Discipline at Church: Keeping it Safe
Does your Safe Church policy cover acceptable forms of discipline? If not, consider covering this aspect of church safety in your policy. Many adults need guidance when it comes to appropriate discipline for children in a church setting.
The website www.churchsafety.com shares a number of discipline best practices that your church can use as a starting point when discussing this issue.
“Handling a disobedient child is a challenge for anyone—particularly when it happens during a church service or in Sunday school,” suggests this website, which goes on to share the following “Simple Tips for Disciplining Kids at Church”:
Write a policy. This website suggests developing a written discipline policy. Have an attorney review it to ensure that it complies with state or provincial laws. Then ensure that all parents understand the policy and how it applies to their children.
Keep it positive! Wherever possible, use positive efforts to guide behaviour before resorting to corrective action.
Build relationships. Get to know the children you are working with -- and their parents. This will help you when you face challenging behaviors. It will also provide a context for what is going on with the child. Talk to the parents first when behavior becomes an issue.
Consider the child’s age and developmental stage. Does the disciplinary action fit the child and his or her age and stage of development?
For more ideas about safe discipline at church, look at policies already developed by other churches on the CRC’s Safe Church Website. The Safe Church policy from Crossroads CRC, available here, covers this aspect of church safety well. The policy asks leaders to “try to avoid having to discipline a child by choosing one or more of the following options: (1) distract the child with another activity; (2) help the child focus on another more acceptable behavior; (3) isolate the child from others if another volunteer is available to assist.”
Crossroads’ policy also states that parents should be informed and involved whenever a child misbehaves beyond minor correction, or if a pattern of misbehavior increases. It suggests that when a child’s behavior in a class or church activity becomes an ongoing problem, additional parents or aides should be brought in to help supervise the class or activity.
Finally, remember that children watch us closely and model our behaviors. Do we choose respectful words and actions at all times -- even when times are stressful? When things get chaotic in our classroom or group, do we maintain our composure? When there is conflict, do we mediate in a respectful way? Little eyes and ears are watching, and our actions often speak louder than our words.