Classroom management strategies are essential for any Sunday school or Christian education program. Read on for 4 ways to keep classrooms running smoothly so children can learn.
You love God and children. You feel called to teach and be enthusiastic about Bible lessons. But now you face disruptive children. You don’t want to give up; you’re just frustrated beyond belief.
This probably sounds familiar. Most children’s ministry teachers and volunteers have the passion and the right attitude. But relatively few are equipped for when the “little angels” behave less than angelically. Unfortunately, that leaves many formerly upbeat Sunday school teachers ready to throw in the towel.
How can you prevent discipline problems from diminishing your effectiveness and joy? Here’s a bounty of practical classroom management pointers from my 40 years in kidmin.
4 Classroom Management Strategies
1. Rely on God.
Ground your discipline strategy in God’s Word. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening; it’s painful! But afterward, there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Children usually don’t view discipline as training in right living, though. They often interpret strictness as meanness. Although the former is okay, the latter is never appropriate.
Classroom management is really a discipleship process that allows us to demonstrate Jesus’ love. Although we may not like everything children do each moment, we always love them. They need to hear and feel that from us often.
Adults’ character and conduct are very contagious to children. Kids learn more from how we act than from what we say. So it’s important to respond in a Christian manner rather than react in the flesh. When adults rely on God to model respect, manners, concern for others, and a gentle spirit, we teach volumes.
Classroom management and discipline are far more effective when you move slowly and quietly, praying for God’s guidance. Prayer is the Christian version of “counting to 10.” It slows down our human reactions, puts things in proper perspective, and gives the Holy Spirit opportunity to work. In our weakness, God can use us to glorify him.
2. Define your system.
Create a classroom management plan before problems arise. Teacher training should include details about how to handle common behavioral problems and when to seek help for “bigger” issues. Try these steps:
- Set ground rules. Three simple rules work well for children of all ages: 1. When you want to talk, raise your hand and wait to be called on. 2. When someone else is talking, be quiet. 3. Keep your hands and feet to yourself unless you have permission. (For young children, you may need to repeat these guidelines weekly.)
- Establish a clear discipline process. I recommend this simple three-step approach: The first time children violate a rule, walk over and quietly tell them the rule. Assume they have rule amnesia, which is prevalent in childhood. State the desired behavior first. For example, “We use our hands to love and help, not hit.” For a second violation, approach and ask what the rule is in your room. For a third violation, have an immediate consequence related to the misbehavior.
- Develop logical consequences. The purpose of a consequence is to retrain the brain and transform the heart. The deed and consequence must be logically related, and discipline must occur right away. The consequence helps children see that their choices determined what happened. This builds accountability too.
Consequences must maintain children’s dignity. Respond only to the current misbehavior. Don’t bring up lists of past offenses. Instead of saying, “You always…” or “You never…,” simply say, “Because you’ve chosen to do this behavior, this is the consequence.”
For example, if children talk rudely and inappropriately, they must find a nice way to say the same thing. If kids hurt someone else, they must do something kind for him or her. Connected, immediate consequences can lead to significant changes in behavior.