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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Now is the Time to Start Cultivating Next Year’s Volunteers

childrens ministry cultivate volunteersHere are three ideas to start cultivating next year’s volunteers.

1. Keep the volunteers you already have through appreciation and training

Recruiting is an ongoing issue for children’s ministry leaders. But it is less stressful if you have a core of volunteers who return year after year. The best ways to ensure your volunteers keep coming back are through appreciation and training.

Appreciation

There are many ways to show appreciation to your volunteers. The most important thing is to do it! Here are some ideas for showing appreciation to your volunteers:

Send a thank you card – Write a personal note to each of your volunteers. If you have a lot of volunteers, consider spreading this task throughout the year. Think about each volunteer individually and write a specific appreciation note. Maybe something you noticed about their service and an area of their character that has made an impression on you. Mail these thank you cards to their home address. Knowing that you have taken the time to write a personal card and mail it to them will mean a lot to your volunteers.

Appreciation banquet – Plan a special evening just for your volunteers. It doesn’t have to be really expensive in order to be meaningful to your volunteers. The appreciation evening can be formal or informal. It can be a banquet or a potluck. But take the time to plan out the evening.

  • Here is one idea: offer an appreciation evening where the kids in your children’s ministry prepare, serve, and clean up the meal and plan a program. If the kids are talented musically they may play an instrument or sing a song. Ask a couple of the kids to share why they appreciate their teachers. This appreciation evening idea shows that you are thankful for your volunteers and that they kids they serve appreciate them too!

Seasonal appreciation – you could send out seasonal appreciation gifts. These can be serious or humorous. Let your personality shine in the way you show appreciation to your volunteers!

  • At Christmas you could ask some of the kids to decorate Styrofoam cups. Then add a specialty hot chocolate package and a small packet of mini-marshmallows. Simply wrap it in tissue paper and tie it with ribbon. Add a tag with a simple message “Thank you for serving.”
  • For Valentines you could send valentines cards to your volunteers or package up some Hershey Kisses in a treat bag tied with a ribbon. One possible verse you could write on the tag would be Ephesians 3: 16-19 – “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
  • For spring you could send your volunteers packets of flower seeds. In an attached note tell them that you are so thankful for them and their commitment to growing disciples of Jesus.
  • Take them out for coffee – again, this may depend on how many volunteers you have. Take them out in groups or individually. Use this time to get to know them. Let them know that you appreciate what they do. Be specific if you can.

Give them a break – this appreciation idea is especially significant for those volunteers who have served faithfully over the years. Offer to take one of their teaching days so they can have the weekend off or find a sub who can teach one Sunday for them. This idea works for all scheduling options – year-long, or rotation schedules. Make sure your volunteer understands why you are giving them a break. Let them know that you are thankful for their faithful service and what to encourage and re-energize them by giving them a little teaching holiday.

Training

Offer at least one training seminar each year. If you are not comfortable doing the training yourself, consider asking someone to come and help you. There are many different areas of training for children’s ministry volunteers. Whatever you choose, ensure that it is pertinent to your team.

2. Personally seek out new volunteers

Announcements from the pulpit are a good way to inform the congregation of your volunteer needs and to let them know how best to pray for you, but they are not the best way to find volunteers.

Approach possible volunteers personally. Let them know what your specific need is and why you thought of them. Make sure they understand what you are asking of them and the time commitment you require. Give them time to think and pray about being involved in children’s ministry. Encourage them to ask questions.

3. Ask God to raise up people to serve in needed areas and ask the congregation to pray with you

Spend time praying for the specific people you will need. Pray that they will feel a call to serve in children’s ministry, have a passion to see kids discipled, and a willingness to be a team player.

Ask the congregation to pray with you. Making your prayer needs known to the congregation reminds them that children’s ministry is a vital part of the church and that everyone can be involved through prayer.

Recruiting volunteers can be a daunting task. These tips will help make it a little less so.

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