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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Good Friday – Jesus is our Mighty Savior!

On Friday, I am leading a preschool program for the Good Friday service. The program is for children ages 2-6. A number of churches get together to remember the death of Jesus and to celebrate the gift of salvation together.

I love serving with children’s ministry volunteers from other churches! I love getting to know the kids from other churches as well.

Our theme for the morning is “Jesus is our Mighty Savior!”

Through activities, games, crafts, songs, and Bible stories, we are helping the kids discover what it means that Jesus is our mighty Savior.

As they kids arrive, they will be encouraged to join an activity station. We planned activities that will get the kids thinking about our theme.

For example, one of the activities is called “Spicy Scents.” We will give each child a clump of play dough and put a few drops of lemon or peppermint extract on children’s dough, and let children knead it in. As children are working the extract into the dough, we will explain that in Bible times, people put fragrant spices on people’s bodies when they died. I love this activity because it is very hands-on and uses the sense of smell (one we don’t use very often.)

During story and singing time, we will tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, highlighting the theme that Jesus is our mighty Savior. Through the stories and the songs, we will explain what the word mighty means and what it means to be a Savior. One song we are singing is called, “Mighty, Mighty Savior!” It is a song of praise to Jesus our Savior and it does a good job of explaining what a Savior is and why we so desperately need one.

After storytime, we have planned a game and some crafts. Again, each was picked purposefully to continue highlighting our theme.

For a game, we are playing “hide the cross,” a simple hide and seek game. As the children play we will encourage them to remember that crosses help use to remember that Jesus is our mighty Savior.

When planning a special event, remember to use every opportunity to highlight the theme of the event. If you can’t explain how an activity highlights the chosen theme, then it probably should be used for this occasion.

I have mentioned before the importance of teaching 1 thing. This is true in Sunday School and in special events. Plan everything around your one theme and the children who attend your event will remember it!

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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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Teach 1 Thing

Teach 1 ThingWhen preparing your Sunday School lesson, it can be very tempting to cram as much as possible into the time you have. After all, you want the kids to learn everything!

The problem is that the kids will end up leaving your class discouraged and overwhelmed. When asked, “What did you learn in Sunday School today?” they will not be able to give a good answer.

One of the most important truths a Sunday School teacher can master is to teach 1 thing.

Here’s how to decide what 1 thing to focus on:

Pray

Ask God to show you the 1 truth He wants you to focus on.

Read through the lesson

Read everything: all the suggested scripture, the entire lesson, the application, any additional material.

Look at the themes

Most curriculums will list one or more key themes at the beginning of the lesson. These may be called key themes, themes, aims, objectives, goals, truths, etc. You may be able to take your “1 thing” directly from here or use one listed as a base to build on.

Decide on 1 central theme

Once you have prayed and read through everything, you now have to decide what the 1 thing is you want to teach in this lesson. Don’t worry about getting it wrong. Different teachers will choose different themes and you may even choose something different the next time you teach this lesson. The Bible has so much to teach us – so choose 1 thing. Once you have decided, write it out in a single sentence.

Go back through the lesson

This is the time to be ruthless. Get rid of everything that isn’t about your 1 thing. It may be the truth, it may be Biblical and God-centered, it may be something you want the children to learn, but if it isn’t about the 1 central theme then it shouldn’t be in this lesson.

Insert your 1 thing throughout the lesson

Your 1 thing should be repeated often throughout the lesson, but that won’t happen unless you put it in.

Focus the application

You may need to change the application a lot depending on what you have chosen for your 1 thing. The 1 thing as stated will be a truth – about God, us, the Bible. During application, your job is to take that 1 truth and move it from head knowledge to heart transformation. There is a lot to say about this, so watch for it in an upcoming post.

When you focus your lesson on 1 central theme, your kids will be able to follow you, remain focused, and walk away having learned that 1 thing really well.

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