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I was trained when I was 12 on how to be a helper during children’s ministry activities. That training, and the rest of the training I have received in subsequent years, has been vital to my life and ministry. But, I’m finding more and more that the training I received growing up is not something that is commonplace anymore. One of the main issues I have in children’s ministry isn’t even the children; it’s the helpers! Or, lack thereof. I train children’s ministry workers, but I feel like there should be a manual specifically written to the helpers in a classroom. So, here’s my basic manual on how to be a helper at any children’s ministry event. These are things that I expect from myself and the people I work with:

  • Participate with the children! If you expect them to play a game or sing a song or do an activity, you better be doing it right along with them and not off having a conversation with your friends instead.
  • Sit with them! Sit in the middle of the kids, especially the ones that tend to talk or cause problems. Be actively engaged with them during class times. There should be no “back row” of helpers in a classroom; they should be spread throughout the room.
  • Be attentive! Even though it’s a good thing to model behavior like listening to the teacher, don’t get so engrossed in the teaching that you forget the children sitting around you who may be acting out. Be constantly watching around you and keeping an eye on those sneaky children.
  • Whisper when you need to correct someone during a Lesson! There is nothing worse than a helper who’s trying to help, but ends up being louder than the teacher and distracting from the Lesson that they’re trying to keep the kids from distracting from! If you must correct a child during class, do so quietly and with as little intrusion to the class as possible.
  • Catch the child before the teacher has to step in! Helpers should be attentive enough that they see – and stop – a discipline problem before the teacher even notices it is happening and certainly before the teacher needs to step in and correct it themselves.
  • Be on time! I, personally, like to go over the event with my helpers and pray with them before we begin. I cannot do that if my helpers don’t arrive on time – or early, preferably! Once the kids are in the room and the program has begun, it’s really too late to lay out the game plan to the helper and then the teacher just feels like they’re running the event alone.
  • Build relationships with the kids! Many times the helper has an “in” with the kids that the teacher simply will not have. Use this opportunity to get to know them, talk with them, build a relationship with them. Relationships are normally the biggest key to leading a child to Christ and to discipling them to grow to become like Christ.
  • Be who you want the children to become! If you want them to grow up unselfish, friendly, attentive, and respectful, then model those attributes in front of them.
  • Be helpful! Do your best to help lighten the load of the teacher. You have no idea how much time goes into prepping a good lesson or developing a good program. We just genuinely need people who are willing to jump in and be helpful. When we have to give loads of direction or basically do your tasks for you, that’s not helpful.
  • Be all there! If you are totally distracted or over-tired or just don’t want to be helping out one night, it might be best to consider not even coming. Kids recognize faster than adults when someone does not want to be there. Again, it goes back to modeling. Do we enjoy teaching children that make it obvious they don’t want to be in our class? No. So, we shouldn’t act that way in front of them, either.

I believe it all goes back to one key phrase:

“Be who you want your students to become.”

And… can I say this here without getting blasted? Please don’t complain unless you’re willing to be part of the solution to the problem. If you notice an issue in a ministry, be part of the solution! That’s far more helpful than merely pointing out faults that we probably already know exist… but normally can do nothing about without help.

Last of all: love on those kids. Kids these days just want to be heard, accepted, and loved. Be all there. Be Jesus to these precious children. Be who you want them to become. Love them like Jesus does.