Drawing Boundaries

No longer do we live in the days of “Leave it to Beaver” or “Andy Griffith”. Frankly, times have changed, and so must we – when it comes to how we deal with children’s ministries.

In this day and age where sin is more rampant than in any day in the past, we need to take careful consideration to the ways in which we conduct our classrooms. Parents should be able to trust children’s workers; and therefore, we must be above all reproach as Paul reminds us in Philippians 2:5: “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”

In order to accomplish this, proper boundaries must be established. Boundaries are important in all areas of life. Boundaries are for protection. Steve Curington, founder of Reformers Unanimous, used to say, “There is freedom in boundaries.” To understand the seriousness of boundaries in children’s ministries, just ask one person who has been falsely accused because proper boundaries were not followed. A life can be changed forever from a false accusation.

To have good boundaries with children, you must first have discretion. Discretion means behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offense. We don’t want to offend the people around us, the parents, or especially the children to whom we are ministering.

This edition of the Victorious Life Messenger is centered on the theme of restoration. But, just like Principle #3 teaches us, it is easier to keep something clean than it is to clean it after it has been defiled! Keep proper boundaries so that there is no room for Satan to enter where people are hurt and ministries are ruined.

The simplest of boundaries can help you and lead to a safe environment. Examples of boundaries would include two workers taking children to the bathroom for accountability; never being left alone in a room with a child; always having male and female workers on hand; etc. These may seem insignificant, but they are not at all in the world in which we live. It is imperative that we use discernment.

Secondly, parents must feel secure that they can bring their children to class and know they are safe. Security is essential for children’s ministries today. Having a professional staff that conducts the program with consistency will help with this. Today, families are often different in the fact that many times only one parent has custody. Add to that the realization of predators and pedophiles and security should be at the top of our priorities when dealing with children.

Some boundaries to help you acquire safety in your children’s ministry include requiring background checks for anyone desiring to work in the program. Another suggestion is to have a proper sign in/sign out system. Also, we recommend that if at all possible, once the program starts, do not allow anyone into the classroom who is not a worker or the guardian who brought them to the class.

Finally, it is also important to not offend the children. As the director of the Kidz Club program in Rockford, Illinois I am very cautious and careful about children who want to hug “Mr. Ben”. Many of the children with whom I work come from homes where they are rejected and unloved. My heart breaks for these little ones. However, I love them so much that I want to protect them. Therefore, I have a border or boundary regarding “personal space”.

Unfortunately, in the day in which we live, nurturing can be mistaken for hurting. Therefore, it is my recommendation that you never hold a child in your lap or touch a child in any way that could be misconstrued. In my years of working with children, I have found that children may seek affection by hugging a worker. I do not advocate this and highly discourage it by all means! Kids are quick, but workers must be quicker! A quick turn to the side for a “side-hug”, as I call it, will redirect the child back to their seat or activity without showing rejection. And, without doubt, I always make myself visible to the rest of my workers for accountability.

The most important part of any children’s ministry are the children. As workers, we need to have a heart that cares for them, regardless of inconveniences on our part. Boundaries, discernments, security, accountability…protect those whom God has entrusted to your care.

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