, get the picture reference?)  But, here’s the real question: is it true?  Are you ugly?

OK, let me ask it the correct way: Are you U.G.L.Y.

It’s an acronym folks… meant to get you groaning and thinking at the same time.  Maybe this is the start of a movement of sorts.  Perhaps a conference could be birthed out of groaning and thinking at the same time.  I’ll either call it the “UGLY Gathering” or just “GROAN”. Either way – on with the explanation of the acronym.

  • U – United in Vision As a kidmin leader, you’ve got to be united in the vision of the house.  Read my earlier posts on vision problems.
  • G – Growing Leader When you stop learning, you stop growing.  When you’re not healthy, you stop growing.  When your focus is on someone else’s success, you’ll stop growing.
  • L – Life Giving Minister You have the greatest job of all time: to tell the greatest story of all time.  You need to be sharing that story with a passion that is contagious and will change the world of the people around you.
  • Y – Yielded to the Holy Spirit’s Leading You might be thinking that it’s my pentecostal roots coming through.  Nonsense!  It’s my initiative as a minister that’s coming through.  Apart from the leading and guiding voice of the Spirit, you’ll do yourself, your church and Jesus the greatest disservice: You will do a lot in you own strength poorly.

Now that I’ve inspired you today with my offensive acronym, get out there and UGLY-it-up!

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I’ll get back to altar times and kids later this week. For now I submit the following:

Today – this thought ran through my head:

If I never showed up again at my church – what would or wouldn’t the impact be? Now please don’t read into this as a future plan to bolt – I love my church, my Pastor, the staff and the kids.
You’ve heard the question: “If you church suddenly shut down, would anybody in the neighborhood notice?”
I guess that’s what I’m asking – if I never showed up again; sure, the kids might be sad for a time, the staff may have a few fond memories, but… what would the lasting impact be? Have I made a difference that will leave an impression on this generation and the generations to come?
What about you? Have you made the impact in such a way that if today was your last Sunday, would change a kid’s world? Would the impression last? You really need to ask yourself that question.
Larry Norman sang, “It’s only today that counts – so, live it like it might be your last…”
Well, it’s only today that counts… minister like it might be your last.
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Lately the topic that’s been on my mind lately is:

the difference between a noun and a verb – particularly in reference to God’s Word. I believe that most of God’s Word written to us was written as a verb. Even where a noun exists, you must take and use your freedom as a minister to interpret it as a “noun that is in action”.
Salvation is a noun – However, it is the name given to the action of being rescued from sin. And according to scripture, it’s a noun that should constantly be in action. We are to “work it out…”
Faith is a noun – However, it is a noun that is activated into a verb when we start to step out into it.
Ministry is a noun – interestingly, it is something that we do or that God does through us… it’s also something that happens.
What other nouns can you identify in God’s word that are things we do, God does, or are activated by our actions or God’s move?
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Whew – lots of stuff going on since my lat post. Taking a new children’s pastor position has proven to take up more time than I had anticipated – but I love being in my element. Let me say that I love being a Children’s Pastor!

We are getting ready to launch a new campus in the fall – we are gearing up, recruiting, casting vision and planning, planning, planning. This is something I have never done before and I am embracing the challenge.
I get to collaborate with my Pastor about what goes on in the adult services and all the kids’ services; in other-words, whatever my Pastor wants to do in the adult services, we do the same thing, or at lease go the same direction in the kids’ services. So, with that said – the topic for the fall is “breaking free”. We are considering a Super Heros kinda theme for the Kids’ Ministries. Got some ideas – e-mail me!
I started on twitter. It’s been fun to connect with great leaders from all over the world. If you’re not on twitter… do it and love it! You can follow me @jamie_doyle
I had a great opportunity to be a part of one of Jim Wideman’s Club teachig in which he brought together 11 other children’s ministry leaders from a variety of churches and backgrounds via a conference call and let everyone ask questions and contribute to the answers. It was fun – thanks Bro. Jim! BTW Jim is offering his Club for free for ministry leaders under age 30… and for a limited time $50 for leaders over 30. Just go to jimwideman.com
I’m trying to put the finishing touches on a CD. Over the years I have arranged stuff on GarageBand for Mac to create our own background music. So the name is nailed down and soon, it will be available in my online bookstore.
Hope you’re staying busy and that God is moving in your ministry!
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I recently posted the following comment on media driven ministry over at: Kidology.org BTW if you are not a member of Kidology.org – I highly reccomend it. If you check out the entire topic, you will see that it is a rather spirited discussion with a great cross-sectoin of children’s leaders from all over America… And, at times, all over the World!

…to quote the Cars: “Shake it Up!”
Use the latest and greatest as well as tried and tested methods. I believe in the statement: “Everything works somewhere – but, nothing works everywhere.”

Study your culture – the kids in your community. Find out what works. Be willing to change according to response and effectiveness.

The other day, my son and I were setting up for church (we meet at a school) I told him to roll the media carts off of the platform that we use for our kids’ service. He grabbed the cart with the overhead projector on it and said, ” we have this in our classroom at school.”

“Oh, does your teacher ever use it?”

“Yeah – it’s pretty cool Dad! You put plastic pages on it and it shines it up on the screen. You can even draw on it!”

I realzed that my son had never seen me use overhead transparncies (He’s 9). I had written off the use of those things ten years ago!

I’ll let you think about it – blessings!

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You know that moment… the one – you know. You can see it, sense it, feel it in the entire room. It’s the moment when you can look out into the faces of the kids in your class or kids’ service – and… whoa! THEY GET IT!

You know what I’m talking about. It’s that moment when there is a connection from the very words you are saying, the concept you are demonstrating – actually cutting thru the object lessons, songs, skits, video clips and cutting to the heart.

These are the wow moments that I live for in a children’s church setting. It’s the time when it’s the best moment to lead right into a time of response. Whether it’s a time of prayer, a worship song and come forward thing, etc.

Having one of these moments in your children’s church setting is crucial – otherwise, you’re just a really entertaining teacher….

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