More thoughts on disruptive kids

The post from last Wednesday on the topic of disruptive kids prompted some very thoughtful discussion via e-mail exchange. I recognized that clarification of some statements I made would be helpful.

I didn’t mean to imply that all kids with chronically disruptive behavior at church have “special needs” or some identifiable disability. In fact, I would guess that very few would be thought of by themselves or by their families as having “special needs. Some might have attention or learning issues that require some educational support or professional intervention. but demonstrate a less than expected level of spiritual maturity. It doesn’t matter whether a kid has a diagnosis or not, because our job as a church is to help ALL kids to grow spiritually.

There are far, far more kids who struggle with ‘doing church” because of disruptive behavior than there are kids recognized with a special need who struggle to do church. Some of the kids have no diagnosable condition that would interfere with their ability to participate and aren’t interested in learning more about Jesus or growing in faith. Some are growing in faith but have a condition(s) that impact their ability to maintain age appropriate self-regulation and involvement at church. And some have conditions that have negatively impacted their ability to participate in church activities or make use of age-appropriate spiritual disciplines and don’t “have a heart for the Lord” as a result.

I think it’s easy for volunteers to conceptualize kids with disruptive behavior as not “having a heart for the Lord.” Given that 22% of kids in the U.S. have diagnosable mental health conditions, I’d put the question on the table as to whether there might be other factors at work when large groups of kids appears to be struggling spiritually, and work from the assumption that our kids want to be successful at school, at church and in other learning environments until proven otherwise.

After rereading the post from Wednesday, I also think I was a little harsh in some of the observations I shared in the last post. The volunteer in question is a tireless advocate for kids in the church who does an outstanding job as a teacher and a role model. I want adults who invest their time and energy and heart in our kids to feel valued. But we can’t be afraid to say hard things to one another from time to time as long as our comments are rooted in a genuine desire to do the best job we possibly can to help our kids to know Jesus and to grow in spiritual maturity.

On Tuesday, we’ll return to our discussion of why kids might behave aggressively at church.



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About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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1 Response to More thoughts on disruptive kids

  1. Another great point is that many strategies for kids with special needs will also benefit kids without special needs. One example I use often is a 6th grade boy – even if he doesn’t have any attention-related disability, most 6th grade boys benefit from strategies designed for kids with ADHD.

    As far as “not having a heart for the Lord,” if that’s the case, then it’s the responsibility of the parents and the church to continue to faithfully share the gospel with them. God is the one who changes hearts and bears fruit in our lives, but we are called to do our job in sharing his truth and not abandoning the next generation. When I was still in the classroom, I took responsibility if my students weren’t learning something and I adjusted my approach so that they could learn from me; I had colleagues who blamed those same kids and moved on, leaving behind the ones who didn’t “have a heart for” their subject. In my classes, I found that most kids who were disruptive responded differently once they realized I wasn’t giving up on them.


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