Updated: Jan 28, 2019
Discipline: it's a no brainer in a school environment. Teacher's must learn to manage their classroom well or chaos is imminent. But what about at church? Should Sunday school teachers have firm discipline methods? Isn't that sort of, you know...mean?
This morning after teaching Sunday school, my assistant and I sat around discussing the bizarre disconnect between children's ministry and discipline. One of our children was disrupting the lesson again and again. The reason? We surmised it was because there was no clear consequence. The model for our Sunday School curriculum suggested a very quiet and private conversation with each disruption. It wasn't doing the trick.
Setting Up for Success
Before creating a discipline plan for your Sunday School room, there are a few basics to keep in mind.
1. An excellent lesson plan goes a long way. Make sure you know exactly what you're going to teach. Make sure it's age appropriate, interesting, and interactive.
2. Being prepared ahead of time goes a long way. Each material should be prepped. The classroom should be set up for every activity before they step in the room. Sometimes outbursts of disruption happen because teachers are ignoring the class to get something ready.
3. A calm, assertive presence goes a long way. Talk minimally, but be very present and very attentive to the whole group. They pay attention to you when you're paying attention to them, especially if you're making eye contact with a loving, kind presence.
A Discipline Model
Children thrive in any environment when they know:
1. what is expected of them
2. what will happen if they don't meet those expectations
3. that they are very, very loved
Take time on your first meeting of the year or after Christmas break to establish some guidelines. It will be well worth your time.
1. Talk about the rules of the Sunday School room. I use:
a. Don't speak out of turn (during the story or lesson)
b. Keep your hands to yourself
c. Stay on your carpet square (sit spot, chair, etc.)
Also, reinforce these rules. When first introducing the rules, I like to play a game
where I pretend to be a student and break a rule. The children have to guess each
rule that I've broken.
2. Talk about exactly what will happen if they break a rule. If you break a rule:
once: get a warning "Please don't speak out of turn"
twice: have to sit out on a carpet square outside the circle
three times: talk to your parents after class
four times: be asked to leave the class
3. Explain that no matter what happens or how many rules they break, they will be incredibly loved. You are simply taking the time to teach them what is expected in the Sunday School room. Even if they have a bad day and break all the rules, you care for them.
NOTE: You must FOLLOW THROUGH. It is painful on the first few days giving out warnings, time outs, and even talking to parents (Remember to making it loving!) However, it is THE MOST ESSENTIAL PART of establishing the boundaries. When children see what happens when they break the rules, they learn quickly. What may start as a few difficult classes of consequences will turn into a year of a safe, enjoyable environment because children know exactly what will happen. There will be more time to engage with God's word. More time for faith-filled conversations. More time for worship and laughter because there aren't all the disruptions of a room where the training hasn't taken place.
It is never too late to implement a discipline model in your Sunday school room. We're starting next Sunday with ours even though we're three weeks past the holidays. God's blessings. You can do this!