Is Sunday School Prep Really That Important?

childrens-ministry-yesThis past Sunday was the last Sunday School before Christmas and the week preceding it was busy! You know how it is – shopping, baking, Christmas concerts, finishing up work before the holidays, and to add another layer of awesomeness, I was sick! I had caught a nasty cold and spent a few days early in the week under a blanket.

I teach a kindergarten-Grade 1 class for Sunday School and the Bible story for that Sunday was the wise men who journeyed far to worship Jesus, the King. As I got out my curriculum to prepare I was reminded just how important preparation is for Sunday School teachers.

The curriculum publisher had chosen a fun, interactive way to tell the familiar story of the wise men seeking Jesus. They had created a game board with cards and activities. It was great! It was also very complicated. There were multiple card packs and pieces and many different activities that had to be done at the right time for the game to work. I also had to consider whether certain activities would work in my classroom (it’s very small!!) and in the time we have in the classroom (30-40 minutes).

If I hadn’t taken the time to prepare for this lesson , it would have been a disaster! Everybody is busy. If you are a Sunday School teacher, take the time during the week to prepare for your lesson. It’s worth it! God will be at work in your heart and in the hearts of your students.

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Leading Kids in Worship

Girl twins  with arms raised.I love worship times with kids! It is such a privilege to lead kids in worship and to worship together with kids. But like any Children’s Ministry activity there needs to be a goal. Do you have a goal in mind when you lead kids in worship? I believe that the goal during worship time with kids should be to stir reverence and evoke worship.

Stir Reverence

Reverence is an attitude of deep respect tinged with awe. Another way of saying it would be to excite adoration.

The best way to do this is to focus on God. Focus on big truths about God. Highlight God’s goodness, faithfulness, love, holiness, awesomeness. Show kids that the God we love and serve is a big God worthy of our love and worship. Focusing on who God is allows for response.

But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down toward your holy temple. Psalm 5:7

 

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:28-29

 

Evoke Worship

Evoke means to call up. Humans are worshipers. If we are not worshiping God, we will be worshiping something else. To evoke worship then is to call up worth. To worship is to ascribe worth.

Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago. Isaiah 25:1

 

How to Reach Your Goal

Since true worship is a matter of the heart, we can’t know what is going on in the minds and hearts of the kids we are leading in worship. But we can teach them what worship is and guide them toward moments of worship.

Directing kids to focus on God alone leads them toward worship. Plan every part of your worship time with the goal of directing kids to focus on God alone.

When we are confronted with who God is, our response is reverence, awe, and worship

Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Psalm 105:1-3

 

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Teaching Tip – Pray as you Prep!

A young woman praying with her hands together on white backgroun

How much of your lesson prep is spent in prayer? Prayer should be a huge part of lesson prep.It is all to easy to get focused on the details of making sure you have all the materials needed and forget to pray that God would continue to transform you and the students in your class.

Ask God to do a work in your own heart.

It is all too easy to Sunday School teachers to fall into the pattern of reading quickly through an all-too-familiar Bible story and not spending time meditating on the truth of God’s Word. All Scripture is useful says 2 Timothy 3:16. When you pray, ask God to show you something new. Ask God to open your mind and your heart to understand His Word. From your learning and growth comes something to teach the kids in your class.

Pray also for your students that God would be preparing them to learn the Bible truth.

Pray for the specific needs of your students throughout the week. As you are preparing for the lesson, pray that your students would ready to hear the lesson. Ask God to put situations and experiences into their week that would prepare them to hear and understand the Bible truth you will teach on Sunday.

Make prayer a significant part of your preparation routine when you teach Sunday School.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

 

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Curriculum Review – What’s in the Bible? Church Edition

What’s a testament? Why are there so many different books in the Bible? Who wrote the books in the Bible? Is the Bible a book of stories or a book of one big story?

What’s in the Bible? Church edition is a brand new curriculum for elementary age children created with the purpose of helping them see the Bible as one big story – the story of God and His people.

Beginning in Genesis and continuing through to Revelation, this 52 week media-driven curriculum gives kids the big picture story of the Bible. It helps them see that the Bible is one big story, not a bunch of unconnected stories. If you are looking for a curriculum that will take your students through the Bible in a purposeful, orderly manner, then this may be the curriculum for you.

Along with the 13 volumes of Genesis to Revelation curriculum, there are two special volumes that can be added. Four weeks of Old Testament review and 4 weeks of special Christmas curriculum designed for fewer volunteers and more guests.

Here’s a video of Phil Vischer talking about this new curriculum.

This curriculum is a unique combination of video and small group segments. Each lesson is designed in four sections. Each section includes a video lesson and group activity. The group activity includes games, discussion, and Bible study.

If you are familiar with the What’s in the Bible? DVD series, you will recognize some of the videos. The two teaching videos from each section are taken from the What’s in the Bible? DVD series. The other two videos are getting to know each other and review created for this curriculum.

Things I Like About This Curriculum

Its Focus on Biblical Literacy

I love the focus on Biblical literacy. This curriculum contains the whole narrative of the Bible, not just highlights. I also really like that repetition and reinforcement are built into the lessons and units. This curriculum was designed to give kids a big picture view of the Bible and to help them understand how it all fits together.

Its Customizability

This is a truly customizable curriculum. All material is on disc or DVD. The leader’s guides and take-home papers are available as pdf or as word documents. This means that leaders or teachers can go into the lesson guide and make changes as necessary. Customizable take-home materials allow leaders to add notes to parents about upcoming events and projects and memory verses.

I think this is a truly fantastic aspect of this curriculum and I hope other curriculum providers follow suit.

Leaders can also customize the format. It can be used in a large group/small group format or a traditional classroom format or whatever format works for your situation. The only limitation is the number of screens you have to show the videos on.

The Combination of Bible Story and Bible Skills

I really like the combination of Bible story and Bible skills in this curriculum. Each lesson, the students are encouraged to read and study their Bibles. They hears stories from the Bible and they are taught important Bible skills like how to read a reference and what a testament is and the books of the Bible and how they are organized.

 

I encourage you to check it out! Click here for free samples of What’s in the Bible? Church edition.

And for a limited time What’s in the Bible is offering 40% discount on your entire order. Visit this page for more information and for the discount code.

 

As a thank you gift for writing this review, I will be receiving a DVD and poster from What’s in the Bible?.

 

 

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Robert Munch 17:17 – Teaching Bible Skills – The Reference

“At bedtime I was sharing with Nicholas about what true friendship is. I ended by saying: “The bible says that a friend loves at all times!” Nicholas exclaimed “I know, Robert Munch 17:17!” “What?” I asked for clarification. He explained “Robert Munch 17:17! That’s the bible verse that says that a friend loves at all times.” Later I checked. Sure enough, the verse is found in Proverbs 17:17. Or as the cool kids call it Robert Munch 17:17.”

To a 5 year old, Robert Munch 17:17 makes just about as much sense as Proverbs 17:17. The books of the Bible are for the most part unfamiliar words for kids – Leviticus, Obadiah, Ecclesiastes, Thessalonians, and Philemon are just a few examples. The books of the Bible are just one part of the reference though.

Bible SkillsThe reference itself is an unfamiliar concept for kids. The Bible is the only book that is set up with books, chapters, and verses and the Bible is the only book that uses references as a means of locating information within a book.

When teaching Bible skills, one of your biggest jobs is to take what is unfamiliar and make it familiar.

Start With What Kids are Familiar With

Start with what kids are familiar with – chapter books. Kids understand that a book has a name and chapters. Show kids a chapter book and ask them to show you the title of the book and a chapter in the book. During this activity, ask the children to tell you what a book is and what a chapter is.

Once it is clear that all of the students understand what a book and a chapter is, show them a Bible. Ask them how the Bible is different from the chapter book you showed them (it is a library of books).

A Library of Books!

The first step to understanding a reference is to understand that the Bible is one book and a library of books! The Bible is one book that holds 66 different books. That is a lot! With so many books in one place, there needs to be a way to organize everything so that information can be found.

Each of the books in the Bible has its own name. Ask your students to show you a book in the Bible. Most Bibles have an introductory page for each book (this may be the page a student shows you). This introductory page is one of the ways the Bible is organized. Each book also has the name at the top of the page for each page in the book (some students may show you a page within the book with the title at the top).

Give kids lots of opportunities to practice finding books in the Bible. Remind them often that if they are lost, they can check the top of the page to find what book they are currently in.

The Chapter

Each book is divided into chapters. Show your students the chapter book again. In chapter books, the chapter is given a title and/or a number. Tell them that the way the Bible is organized; chapters are given numbers, starting with one. Ask your students to turn to a book in the Bible (different books are encouraged for this activity). Ask them to flip through the book to find out how many chapters are in that book. Some books of the Bible are short with only one chapter; others are very long with over 100 chapters (like the book of Psalms). Ask them to tell how to tell a chapter in the book (each chapter is given a big number).

The Verse

The Bible is a library of books that are divided into chapters. Those chapters are further divided into verses. A verse is designated by a small number at the beginning of the verse. Ask your students to find the book of Genesis chapter one. Once all of your students have found Genesis chapter one, ask them to show you verse 1. This is trickier than it sounds because not all Bibles show the number 1 for the first verse in a chapter (this could be because the chapter number is there also). Once your class has identified the first verse in chapter one, ask them to find verses 2-10. Ask, “Are the verse numbers always at the outer edge of the page/column?” (no, they are scattered throughout the text).

Ask the students to find a specific verse and read it. Then, ask the students to find a group of verses (ex. Verses 3-5) and read them out loud. I remember one student in grade four who was asked to read a short passage of Scripture. She read the verse number along with the text. Don’t forget that it’s our job to teach our students what a verse is, what its purpose is, and whether or not the verse number is read along with the text.

The Reference

Now students are ready to put it all together and learn what a reference is. One good way to explain a reference is to call it an address. The address tells us where a specific piece of information lives in the Bible. The address will tell us what book the information is in; what chapter the information is in once we have reached the book; and what verse the information is in once we have found the chapter within the book.

Write out a reference for your students:

John 1:1

When explaining the reference (book, chapter, verse), don’t forget to tell your students what the colon is for. The colon separates the chapter from the verse.

When students are familiar with a reference and comfortable using and writing them, it’s time to move on to more complex references.

1 John 1:1

In this reference there is an additional number at the beginning of the reference. Teach your students that certain books of the Bible have these numbers in them. When they see a book like that (1 Kings, 2 Timothy, etc) it is read “first” rather than “one” or “second” rather than “two” or “third” rather than “three”

John 1:1a

In this reference there is a letter at the end of the reference. Tell your students that because it comes after the colon it is related to the verse. Verses can be divided up into the first part of the verse and the last part of the verse. When they are just supposed to read the first part of the verse, an “a” will be added to the verse in a reference. When they are supposed to read only the last part of a verse, a “b” will be added to the verse in the reference.

Give your students lots of opportunity to practice this. The use of letters in a reference is not a clear cut skill. Verses are never divided exactly into half. Students need practice to see how a verse could be divided and what the person who wrote the reference what asking them to focus on.

John 1:1a could be “In the beginning was the Word.”

John 1:1b could be “and the Word was God,” or “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

John 1:1, 14

This reference contains two verses. It could also be written like this – John 1:1&14. The “and” and the comma perform the same function. They show the reader that only verse one and verse fourteen are to be read. Tell your students that when they see a comma they should think ‘and.’ In this case, verses one and fourteen. Let your students practice this new skill as well. Give them a variety of references with commas to look up.

John 1:1-14

This reference contains a dash. Tell your students that when they see a dash that means to read all the verses between the verses shown (make sure you let them know that it includes the verses shown as well!) So, in our example, students would read verses 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12,13, and 14.

John 1:1-14, 17

This reference contains a combination of the comma and the dash. Ask your students if they can tell you what it means. They would read verses one though fourteen and then verse seventeen.

Practice until Familiarity is Developed

I would not recommend doing all these activities in the same sitting. There are a lot of skills being taught here. Rather, let the students practice one skill at a time. When they are comfortable and familiar with that aspect of the reference, then it’s time to move on to the next activity.

Even when your students are ready to move on to a more complex reference, they still can benefit from practicing the skills they are learnt already.

Teach your students what a reference is and how it can be used to find specific information in the Bible. Never assume your class knows what a reference is not matter how old they are. Children in grade 5 may not understand correctly how a reference is designed or used if they have never been taught.

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