Site term: 2 Session: 1 Effective behavior management for Kids ministry. (Including devotion)

Devotion: Behavior change in the Bible.

Eugene Petersen is the bloke behind ‘the message’ translation of scripture. He also happens to be something of a guru when it comes to Old Testament history.

Anyway, he makes the point (and summary) of Israel’s history in the Old Testament: “they were first a redeemed people, (Salvation picture of the Exodus) then a commanded people (God thru Moses giving them the law/rules @ Sinai) and then an inheriting people (moving into and conquering the promised land/inheritance.)” That’s right, there is an allegory of Salvation. We’d all like the promised land now but you got to be saved and then you have to learn how to live like you’re saved before you experience to fulfillment of being saved.

But there’s a problem, though this is the picture of how it should work, the reality of it was, it didn’t. Not for Israel. Something else was needed. Salvation not of the external sort (from situations) like the Exodus; but of the internal sort. (From ourselves.)

Of course this amazing promise is hinted at in Jeremiah 31:31-33: The day is coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah.  32 This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the LORD.  33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the LORD. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.       Firstly, let’s just pause and say Praise GOD!

But also let me bring it to a point, and also make clear what all this has to do with today; which is this: All permanent behavior change is a Spiritual issue. This, by the way, is also why no disruptive behavioral pattern can ultimately be solved by psychology, only managed.

All ungodly behavior exists because of ungodliness proceeding ultimately from the fall…which came about due to evil…which is of course a spiritual issue. On the other hand, at the deepest level, what we are talking about today is how we can bring the righteousness of Christ imparted to us to bear on every child (even parent) that we come into contact with. We are indeed talking about the ‘trenches level’ of a spiritual battle.

…But a battle that can be won if fought in the power of the Spirit rather than the flesh. So do not let that lie enter your mind

Term 2 2016 session 1; Effective behavior management for kid’s ministry.

  1. Why?

Of course as usual, we begin our discussion by attempting to answer the most important question of all. Why? So why is behavior management so important (on a practical level) to a kid’s ministry?

Because safety. Now I know safety is a bit of a buzzword right now, (don’t even get me started with the safe-schools program) but we’re going to ‘steal the language back’ and redeem it. Because frankly; we thought of it first.

In 2009 we came up with vision statement for uth@waratah which began with the 3 words: “A safe place.” Let me tell you why: You can’t be worried and ‘reachable at the same time. This is because when you’re in a panic/fear state your consumed with your own feelings. That’s not to say that you’re being selfish any more than saying that someone who’s leg is on fire is going to be fairly pre-occupied with the fact that their leg is on fire. When you feel unsafe, when you feel worried; your walls are up, you’re in defense mode and you are not in a place to receive instruction, encouragement, focus or love.

Alternatively, when we’re assured, relaxed and have a sense that ‘they’ve got it under control,’ then we are open to new things. We’re teachable. (Show me someone who never listens and I’ll show you someone who has a deep fear.) When human beings walk into a context of calm they are open to receive.

This by the way is how God works with us. He ‘woos’ us by his grace and love which in turn prizes open our reluctant hearts to receive more truth.

Now, all of this is true for autonomous adult; Imagine for one moment how much more it is the case for a child.

Behavior management therefore is:

The process of creating an atmosphere of calm and clarity by eliminating threatening behavior, distractions and refusing to allow the ‘sinful nature’ of each child to be indulged.

That today is our goal.

  1. The first step.

The first step to this process which you’ll be invited to engage with in small groups soon is to unmask realties and needs. This is the process by which you know what your behavior management strategy needs to tackle and how it has to do it. After we’ve completed this stage, it’s pretty much assured that however you express these goals, it will make a difference. This is because you can always tweak a structure if you know your specific aims. But you can’t ‘tweak’ your aims without starting all over again.

Consider and contribute to the table below, catered for your age group:

Realities Needs
Kids Are: Kids Need:

Easily influenced


Still figuring things out

Socially developing

Visual learners





Healthy relationships



Apply: Add to this table your thoughts on your age group.

  1. Time to come up with a plan.

In a moment, I’ll give you a slab of butcher’s paper to come up with the skeleton of a plan. Before I do however, let me give you some general rules which you may already know thru the example of an old structure we once used in youth (on the white board).

  • Rule 1: carrot and stick. Balance is key; involve both prizes and penalties. When we did the blue dot, red dot system, we said 5 blues get’s you a prize, but 5 reds means you have to stay home from youth.
  • Rule 2: call the bluff by refusing to bluff. If a kid needed to ‘have a night off’ I went around, visited the parent and made sure they were aware why we were not expecting to see them the next week.
  • Rule 3: I.S.S. principal. Keep it simple. Robyn came up with respect, safety and participation and all the rules came back to these three key outcomes.
  • Rule 4: (Everyone) keep referencing the above outcomes when disciplining or encouraging a child or talking to a parent. Ie; stay consistently on-message.
  • Rule 5: Let it be an example of how grace works. If I had my time again, I would get rid of the ability to ‘earn-off’ the red dots and simply reduce it to 3 and have it ‘reset to a clean slate after each night because that’s how grace works, that’s how God treats us.

Apply: So, let’s get to it on your butcher’s paper design the skeleton of a Behavior Management Strategy (B.M.S.) for your ministry.


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