Skip to main content

Coming out of the pandemic, churches and Sunday Schools have a lot of ground to reclaim and people who need pastoring and re-energizing.

Though the pandemic is "over" its effects are still with us, especially with children, and were issues we were already seeing in our classrooms and fellowship programming.

Much of what follows is good to know for any time, including the present. Feel free to add your own thoughtful helps and links on the subject.

Be sure to view and discuss the inspirational "Leap of Faith ~ Let's Go Together" video created by for "just such a time as this."

It's especially appropriate for leaders and teachers.



Images (2)
  • GoLeapVideo
  • LetsGoIcon
Last edited by Neil MacQueen
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Eight Signs of Anxiety in Children

and what to do about them


"Eight Signs" from

  1. Appear more clingy than normal
  2. Restless and fidgety
  3. Stomaches
  4. Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  5. Express negative thoughts, worries
  6. Get upset or angry more quickly
  7. Bouts of unexplained crying
  8. Struggle to concentrate

Anxious behaviors that last more than two weeks and interfere with daily life could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. At that point talk to your doctor.

"Untreated anxiety puts kids at risk for poor school performance, difficulty maintaining friendships, and even depression. And as kids get older, untreated anxiety can even lead to substance abuse. "

Seven Ways to Help Anxious Children

  1. Don't react to their anxiety with anger, sternness, or dismissiveness. Be a calm "safe" person for them.
  2. Make time to be present, not distant or "too busy" or "in a rush."
  3. Share your feelings with them and encourage them to share theirs. Let them know they aren't alone or abnormal.
  4. Be positive about upcoming changes, events, and challenges. "Preview" them by talking about them.
  5. Promote healthy living by eating right, exercising, taking downtime, getting more sleep, getting out in nature, talking to God, listening to music, singing, being creative.
  6. Plan activities that are less stressful, less competitive, less time-sensitive.
  7. Pray for and practice all of the above for yourself as well as your children.

"Sometimes, just knowing that someone understands what they're experiencing is enough to help kids get through a challenging situation. Other times, they need a little extra help. In these situations, talk to your child's doctor or seek help from a mental health professional. With the right help and treatment, your child can learn to manage their stress and anxiety." (from verywell)


Images (1)
  • Signs of Anxiety in Children from verywell
Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Less Stress Sunday School

Seven things you can do to reduce teacher and student stress in Sunday School

1Be prepared. Under-preparation, lack of supplies, and fussing stresses everyone.

2Have help in the classroom.

3Have fun and be joyful. This includes using fun, stress-relieving lesson activities.

4Improve your welcome and pastoral care of students.

  • Create an inviting space that welcomes them into the classroom.
  • Arrive early and stay after.
  • Have music or a music video playing (but not too loud).
  • Have a snack.
  • Don't rush into the lesson plan, but instead, check how each student is doing.

5Create a "safe" classroom free from judgment and interpersonal issues.

6Avoid "heavy" themes and Bible stories right now.

  • Stick with stories of Love, Forgiveness, Grace, and Help.

7Avoid time crunches which stress the lesson plan. Make time for reflection and prayer.

Reducing Stress in Sunday School Classroom
9 Classroom Stress Management Strategies
Every Teacher Needs to Know

from Western Governor's University's "Hey Teach" program.

The following are healthy strategies for the teachers –that are also meant to be used and taught in the classroom. Wormy has added some comments to extend these strategies to children.

  1. Breathe (properly). The classroom can cause sensory overload and stress levels can come down by mindful breathing. Teach your students how to find calmness and lower their stress. See "breathing" notes below.

  2. Embrace the stress. ...Let children know they are not alone. Ask them how they are doing. Share an appropriate story about stress in your own life and ask them about theirs. Let them know that stress is a normal physical and mental function that can produce positive/motivating results. For this unique perspective, view psychologist Kelly McGonigal's TedTalk on the positives of stress.

  3. Be imperfect in front of your children. Show them that you and they are already “enough” and deserve love and credit as you are. (Grace)

  4. Practice emotional first aid. ...Spot stress in your children and immediately responds with love, patience, flexibility, stress-breaking humor, and positive distractions. Don't let stressful moments fester.  Model proper responses to other people's stress.

  5. Practice gratefulness and joy. And when negativity is expressed, acknowledge the negative and balance it with what's right and good.

  6. Limit “grass is greener” thinking. ...Acknowledge that life and its tasks are sometimes hard, but you can't always avoid the hard stuff, but instead, have to learn to get through it.

  7. Work smarter, not harder. ...For teachers, this means simplifying and not over-preparing. For students, this means making things simpler, and helping them with the follow-through.

  8. Ask for help.  ...And model that it's not a sign of weakness to ask for help.

Stress reducing breathing techniques for kids in Sunday School:

There are many examples and guides to breathing exercises online, including those that link breathing to prayer. Stress generally creates shallower breathing and a tightness in the chest. "Mindful breathing" helps relax muscles and the mind.

This page at has several playful techniques that teach young children how to reduce stress and anxiety by controlled breathing.

"Breath Prayers" include words with an inhale/exhale breathing pattern.

The Navy Seals are taught "4 x 4 x 4" breathing in which they inhale deeply for four counts, then exhale for four counts and repeat the cycle for four minutes several times a day.

Signs of stress in children

Signs of Stress and Anxiety in Children

Help for Teachers from Unicef

Children have different reactions to adverse events in their environment. Culture influences the ways in which we express emotions. In some cultures, for example, it is not appropriate to show strong emotions like crying loudly, while in others it is widely accepted. Based on the culture you work in, be alert for signs that children are not doing well.

Some common reactions to stress in children of all ages can include:

  • Tiredness
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Tight chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stomachache
  • Dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Headaches
  • General aches
  • Withdrawal
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability
  • Feeling confused
  • Increasingly fearful

Check out the YouTube video about anxiety in children from


Images (11)
  • Less Stress Sunday School
  • mceclip0
  • Wellness and Stress
  • Signs of anxiety in children
  • 1
  • 7
  • 6
  • 5
  • 4
  • 3
  • 2
Last edited by Wormy the Helpful Worm

The phrase "non-anxious leader" has been popping up in church books, blogs, and podcasts over the past few years. Here are some links and quotes...

In brief, the non-anxious leader
is a calm and clear presence
in the midst of fear.

  • They aren't reactionary.
  • They don't lead with their emotions.
  • They don't practice "ain't it awful."
  • They don't join the herd or get caught up in other people's anxieties.
  • They don't jump at quick solutions.
  • And they aren't always the appointed leader. Rather they become leaders by their demeanor.

Think of Jesus in the wilderness of Judea and in the alone-ness of Gethsemane. Confronted by the temptation to achieve quick results, self-serving solutions, and the enemy asking him to bow down --to abandon his God for the sake of results, Jesus responded with a calm and clear resolve, trusting in the word and steadfastness of God.

Paradoxically, the anxious are attracted to the non-anxious because that is what they need, even when the anxious and non-anxious don't agree on the facts or solutions. In that respect, the non-anxious leader is a pastoral presence. Hope without the hoopla.

Seeking God's calm in the chaos is also an important kind of self-care, especially when living in anxious times surrounded by so many anxious people and anxious needs.

To be sure, non-anxiety doesn't mean non-action. Rather, it's an essential act of faith, a centering of your own spirit upon God's that can inspire others to do the same.

Leaders of children and youth can project a non-anxious presence through their personal interaction with kids, but also by creating an atmosphere that feels comfortable and fun, without fear of judgment or being made fun of.

Leaders and teachers should listen to their kids' concerns and let them know they care, without resorting to simple answers or fearful talk, They should offer words of hope and acts of kindness, as well as begin to think of ways we can respond to the needs of others.

Five Practices for Becoming a Non Anxious Presence

This sermon/discussion on becoming a non-anxious presence by Pastor John Comer is worth listening to in its entirety.

"Release the illusion of control, attention to the love and joy and peace of God."

During the video, Comer references Mark Sayers' book. See link and excerpt below.

The Church Needs Non-Anxious Leaders

by Pastor Mark Sayers

https://www.thegospelcoalition...non-anxious-leaders/   Click the transcript link if you don't have time to listen to the podcast.

Therapist and Rabbi Edwin Friedman argued that much of what we would define as "leadership" is that person who is non-anxious when everyone else is anxious.  Friedman also came up with the observation that anxiety can move through human networks like a virus moves through the population. The non-anxious leader is calm and clear in the middle of chaos. Think Jesus drawing in the dirt in the middle of men holding rocks. (John 8).

Five Keys to Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Your Personal and Church Life

by Pastor Carey Nieuwhof.

  1. Focus on the facts of a situation rather than letting your feelings about it overwhelm you.
  2. Get a few quick wins, complete a few small tasks (instead of letting the big things consume you).
  3. Take a break, rest, walk away from unproductive work.
  4. Organize your time by categories to take control of your time. For example, "only hold meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays."
  5. Manage your Energy, not just your Time. Know when and how and where you do your best work and then reserve those times and places for your most important tasks. For example, if you are "at your best" in the morning, schedule that time for key tasks like writing and creating.

Without a new strategy and approach, it's easy to continue to:

  • Sacrifice family on the altar of work
  • Overcommit and underdeliver
  • Have no time for what you actually want to do
  • Struggle to get time off to refuel and relax

    Worst of all, other people—other tasks, jobs, and projects—will continue to hijack your life.

The Power of the Non-Anxious Leader

by UMC Pastor Jack Shitama.
Also his own extensive blog on being a non-anxious leader and related subjects.

The Power of the Non Anxious Leader (excerpt)

quotemarkThe most important thing you can do as a non-anxious leader is to regulate your own anxiety. If you are defensive or argumentative with those who are anxious both you and the system will be stuck.

On the other hand if you are able to self-regulate, you create healthy emotional space. This will make the most anxious very uncomfortable, which will likely intensify their anxiety. But if you can remain a non-anxious presence, you create a situation where others will more likely take responsibility for themselves instead of blaming or defining others.

For this to happen, you need to move closer emotionally to the most anxious. This is counterintuitive. What we want to do is distance ourselves because, frankly, who wants to deal with somebody who’s telling us how wrong we are. However, distancing will increase their anxiety.

Moving closer emotionally means connecting in a way that shows you care about them as a person even as you refuse to take responsibility for their issues. When you are able to do this and persist through their intense anxiety you will convert them from an opponent to an ally.

In the Eye of the Storm

Ryan Stevenson's "In the Eye of the Storm" is a great song that speaks to the power of being a non-anxious person to others. A fan created the following music video using images from Hurricane Harvey. Its images speak for themselves about the kind of leadership the world and our churches need.


Images (2)
  • quotemark
  • Peace Be Still
Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Parents today are most worried about their children's struggle with anxiety and depression

In the article, "What Stones Does Your Sunday School Need to Succeed," author Neil MacQueen included recent Pew Research about what today's parents' biggest concerns are for their children. The "Stones" article makes the point that parents' concerns and desires for their children align with what a good Sunday School can help provide. See excerpts below.

Anxiety and Depression top the list of concerns, followed by bullying.

Chart shows mental health tops the list of parental concerns

Parents most want their kids to grow up honest, hardworking, and selfless.

Chart shows fewer than half of parents place a lot of importance on their children sharing their religious and political beliefs

Excerpt from Neil's article which suggests that Sunday School should be touted as one of the solutions to what parents are worried about...

What are the "giants" our kids and parents are facing today?

According to a 2023 Pew Research Center report, parents today are MOST worried about their children's mental health -- anxiety and depression (40% "very" and "extremely" worried). This is followed by concerns about bullying and violence.


That same report revealed that the thing most parents want their children to grow up to be is "honest and ethical," followed by "hardworking," being someone who is willing to help those in need," "and being accepting of others."

Doesn't take a rock to the forehead to realize that these are the very same life skills Sunday School is trying to teach. The only difference is WHO we believe gave us these stones.

If your Sunday School surrounds children with caring adults in a safe place, like-minded families, and inspiring stories of love, trust, service, and hope, then PLAY ON THAT HARP, David!

-an excerpt from the article, "What Stones Does Your Sunday School Need to Succeed"

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

Add Reply

Post a New Topic
Lesson or Resource Inc. is a volunteer-run, 100% member supported, 501(c)3 non-profit Sunday School lesson ministry. You are welcome to borrow and adapt content for non-commercial teaching purposes --as long as both the site and author are referenced. Inc reserves the right to manage, move, condense, delete, and otherwise improve all content posted to the site. Read our Terms of Service. Get a free Registered Membership or become a Supporting Member for full access to all site resources. is rated 5 stars on Google based on 51 reviews. Serving a global community including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, S. Africa, and more!
Link copied to your clipboard.