One of the biggest issues that children’s ministry leaders often face while teaching is lack of focus or attention from children who like to move, squirm, and whisper. Kids will be kids and some distractions are inevitable. However, there are ways that you can help kids refocus, and capture their attention when they begin to get distracted.
1. Speak softer.
When kids begin to whisper or talk while a leader is talking, it’s a natural tendency for that leader to want to speak up and try to talk over everyone. Contrary to this idea, when you speak softly, it causes kids to stop talking and listen more intently because they will want to hear what you are saying. If you get to a point in your Bible story where you begin to lose some of their attention, or a point that you feel is very important and you want to be certain everyone hears it, try altering your volume to a softer tone so children’s ears will tune in more closely.
2. Ask a question.
If children have the urge to talk, use that urge to your advantage. Ask a question during your teaching time to allow children to speak, and to help them think more critically about what you are teaching. Be sure to ask questions that require a very brief, precise answer. Asking open-ended or opinionated questions can often lead to lengthy answers or stories from children that can derail and distract from your teaching time, instead of enhancing it.
3. Try an activity.
If children in your ministry are highly active and like to move around, having them sit still for a long period of time can be difficult. Using interactive activities during your teaching time can help break up the length of “sitting” time and can help them become more engrossed with the message you are presenting. Activities can be as complex as object lessons that ask some children to come to the front to participate, or as simple as having children do hand motions and make sound effects in their seats. These types of activities will capture their energy and use it to compliment your teaching, rather than distracting from it.
TIP: Contrary to some of its popularity, I am not an advocate of counting to a certain number and asking children to be quiet by the time you arrive at that number. That method simply teaches children that they do not need to obey immediately and that they can wait until you finish counting. I also do not like to call out children individually in front of their peers. This only shames them into obeying. Instead, try to refocus attention using the methods mentioned above and, if necessary, have individual conversations with children afterward who really need more guidance in this area.
What other methods have you used to successfully refocus the attention of children? Leave your thoughts in the comments!