May 26, 2014

How to Avoid Scaring the Kids in Your Ministry

This is a picture of McDonald's new Happy Meal mascot that's aimed at helping kids eat healthy.  But many parents have responded by saying the mascot is "creepy."

Here are a few of the many tweets that have been posted.

"In order to fight obesity in kids, McDonald's introduces it's new mascot to scare children."

"Happy Meal mascot arrested after eating three children."

"They gave it LEGS too, so it can CHASE you!  McDonald's introduces terrifying new Happy Meal mascot."

This reminded me that it's important to be aware of children who are overly sensitive.  I can tell you from experience that what may seem fun to one child may scare another child.

Just this morning, I was in one of our preschool rooms interacting with the kids with my favorite puppet.  I call him Shelly and he's a turtle.  Most of the kids rushed to hug him, but one little girl pulled back in fear and began to whimper.

And I've had more than one occasion where a sensitive child had nightmares from a video clip we had shown.

If you've been in children's ministry very long, it's probably happened to you as well.  An incident probably just popped into your head, didn't it. 

The last thing we want to do is cause a child to be upset or afraid.  So what can we do to avoid frightening them? 

Pay attention to age ratings on videos.
Some things you can use with elementary kids may not be appropriate for preschoolers.  Most videos have age ratings on them.   Do the research and use it as a guide.

Use age-appropriate Bible lessons. 
The Bible contains stories of real life, real sin, and everything that entails.  It shares the triumphs as well as the tragedies of men, women, and nations.  Some of the stories are not appropriate for children to hear at that stage in their life.

There will be plenty of time later for them examine David committing adultery with Bathsheba and then murdering her husband.  As children, they can learn that sin separates us from God without being taken on a trip into the depths of hellfire, brimstone, and demons.  And right now might not be the best time to study the beast of Revelation.

Be wise in what you share from God's Word.

Partner with parents. 
It's never fun to get a phone call from a parent who is upset because their child is having nightmares from something they saw or heard at church. 

Be proactive.  Keep parents in the know about what you will be teaching or showing.  Don't show movies or use video clips from PG movies unless you obtain parent's permission.  Communication upfront will save you a world of hurt later. 

Program for the average family.
Every church is made of up of families with varying degrees of personal preferences.  You will have some families who are ultra conservative and some families who don't care what you do.  The ultra conservative families are normally the most vocal.  Listen and respect their preferences, but don't let it dictate what you do for everyone. 

Don't program for either extreme.  Program for your average family. 

When in doubt...don't.
If you have questions about a character or video clip or whatever it is, don't use it.  It's always best to err on the side of caution.

Keep in mind that no matter what you do, there's a chance it may frighten a child. 
Sometimes you just can't win for losing.  I've had kids have nightmares from Veggie Tales.  Recently a child had nightmares from a hamster we showed on screen.  I never saw that coming!

Don't get discouraged when this happens.  Do everything you can to avoid it, but realize that many things can trigger fear in a child.

Would love to hear about some of your experiences.

Have you ever had a child become afraid or worse yet have nightmares from something they saw or heard at church?

What are some other tips on how to avoid frightening children?

Oh yeah...and do you think the new McDonald's mascot is creepy? 

5 comments:

Oh, yeah. It's definitely creepy.

We have tried to partner with parents, but you're right, you can't please everyone. One dad (of a boy who was a 3rd grader at the time) was upset that we showed a clip from Prince of Egypt. The other 99% of parents were fine with it.

When I read your article title, my mind went some where else. I was thinking more along the lines of US scaring the children. My grand daughter attends church with me. I am a children's church teacher and have her in my class. I upset one of the other children when I reprimanded my granddaughter for unacceptable behavior by taking her by the arm and sitting her in a chair. (A natural reaction to her behavior for me) When I saw the look on one of the children's faces, I back peddled explaining that she was my grand daughter and I am sorry if I frightened anyone. From that point forward I tried to remember that some children may not be used to having discipline that involves being made to do anything.

Hi Cindy. Thanks for sharing. You do have to be careful about putting your hands on a child. We have a rule that we never grab or touch a child unless they are physically hurting themselves or someone else. i understand where it could happen with your family but might not be best to do that in a public setting.

That new Happy Meal box is nightmare fuel!

I've definitely had this happen with me several times!

We've had certain "villains" that we've introduced into our kids church storylines. This month, in order to keep some of the incoming kindergarteners from getting frightenend, I decided to keep this as fright-free as possible.

The "villain" for this month is a picture of a throne. That's it. Just a picture onscreen.

And yet, as I was looking around this last Sunday, I saw one of our 2nd grade girls covering her eyes because she was afraid of it.

The struggle is real.

So true Sheik. There's usually always a very sensitive child in the room who will get scared at the slightest.

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