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Discipline Q & A: Foul Language

[Q]: We have a child in our ministry who uses foul language. We’re wondering if we should tell her she can’t come to church if she continues. Help!

[A]: No child should be allowed to ruin church for others. There’s a time when you must finally invite a child not to return. This, however, should be the extremely rare exception. (We’ve had to do this only two or three times in more than 20 years of ministry to children.) Ensure that you’ve exhausted all other disciplinary possibilities before excluding the child.

Try talking with the child first. We can’t assume that children know how to behave according to our standards. Explain how our words can sometimes offend others and God. Tell her specifically which words she isn’t to use. Some children hear their own parents use foul language and have no other way of knowing that these words are objectionable.

If the child agrees to avoid the foul language, remember to be patient as she tries to learn new behavior patterns and unlearn old habits. Be ready to forgive and teach her to ask God for forgiveness.

Encourage every effort honestly made.

If she doesn’t respond, it may be time to consult with her parents. In a personal meeting, explain to the parents that you need help in suggesting to her that she not use the foul language. Ask the parents for suggestions to handle the situation.

Pray for this child regularly. Foul language is a sure sign that something’s wrong in the child’s life. It could be a small problem or a huge one, but either way the child needs God’s intercession in her life.

Gordon and Becki West are co-authors of The Discipline Guide for Children’s Ministry (Group Publishing) and founders of KidZ at Heart, International ( Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

One thought on “Discipline Q & A: Foul Language

  1. In our ministry also (Sunday school, Bible clubs, camp) we also have had to “ban” one child or another (and rarely) from the meetings due to exceedingly bad and disruptive behavior in a child that refused correction. However, the “ban” only lasted one week, and we always talk to the parent to explain that the child must miss the next meeting, and why. So far, the parent was able to correct the child successfully. We did have one child who was basically unsupervised and thus remained a problem. However, we allowed this child to continue to come to the Bible club (which is outdoors and has a more flexible seating arrangement for the lesson–thus she could be taken out of the group if necessary) though not the Sunday school (which is in a confined area). So I agree, removing a child is the last choice, but not to sacrifice the group for one unusually naughty child. All the children, perhaps especially the naughtier ones, need the Lord Jesus.

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