Good, Bad and Ugly of Object Lessons

Children's Ministry Object LessonsLast summer I spoke at a Bible camp. I wanted chapel times to be Biblical, interesting, and interactive. So as I was preparing my talks I started looking for ideas to use as object lessons. Object lessons can be interesting and interactive and I wanted to find ones that fit the theme and helped to explain each day’s main point.

What is an Object Lesson?

I looked it up (for the official definition) and in the definitions I found there were certain words used over and over – practical, example, and principal.

Here are some of the definitions:

  • A striking practical example of some principle.
  • Something that serves as a practical example of a principal or abstract idea.
  • Practical or concrete illustration of a principle.

An object lesson then is practical. It’s concrete. It’s down to earth and useful.

An object lesson is an example or illustration. It can be an object or a picture. Because it is a practical example, it uses something from everyday life.

An object lesson helps illustrate a principle. Finally, an object lesson has a point. It’s not just a chance to show off a cool thing you found. An object lesson helps to teach a lesson or explain something.

Any object lesson you use should help to clarify truth to your students or help them gain understanding.

An object lesson is a practical, concrete example from real life that explains something or teaches a lesson.

Good vs. Bad

I haven’t used a lot of object lessons in the past (if I have I don’t think I called them object lessons). As I was looking for ideas I started to wonder why I haven’t used them very much. I have a number of go-to sources for object lessons. I have a file folder of ideas and there are a couple of websites with lots of object lesson ideas.

There are a lot of object lessons available, but not all object lessons are created equal! Some are great and some are not so great.

What Makes a Good Object Lesson?

A good object lesson helps our understanding of a word or concept.

For example, the word separate is explained in a very concrete manner by using colored sand. The various colors are mixed together and then the leader tries to separate the colors. The verse for this lesson is Romans 8:39 “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

A good object lesson has a strong connection between the object and the lesson it represents. The link is obvious and focused.

For example, your lesson is on the feeding of the 5000 and your point is that Jesus is God’s Son. The object you use is a dinner roll. Begin tearing the roll into pieces as you tell the story. There is a strong connection here between the object and the lesson. You can’t tear the roll into enough pieces to fill up everyone in your class; but because Jesus is the perfect Son of God He can use 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed 5000 people until they were filled and still have leftovers!

A good object lesson is memorable. The object should serve as a clear reminder of the lesson truth.

For example, if the lesson is about how we are saved by trusting Jesus as our Savior, you could use a life preserver ring and life savers candy.  The life preserver can save a person who is drowning, if they reach out and receive it. This is a memorable object lesson. The life preserver is a memorable object and the life saver candy is a great take-home reminder for the kids – Jesus is our life-saver!

A good object lesson will use a familiar object to get the students attention make a connection to the lesson.

For example, use a pez dispenser to talk about how we need to be like a pezdispenser and always dispense sweet things out of our mouths. Kids know what pez dispensers are and always love candy!

What Makes a Bad Object Lesson?

A bad object lesson stretches the point to fit the object.

This can happen when the leader finds a cool object they want to use and then they try too hard to make the connection between the object and the point.

A bad object lesson tries to make too many points and the lesson is not remembered.

For example, an object lesson that uses a ring to help explain the eternal nature of the Holy Spirit and then goes to also talk about the trinity, the fact that the Holy Spirit is invisible, the Holy Spirit transforms new believers, and the Holy Spirit teaches believers. Instead of one point, this object lesson had 5 points!

A bad object lesion is one where attention is distracted from the main point by tangents.

In this case, the tangent can be related to the main point or to the object used. For example, you start your object lesson by introducing kids to the object you have. You describe it and what it’s used for and then instead to transitioning right to the point of the lesson, you go on a tangent explaining in detail one cool aspect of the object, thereby causing the kids to lose their focus.

A bad object lesson is one where the object used overshadows the lesson. The object is remembered and the lesson is forgotten.

An example of this might be the diet coke and mentos object lesson. It is pretty amazing to watch and the kids are guaranteed to love it. But once the lesson is done, will the kids remember the point? In one case I read, the point was that the Holy Spirit brings explosive power into our lives. If I was a child watching this object lesson, I doubt I would remember that – I would remember the result of mixing diet coke and mentos!

A bad object lesson is one where the object doesn’t end up having a connection with the main point.

One reason a child might not remember the point of the above example is that the object has little to do with the point given. The object lesson focuses almost solely on the word “explosive” rather than on the power of the Holy Spirit to produce radical change in our lives.

A bad object lesson depends too much on symbolism that literal kids don’t understand. Be careful to make sure kids understand.

For example, I saw one object lesson explaining baptism to preschoolers! Baptism is a symbolic act and preschoolers are literal thinkers. They will not understand baptism. Unfortunately, the object used to explain baptism was symbolic itself. So, a symbol was used to explain another symbol!!

How to Put Together a Great Object Lesson:

  1. Pray
  2. Start with Scripture – discover the main point. Remember, the focus is Scripture.
  3. As you read the Scripture passage you are teaching on, look for key phrases. Think about what might help you understand or remember this.
  4. Then find an object that will help you. The object is an aid to help remember the truth of the Bible story or lesson.
  5. Use a familiar object when you can. Don’t spend too long explaining what it is or what it does. But some explanation is necessary. Get the kids thinking about the purpose of the object or a unique aspect of it.
  6. Once you have the Scripture and the object you want to use, write down an order of how you will present the lesson. Make sure it is clear, concise, and focused.
  7. Then practice the object lesson. Make sure it works!

When Do You Use Object Lessons

An object lesson can be the lesson itself. This is best when you have a shorter amount of time. You may want to use an object lesson for a children’s feature during the main service or as part of an opening session for Sunday School.

One of the main reasons to use object lessons is that they engage multiple senses. The more senses engaged, the more kids will retain of what is taught. So, in choosing to use an object lesson, you are choosing an activity that will help kids retain what is taught.

You can also use object lessons as a way of grabbing kids’ attention. You may want to use one at the beginning of a Sunday School lesson. An object lesson can help get student’s attention and keep it. You can also get the kids focused on the main point of the Sunday School lesson through the use of an object lesson.

Tips for Using Object Lessons

  1. Always try it out first.
  2. Always start with Scripture and then find an object that will help kids understand a word or concept from that Scripture.
  3. Be clear and simple.
  4. Use one main point. Don’t try to teach multiple lessons with one object.
  5. Involve the kids. Ask questions or get volunteers.
  6. Stay on topic – avoid tangents. An effective object lesson is focused.
  7. Make sure you set up for the object lesson where everyone can see.
  8. Don’t get pulled into the trap of trying to be clever.
  9. Be careful not to overuse an object (especially when you use the same object to illustrate multiple points.)

If used correctly, object lessons can be a great way to get kids attention and explain a concept or principle.

If you are looking for object lesson ideas, there are a number of places to find them on the internet.

You can find a whole section dedicated to object lessons on kidology at www.kidology.org. Look for object lessons in Zones.

You can find an entire website dedicated to object lessons at www.objectlessoncentral.com

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Add Excitement to Your Stories with a Bible Box!

Children's Ministry Bible BoxI’m always on the lookout for simple, inexpensive ideas that will enhance the learner’s experience and enrich the teachers’ abilities.

That’s why I as pretty excited when I came across this idea.

It’s a resource for preschool teachers called “The Bible Box.”

Teachers of toddlers, preschoolers, pre-k, and kindergarten will love this easy teaching tool.

1. Put together your own Bible Box.

I love this idea because you can put together a Bible box with little to no budget. Begin by gathering items from around your house that you can use. Next, ask the congregation to contribute. It’s amazing what people have lying around the house. If you have crafty people in your church, then it’s likely someone will have scraps of fabric that you can use.

Check out the supply shelves or resource room at the church. You can find all kinds of treasures!

Next, visit garage sales, thrift stores, and Dollar stores to fill in any blanks. There’s a Bibles for Missions Thrift Store near my house. Between the toy section, household section, and craft section, I can nearly fill my Bible box! And I won’t spend a lot of money to do it.

2. Use it as a visual aid in telling Bible stories.

Instead of pictures or flannel graphs, use your Bible box to help you tell your Bible story. One year when I was teaching preschool Sunday School, I found a nativity set from Tales of Glory. It was a super kid-friendly nativity set. I was going to tell the class the Christmas story and I decided to use the nativity set. I started the story from when the angel appeared to Mary and kept going. Those 4 and 5 year olds were engaged! So, I kept going. I told the story all the way through to the visit of the wise men. I checked the clock when I finished and realized that the story took 20 minutes!! But I had the kid’s attention and interest the whole time. They loved it!
Don’t use the Bible Box every time, it will lose its appeal. But when you do use it, the kids will love it!

3. Let the kids play with the items and interact with the Bible story.

Sunday School classes when you do use the Bible Box, leave the particular pieces you used out and let the kids interact with them. Let them re-tell the story. It’s a great way for the kids to review Bible stories and Bible truth and to interact with the story through play.

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Classroom Management – Expectations

Classroom Management - ExpectationsLet kids know what your expectations are. Teachers should never assume that children understand what is expected of them in classroom situations.

Let’s talk about reasonable expectations and how to let kids know what is expected of them.

It’s important for teachers to remember that children need to be taught how to behave in the classroom. They will not automatically know. So talk with your students about what you expect during class. This is important for all ages, but especially young children who do not yet attend school and therefore do not have experience to draw on.

First, ensure that your classroom expectations are reasonable.

Here you need to consider the age and developmental stage of your students.

5 years olds do not have the attention span to sit still through a 30 minute story. It would be an unreasonable expectation. However, 5 year olds can sit for a 10-15 minute story that is engaging, age-appropriate, and interactive.

If you are not sure what your students can do developmentally, there are lots of resources out there that will give you good information about age-level characteristics.

Second, tell your kids what is expected of them for general classroom behavior and for specific classroom situations.

General classroom behavior includes how students should address you, knowing the rules and that students are expected to follow them, how students should treat you and each other.

But it is also important to let students know what your expectations are in specific situations. For example, if a student has a question at any time, they should raise their hand and wait for you to call on them.

Specific situations include story or lesson time, application time, games and activity time, craft time, group projects, dismissal time.

Here are some examples of reasonable expectations:

“Any questions asked will be about the lesson topic.”

“If you have a question, raise your hand and wait for me to call on you.”

“I expect everyone to participate during lesson time.”

“After playtime, I expect everyone to help clean up.”

“Before we eat snack, everyone washes their hands.”

“During application time, we will respect what each other has to say.”

Rules and expectations are similar. Rules should be clearly stated, ideally posted, and repeated often. The expectation, then, would be that students will obey the rules.

Not all expectations are directly related to rules however. Some expectations are about how we handle snack time or bathroom breaks. They are more about how things are done in this classroom.

Don’t make the assumption that children will know how to behave or participate in your classroom. Let your kids know what your expectations are. And then watch them rise to the challenge!

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Book Review – Everyday Talk by John A. Younts

Words matter. The things we say in unguarded moments, the words we say in love, in frustration, at the breakfast table, and before bed reveal our attitudes, our worldview, our theology, our beliefs. This is everyday talk.

Everyday Talk is a parenting book about talking freely and naturally about God with your children. It was written to encourage parents to recognize the influence their everyday talk has on their children and to accept the responsibility they have to use that influence to tell their children about God and His ways.

“Along the path of everyday life, take the opportunity that God gives you to instruct your children.” (pg. 118)

The author uses Deuteronomy 6:4-7 as the key Scripture passage for his book.

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

The author states in the first chapter,

“The principle of Deuteronomy 6 is that your everyday comments are the ones that teach your children most profoundly about your view of God. Your interaction with God in everyday, ordinary, non-church life is the most powerful tool of influence that you have with your children. It communicates what you really believe.” (pgs 16-17)

This book is full of Biblical, practical advice for parents who want to talk to their kids about God. Each chapter has some questions at the end that encourage parents to think about the content of that chapter as it relates specifically to their kids, and practical ideas to implement the main idea of that chapter.

There are chapters on sharing the gospel with your kids; listening to your kids; giving directions; preparing your children to leave home; and talking with your children about the deceptiveness of the world, sex, and music.

An on-going issue for parents is discipline and obedience. In chapter 6, called “Big Sins, Little Sins” the author discusses the importance of consistent discipline. He talks about the tendency we have of categorizing sin. There are things we consider big sins and things we consider little sins. It is tempting to let little sins slide, but when we do, our children are being taught that obedience is not a requirement. Discipline for “big sin” and overlooking “little sins” teaches children to obey only when it seems necessary to them; it’s okay to disobey if they don’t get caught. (pg. 72)

The issue of obedience doesn’t end with parents. Ultimately we are to love and obey God.

“You cannot discipline properly until you see yourself as God’s agent to your kids…Your focus in discipline is to hold your children accountable to God.” (pg. 67)

“God wants to be loved & obeyed at all times, not just when the consequences seem great to us. You must discipline your children every time they are disobedient.” (pg. 69)

Consistent discipline is important because it gets to the heart of the issue. It helps our children understand they we obey because it is honoring to God, not simply to avoid the consequences of disobedience. Parents need to look at what is influencing their actions when they discipline and children need to look at what is influencing their actions when they choose to obey or disobey. It is the consequences or is it the best way to love God.

“Hold out for (your children) the goal of a heart that loves Christ more than the pleasures and good consequences of this life. Ask God to help your everyday talk to reflect love of God more than love of good consequences.” (pg. 77)

 

“The message of this book is that the most profound teaching your child receives is the everyday talk from your mouth.” (pg. 95) This book is an encouraging, practical, conversational appeal to parents.

“Parents, your children should hear God’s truth from your lips…They must hear God’s truth in your everyday talk. You must look out the window to your world and talk to your children about the truth of God in relation to what you see.” (pg. 120)

Children’s ministry volunteers: If parents in your ministry are looking for a practical book on Biblical parenting and talking naturally with their children about God, I recommend Everyday Talk.

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4 Simple Tips to Prepare for the Unexpected

Are you prepared for emergencies?
A few weeks ago I woke up on Sunday morning and I was sick! Even though I was leading Large Group Time and teaching the preschool class, I knew I couldn’t go.

People get sick; emergencies happen. It is important to have a plan for dealing with those unexpected things.

1. Recruit a go-to person

As a leader, it is important for you to have someone able to step into your shoes. Recruit someone who is already involved in children’s ministry; someone who is able to handle emergencies. The go-to person should be given the volunteer schedule and the sub list. They should also be given a brief description of what their options are in an emergency (ex. canceling a class, contacting a sub, etc.) It is important that the go-to person be given the authority to handle the situation as they see fit.

2. Recruit Subs

Recruit a few people willing to be subs. Subs are volunteers willing to step in when needed. They may be given notice or they may be asked to step in with very little notice. It is important that you give your subs teacher schedules, class routines, behavior management polices, an overview of the curriculum. The more info they have, the smoother the transition will be when they are called to serve – especially at the last minute.

3. Communication

Do you have the phone numbers of your volunteers handy? Do they have yours? Do you have more than one way of getting in touch with your volunteers? In an emergency, people need to know who to contact and how to contact them. Make this information available in obvious places in your classrooms.

4. Make sure your team is aware of emergency procedures

Before emergencies happen! Let your volunteers know that you have a go-to person and who that person is. Make sure your volunteers have the sub list. Make sure your volunteers have your contact information and the phone numbers of team members. Let them know what will happen if you get sick at the last minute. Your team will be confident and it will be easier to recruit new volunteers if they know that you have procedures in place for those unplanned situations.

 

Flu hits, family emergencies happen. Be prepared by having people ready to step in and make sure you let your team know what the procedures are for those emergency situations.

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