In last month’s post—“10 Questions Kidmin Volunteers Should Ask Themselves”—I identified my source as the 1959 book Improving Nursery Departments by Polly Hargis Dillard. Drawing again from that little book, I thought it would be enlightening to list some of Ms. Dillard’s suggested actions for children’s teachers at church.
Ms. Dillard says, “A Nursery worker will be guided in her actions by the specific situations with which she is confronted. However, there are certain practices which are basic to working effectively with small children.” After thinking through the author’s list of 18 “do’s, I have concluded that these suggestions are just as appropriate for elementary volunteers at church as they are for preschool teachers. Today we’ll look at the first 9 suggestions.
- Remove your hat.
- Get down on the child’s level, even if it means sitting on the floor most of the time.
- Use a soft voice.
- Listen and observe more than you talk.
- Help each child to know how to use materials.
- Avoid talking about children in their presence. Devote your time to listening to the children rather than to talking about them.
- Use action with words. Help a child to put away blocks instead of saying, “Put the blocks on the shelf.”
- Commend the children when they accomplish something for themselves. Avoid “gushing.”
- Allow the child plenty of time to do something. Don’t rush him, but be patient. And don’t rush about the room yourself.
I will admit, I chuckled the first time I read, “Remove your hat.” I usually teach in jeans or khakis and an open-collar shirt. One recent Sunday morning, however, I decided to don a tie and sport coat along with my jeans. A 5-year-old girl in my class commented, “You look nice today, Mr. Landry!” (I may need to start wearing a coat and tie more often!)
This simple suggestion to remove one’s hat is intended to be taken literally; however, I do think that there are “hats,” or things, we need to remove when we teach kids. In fact the other 8 suggestions are about removing distractions and other barriers to teaching babies—preteens at church.
Of particular interest is the emphasis on the child throughout Ms. Dillard’s list. Why? Psalm 139:13 reiterates what we already know from Genesis 1:27, “For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”
God created and knows the children we teach. They are valuable to Him. Therefore it’s important for us to “remove our hats” and eliminate anything that keeps us from sharing God’s love with kids. So, what will you remove before teaching kids this week?
Landry Holmes is the Manager of Lifeway Kids Ministry Publishing, Nashville, TN. A graduate of Howard Payne University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Landry served on church staffs before coming to Lifeway. He is a church leader, writer, workshop facilitator, and publisher. Landry also teaches children at his church in Middle Tennessee. He and his wife Janetta are the parents of two adult sons and two daughters-in-law.