Do you adapt easily to change? While change can be a learning opportunity, it can also be stressful—especially for children. Routines offer consistency that helps children feel comfortable and ready to learn. As a children's ministry teacher or volunteer, you may have your students only a few times a week, making routine even more crucial for a harmonious learning environment. In the following excerpt from Discipline in Christian Classrooms, Rebecca Fisher explains why establishing and following a routine is so important, and offers suggestions for implementing a routine in your children's ministry classes and events.
The importance of establishing routines
You walk into church and find your pew is taken. You reach for your toothbrush but come up empty-handed because your daughter has borrowed it for a My Little Pony comb. When routine is interrupted, internal disequilibrium results.
This certainly holds true for all children’s ministry groups. Predictable routines are the sinews that hold a class together. The more routine a child experiences, the safer the child feels. If you have children of your own, this is clear as crystal because you see the chaos that occurs when that naptime, mealtime, or bedtime routine is interrupted.
Routines are even more important in events that happen only once a week. Well-crafted routines reduce uncertainty, they are welcoming to new students, and they smooth the waters during your time together.
Another beautiful result of well-crafted routines is a dramatic reduction of discipline issues. When kids know what they are to do, and when and how they are to do it, they generally will fall in line. It’s the gray areas that draw the disciplinary challenges.
Reflecting on your current routines
Give thoughtful attention to routines for your groups. Routine and ritual are part of the rhythm of life; they move us from one point to another.
Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I greet my children the same way each week?
- Can I be found in the same place at the same time as they come in?
- Do they know what to do when they arrive to get themselves settled in?
- Do I have a consistent rhythm to the activities of each lesson?
- Are the supplies always found in the same place?
- Are children clear on the type of responses I want them to make when I ask a question?
- Then, when the lesson is finished, do I send them out in a consistent way?
Connect with other leaders
Talk with other teachers about the routines they use in their classrooms; beg, borrow, and steal great ideas. Look to excellent Day School teachers for suggestions; their school day is peppered with routine. If you are in a team-teaching situation, it’s wise to discuss routines fully with your team teachers so that the students will have that consistency no matter who is teaching that week.
Does implementing more routine mean that your classroom will be stodgy, sit-in-your-seat-and-don’t-move rigid? Not at all! Routine is not the enemy of enthusiasm. When the predictable environment you orchestrated allows kids to feel safe, they are free to bloom and grow, to absorb what is being shared, and to be reached deeply by God’s Word.
This excerpt has been adapted from Discipline in Christian Classrooms: Practical Suggestions from the Field, The Power of Routine, pp. 67-68. Copyright © 2014 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Looking for even more ways to set the tone for your children's ministry program? Discipline in Christian Classrooms contains practical suggestions for planning and creating an environment in which kids can thrive!