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An adult volunteer holds on to the hands of two boys who were hitting each other.
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Discipline Secrets to Resolve Challenging Behavior in Children’s Ministry

Every Sunday school teacher should be equipped with these critical discipline secrets to resolve behavior challenges in their classrooms.

Kids are going through a lot these days and their behavior may mirror the disruptions and chaos they’re experiencing. Your volunteers are going to meet children with challenging behaviors, some with diagnosed disorders, and others who are just stressed and act out in class. It’s wise to train volunteers in discipline strategies and brief them on the latest trends in special education. These tips can help!

Communicate with volunteers and families.

If you have a specific child and know his or her situation, update your volunteers. Don’t breach any confidences you’ve established with the family, but encourage volunteers to build relationships with the family and to keep the lines of communication open. The more prepared volunteers feel for the situation, the more confident they’ll be. And the child will feel safer and better understood.

Encourage your volunteers in discipline.

Let them know when they’re handling situations well and encourage their effective, appropriate discipline approaches. Drop them an email or give them a call when you know they’ve had a rough morning. This will give them time to vent any frustrations, and you’ll let them know that you’re on top of the situation.

Support your volunteers in discipline.

Nothing will bring a resignation letter faster than a volunteer who feels like a lone duck in a sea of behavior problems. Never let a volunteer teach class solo. Provide assistants who can provide support in the classroom and help keep everyone feeling safe and secure. If circumstances warrant, add an extra helper for a child who may need more one-on-one attention.

If a situation escalates with a child, let your volunteer have an “out” by calling you in to deal with the situation. You can briefly pull the child aside to talk about the situation, freeing your volunteer from what might be an uncomfortable predicament.

Additionally, consider equipping every volunteer with a simple resource to help them understand children and their behavior. The Children’s Ministry Pocket Guide to Discipline gives quick tips on common discipline challenges.

As you discipline, take time to really see the child, and not just the behavior.

“For I was hungry and you fed me…naked, and you clothed me…” (Matthew 25:35-36).

God is calling us to meet people’s needs. If Jesus were to update these verses in Matthew, perhaps they would read something like this for children’s ministry: “For I was out of control, and you called me to a standard with grace. I faced unique challenges, and you sought to understand me. I was confused by my condition, and you held me until I was okay.”

That’s exactly what Jesus is calling us to do as children’s ministers when discipline issues come up. Rather than being angered by kids’ behavior, we have a genuine opportunity to express God’s unconditional love to children.

No one can make children love the Bible. Nobody can force a child to have a relationship with God. But as kids see children’s ministers show what living life in close relationship with Jesus looks like, they’re invited to do the same. Consider these guidelines that children in your church would like their children’s ministry leaders and teachers to follow.

A Child’s Ten Commandments

1. Thou shalt accept my youthfulness.

I need tender direction and loving leadership. Constant discipline, criticism, and raised eyebrows make me feel foolish and inadequate.

2. Thou shalt accept my imperfections.

Please don’t expect perfection whenever you assign a task to me. I really do learn by my mistakes.

3. Thou shalt accept my limitations.

My hands are small and sometimes I seem awkward and clumsy. Please be patient with me.

4. Thou shalt show me the way to go.

When I show off, I’m really asking for affirmation and reassurance. Could you please give me gentle guidance and loving discipline so my behavior doesn’t become my attitude?

5. Thou shalt welcome me.

If I’m new to your class, please take the time to explain the routine and show the other children that you’re glad to see me (even if you thought your class was big enough already).

6. Thou shalt expect the best from me.

Please don’t have preconceived ideas about me. I have the tendency to live up to your expectations. Expect appropriate behavior.

7. Thou shalt make the Word of God come to life for me.

Find creative ways to teach me about the power of God, the ministry of Jesus, and God’s big story of love.

8. Thou shalt help me know and do what’s right.

Nobody needs to show me how to make wrong choices, but somebody please care enough to lovingly discipline and show me a better way to go.

9. Honor my father and mother with good communication.

Talking to my parents could help you discover my fears, my joys, my problems, my talents, my weaknesses, and my strengths.

10. Thou shalt pray for me.

You know, you may be the only person in the whole world who talks to God about me. I need you to ask God to help me.

A Child's 10 Commandments
Print out this free printable PDF and frame it or hang it up in your Sunday school room or office.


Looking for more teaching tips? Check out these ideas!

6 thoughts on “Discipline Secrets to Resolve Challenging Behavior in Children’s Ministry

  1. I like that you recommend changing the your approach to teaching with each child. It is true that kids are made to be unique and will respond in different ways that you might expect. One thing that I think is important in this type of situation is the love the children as God would love them, and make an effort to understand them. Thank you for sharing your helpful Sunday school tips!

  2. Just found this site. Looks like I have a lot of reading to do. I do child care on Wednesday nights for Celebrate Recovery. The Church is about 80% in recovery. These children are in recovery too it seems. Prayer requests are for parents to stop smoking pot. An eight year old is thankful for girls in bikinis. Breaking up fights, water fights, taking each others things. Kindergarten cop. Two of us with 20 kids from ages 4 to 12. There are no other volunteers they quit after 6 months. I need some prayer and resources. I love these kids they need help at this crucial time in development. Thanks Matt

  3. caroline kinamn

    thank you for the childrens ten commandments very helpful and it is so appropriate for us not to react but to be proactive please pray for my strength my call is as a teacher for these special needs situations

    • Group Publishing

      We are praying for you! It can be very difficult to not react, but we’re praying for calmness and proactiveness!

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