Application Time – Free Resource to Help Small Group Leaders

Children's Ministry Small Group Application TimeThe application time is when the kids make the connection between God’s Word and their own lives. Your job is to help kids see the connection between Bible truth and their own life.  By the end you want the kids to respond to what they have learned by applying Biblical truth to their everyday life.

This is done best through questions and discussion. Ask questions that will lead to better understanding and the desire to apply Biblical truth to life.

There are 2 main types of questions during application time. Questions that help you gauge children’s understanding and questions that help kids apply truth to life.

Gauge Understanding

Start with questions that reveal your students level of understanding. Ask students to summarize the main point of the lesson. What do you think was the most important thing from today’s lesson? Find out what they heard and what they understood about what they heard.

The answer to these questions will help you as a small group leader to clarify concepts, and to help kids understand words used during the lesson. You want to make sure that the kids got the main point of the lesson.

To help you figure this out, ask questions like, “If you had to tell a 5 yr. old what the most important thing in today’s lesson was, what would you tell them?” “On your way home today, if your parents ask you what you learned, what would you tell them?”

Resist the temptation to re-teach the lesson. During application time, the kids should do most of the talking.

Avoid yes and no questions – these kinds of questions provide little learning and little interest for the child and only reinforce what the child already knows. Yes and no questions do little to encourage discussion.

Apply Truth to Life

Once you have gauged your students understanding of the main point of the lesson, it’s time to transition to questions that will help kids see how they can apply the truth to their own lives.

The application is about making the truth usable. By the time the kids leave the classroom, they should know how to act on the truth they have heard. The questions offered on these cards will help the kids get there.

When preparing for application time, ask God to show you how this lesson applies to your life. Then ask how it might apply to the lives of your students. How should the students respond to the truth taught in this lesson? Then pray and ask the Holy Spirit to be at work in the lives of your students. Rely on the Holy Spirit to produce change in your class.

Application should be rooted in the central principle taught in the text. Be careful not to make the passage say what it does not say.

“The teacher’s task in application is to recognize and communicate Scripture’s relevance, rather than to make it relevant.” (Walton, Bailey, and Williford; Teach the Text)

Apply the Bible as God intended. Your job as a small group leader is to recognize Scripture’s relevance to the lives of your students and to communicate that relevance to them.

Focus on Biblical answers to common issues. Encourage your students to think about their attitude, conduct, character.

Write good questions before class. Discussion grows out of questions that ask for opinions, ideas, reactions, etc., not just repeating factual answers. You want to ask questions that will make your students think. What did God want you to learn about Him today?

A good question will help to focus the discussion on the theme taught in the lesson. Good questions will also encourage students to express their thoughts and ideas in their own words. Good questions will also help the students see practical applications of biblical truth. Why do you think God wanted you to hear this Bible lesson today?

Ask follow up questions. “Why did you say that?” “Do you agree with what she said?” One question can lead to another.

Take the memory verse for the lesson and ask, “What situation might you face this week where this verse will help you?” Here you are helping the kids take Bible truth and use it during the week. You are encouraging them to respond Biblically to a situation.

 

Remember, application discussion is hard and it takes time. Kids won’t automatically understand how to think about and respond to the questions being asked. As a teacher, you need to guide them. Kids also don’t have a lot of experience to draw on. This takes time. It may not be until the end of year before you have a significant spiritual discussion with kids, but don’t give up! Make the effort to bridge the gap between Bible knowledge and heart response. Then pray that the Holy Spirit will bring an opportunity in the child’s life during the week where that truth can be applied.

 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

To make this really practical, I have created application question cards. These cards are just the right size to tuck into your Bible.

You can download a set of Gauge Understanding Question cards and a set of Apply Truth to Life Question cards. Also available for you to download is the Teacher Instruction Sheet.

Print these cards out on cardstock and use them regularly!

Stay tuned for posts about more creative ways to use these cards and leading small group application time.

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Easy Template for Building a Lesson – Took

This is the last section of the template for building a lesson. In this part of the lesson a response is required of your students.

“The goal is transformed lives – change. Therefore, creative Bible teachers helps students respond by leading them to see God’s will and by helping them decide and plan to do it.” (Creative Bible Teaching, Lawrence Richards)

childrens-ministry-Jesus-followerIn the look section of the lesson, you discuss as a group how to apply the truth of Scripture to our lives. In the took section you want each student to take away one practical idea for implementing the truth during the upcoming week. The took section is practical and personal. Students may have different ideas for implementing what they have learned – and that’s good!

Hook, book, look, took is a great tool for teachers. It is an easy, memorable way of understanding how a lesson is put together or putting together a lesson yourself.

“Breaking down the process of creative Bible teaching into four parts simplifies lesson planning.” (Creative Bible Teaching, Lawrence Richards)

So, take out your Sunday School material and grab the next lesson. Use this tool (HBLT) to understand how the lesson is put together. Find the hook – what will you use to grab your students attention? Highlight the book – what is the Scripture passage being used and how are you going to help your students discover and understand the truth in that passage? Circle the look – what are the implications of that passage to the lives of your students? How can that passage be applied to the everyday lives of your class? Finally, took. What are your students going to do about what they have learned?

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Easy Template for Building a Lesson – Look

Hook/Book/Look/Took – This is an easy template for building a Sunday School lesson. We have already looked at hook and book. There are quick links to those posts at the bottom of this article. Now it’s time to talk about “Look.”

This section of the lesson is about implications.

“The next step the teacher must plan for in the lesson preparation process involves guiding the class to discover and grasp the relationship of the truth just studied to daily living.” (Creative Bible Teaching, Lawrence Richards)

This is what most people call application. It is important to note that the look part is group application. The last part of the lesson preparation, called took, is the personal application each student takes away from the class.

The Book section is primarily “head” stuff. The lesson is not over until you build a bridge for kids between the theoretical and the practical. Now, you are teaching to reach the heart. I can’t stress enough how important this is. We are teaching for change/transformation. For that to happen we need to help the kids see how the Bible applies to them personally. We need to help them answer the question, “What difference does this make in my life?”

The Bible Must be Applied as God Intended

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

In the look section of the lesson, help the kids see how the Scripture you have studied is useful. Is there a teaching they can follow? Maybe there is a rebuke or a correction your class can learn and follow. How does this passage train your class to be righteous?

The application is about making the truth usable. By the time the kids leave the classroom, they should know how to act on the truth they have heard.  And that is the took part of the lesson.

In upcoming posts, I will teach you how to prepare the application part of your lesson.

Easy Template for Building a Lesson Series:

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4 Tips for Teaching a Multi-Age Class

Many Sunday School teachers have the responsibility of teaching one class with children of all ages. This is not an easy responsibility, but it can be done.

Here are 4 tips for teachers of multi-age classes:

1. Teach to the middle

For the Bible lesson portion of your Sunday School class, plan and teach for the middle of your age range. If your class is children in grades 1-6, then teach to the grade 3 level. The younger children may find the lesson a bit above their level and the older children may find it does not challenge them enough, but teaching to the middle is the best way to reach all the children in your class. No matter how big of an age gap you have between the kids in your class, teach to the middle of the age range. The other activities you plan will help bring it all together for the kids in your class.

2. Plan application & activities for specific ages

The application and other activities you plan for the Sunday School class will be where you can challenge each age group specifically and make sure that everyone understands the main point of the class.

Application – Split the kids into 2 or 3 age groups for the application time. Give the older kids an assignment that will help them to discover the application in a group. While they are busy, you can discuss the application with the younger kids. You may encourage each group to choose a presenter that will tell the whole group what they discovered during application time. When you have finished with the younger children, get them involved in an activity and then join the older children to find out what they have discovered and encourage them in the right direction if necessary.

Bible memory verse – The younger kids can be given a portion of the verse and the older kids can be challenged to memorize all of it. For example, the younger kids in your class can be given James 1:17a “Every good and perfect gift is from above,” and the older kids can be given the entire verse to memorize, “Every good and perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

Games & Crafts – Plan games and crafts that are appropriate for the different age groups. While the younger kids are working on a coloring picture or simple craft, the older kids can be working on a group assignment. Make sure all games and crafts that you plan are related to the lesson and specifically to the theme of the lesson.

3. Give the older kids responsibility

Giving the older kids some responsibility in your class will challenge them and help them to feel like vital parts of the Sunday School class.

There are many ways the older kids can help with the younger kids:

  • Ask them to sit with the younger kids during the Bible lesson. The big kids can be an example for the younger children of expected behavior.
  • The older kids can also help the younger kids look up the Bible passage. If the younger kids have storybook Bibles, the older kids can help them find the story. Then the older kids can show the younger kids where it is found in their Bibles. This is especially helpful as not all Bible stories will be found in storybook Bibles.
  • Ask the older kids to read Bible passages out loud. Another idea is to have the older kids act out the Bible story.
  • The older kids could help lead a game or craft you have planned for the younger kids. They can also help the younger kids with the memory verse. Encourage them to explain the verse to the younger kids. This will help them in memorizing as well.

4. Teach 1 thing

I have written about teaching one thing before. It is just as important to teach one thing in a mulit-age class as it is in a single-age classroom.

As you are teaching your multi-age class, find different ways to state your theme that will relate to the different age groups.

For example, your theme is “God is the sovereign ruler of all.” The Bible lesson, activities, and memory verse all support and highlight this theme. Repeat it often. If you have preschoolers in your class you could say, “God is the boss,” or “God is the King of everything.” For children in grades 1-3 you could say, “God is sovereign – that means He is in charge of everything. No one is His boss.”

By restating in a few times, you are making sure that all age groups understand and you are explaining the meaning of difficult or new words. All the kids in your class will benefit from that.

 

It is not easy to teach a class with children of all different ages. As a teacher, you want to make sure that all the children in your class are engaged, learning, and being challenged. These tips should help you as you seek to teach children of any age.

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Application – Moving from Head Knowledge to Heart Transformation

The goal of our Sunday School programs should always be transformation.

Although Bible knowledge is important, we don’t want our kids to just learn Bible knowledge. We want our kids to be transformed into the image of Jesus.

Sunday School should be primarily about discipleship. Application time therefore is a very important part of Sunday School. If we just taught the Bible lesson, we would be growing kids with a lot of head knowledge and likely little heart transformation.

Application time is the part of Sunday School where the 1 thing you have focused on in the lesson is made personal for each child.

Here’s an example. You are teaching a class of kids in Grades 4-6. The lesson is on Jesus, the Son of Man. The theme you have chosen to focus on, the 1 thing, is “Jesus Became Fully Human.” You have completed the lesson – shown the kids from the Bible that Jesus was fully human – and now it is application time.

1st – Application time is the kids opportunity to talk.

Design this portion of the lesson in such a way that your students feel comfortable talking. This could mean changing places. If your lesson was at a table, you may want to move to chairs in a circle. Also you may want to split the kids into smaller groups (if you have enough adults). Once settled, remember to let the kids do most of the talking. Your responsibility is to guide the conversation and keep the kids on track. You can do this by learning to ask good questions.

2nd – Build a bridge for the kids between the Bible lesson and the personal connection to their lives.

Kids don’t automatically see the connections. Your job as a teacher is to help them see it. There isn’t one response to one theme. There are infinite directions application time could be taken in. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, trust your knowledge of your kids, and then choose a direction to head. It may change during the discussion, so be open to that.

Once you have chosen a direction, plan some questions to ask that will help the kids see a connection between your 1 thing and their own lives. Continuing our example, the direction you choose to take with your theme of Jesus being fully human is that because Jesus is fully human He understands and can sympathize with us – when we struggle to resist temptation and when we feel confused and scared.

3rd – Ask questions that cannot be answered with just yes or no.

Ask questions that will force your students to think. “Tell me about a time when you were really scared/troubled/sad. Can you think of a story from the Bible that shows Jesus feeling the same way? How does it help you to know that Jesus understands?”

4th – Finish application time with an opportunity for the kids to apply this truth to their lives this week.

Make it personal and immediate. Always take time to pray. Give the kids the opportunity to talk to God privately and as a group. Encourage them to ask God to give them chances to practice what they have learned this week.

Transformation is the work of the Holy Spirit. So, pray. Pray while you are preparing your lesson, pray during your lesson, and pray throughout the week that the Holy Spirit would be at work in the lives of your students – softening their hearts, helping to apply truth to their lives, transforming them into the image of Jesus.

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