Sep 17

3 Keys to AMP the Motivation of Your Volunteers

So you finally have the volunteers you need to staff the children’s ministry and fill the open slots on the Ministry Council. Breathe a sigh of relief and offer a prayer of thanks!

But as you say, “Amen,” remember you aren’t finished yet. Now that your volunteers are in place, you want to help them succeed, do their very best, find joy in their service, and keep coming back for more—ideally, year after year. In short, you want to build a cadre of volunteers who, like the prophet Isaiah, are eager to say, “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

How do you motivate volunteers? And keep them motivated? How do you engage each volunteer’s “want to”—and eradicate the “shoulds, oughts, and musts,” that spur reluctant service?

The research is in, and it’s clear and simple. Clear and simple, but not always so easy. Here are the three keys, together with a few “how-tos.” Keep your smart phone or a pad and pen at hand over the next few weeks and jot down specific ideas that grow out of these insights. Check out some of the resources CTA makes available to help you! Then watch as our Lord works through you to build an even bigger “want to” in your volunteers’ hearts.

In a now famous TED talk, Daniel Pink explains the three keys to human motivation: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. His talk focuses on the workplace, but the principles also apply to volunteers in many settings, including churches.


KEY 1: Autonomy

No one likes to be micromanaged. But few of us enjoy being thrown into the deep end of the pool to sink or swim, either. The idea of autonomy—self-direction—requires an approach somewhere between these two extremes.

How to use this key: Give your volunteers a clear idea of the outcomes you want to achieve and how their tasks fit into the bigger picture. Provide deadlines. Then let them choose how to achieve these outcomes, deciding on the “hows” for themselves. Provide meaningful feedback—including as many positive comments as possible—at important checkpoints.


KEY 2: Mastery

Think back to your first few trumpet lessons or to the first few weeks in Spanish I. Remember the frustration? Were you tempted to quit? Human beings have an in-built drive to improve, to get better at the things we do. When it seems as though we’re getting nowhere, we tend to give up.

How to use this key: Think Goldilocks! Ensure that each volunteer’s assignment is not too hard—but not too easy, either. Then, provide the support, the scaffolding, your volunteers need. Equipment, articles, webinars, mentoring, books, a conversation over coffee . . . Provide what your volunteers need, and stay in touch with their progress and feelings. How can you help? Are they bored? Frustrated? Look for ways to keep them happy and growing.


KEY 3: Purpose

We might think of “purpose” as the “super key,” they master key that unlocks the whole puzzle. When people link arms to meet a need they care deeply about, something almost magical happens. Even the most difficult obstacles give way.

How to use this key: Look for more and more ways to connect every task to your vision and strategy, to the ministry of your church. Cutting the grass makes the campus more inviting for visitors who might come to learn more about Jesus, the Savior. Ushers, greeters, and parking lot attendants share Jesus’ love in the warmth and caring that they show and keep people coming back to grow in Christ’s love. Every task links in some way to your church’s reason for being there in your community. But don’t assume all your volunteers see this. Point it out—often!

Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose. Want to AMP volunteer motivation–and that of staff, too? Use these three keys to help everyone feel fulfilled and keep them stepping up to say, “I would like to volunteer!”


Editor’s note: If you work with volunteers, you know that you need to recognize their efforts, care for them along the way, and celebrate their efforts. CTA knows this, too, and provides lots of resources to help you get this new ministry year started off in a positive direction. Many are free and downloadable. Check them out!


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Sep 16

Trunk or Treat!

Editor’s note: A few years ago, Elisa Tomlinson researched the “Trunk or Treat” phenomena for us here at CTA. She talked with many creative people in many churches about the various Halloween alternatives they were providing. Here is what she found.

I have a confession to make. I have never once been trick-or-treating! My parents weren’t big on Halloween. Too many scary costumes, too much bad history, too-often repeated news stories warning of dangerous candy. Fortunately for today’s kids, many churches have begun to offer exciting alternatives to a traditional Halloween—alternatives even my folks would approve!

One such event finding increasing popularity among CTA customers is a yearly Trunk or Treat.

Pastor Ricky Burse of Linary Church of Christ near Crossville, Tennessee, explains trunk-or-treating: “We park fifty to seventy decorated cars and trucks in a big U-shape in our parking lot. The kids have a great time going from trunk to trunk gathering popcorn balls, candy, and other treats. It’s really a twofold mission for us: we want to create a safe, fun environment for the kids to celebrate fall, and also to provide an opportunity for fellowship in our community.”

Interested in hosting a Trunk or Treat at your church? Here’s how:

  • Plan well in advance. Pastor Scott Tessin, Children’s Ministry Pastor at Faith Lutheran Church in Oakville, Missouri, recommends beginning in August if you plan to host a full fall festival and make it all it can be. “It usually works best to have a committee of three to five people. One can oversee food, if you want to offer that; one can be in charge of communication within the community; one can handle the recruitment of volunteers, and so forth.”
  • Publicize! While one of the committee members can be responsible for overseeing publicity efforts and posting a notice in your “Trading Times” or other local flea market publications, other individuals can hang flyers at the local library, YMCA, and day-care centers. John Hartmann of Shiloh Baptist Church in Oakville, Missouri, encourages church members to hand out flyers at a nearby elementary school. What a wonderful opportunity to go out into your community and invite unchurched neighbors and friends to a nonthreatening church-sponsored event!
  • Recruit enough volunteers. One of the great things about Trunk or Treat is that the whole family can participate, making it easy to find helpers. Explain to your members that parents can keep an eye on their little ones by hosting a trunk at the event. Also, encourage various discipleship groups and teams of friends to sign up to host a trunk. The more trunks the better!
  • Make it part of a larger event. Linary Church of Christ incorporates Trunk or Treat at the church’s annual chili supper. At Faith Lutheran Church, Trunk or Treat is a recent addition to Faith’s “Annual Fall Festival,” a yearly event that also includes bobbing for apples, a beanbag toss, a cakewalk, three-legged racing and similar activities. It keeps those sugared-up kids happily occupied and burning energy for several hours. (You may want to sell tickets at a nominal price, for at least some of these stations, to help defray costs.)
  • Encourage competition! One of the best things about Halloween is the costume contest. With Trunk or Treat, that competition spills over onto the cars, as well. Pastor Tessin tells of one family whose trunk (the bed of their pickup truck) was decorated like Mount Sinai. “It was great! The whole family dressed up like Bible characters, and they had built a mountain out of hay bales, tarp, and tissue paper in their truck!”
  • Plan and provide for a great turnout. One of the most common problems we’ve heard from groups hosting a first-year Trunk or Treat is that the candy supply ran out in the first fifteen minutes because so many kids showed up! So whatever you do, make sure that you have plenty of goodies for all. For some great, nonedible treats, check out CTA’s Halloween alternative items.

Have a fun and happy fall festival from CTA!


© 2014 CTA, Inc.




Sep 15

Shaped by God’s Word – a free devotion for this week’s meetings

This week’s free devotion is slightly adapted from CTA’s new devotion book for Christian Workers, Shaping Hearts; Changing Lives: 30 Days to Grow in Service. It is available now, and the product line includes many valuable, value-priced gifts for church staff and volunteers. 


Running on fumes. Ever done that? Maybe you’re doing it right now. Many people do. Sometimes even God’s most dedicated servants do. Tired already, we tackle yet one more task. We mean well. And there’s so much that needs doing!

Running on fumes. There’s no sin in zeal. But take care! Don’t get so caught up in giving your service to your Savior that you stop giving your self to him!

Notice! Are you spending less and less time in prayer? Seldom opening your Bible? Do you find your time with other believers on Sunday morning more distracting than devotional? Is your joy evaporating?

Jesus intends quite the opposite for us! Jesus intends that the Good News of the Gospel continue to shape our hearts, change our lives, and fuel our love as we serve his people in his name. Then, with the apostle, we will rely more and more boldly and effectively on our Savior:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16

Remember This

We also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 1 Thessalonians 2:13 

Imagine That!

The Word of God is “at work in you believers” – in us and in those we teach, help, counsel, encourage, and lead. When you picture that happening, what do you see? Let that promise encourage you today!


Editor’s note: If you’re looking for ways to recognize, connect, and celebrate volunteers and/or pastors and other church staff, consider any of the products in the Shaping Hearts, Changing Lives line. Or check out CTA’s other Christian Worker themes.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© 2014 CTA, Inc. 




Sep 10

100 Ways to Encourage a Student (or a Teacher) and Create Smiles

Many thanks to Tim Wesemann for sharing these great ideas with us! Use them to be a blessing in the lives of those around you today!

Wow • Way to go • Super • You’re special • Outstanding • Excellent • Great • Good • Neat • Well done • Remarkable • I knew you could do it • I’m proud of you • Fantastic • I love your faith • Nice work • Looking good • You’re on top of it • Beautiful • Now you’re catching on • Now you’ve got it • You’re incredible • Bravo • You’re fantastic • Hurray for you • You’re on your way • You’re on target • Now nice • How smart • Good job • That’s incredible • Hot dog • Dynamite • You’re beautiful • You’re unique • Nothing can stop you now • Good for you • I like you • You’re a winner • Remarkable job • Beautiful work • Spectacular • You encourage me • Thanks for all you do • I thank God for you • You’ve discovered the secret • You figured it out • Fantastic Job • Hip, hip, hooray • You’re forgiven • Magnificent • Marvelous • Terrific • You’re important • You’re sensational • Super work • Creative job • Super job • Fantastic job • Exceptional performance • You’re a real trooper • You are responsible • You are exciting • You learned it right • What an imagination • What a good listener • You are fun • Jesus loves you more than you can imagine • You tried hard • You care • Beautiful sharing • Outstanding performance • God has blessed you with many talents • I trust you • You’re important • You mean a lot to me • You make me happy • You belong • You’ve got a friend • You make me laugh • You brighten my day • I respect you • You mean the world to me • That’s correct • You’re a joy • You’re a treasure • You’re wonderful • You’re perfect • Awesome • A+ job • My buddy • You made my day • That’s the best • A hug • Thank you • Jesus shines through you • You’re a blessing!



Sep 09

Timely Tips For a Great Fall Festival

Are you hoping to add some variety to this year’s Fall Festival? Try some of these tips:

  • This year, award a prize for the best decorated trunk or truck bed. Participants could vote for their favorites, or delegate a panel of judges for this task.
  • Dress a volunteer as a “mystery person” who will walk among participants and talk (perhaps in a disguised voice) throughout the event. Let participants guess the identity of the “mystery person,” and perhaps award correct guesses with a special treat or prize.
  • Use balloons as the distribution tool for information about your church (service times, special holiday events/times, etc.) Simply type the information on small slips of paper and insert the paper into balloons. Then inflate the balloons and pass them out to participants. Be sure to tell balloon recipients to check out the important information inside their balloons!
  • Add a no-carving pumpkin decorating contest to your festival this year! Gather markers, yarn, felt, craft foam, wiggle eyes, and more. Also collect push pins, straight pins, staples, and staplers to help hold decorations in place. Don’t forget prizes for the wackiest, winning pumpkins.
  • Speaking of pumpkins, here’s a fun way to keep the youngest festival attendees busy: Collect features from several Mr. Potato Head games and let the children use the plastic eyes, noses, etc. to decorate pumpkins instead! Use knitting needles to poke eye, ear, nose, and mouth holes in small pumpkins, and let the fun begin!
  • Need a costume-friendly theme for your Halloween Alternative event? Consider these: Animals of the Bible, A Bounty of Blessings, Men and Women of the Bible, or Noah’s Ark.
  • Want a lighted walkway for your festival but hesitate to use candles? Try this: Make luminaries by cutting Christian designs in small lunch bags. Place the bags upside down over the top of solar-powered sidewalk lights.  Or, if your church doesn’t have sidewalk lights, weigh down the bags with some sand and place a glow stick in the center.
  • Let your little ones help make a quick and tasty autumn punch by combining 8 cups 7-Up (or other lemon-lime soda) with 3 cups cranberry juice cocktail. These cranberry coolers are just right for fall!
  • Don’t forget to schedule a post-event meeting after this year’s festival. Note successes along with suggestions for next year. Be sure to include a list of festival activities and volunteers who helped. Bind everything in a notebook, and next year’s committee won’t have to start from scratch! After the meeting, thank your great volunteers with hot cider, pumpkin bread, and small, homemade ‘thank-you pumpkins.’ To make the pumpkins, first purchase one mini pumpkin (or small gourd) for each volunteer or committee chairperson. Use spray paint, permanent markers, and bits of fabric, sequins, or feathers to add details that relate to each volunteer’s festival duties. For example, decorate one pumpkin to resemble a turkey and include this note: Festival foods were so good, we wanted to gobble everything! A fancy, sequined gourd might include this message: Decorations were simply gourd-geous! 
  • Have one or more rubber stamps created with your church name, address, and service times. Use the stamp(s) to mark several dozen brightly colored index cards. Invite Sunday school children or homebound individuals to apply Christian stickers to decorate the cards still further. Then insert the stamped cards into fall festival gift bags and fall rummage sale bags. You may also want to make the decorative cards available for parishioners to hand out at Halloween-alternative programs or to attach to Christian tracts to give to trick-or-treaters, along with the candy or other trinkets they distribute.
  • Add some old-fashioned fun to this year’s fall festival! For example, consider apple bobbing and pie baking contests. Invite local chefs to enter a chili cook-off. Encourage students to participate in “three-legged” races, sack races, and more. Need additional ideas? Just ask seniors in your congregation for suggestions. 

Editor’s note: It’s not too late to plan a Fall Festival or Halloween Alternative! CTA has event guides, free downloadables, and all kinds of other helps to make your event a snap! To check them out, start here.


© 2014 CTA, Inc. 



Sep 08

A Million Ways to Make a Difference – a free devotion for this week’s meetings

offer-your-hands-in-serviceThis week’s free devotion is slightly adapted from CTA’s new devotion book for Christian Workers, Shaping Hearts; Changing Lives: 30 Days to Grow in Service. It is available now, and the product line includes many valuable, value-priced gifts for church staff and volunteers.


To begin, read Colossians 3:23-24. 

Whatever . . .  For quite a while now, that word has expressed apathy. I don’t care. It makes no difference. You decide. I have no dog in this hunt. Whatever . . .

In contrast, Paul’s “whatever” in Colossians 3 includes not one hint, not one whiff of indifference! Jesus cares – deeply – about our service. And he provides many different kinds of opportunities, dozens of diverse channels for our service. We can shape hearts and change lives in multiple ways.

Our holy, infinite heavenly King does not need our service. He has all the riches of eternity at his disposal. He is strong and wise beyond all our knowing, and he commands myriads of angels, all of whom do his will to perfection.

No, God in heaven doesn’t need our service. But the people right here on earth do! The home-bound person next door. The children down the block who don’t know Jesus. The homeless vet living under the bridge. Our boss, husband, wife, or sister. We serve Christ by serving them. 

Pray This

Lord Jesus, you open many doors of service for me every day. You never promise it will be easy. You do promise to walk with me, to equip me. Open my eyes to see . . .

Imagine That!

Re-read Colossians 3:23-24 as though it came directly to you from the heart of God himself. (It does!) If you took it to heart, how might your life and service change?


Editor’s note: If you’re looking for ways to recognize, connect, and celebrate volunteers and/or pastors and other church staff, consider any of the products in the Shaping Hearts, Changing Lives line. Or check out CTA’s other Christian Worker themes.

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

© 2014 CTA, Inc. 




Sep 03

Don’t Forget Grandparents Day—Sunday, September 7!

Grandmother and granddaughter reading and smilingThis Sunday is Grandparents Day. If you’ve forgotten, and wish you had a project for your children’s class or Bible club this week, try this.

Fold an 8 ½ X 11 sheet of paper twice to make a small, approximately square greeting card. Add line art on the cover for your students to color or simply print the words, “Happy Grandparent’s Day!” Use the remaining “pages” to sprinkle sentence starters like these—perhaps each in its own small word bubble, but leave most of each page blank:

  • I love it when we . . . 
  • You are beautiful when . . . 
  • I pray that . . . 
  • Please never stop . . . 
  • I love you because . . . 

Duplicate the cards and make a few extras, just in case. Have students finish the sentences. Depending on their abilities and the time available, they might provide one, two, three, or more endings.

If you teach children who cannot yet write, recruit volunteers from the youth class and have each youngster dictate sentence endings while the volunteers use crayons or colored marking pens to record what they say.

Variation: Have a digital camera and printer available and photograph each child holding a colorful sign that says, “I love my Grands!” Print the photos and insert them into the cards.


© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Sep 02

Train EVERY Volunteer!

set-volunteers-for-successEditor’s note: This article, written by Karen Kogler, first appeared in Share in mid-July. Since we know many regular readers were on vacation then and since we believe so strongly in the importance of training volunteers, we are reprinting it today. Many blessings as you recruit and equip volunteers for the new year of ministry ahead!

Employers train new hires. Teens are trained to drive. Personal trainers help you reach your exercise goals. Training is common everywhere . . . except the church. Most churches feel they’re doing well if they offer Sunday school teacher training. The reality is that every church volunteer should be trained for ministry.

But aren’t most volunteer tasks simple enough that anyone can do them? Can’t they just learn as they go? Who has time to plan and lead training sessions, or even attend them?

Actually, volunteers want training. They want to do the job right. They don’t want to embarrass themselves. They want to learn the nuts and bolts. They want a safe place to ask questions.

Even if I already know how to do a task, training tells me how that task is done here, what the expectations are, how the equipment/schedule/procedures work here. It tells me how this task relates to other tasks in this setting, and how it fits into this church’s mission and ministry.

Training . . .
• can be scheduled or offered ‘on demand';
• helps both new and long-term volunteers;
• can be led by leaders or fellow participants;
• communicates new information or reinforces previous information;
• can be combined with fellowship or appreciation activities; and
• should be fun!

Training can take many different forms, developed by you or others . . .
• written instructions;
• audio/video recordings;
• a buddy system or mentoring;
• group classes or one-on-one instruction;
• website information (and assessments);
• commercially available trainings;
• books, magazines, articles; and
• conferences.

Training builds leaders and it often goes beyond specific ministries. For instance, conflict management and communication skills are useful for nearly everyone who serves. Faith-sharing is a key skill, since serving often opens doors for sharing the Gospel within and beyond our church. Leaders often value training in how to effectively recruit, delegate, supervise, and train those with whom they work.

So many options! Our challenge is helping each ministry, and the church as a whole, determine the how, when, and what of specific trainings. When the importance of training is emphasized from the top down, when the topic is regularly revisited and people are held accountable, training becomes expected and, eventually, taken for granted.

Training advances the church’s mission. It reduces conflict and many other common problems. It builds teamwork and unity. It increases volunteer retention and improves results. It’s an investment in the body of Christ.

Here are some training resources you may find helpful.

These resources have been developed by the author of this blog:
• free worksheet for planning specific trainings
• for purchase, a package of two presentations, focused on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of training, with participant handouts and leader’s guide.

In addition, check these out:
• A list of training resources
• Free webinars from Volunteer Match
• Betty Stalling’s 55-Minute Series, Training Staff to Succeed with Volunteers, is practical, succinct, and cost effective.


© 2014 CTA, Inc.

Sep 01

Christ-Shaped Service – a free devotion for this week’s meetings

This week’s free devotion is slightly adapted from CTA’s new devotion book for Christian Workers, Shaping Hearts; Changing Lives: 30 Days to Grow in Service. It is available now, and the product line includes many valuable, value-priced gifts for church staff and volunteers.


 It came in the middle of the night, God’s call to Samuel. It came when Samuel did not expect it. It came in a unique way. It was persistent and specific. It came, not for Samuel’s benefit but for the benefit of God’s people, God’s nation. It changed the shape of Samuel’s entire life – from childhood onward.

The callings of God in our lives today differ from the calling Samuel received. Yet, in several significant ways, they are similar. The Lord chose Samuel to believe and to serve. Christ’s call to faith and service rests on us, too. Samuel had not earned this high honor, and neither have we. In fact, our sin thoroughly disqualifies us, just as it disqualified Samuel.

Still, the forgiveness Jesus won on Calvary’s cross belonged to Samuel. Heaven’s High King credits Jesus’ holiness to your account, too. God’s love for Samuel was unmistakable, unshakable, and forever. That same persistent, pardoning love flows into our lives, calling us to serve and qualifying us for his service.

Remember This

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen.” Isaiah 43:10

 Read This

You can find the account of God’s calling the boy Samuel to lifelong service in 1 Samuel 3. It’s quite inspiring! As you read, look for parallels in your own service for our Savior. How does the account encourage you? With whom could you share that encouragement?


Editor’s note: If you’re looking for ways to recognize, connect, and celebrate volunteers and/or pastors and other church staff, consider any of the products in the Shaping Hearts, Changing Lives line. Or check out CTA’s other Christian Worker themes.


Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


© 2014 CTA, Inc. 




Aug 27

What Works in Classroom Discipline: Ways to keep your class focused and learning

List the top five fears of beginning teachers, and you’ll find “classroom discipline” near the top of that list. List the top five frustrations of many seasoned teachers, and you’ll find “classroom discipline” near the top of the list, too!

For those who teach in church, this issue can seem even more daunting. Many of us are volunteers. We’ve had no formal training. We’re not sure how to handle a chatty third grader or the cliques among our ninth graders. What we do know, almost instinctively, is this:

To learn anything, students need to pay attention.

Students who focus on the tasks at hand learn more—much more—than those who don’t. Educators call this “time on task.” Research has shown that in some classrooms, students spend only about 20% of their time on task! In the best classrooms, students spend more than 70% of their time on task. Guess who learns more . . .

Would you like to increase the learning that goes on in your youth Bible study or the midweek CCD class you teach? Research points to these “best practices” for keeping kids on task and learning.

Be (Over) Prepared 

  • What are you praying for yourself and your students? This is no “pious suggestion” that’s included here because readers will expect it! It’s a very practical measure you can take to set the stage for student interest and involvement. Have you told the students you’re praying for them? Have you asked them to pray for you—and included specific needs in your request? (E.g., “Ask that Jesus help me explain things clearly”; “Ask that I can find projects that help you learn what the Holy Spirit wants to teach you.”) 
  • How do you set the stage for success ahead of time? Do you plan thoroughly and know exactly what you want to accomplish? Do you have all the materials you will need on hand? Have you verified that the Mp3 player works? If the lesson wraps up more quickly than you think it will, what meaningful extra activities will you be ready to pull out of your hat?
  • Do you expect the best and look forward to meeting your class and learning with them? Studies have shown time and again the power of high expectations and sharing them with learners. When we treat our students as partners in learning and anticipate having a great experience with them, that’s often exactly what happens. 

Initiate Proactive Procedures

Think in terms of routine classroom events and the needs of your students. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • How quickly do I get into the lesson? What keeps me from beginning the moment the clock strikes 9:00? Do I prepare materials before class? Could students help me rearrange chairs or tables before class if rearranging is necessary? How could I incentivize everyone to arrive few minutes early? (E.g., providing highly engaging activities that begin as soon as the first learners arrive.)
  • How could I distribute materials more efficiently? Could learners pick up Bibles, pencils, and snacks as they arrive? What other routines would help avoid delays in learning activities? Learners who stay engaged in learning activities have less time to create disruptions.
  • What events consistently interrupt learning? Does a bell ring mid-way through class? Who could help prevent that? Does someone enter your learning space to collect the offering or day’s attendance record at the same time every week? How else could that process be handled?

Have the Fewest Rules Possible—and Enforce Them

Do your students know what you expect? Experts suggest these approaches:

  • Let class members help you set rules. Accept ideas and suggestions, but make it clear that as the adult in the room you have final responsibility and, thus, authority.
  • Limit rules to no more than 4-6 in number. Then make sure everyone understands both the “what” and the “why” behind each rule. Post a list. If you share a space, put the rules on a poster and bring it back week by week.
  • Attach clear and appropriate rewards and consequences to each rule. Remember, rules that are unenforced become unenforceable.
  • Don’t over-react.Your goal should be to de-escalate disruptive behaviors. That means you won’t want to “up the ante” by elevating the situation beyond its current level. Many times, you can regain control simply by pausing and looking the offender directly in the eye. If not, walk toward him or her—but not in a threatening or menacing way. Standing nearby will often re-set everyone’s focus, moving it back to the lesson.

Stay “With-it”

“With-it-ness” is that sixth sense, the “eyes in the back of a teacher’s head.” As students enter your classroom, notice what’s going on. Does E.J. seem unusually quiet? Is Jill’s fidgeting? Does Madeline look sleepy? And—here’s the key—we act on what we see to prevent problems. We move to stand beside Jill. We ask Madeline a question. We take a moment to check in individually with E.J.

This, of course, may mean arranging the furniture in your space to make it possible. You may need to be creative, but do think about how you could set the stage for a “4 X 4 Approach”—a practice whereby the teacher moves to within four feet of each learner every four minutes.


Effective procedures combined with teacher “with-it-ness” will prevent many disruptions, and prevention is your goal. But disruptions will occur in even the best classrooms. When you notice an issue developing, address it immediately! Students who have collaborated in developing rules and who have seen you enforce them with firm, caring consistency will generally respond to a simple, quiet reminder.

Stay calm. Remember, most rule breaking is not intended as an insult. Usually, disruptive learners have been distracted. Or they are hungry. Or they haven’t fully engaged with the concept you’re communicating. When you avoid personalizing disruptive behavior, you can deal more effectively with it. Address the underlying problem, and the disruption disappears.

Here’s the Key: Maintain Good Relationships with Each Learner

I’ve saved the most important point for last. When, in Christ, we care about our kids, they know it. They respond, in turn, by loving us in the Savior, too. Care is never a “group policy.” One by one, child by child, youth by youth, we notice new shoes, we pray for ailing grandparents, we phone or text to ask about that geometry test.

In maintaining a well-managed classroom, we make learning possible. But even more important, we model Jesus’ concern and His love for our students. 

Think about it: How much time does your class spend “on task”? Want to know? Have a friend sit in the back of your room with a sheet of paper and a list of numerals from 1 to 50—assuming your class session is 50 minutes long. 

Your partner should put a Y (yes) or an N (no) next to each numeral in answer to the question: Is the class focused on learning now? 

Then plug the data into this formula: (Total number of minutes available – Number of No’s) ÷ 100 = % time on task.


© 2014 CTA, Inc.





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