For many kids, the month of May represents the advent of summer time fun. School schedules are packed with end-of-year parties and assemblies as the year winds down. Class trips often occur during this month as well. Concerts, tournaments and banquets fill evening schedules.And, lest we think that May is all fun and games, many states schedule mandatory testing at this time. Older students begin preparing for final exams and race to complete projects and papers.
Any parent will wearily tell you that May rivals December in the busy-ness department.
For kids with “hidden” disabilities, like anxiety, depression and autism, this rip-roarin’ schedule can really take a toll. Even “fun” events can be stressful, and changes in routine pose an extra challenge for these kids. As a result, many families not only feel busy, but also edgy; it can be impossible to determine what might cause a meltdown or anxiety attack during a month as packed as May.
The month of May is important in ministry as well. There is much to celebrate: graduations, promotion to the next grade or group at church, and year-end projects. In addition, high school and middle school students are in the throes of mission trip training, with the younger kids anticipating camping trips or class parties. Suddenly, the routine of church has also changed. Church staff and volunteers may notice that kids who have previously done well are now acting out or having trouble separating from their parents. This can be confusing–and discouraging.
So what is a Children’s Ministry Staff to do?
- Communicate! If a change in routine is coming, let the parents know through email, a pulpit announcement or a phone call. This small gesture can set kids up for comfort and success on Sunday morning.
- Create an alternate plan. Anticipate that some kids might have trouble with changes in routine. Be sure that you have some quiet activities (books, puzzles, games) that can be enjoyed with kids who might not be able to participate fully in a whole-group or loud activity…and be sure to have a “floating” volunteer or two to staff your quiet area.
- Review your “May Day” plan. Every children’s ministry should have an emergency plan that includes procedures for managing crises. Be sure that your staff and volunteers review these plans to keep everyone safe. This is especially important when warmer weather beckons us outside during church activities!
- Extend grace. We all know how important regular church attendance is to long-term spiritual health. For families affected by hidden disabilities, attending regularly can be challenging, especially during a stressful month. Many of these families aren’t busy with travel teams or choir competitions; they’re shuttling to therapies and working hard on planning summer services for their child. So, if families like these are missing church during May, be sure to stay in touch with them. Offer to email or drop off lesson materials or a CD of the worship music, or send a note of encouragement.
- Be kind to yourself. If a student in your ministry decides not to go on a mission trip, or fails to attend the promotion cook-out, try hard not to take it personally. That can be really difficult…all of us in ministry DO put our hearts and souls into the programs and events we plan! However, the family’s absence from your event probably has very little to do with you. Be encouraged that your ministry HAS made a difference in this family’s spiritual growth and development. Reflect on how the child has grown during the year, and be sure to jot down some of these successes to share with your volunteers.
May you have a Mellow May!