Children’s Ministry Volunteer Training – Teach One Thing

Here’s a segment from a Children’s Ministry training seminar I gave about the importance of focusing on just one point in your lesson.

 Main Points:

Focus Your Teaching to One Biblical Theme

  • When preparing your Sunday School lesson choose one main point that you want to focus on. Pray, read through the lesson, look at the themes listed in the lesson and consider the needs of your students.
  • Write your main point in a single sentence.
  • Once you have chosen your main point, go back through the lesson and get rid of anything that doesn’t relate to that point. Then insert your main point throughout the lesson.

Teach one thing!

 

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Teaching Bible Skills – Finding books in the Bible

I believe that Bible skills are important. I believe that it is part of our job as children’s ministry volunteers, as Sunday School teachers to teach our kids Bible skills. This is the first in a series on teaching Bible skills. I hope you find it helpful.

Finding Books in the Bible

Our goal is to make disciples. Disciples of Jesus know their Bibles, love their Bibles, and read their Bibles. Becoming familiar with the layout of the Bible is an important part of this process. Knowing the books of the Bible and where they are to be found in the Bible is a skill our kids need to be taught.

Preschool

Preschool children either can’t read or are learning to read. Children of this age are eager to learn and we should not miss out on the opportunity to begin teaching them Bible skills.

In Sunday School, there are a number of different ways to begin to teach the skills of finding books in the Bible.

1. Encourage your class to bring their Bibles to Sunday School

This is the first step if you want to teach your class how to find books in the Bible. Preschool children may have an actual children’s Bible, or they may have a children’s storybook Bible. Either way, encourage them to bring it to Sunday School and then have them use it.

2. Look up the Bible passage for the story you will be teaching

Take a few moments at the beginning of story time and help the children find the story in their Bibles. First, tell the children what book of the Bible the story is in. In order to help them put it in context, also mention if it is the Old Testament or the New Testament. (“The Old Testament has the books at the front of the Bible. The New Testament has the books near the back of the Bible.”)

Children this age are learning their alphabet, learning to print their names, and learning to read. Once you have told them the book the story is in, encourage them to figure what letter of the alphabet the book starts with. Use that to help them find the book.  For example, the lesson is on Jesus feeding the 5000. Tell the children, “Our Bible story today is found in the book of Matthew. Matthew is the first book in the New Testament, so it is going to be found near the back of the Bible. What letter of the alphabet does Matthew start with? M. Look for the letter M at the top of the page.”

Most Bibles have the name of the book at the top of the page. Encourage children to look for their letter of the alphabet here. This exercise does take a few minutes, but I have noticed children are eager to use their emerging reading skills and show great pride when they have found the book. Once they have found it, point to the name of the book. Ask them to show you the first letter of the word. Then tell them, as in our example, “M is for Matthew.”

For children with storybook Bibles, help them find the story and then remind them what book of the Bible this story is found in. Some Bible storybooks have the reference for each story at the beginning. Show them the reference and make the connection to the book of the Bible.

Elementary

1. Encourage your kids to bring their Bibles to Sunday School

Tthis is so important. You may want to use incentives to encourage your kids to bring their Bibles. We want it to become a habit. A huge incentive for kids to bring their Bibles is when they actually use them. So, encourage your kids to bring their Bibles, and then make sure you have the kids use them in class.

2. Have extra Bibles available

Have a few age-appropriate Bibles ready for visitors or kids who don’t have a Bible or who forgot to bring theirs.

3. Plan to have the class look up at least one Bible verse or passage during Sunday School

Having the class look up a Bible passage takes time – usually more time than you expected! So, always plan out what you are going to have the kids look up. For younger kids, it is best to have the class look up the same passage. As the kids get older and more familiar with their Bibles and better at reading, you can have the kids look up different passages. Give the reference and then encourage the kids to help each other and to share discoveries. As the kids are looking up the reference, talk about whether it is in the Old Testament or the New Testament; whether it is before or after particular books. These questions help the kids to consider context.

4. Make use of the table of contents

Teach your kids how to use the table of contents in the front of their Bibles. The table of contents is a great tool. It shows how books are divided into old and new testaments. Show the kids how to find a book in the table of contents and then to use the page number given to find the book in the Bible. Help the children to understand that different Bibles will have different page numbers.

5. Plan games or activities that will give the kids a chance to develop their skills in finding books in the Bible.

Bible drills – Bible drills are a great activity. They are a fun way for kids to get to know their Bibles and to become familiar with how the books are ordered in the Bible. The rules of a Bible drill are simple. Children will hold their Bibles up above their heads. You will say a Bible reference. Ask the children to repeat it and then say, “go.” The children will lower their Bibles and look up the reference. Once they have found it, they should stand up.

Books of the bible games – There are many different game ideas that will help the children become familiar with the books of the Bible. In an upcoming post, I will give you some ideas for activities that kids will find fun and engaging and that will ultimately help them develop Bible skills.

6. Older Elementary children who have the Bible on their phones or tablets

You may have children in your classes, especially older children, who carry cell phones or other devices. They may choose to use these instead of a hard copy Bible. There is nothing wrong with looking up Bible references on these devices. Children may actually tell you that it is easier, because they just have to enter the search information. As teacher, you will have to institute some class rules for use of these devices in class. Although it is great that they have access to the Bible on these devices, they also have access to other programs as well that could cause a distraction or loss of attention in class. When you make rules about using devices in your classroom, include your class in the discussion.

 

Learning to find books in the Bible and becoming familiar with our Bibles is not an end in itself. It is part of the discipling process. Our goal is to make disciples. Disciples love Jesus! We get to know Jesus and how to follow Him through our Bibles. Teaching children to know and love their Bibles, then, is an important part of the disciple-making process. Teaching Bible skills will help our children get to know their Bibles and more importantly, get them reading their Bibles and getting to know God, who is the main character in the Bible.

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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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4 Tips on How to Handle Questions During a Story

Handling Questions During Story TimeYou are in the middle of the Bible story and you suddenly hear, “Did you know that it’s my birthday tomorrow?” All of a sudden, little voices are vying for your attention, “My birthday is in February.” “My Mom says that I can have my birthday party at McDonald’s Playland.” “Why can’t I have my birthday tomorrow?”

It only takes a second for our kids’ minds to change direction and suddenly the focus is off of your story and on to something else. Knowing how to deal with these kinds of disruptions can help to turn you into a great storyteller… and can keep the kids’ minds focused on the real reason for Sunday School.

Here are 4 tips on how to handle questions during a story:

Tip #1: Make it a rule that children must raise their hand if they have a question.

This behavior needs to be taught to young children. Explain the rule carefully and let them practice. Tell the children that if they have a question, they need to raise their hand and then wait for you to acknowledge them. Practice this a few times before story time. Depending where are you in your story, you may choose not to acknowledge a child whose hand is raised.

Tip #2: Work with another teaching partner to split the questions.

If you have a teaching partner or helper, make sure they are part of story time. You can acknowledge and answer questions related to the story but let your partner handle unrelated questions (i.e. bathroom requests or managing unrelated questions) so that you can focus on the story.

(If you don’t have a teaching partner, keep reading because Tip #4 will help).

Tip #3: Know your story really well and be comfortable with visuals.

Be familiar enough with the story so that you can continue smoothly after a disruption. You may need to practice telling the story at home. Familiarity with your story will not only help you handle questions during the story but it will also make you a better storyteller. (It’s much easier to get back on track after a distraction if you know the story compared to reading the story).

And, if you practice the story at home, practice with your visuals so you can be comfortable with them and have them ready to go before your story starts. This will keep you from creating your own distractions during story time!

Tip #4. Discern which questions to address.

Some questions during story enhance the story and the theme you are teaching. Some questions do not.

  • If the question asked is related to the theme of the lesson or the Bible story you are telling, then answer it simply and continue the story.
  • If the question is a Bible related question, but unrelated to the story you are telling then tell the child you’ll talk about it after story time.
  • If the question is completely unrelated, encourage the child to tell to you about it after story.

Ask God for discernment. Sometimes His Holy Spirit will direct the class in a completely new direction and you need to follow it.

It’s all about focus!
Children learn best when they can remain focused on a single topic… and what topic is more important than learning about Jesus? Part of becoming a great storyteller means handling distractions that can easily take the children’s focus away from the most important thing.

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