There is nothing worse than having 12 kids in the room to minister too and engage and one is in the corner 15 minutes after drop off time with snot and tears everywhere? It’s the saddest thing to witness.
What should you do? Should you call the parents immediately to pick the child up or do you let him or her sit in the corner to cry because after all; you’ve tried everything.
When I was asked by my team to provide tips to decrease separation anxiety. I almost went to the internet to search them out. But, I stopped myself. I thought, WAIT… you’ve been a public school teacher for nearly 10 years, serving children faithfully at church for over 6 years and a mother for 8 years; there’s no need for GOOGLE. So what you will get out of this are a few tips to put into your tool belt to be able to help drop off time within the children’s church become more fun for you and the children you serve.
First preparation is essential. Have everything in place for your lessons and all materials organized so that your prep time doesn’t spill over into your drop off time. You must be prepared so that you can dedicate all your attention to the children once they arrive. At our church you should be in the classroom preparing by 8am for the first service and 10:30am for the 2nd service. But if I were you, I would reserve 45 minutes for prep time.
Once your team teacher arrives. PRAY. Pray for the children before they arrive especially the ones you know have a difficult time during the drop off period. One teacher should stand at the door or immediately rise and approach the parent and child to greet him or her. Just think about how welcomed you feel when you enter a department store and someone is right there to greet you and offers help looking for things if you need it.
Don’t be preoccupied. It’s sends a signal that you have better things to do and aren’t present to meet the needs of the child. So GREET each child individually and promptly.
If the child seems uneasy at the door or in the hallway get down on their level and introduce yourself like you would an adult (Hi ….my name is Teacher ….. Nice to meet you). Remember they are little people too. Invite them in WITH the parent for a TOUR of the classroom (block area, praise and worship carpet, puppet stage, kitchen area and table toys location). This allows them to possibly consider all the fun they are going to have while their guardian attends the main service.
Never let the parent sneak out of the room. The child won’t be happy when he or she will figures it out and they won’t trust the process or the teachers. Only allow the parents to leave if and when the child isn’t crying hysterically or if you know that the PARENT IS THE PROBLEM. We all know the hover-parent. I can be one of those sometimes. The child is now ok but, the parent is still the one who is a bit uncertain. If this happens politely explain to the parent our church’s procedure for parental contact (for our church the number on the child’s sticker attached to him or her is the same number on the guardian receipt. The child’s number will appear on the screen in the main sanctuary and the parent should report the children’s ministry area immediately).
Another thing that I have tried and it works most of the time is I immediately introduce the timid child to one of the older children in our classroom. This creates an immediate connection and that older child becomes like an immediate friend or mentor for the child who maybe having a difficult time that day. Also, invite that child to sit next to the new friend. Don’t phrase your invite or request as questions because the answer will always be NO because he or she doesn’t really want to separate from the parent. So say, “Here have a seat next to my friend….” Instead of “Would you like to sit next to ….?” See the difference?
Be reminded that you and the parent shouldn’t make promises that you don’t intend to keep.
It’s also important to not to make the child feel guilty for crying or not wanting to stay in children’s church. I doesn’t mean they don’t love Jesus or hate church, they are just having a difficult time being away from their loved one.
If the child has been there before, remind him or her of all them exciting things they learned before or encourage the parents to get involved by talking about things they manage to overcome previously. Say something like, “Remember how afraid you were of the zoo? Now you love it!”
Because our church is so large and the children don’t have the spatial ability to understand that their parents aren’t leaving the building or located really far away. Get down on the child’s level and EXPLAIN to the child where their parents will be located. Use the appropriate terms point in that direction (“Mommy and Daddy aren’t going to leave you. They are being a great Mommy and Daddy because they came to church and will be in the main sanctuary listening to Pastor Connie teach the word of God.”).
If all of this doesn’t work and the child is still crying hysterically or clutched to daddy’s do not force him or her to stay. Encourage the family to come back next week before the service begins to Introduce the child to the classroom and new teachers before the service. Encourage the family to talk about church and the children’s ministry before drop off time so that it doesn’t seem so sudden. Tell them that our the way out to take pictures of the front of the building or children’s ministry area and show him or her a few times a week before the next service arrives.
Lets review the 10 Tips:
Be prepared so that your prep time doesn’t carry over into drop off time.
Pray with the children’s ministry teachers for the children before they arrive. Ask for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you during the service and say a sweet little prayer for those children who struggle during drop off time.
Greet the child and parents immediately.
Take the parent and the child on a brief tour of each of the play areas in the classroom.
Never let the parent sneak out of the classroom.
If the parent seems a bit uneasy politely explain the communication procedure to the parents as you walk them towards the door.
Introduce the timid child to an older child in the classroom to create an immediate connection or friendship.
Do not make promises that you don’t intend to keep.
Remind the child of all the fun they will had previously.
Explain to the child where their parents will be during the service.
Thank you for trusting me enough to train you! I love serving our little Seeds of Faith together and look forward to sharing in life and growing in Christ with you!
Matthew 25:21 ~ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’