Challenging Kids

“That doesn’t belong in your nose.”

“Can you please sit down?”

“Do not put that in her hair.”

“Raise your hand, please.”

“You can do that in the bathroom if you need to.”

These are just a few of the things we find ourselves saying to those EGR (Extra Grace Required) kids. We see them coming a mile away and everything in our being wants to find a dark corner, curl up, and suck our thumb while rocking back and forth saying “No more, no more.” But then we hear that still small voice whispering; in your weakness I am stronger. WE can do this.

Let’s face it – some kids are a challenge. As human beings, we tend to be reactionary and respond to these kids based on their actions. But as small group leaders, we have a unique opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus to these special cases.

Tyler was the perfect example. I was a new leader and the previous leaders gave me a heads up about one of the kids I would be inheriting in my small group. They used words like “difficult” and “distraction” among others. These, I soon found out, were gross understatements. Tyler was almost impossible to work with. He monopolized all of my attention. I was constantly micromanaging or disciplining him. On the rare occasion I had an opportunity to focus on the other kids, it usually ended abruptly with the sound of something breaking. To say this kid was a challenge was just the tip of the iceberg.

After one particularly… eventful Sunday, I went digging. I found out that Tyler had a tragic story: one parent was in jail and the other struggled with drug addiction; he had been adopted a couple years prior by his grandparents and things were finally peaceful for him. Then suddenly, Just like that – his fragile world was shattered again when Tyler’s Grandpa passed away leaving his Grandma to take care of Tyler and all the finances alone.

We literally had a widow caring for an orphan here.

It was after this realization that my heart broke for him. The house of God needed to become a place of love, safety, comfort and acceptance in a world full of uncertainty for Tyler and it just so happened that these words were the antithesis of how I felt towards him.

With the strength of the Holy Spirit, I tried something counter-intuitive: each time I saw Tyler I would deny the urge to run to the hills screaming and would automatically stop whatever it was that I was doing and go to him, get down to his eye level, smile and squeeze him tight. Conversations were interrupted to greet him. He received special attention. He was allowed to do things the other kids weren’t. He received more time and more affection from me. He was chosen as a volunteer almost every time he raised his hand. He was given praise at at every turn for even the slightest thing. He was set apart. In time, Tyler became my favorite distraction.

Yes, at first the other kids raised an eyebrow but soon they actually began to model the behavior they had seen. They began choosing him to play with. They laughed at his jokes. They were nice to him. He actually made friends.

Over time, I saw the love of God begin to turn this kid from a dark, angry, wounded kid into a new creation. And better yet, the small group leaders that had developed a nervous twitch began to breathe easy again. No longer did I find them wandering aimlessly in dark hallways muttering to themselves; I found them loving on Tyler, being the hands and feet of Jesus. I’m not going to lie; there was no over-night transformation here. He didn’t become the model of perfect behavior or anything. Instead, he just became a normal kid, complete with behavioral ebbs and flows but with fewer sharp edges.

Difficult kids need a little something extra – and they are going to get it one way or another. As the small group leader, choose to make the tone of that extra attention proactive positivity instead of knee-jerk negativity and watch life-change occur!

What counter-intuitive action can you take to make challenging kids feel special this week?


By: Abigail McCormack

Guest Writer March 16th, 2015 2 Comments

3 Simple Steps to Cue the Parent

You have 5 minutes left before parents arrive to pick up your few. As you wrap up your prayer activity, you invite your few to help clean up the supplies from small group time and grab their jacket & bible. In a matter of minutes, a shift will occur and you need to be ready.

It's parent pick up time.

If you're anything like me,

Gina McClain March 11th, 2015 1 comment

Good Night

It’s dinnertime on Saturday and cars line the street. With the doorbell ringing every few minutes, it doesn’t take long for things to get cranking. People troop through the house, depositing soda or side dishes in the kitchen as they go. Some of the moms stay behind to peel off the Saran Wrap and stick serving spoons in the bowls. Most of the adults, though,

Melanie Williams February 17th, 2015 1 comment

Three Things Parents Need From a SGL

As a small group leader, one of your primary roles is to partner with parents. How that plays out often depends on your few and the parents of your few. But let’s get a little practical.

My wife and I have just entered into a season where the rubber meets the road. Our seven-year old son is about to join his first elementary small group

Kenny Conley February 6th, 2015 0 comments

Answering the Why Questions

So you lead a group of kids. You are their small group leader. Once upon a time, maybe last month, maybe last year, maybe a decade ago…you signed up for this role as the adult that leads a group of children.

If you're a good leader you've attended a few training sessions, read a book about how to lead small, and even read a blog

Jonathan Cliff January 27th, 2015 1 comment

Remind Them You’re Still There

When the holiday season rolls around routines get a little out of whack.

Between holiday events, school plays, family commitments and seasonal illness... rhythms are thrown off and sometimes church doesn't make it on the agenda.

This can affect you as a Small Group Leader.

Some of your few have gone missing the past few weeks. And though you know there's good reason for their

Gina McClain January 21st, 2015 0 comments

Helping Kids with Their Hurts

Something we say around her a lot is that “relationship amplifies the message.” You have important truths to pass on to your few every week, whether it’s something God’s put on your heart to say or it’s written in your curriculum. For some, they’re just words. But when these words come from the context of a relationship, they become something more.

One of the quickest

Kenny Conley January 19th, 2015 3 Comments

Six Ways to Reconnect in the New Year

After the busyness of the holidays, families are making their way back to church in the new year. That means that familiar faces will re-emerge after weeks of being away.

For some children in your group, returning to church will be a piece of cake. They’ll jump back in, almost as if they’ve not been away at all. For other children, settling back in to

Guest Writer January 12th, 2015 6 Comments

Digging Deeper

As an SGL of tweens, your few are in a funny season of life.

They are capable of going deeper, yet tend to keep things frivolous when they want to. A 5th grade SGL recently confided in me...

"Sometimes I have to orchestrate my first response. When I ask a question, the first response tends to set the tone. And all other responses fall in

Gina McClain December 9th, 2014 3 Comments

Watch the Clock

It's the time of year when you and your few have settled into a rhythm.

As an SGL, you've figured out how much time to invest each week to prepare to teach your few.

You've learned how to transition your kids from one segment of the service to the next without losing their attention...much.

You've even discovered ways to make an activity fun but not crazy.

Gina McClain November 3rd, 2014 2 Comments