Whether in a large group, a Sunday School, or a classroom, if you deal with kids you can understand the importance of rules as a part of classroom management. It is important for kids to know what you expect of them. If you are up front with them and explain the behavior you expect from them (by explaining the rules), I think you will see better behavior in general. With that said, we have 5 rules for kids ministry that we go over every week. We explain them every week, and it does not take long before the kids have them memorized. Kids are told enough about things they can’t do. We designed our rules not around things they can’t do, but around things they can do. The funny thing about our kids ministry rules is they are not rules. They are empowering statements that describe the behavior we expect.
5 Rules for Kids Ministry
1. I can listen
Listening is very important. With a statement like “I can listen”, the kids know they are expected to listen, and they are also making a positive statement to describe their behavior.
2. I can learn
No matter what age or learning level of your kids, the simple fact is, learning is one of the main reasons they came to see you. Yes they expect to have fun, but if they walk away and have not learned, what have you really accomplished? Statement 1 and 2 go closely together–if your kids listen, they will probably learn, since that is your goal overall. By making a positive statement such as “I can learn” the kids know up front that you will be teaching, and they are getting themselves prepared.
3. I can stay safe
In the past we had a rule that said ‘keep your hands and feet to yourselves’. That was great, but it was very limiting. It did not stop anyone from climbing on chairs, or running. A statement like “I can stay safe” puts responsibility on the kids– we take time to discuss some unsafe behaviors in our area, and agree we will not do those things, nor will we do anything else that does not seem to be safe. It fits well with the theme of empowering statements.
4. I can show respect
We all know that kids can be respectful. Sometimes they need to be reminded of what respectful behavior looks like. A positive statement to begin the morning starts the morning with a respectful attitude. Respect is listening. Respect is not talking to your friends, because then they cant hear. Respect is not making fun of someone. Whatever you want respect to look like, make a simple reminder. With a statement like “I can show respect” your kids are being set up with what is expected of them, as well as they are empowering themselves to be respectful.
5. I can participate
The definition of participation changes based on what activity is you are doing. Basically participating means doing what you should be doing, when you are supposed to do it. If it is song time, you should sing. If it is game time, you should play or cheer. If it is group time, you should listen and participate in discussion. If it is lesson time, you should be paying attention. A statement like “I can participate”sets up the kids to know they should participate. Their engagement should go up when you introduce this as one of your rules!
Be sure to remind them that if they participate….part 2 of rule 5 is……. I can have fun!
With a statement like this up front, there are benefits to following all the other statements. While part of the goal is that the kids learn something, it is just as important that they have fun. A statement like “I can have fun”does 2 things—lets them know they will have fun, and lets them know it is OK for them to have fun.
Whether you use these rules (or statements) with your group or not is not as important as having a set of rules that explains your expectations. By explaining what you expect up front, you pave the way for a better behavior and a better morning, since there are no surprises, from you or for them. It is a win win for everyone.