Teaching a room full of elementary kids can be more intimidating than a room full of adults, but it doesn’t have to be. John Murchison joins our podcast to discuss some simple strategies that will help you keep their attention and better communicate the gospel.
First, speaking like a child and acting like a child are two different things. Second, to do the first doesn’t require doing the second. In fact, a sign of maturity is understanding and demonstrating the difference.
Several years ago I spent a day observing Bible study sessions at a kids camp. Most of the presentations were noisy, active, a little rambunctious, and led by highly engaging and energized leaders. Basically the sessions presented serious content in a kid-friendly way. Good stuff!
However, one session drastically stood out from the rest for one basic reason – transubstantiation. You’re familiar with that term, right?
While the leader demonstrated adequate knowledge and tremendous passion for his subject, there existed two glaring problems – transubstantiation was not the assigned topic, and the audience was a group of third graders!
The leader allowed his well-intentioned passion to take priority over both the prescribed content and the needs of the kids. He had put aside childish things and felt his audience should as well. He failed to realize his audience spoke, thought, and reasoned like children because they were children. (I Corinthians 13:11)
While I’m still a little fuzzy on the subject of transubstantiation, the session did start me on a journey to discover how best to teach kids. Here are a few things I have learned along the way:
1. Search the Scripture passage and lesson content for words and concepts that are difficult to understand and might need to be explained.
2. Use a variety of illustrations and visuals to refocus short attention spans.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but be ready to both affirm and deflect unexpected and inappropriate answers.
4. Teach in bite-sized chunks. God didn’t create the world in a single day, so we shouldn’t try to teach everything we know about it in a single session.
5. Make your point clearly and repeatedly. Don’t shy away from repetition. That’s how we learn!
6. Willingly admit you personally do not understand everything.
Jerry Wooley is the VBS GUY! He serves as the Vacation Bible School Specialist for Lifeway. Don’t expect to talk with Jerry for too long without him asking you about VBS. Jerry loves the local church and serves as a 1st-3rd Grade Teacher at Creekside Fellowship in Castalian Springs, Tennessee.
I think we’re all in agreement that the primary responsibility for spiritual education of kids should be with the parents. That’s biblical. But that doesn’t release us from doing all we can to partner with them as they make this journey. One of the best ways to do that is to build a strong relationship. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Meet them at the door! What better way to communicate than face-to-face? Your attention, first to their child, and then to the parent, speaks volumes! Everything else rests on the foundation of that personal relationship you build week after week. Ask how their week was. How was soccer, basketball, ballet, piano…you get it.
- Show that parent you have an interest in them outside the church walls. Attend those school and sports events, send birthday cards, make phone calls and celebrate milestones.
- Pray with and for them. Let them know you’re praying for each child in your class. Ask for specific ways you can pray. You may get surface requests at first, but as you build a relationship, they’ll develop a trust that allows you to walk with them through some tough times.
- Send notes of encouragement. Brag on their child. As a mom of two boys, how I would have welcomed hearing some good words, whether at the door, in a phone call, or in a written note or e-mail.
- Take a minute to walk through the take-home page with the parent after the session. Sometimes we have a habit of just bundling everything up and not pointing it out. They may not realize the page is something they can use to continue the learning at home. Thus…the pages left outside in the hallway!
- Introduce parents to “apps” that will encourage family interaction on the Bible story. The Gospel Project for Kids and Bible Studies for Life: Kids both have great family apps!
- Lastly, just be there. Be available when they need an ear, a shoulder, or a friend.
I’m interested in how you connect with parents. Please share!
Enlistment can be a four letter word – H.A.R.D. It’s kind of like that bunny that just keeps going and going and going and going. It’s one of those projects that never gets finished. In fact, truth be known, it’s probably the top reason that kid ministers leave the ministry.
Sadly, I remember a time when I couldn’t even share the joy of one of my teachers who excitedly told me she was expecting. All I could think was that in about nine months, I was going need to find a new teacher! Now, that’s bad.
So what do you do? Here are a few suggestions that might help.
Hmmm. See a pattern? While there are tons of different ways to bring the need to light through bulletin inserts, pleas from the pulpit, bulletin boards, flyers in the bathroom, etc., that’s just advertising. (Shout out to Kim Harris for that statement!) THE number one way to get the teachers you need is to ask personally. Otherwise, people assume that they’re not capable, not called, or not needed. They’re waiting for you to ask! Invite them to join your exciting team of leaders that get to impact a child’s life forever! Let them know that you don’t accept just anybody. You’re asking them for a reason! You know they love kids; they’d be a great example; they’re energetic; they’re ___________! (You fill in the blank!) Be picky and make sure they know it. Make them feel blessed just knowing you believe they’re worthy to teach!
And, you don’t have to do it all yourself. Put together a team and break the task into smaller chunks. The whole pyramid idea works in this case. You ask two people, then they ask two people and so on and so on and so on. A great part of sharing the blessing of enlistment is that you have a larger pool of people to ask!
Remember to think outside the box:
- Senior adults (missing their grandchildren!)
- Empty nesters
- College students
- VBS leaders
- And, outside your circle of friends!
So, pray about it. Ask God specifically for the people you need. Go and find those people — take them to coffee, maybe even lunch! Then…ASK!