When I read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg I wanted to start exercising and stop craving carbohydrates. I was surprised that I applied the principles of habit already, I just needed to attach my new behavior to my existing routine. The power of routine can be applied to our personal, professional and spiritual life as well as ministry with children.
Because routines make us feel safe:
- Parents try to stay consistent in rituals of teeth brushing, storybooks, hugs and prayers.
- Children’s teachers may vary what happens within the structure of large group and small group times, but they keep the locations, the teachers, and the order constant. When a child is apprehensive his brain chemistry is not going to let him retain the knowledge no matter how gifted the teacher is. Recognizing this, substitutes are trained in the class schedule and classes use the same substitutes as much as possible.
Because habits are hard to break:
- Parents create a morning routine of getting ready for school, so that the child can mindlessly prepare for the day without chaos. They check homework, sign permission slips, lay out clothes, and decide on breakfast choices the night before. This allows more time for calm encouraging conversation with the morning people and simple nods with those who are not.
- Teachers become accustomed to contacting guests on Monday, analyzing the next Sunday’s Bible passage on Tuesday, planning the activities with their teaching partner on Wednesday, contacting their absentees on Thursday, preparing for class on Friday, and reviewing on Saturday.
- It is critical that we do not skip church on Sundays, or excuse ourselves out of our quiet time. We can develop the habit of not doing something much more easily than starting a behavior.
- Praying at meals and bedtime are the most common times to pray; since we have attached prayer to something we are going to do anyway. Therefore, scripture memory while brushing your teeth, or driving your car is an easier habit to establish.
Because habits bundled into a routine become lifestyle:
- If I believe friendliness, concern for people, and relationships are important for me to be an example of Christ then I will enter a room smiling and looking for someone new. I will discipline my mind to look at the person speaking and concentrate on what they are saying. I will leave open spaces in my day for unexpected conversation.
- If I believe Jesus loves everyone, then my most earnest prayer each day may be for the child that requires extra grace. I will practice smiling and gently saying the words I repeat every Sunday, “Put your hands in your lap, she doesn’t like it when you poke her, please hold this poster for me.” Yes, with dedicated practice, you will reap the fruit of patience.
If my goal is for children love the Lord with all of their heart, mind and body. I am going to create routines for myself and them to foster their love for the Bible, church and others.
Read retired children’s minister, Jayna Coppedge’s blog A Woman Trusting God at www.jaynac.com. Her A Woman Trusting God Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/A-Woman-Trusting-God-Ministry-1585527838325914/ focuses on spiritual maturity. Invite her to speak at your next leadership event, women’s retreat, or parenting conference. She also loves telling about her experiences in the Middle East working with Syrian refugees, Lebanese Christians, and Muslims.