Teaching Bible Skills

Bible SkillsI believe that it is important for kids to have Bible skills. Bible skills include knowing the books of the Bible, the divisions of the Bible, and the parts of the Bible and how they all fit together. Bible skills also include understanding a reference, knowing how to use the table of contents, and knowing how to use a concordance and dictionary.

We should be teaching Bible skills to the kids in our care. There are 2 major goals when teaching Bible skills.

#1 – That kids will become comfortable and familiar with their Bibles.

#2 – That kids will be able to navigate their Bibles.

We want kids to be comfortable and familiar with their Bibles and to be able to navigate their Bibles so that they will read their Bibles.

The purpose of teaching Bible skills is not simply knowledge or a means of keeping kids occupied. We teach Bible skills so that kids will read their Bibles!

The Bible is a big book! We can’t expect kids to willingly read such a big book without some help.

Bible skills help kids understand how their Bibles are put together and how to find specific books and verses within their Bibles.

When kids are comfortable and familiar with their Bibles, they are more likely to read their Bibles. When kids know how to navigate their Bibles, they are more likely to read their Bibles.

But more than just reading their Bibles, we want kids to love the God of the Bible and choose to follow Him.

We get to know God when we read the Bible. We get to know what God wants of us when we read the Bible.

 

Let’s teach our kids Bible skills! Let’s encourage our kids to be comfortable and familiar with their Bibles. Let’s encourage our kids to learn how to navigate their Bibles so that they will read their Bibles and fall in love with the God they will discover in those pages and choose to follow Him!

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New Year Resolutions

It’s a New Year! Have you made any resolutions? Children's Ministry Planning

People make personal resolutions at the beginning of a new year.

Children’s ministry leaders can take the opportunity to make ministry resolutions as well.

Do you have goals for the kids in your ministry? Now is the time to start planning. It is so important to take some time and plan out what you want kids to learn this year and in the years to come. Without a plan you end up with haphazard learning.

Take a few hours and look at the curriculum you are using for this year and the next few years. Does it have a clear scope and sequence?

Does it clearly show what is going to be taught and what order it’s going to be taught in?

Scope is the extent of content to be covered in a curriculum at any one time. That could mean one week, one year, or the whole of a child’s life. Sequence means the order in which this content will be presented over time.

How easy is it for you to see what the kids will be learning over the next months and years? Is there order and context?

Whatever format your curriculum takes, it’s important for you to have a plan for using it. Any good plan will include goals.

Goals are important because they give you something to work towards and a means of measuring success.

The ultimate goal in children’s ministry is to make disciples. In order to reach that goal, you need to take some time now to plan out the year and the next few years. What are the kids going to be taught and when are the kids going to be taught it?

Take some time at the beginning of the year to plan out your curriculum.

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Did You Have Fun Today?

childrens-ministry-funThis question is heard fairly regularly after Sunday School. As much as I want kids to have fun in Sunday School, I think it is the wrong question.

The questions we ask affect how kids understand the purpose of Sunday School, the importance of Sunday School, and how they should approach Sunday School. For example, if the only question they are asked about Sunday School is whether or not they had fun, they might conclude that it’s not very important if it’s just about having fun or they will approach Sunday School as a place that is primarily about fun and might end up disappointed.

There are a lot of things that kids will call fun. School and Sunday School are probably not high on that list. However, kids can have fun in Sunday School (it helps if they aren’t comparing it to paint ball or a water park!)

We need to help kids understand that Sunday School is primarily a place to learn about God and develop a relationship with Him and that that process can be fun and enjoyable. One way we can do that is by asking the right question.

I recently listened to an interview with Dick Crider, the Discipleland Training Director. He was discussing this issue and suggested the question we should be asking kids is “Tell me what you learned about our God today?”

Rather than asking, “Did you have fun?” we should be asking, “Tell me what you learned about our God today?”

I think that is an excellent question.

First, it highlights what Sunday School is actually about – it’s about God!

We want kids to have fun learning about God. We want kids to enjoy spending time with their friends learning about God. We want kids to fall in love with Jesus and want to learn more about Him! We want to take time to build relationships with kids while teaching them about God! Sunday School is about God and this question helps kids to understand this primary purpose.

Second, the wording of the question assumes that something new was learned about God.

We can never know all there is to know about God. There is always something new and exciting and interesting and amazing to learn about God. Phrasing the question this way encourages kids to dig for and look out for new things to learn about God.

Also, if teachers know that this question is being asked of their students, it gives them some additional motivation to focus on God in their teaching and put the work into teaching in such a way that encourages exploration and excitement in digging into the Scriptures to discover truth about God.

Third, I love that the question asks what you learned about our God today.

Those asking this question have a relationship with God, enjoying learning new things with God, and want to talk about God with kids! This question encourages conversation.

So, parents and teachers, ask kids, “Tell me what you learned about our God today,” and when you do ask with enthusiasm. Be interested and excited to hear what your kids learned about God. Ask with enthusiasm because you want to have a conversation with your kids. Be enthusiastic about discovering new things about God!

Ask with enthusiasm and ask over and over. Repeat this question every week. Don’t give up. Expect an answer. You may not always get an enthusiastic answer. You may sometimes hear, “Nothing.” But be persistent. This question is a great conversation starter.

So ask and be prepared to answer this question from your kids as well. This question can be asked after Sunday School, church, clubs, VBS, devotions or quiet time. It’s not only for after Sunday School. Be ready to answer if your kids ask you to tell them what you learned about our God today. Remember, it’s about a conversation. Kids are also watching you. Is learning about God important to you? Is it just for kids? Is learning about God a way of building a relationship with Him?

Finally, let’s get back to the fun issue. Even though Sunday School isn’t primarily about having fun, that doesn’t mean that we can’t have fun in Sunday School!

Ask the follow-up question, “What fun things did you do to help you learn about God?”

You can have fun learning about God! Maybe there was an interesting activity or a cool game or a really interesting story. Whatever it is, kids are learning that spending time learning about God is important and we can have fun doing it!

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Cell Phones in Sunday School

Teenage Girl Sitting Outdoors Using Mobile PhoneRecently I was looking for a picture of a child reading on the stock photo site that I use. I got a good amount of photos to choose from. In the first row of options was a picture of a child “reading” from their phone.

Kids today have cell phones. Cell phones can be distracting, so it can be tempting for teachers to prohibit the use of cell phones in the classroom. However, people sometimes have their Bible as an app on their cell phone. So simply prohibiting their use is not the answer.

A better response would be to limit the distraction, but teach good Bible skills for cell phone users.

Limiting the Distraction

1. Create rules.

In order to limit the distraction that cell phones can be, you need to create some rules for using them in the classroom. It will be up to you and your students to create specific rules for your situations.

Here are some parameters that should be covered in the rules:

  • If a student has a cell phone, but not a Bible app, then the phone needs to be turned off and put away. Exceptions to the rule (ie. a child is expecting a call from their parents) should be dealt with by the teacher on a case by case basis.
  • If a student  has a cell phone with a Bible app, they may use it under these conditions:
    • the phone needs to be put on silent
    • when not using the Bible app, the phone needs to be face down on the table or under their chair.
  • There will be a consequence for breaking the rules. For example, “If your phone becomes a distraction it will be taken away until the end of class.”

2. Teachers should model proper cell phone use.

Teachers can become distracted by their cell phones as well. Make a point of leading by example.

  • Put your phone on silent.
  • Use only the Bible app (if you don’t have one, put your phone away.)
  • If you do have a Bible app, teach your students Bible skills for Bible apps.
  • Don’t be distracted by your phone as students are arriving or as they are leaving. Show them you care about them by being prepared and focused as they arrive.

Teach Bible Skills for Cell Phone Users

Students may not realize that using a Bible app still requires Bible skills. Continue to teach Bible skills for hard copy versions of the Bible. These skills are useful regardless of what type of Bible you use. Talk with your students about using a Bible app for Bible study.

Here are some topics for discussion:

1. The advantages and disadvantages of using a Bible app.

Some advantages include easier searching, the selection of versions available, the ability to compare versions. Some disadvantages include limited text on screen (esp. certain devices), loss of context, some difficulty in comparing texts (esp. if they are from different books of the Bible.)

2. Can you use both a Bible app and a hardcopy Bible?

You can use both. If you are looking at two different passages of Scripture you can look up one on your phone and one in your Bible. You can use a different version on your Bible app then the hardcopy Bible available as you study a passage. You can choose to use just the Bible app on your phone or just a hardcopy Bible or both.

3. How to Choose a Bible app

There are a lot of options when choosing a Bible app. This is an important discussion to have with your students.

When choosing an app:

  • Ask for help from your parents or your teacher.
  • Be aware that some apps are free and some cost money.
  • Some apps are not Bibles, but are devotionals, daily Bible reading plans, quotes, or trivia.
  • If you already have a Bible app, your teacher can review it with you.
  • Some apps have many versions; some apps are a single version.  If it is a single version, make sure it’s a version you are comfortable reading.
  • Different religions also have a bible. Watch for this when choosing an app.
  • Teachers, find some Bible apps that you can recommend to your students (if you don’t know any, find someone in your church who can help)
  • Don’t get distracted with the bells and whistles. Choose a Bible app for its content.

4.  How to Use a Bible app

Bible skills are Bible skills. They are transferable from hard copy to apps. Reinforce these skills with your students.  Also talk about using the bonus features of these apps, for example making use of reading plans, etc.

5.  How to Choose What Version of the Bible to Read in Your Bible app

This is an important discussion that includes educating your students and teaching discernment.

Talk about:

  • Translations versus paraphrases
  • Some versions available could be Catholic bibles, Jewish bibles, Morman bibles, etc.
  • Some versions include the Apocrypha
  • Some versions are more difficult to read.

Have some recommendations for your students of versions that your church uses or versions that are easier for students to read.

Cell phones are a reality in our Sunday Schools. Whether kids use a Bible or a Bible app, let’s continue to encourage Bible reading, Bible studying, and Bible skills! Our goal is the same–making disciples!

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Book Review – Rock-Solid Kids by Larry Fowler

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24

What attracted me most to this book was the tag line on the front cover – “Giving Children a Biblical Foundation for Life.”childrens-ministry-rock-solid-kids

Biblical literacy is very important to me so I was interested to see what the book had to say about it.

In the introduction, Larry Fowler outlines the purpose and format of his 142 page book.  “Those involved in children’s ministry must also build on the right foundation—and that is the primary concern of this book…Each chapter of this book starts with a Scripture passage—a ‘rock’ for your foundation. The Scripture passage specifically refers to children or ministering to them. Each chapter contains a thorough discussion of implications and applications. Together, the eight core chapters will give you eight ‘foundational rocks’—fundamental principles from God’s Word upon which to build your ministry.”

Larry Fowler discusses the importance of children’s ministry, the responsibility for children’s ministry, the content of children’s ministry, and the pattern for children’s ministry. He highlights a warning about ministering to children, allowing children to serve, the message for children’s ministry, and the opportunity of children’s ministry.

I loved this book! I would highly recommend it.

In his chapter on the content of children’s ministry, Fowler discusses the battle for balance. He discusses Biblical truth and application. I agree that a balance between these is really important. Start with Scripture and follow with application. He talked about Biblical truth, application, and relevance. He defined relevance as being how closely the biblical truth applies to a person’s life.

Although I agree wholeheartedly with the need for balance in our teaching, I did not agree with what he said about relevance. I think we need to be very careful about how we discuss relevance in relation to the Word of God. The Word of God is always relevant; we just may not see it. “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)

I wonder if I just misunderstood Fowler’s use of the term relevant in this situation. I do agree with his ‘foundation rock’ for this chapter: “Scripture is the foundation of our content; relevance follows.”

My favorite chapter was chapter 7—A Clear Focus: The Message for Children’s Ministry.

“From infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15

Fowler clearly defines what the gospel is and how we should share it with children. I appreciated his discussion about how we call children to respond to the gospel. “If we understand what the Bible says, then we won’t need a formula. Children, and everyone else, are saved by God’s grace through faith.

He goes on to say, “As presenters of the gospel message, we must focus children’s faith on the person and the work of Christ on the cross. Faith must be in Jesus’ death and resurrection…as presenters we have a responsibility to be as clear and biblically accurate as possible…So what do we do? Repeat the gospel over and over again. Reinforce it regularly. Let your awe of it show through.”

Building a children’s ministry on the foundation of God’s Word is vital and it can be done, whether you are starting from scratch or have been involved in children’s ministry for years. I recommend this book for parents, children’s ministry leaders and volunteers. I was encouraged when I read it and I think you will be too!

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