I was brought to your children’s ministry by a friend. I may have taken the attention of my friend more than I should have during your lesson and because of that, you asked my friend to never bring me back to your ministry. You banned me from being there.
As I travel around the many children’s ministry groups on Facebook, I constantly see people seeking how others handle things that children may bring into their ministry. The two main things now are smart phones and the fidget toys that have recently gained popularity. It seems that the easy solution to handle these “distractions” is to ban them from the ministry, but is this really the right reaction?
Disclaimer time, one can never “throw a blanket” over everything as a solution. In your ministry culture and situation, it may be necessary to ban certain items.
I write this because it seems that in many cases, items are banned because leaders do not understand them, and instead of finding ways to incorporate them into the discipleship process, they discount them completely. This is nothing new in Christian circles. Christianity often delays in accepting new forms of technology, new ideas, etc.
Let me share some personal experiences:
Several years ago, a 4th grader entered the class, sat down and began playing Minecraft on his electronic device. Class had not started yet so I let him play and noticed most of the children gathered around him interested in what he was playing. I inquired about it, got the game and began to incorporate it into the lessons as able (see some examples here).
More recently, I had children struggling to learn the books of the Bible and so I pulled out my tablet and phone and introduced them to an app to help them learn called “Granny’s Bible Dojo“. One child actually had their phone in their pocket and when I told them it was okay to use it they commented to make sure that the ministry leader did not see them with it (yes, I went against policies by leadership who said they should not be there). There was a fear of using the technology in that space, even if it was benefiting them and helping them learn about God and His Word. My friends, this should never be.
One more example, I gave Bibles to all who did not have them with them in a class. I had everyone open up to a certain passage as I read. I looked at one young man who did not have a “hard copy” bound Bible, but was using his phone’s Bible app. Policy would have had me taking the phone from him during class, but I let him use it because I want to encourage the children in my ministry to use today’s technology to help them grow closer to the Lord.
I have not encountered the fidgets in my classes yet, but I often let a child hold a ball and they may play with the ball which may be distracting, but not enough to cause me concern usually. It actually helps their behavior and helps them stay engaged in the class. I can imagine the fidget toys doing the same for a child.
Instead of banning items because they can be distracting or misunderstood, I try to find ways to use them to help disciple the child.
Please do not misunderstand. There is a time and a place for everything. The children do not have their phones out the entire time. They are only used at specific times during the class, and if items are a true distraction, they are asked to put them in their pockets, but I have yet to personally ban an item from being brought to my ministry.
There is no one policy that will cover all circumstances, but may I encourage you to try to learn about, and incorporate items into your ministry instead of banning them because of a lack of understanding.