Turning Challenging Kids into Champion Leaders

Don't write off challenging kids. They may turn out to be your greatest champions.

by John Hicks/ May 27, 2021

Through the years I’ve been reminded over and over that ministry can take many forms. Ministry is all about using what God gave you to enrich the lives of those around you and helping them to become fully devoted followers of Christ. When you’re just a kid, it may be difficult for others to see past your crazy kid behaviors to see your true potential for ministry. Sometimes that requires a “God moment.”


Several years ago when we were serving as children’s pastors in Arkansas, we had a boy in our kids’ church that posed some special challenges. He was “that kid” – you know the one I’m talking about. He was never in his seat, always interrupting, crawling under his chair, messing with the kid next to him – you get the picture.


His name was Garrett, and at one time I considered having “the talk” with his parents. Maybe it would be better if Garrett spent some time with Mom and Dad in big church for a while (a.k.a. we need a break). Maybe he just needs some one-on-one time with someone (anyone other than me).


But then one day we asked Garrett if he would like to help us with a puppet skit. We often used kids to help with puppets but had always been reluctant to involve Garrett for fear that he might throw them across the room, tear their ears off, or draw beards on the girl puppets with permanent markers. Yes, he was “that kid.”


But that day, I was surprised to see how he engaged with the skit and did a really good job. He was focused and paid attention. I began to wonder if someone had secretly replaced our Garrett for another kid. But as I watched him (closely) I realized something that had never occurred to me before – this kid was made for this! He was made for ministry. He was made to serve. He was made to lead. And all the energy and craziness that I had for so long seen as an interruption to my plans was really just Garrett’s reflection of God’s plan in his life. I saw him as unqualified to serve in my program, but God saw him as amazingly qualified to serve in His.


That day I realized it was time for me to get out of the way and let Garrett be Garrett. We began to use him more and more. He became our greeter at the door, handing out BGMC materials as kids arrived. He became a primary character in our drama skits (he was natural – a real goof). He became our most valuable and reliable helper, and we came to love and cherish him like never before. That boy was wonderful!


That was many years ago, and we don’t get to see Garrett much anymore. We no longer live in Arkansas. Last I heard, Garrett was attending medical school and playing rugby (no surprises there – he was brilliant and full of energy). But that boy will forever hold a special place in our hearts. I thank God for the day I learned to see the potential for leadership and service in a boy I had only seen as I problem kid. Don’t write off those challenging kids. They may turn out to be your greatest champions.