There’s an older gentleman who’s on our children’s ministry team.
Don’t quote me, but I think he’s in his late 70’s. This man, whom I’ll call Gerald, is great. He loves the kids and is very faithful. The only issue with Gerald is that he’s old school. What I mean by that is it’s difficult for Gerald to not treat kids and their negative behavior with how he got treated when he negatively behaved back in the day.
Gerald would pinch a misbehaving child on the collarbone and grab or yank arms to try to get kids to listen and obey.
To give Gerald credit, his methods were reflective of prior generations that were valid and socially acceptable ways of disciplining children who were misbehaving. However, Gerald is now ministering to a new culture (a new generation) and had missed the socially acceptable cues of discipline.
I imagine that every church, to varying degrees, has one (or more) Geralds. The trick to minimize the inherent liability risk is to converse, share, and train the Geralds.
Here are a couple of tips:
You cannot touch a kid in anger or frustration.
Let’s be honest, we want to. We really want to sometimes. But we are not that kids’ parent. I’m his pastor, or you are his small group leader, or his mentor. We can only guide and discipline with words and consequences. Our role in this “misbehaving” kid’s life is to keep him/her from distracting other kids as well as to prevent him/her from hurting themselves or others.
We also get the honorable privilege of helping to disciple this child through his/her discipline.
Discipline contains the word “disciple” and this misbehaving child’s behavior not only needs to be stopped, but also corrected and set on the right path. We, as ministers of the Gospel, get to exemplify to children in their troubled moments what living out the Gospel really looks like in our behavior. It is my strong conviction that when a kid is in trouble he or she is listening more acutely during training and correction often more so that what they “hear” during the lesson.
Remember: Touching a child in anger or frustration not only opens up a ministry to liability, but forgoes an opportunity to train a child in the way he/she should go.
The Geralds in our various ministries provide us young children’s pastors much needed context and history. I appreciate Gerald and the advice he brings and the expertise and love he offers the kids. We all love Gerald.
Maybe the take home point might be: