In today’s world this area of children’s ministry has become very sensitive. First of all your church needs to have a policy and second you need to follow it. This will help to protect you and the church should any legal action be brought. At our church we have what is called the “2 deep rule”. Two workers need to be with the children at all times, NEVER just one worker. The two workers can not be relatives. There are no exceptions including bathroom breaks.
The children in elementary class should be able to last 60 to 90 minutes with out going to the restroom. The best way to start then is to have a restroom break at the beginning of class. 5 minutes before the start of class have all activities stop. The kids then have a choice to go to the restroom or take a seat. If you don’t limit them to these 2 options they may decline to use the restroom because they don’t want to break away from the activity they are involved with. As a result they will need to go during class.
We have a female stand outside the open door to the girl’s restroom and a male do the same for the boys. Also this restroom is dedicated for children only to use. There are stalls so each child does have privacy. If a child ask to use the restroom during service you may ask them to wait 5 minutes and if they don’t repeat the request they may not truly need to go. If they do repeat the request then I would allow them to go but only after telling them they will not get any type of reward for good behavior and if there are any games to be played they will not get to play. If they insist on going, allow them to go, there is a good chance that there really is a need. Also I would encourage you to not allow any trips to the bathroom during the main lesson or praise and worship time. This is the major reason for being in church. Once you are a plan for restroom break or make any changes to that plan, tell your class several times, and stay with plan it will help train them and the class well be more orderly. Any always be sensitive to younger children and any child with special needs.
For the preschool age child more flexibility is needed. If you’re too rigid then you may have some accidents to clean up and a bigger disruption to you class. The 2 deep rule needs to always be kept. A good choice is to have the restroom break 15 to 20 minutes into class time. This allows time for all the kids to arrive and shortens the “hold time” of a 90 minutes service to 70 minutes. If you have enough workers to divide the class in half, so they are not all in the restrooms it will go much smoother. Divide and conquer is a basic principle for preschool classes. While one half is in the restroom the other half can be taught a portion of the lesson. Then have the class change places and repeat. A rope with small handles can be useful to kept kids in a group and stop them from running. The handles can be tied loops in the rope. The rule is you must keep you hand on the rope. It is a very concrete command, staying in a single file line can be very unclear to a younger child. After a child has visited the restroom it is common practice to have them sit or stand against the wall as they wait for others to finish. The trouble with that is, it is not stimulating enough to keep them there and usually results in a struggle to keep them orderly. Plan to do something. Have them repeat a memory verse, let them tell a story to the other kids. Have a bean bag to toss to each child and then back to the worker. If you don’t plan an activity they will come up with one. The one they choose most likely will not be appropriate. The key to restroom breaks is to have a plan don’t just let them happen at the whim of your class.