“Your son will not sit still and is always talking to the other students.”
This was what my parents heard at nearly every one of my parent teacher conferences growing up. It didn’t matter how many times I was scolded, corrected or punished. I had no control over when I would socialize with others.
While I have never been officially diagnosed with “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder”(ADHD). I have heard it many times from family, friends and colleagues growing up.
ADHD is a medical condition that affects a person’s ability to focus, pay attention, or control their behavior.
While most would think of ADHD as a disadvantage, I’ve learned to harness its powers.
I have turned a weakness into a strength. Here are a few examples.
- Energetic: I’ve always seemed to have an endless amount of energy. I’ve learned to channel that toward my ministry to children. It’s like a super power for working with kids.
- Spontaneous: Some call it impulsivity, I think of it as spontaneity. I use that spontaneity to break free from the status quo and try new things. Kids love new things.
- Creative & Inventive: Kids ministry is all about creativity. I harness my creativity to create new and exciting ways to present the gospel. Through stories, objects, and creative teaching methods.
- Hyper focused: This can be a great strength or weakness, just ask my wife. I am often able to intently focus on a task and tune out the world around me. This allows me to work on projects or assignments with extreme focus until completion without breaking concentration.
Now let’s get specific. We all have kids with short attention spans in our ministries. Kids who struggle to focus, pay attention or control their behavior.
Here are six things I do in my ministry because of my personal experience with ADHD.
- Every kid is different: I know that attention spans and ability to focus is different for every child. So I don’t expect every child to respond the same way to every teaching method. When a child loses focus I don’t blame the child I blame the teaching method and ask, “are we the most exciting thing going on in the room right now?” I keep the most exciting thing in the room on stage or in front of the kids.
- I plan services that engage all the senses. I don’t just talk at kids. I captivate all their senses.
- I keep my service segments short (5-7) minutes. I am constantly changing between different teaching tools. (Stories, objects, videos, music, etc)
- I allow time for verbal interaction. Kids want to talk, I give time every week throughout the service for the kids to express themselves verbally.
- Kids also struggle to sit still. I build in opportunity for them to move around and express themselves physically. We play games, alternate from sitting and standing, we also get up and move around during worship. If I sense that I am losing the kids, I will have them all stand up and do some type of physical expression.
- I don’t shame kids who get fidgety, talkative, disruptive. I look for creative ways to refocus their attention or I move on to the next segment.
Every one of us has children in our ministry that won’t sit still, don’t pay attention, have a double dose of energy. With a little creativity and forethought we can engage even the most energetic kids in our ministry.
Question: What would you add to this list? What have you done to engage children with short attention spans or unlimited amounts of energy?