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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5 Reasons Why I’m Fine with Kids Bringing Their Cell Phones to Sunday School

I was recently asked this question on twitter …

It’s a very good question and one I had to think about for a while. The answer I came up with was that the most innovative thing I have seen recently in Children’s Ministry is kids bringing cell phones to Sunday School.mobiles for kids

The more I thought about this new aspect of Children’s Ministry, the more I realized that we as leaders and volunteers aren’t really prepared for this innovation.

We may be resistant to this change because we don’t want kids fooling around on their phones during class, we want kids to learn good Bible skills, and some may feel that kids are spending too much time with their phones and disengaging from face to face interaction.

So, here are 5 reasons why I’m okay with kids bringing their cell phones to Sunday School.

1. The Bible is Now Available on Mobile Devices.

We want kids reading and studying their Bibles in Sunday School. For some kids, this means using their mobile device. And that’s okay! Not all kids will have access to the Bible on their mobile device. In those cases, the phones need to be powered off and put away. But kids who have access to the Bible on their cell phone need to be encouraged to use it. Granted, we need to teach our kids a new set of rules for cell phone use in the classroom (for example, resisting the temptation to check social media sites!) The Bible is God’s Word and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16-17) whatever format it is found in!

2. Mobile Devices Offer Quick Access to Bible Study Helps.

Kids who bring their cell phones to Sunday School have the potential to access Bible study helps like online concordances or dictionaries, maps, and atlases. What a great potential for learning and discovery! Not all classrooms have hardcopies of concordances or Bible dictionaries. With mobile devices, kids can discover for themselves the meaning of a word or access a map of Bible lands to see just what a journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem would have entailed.

3. Mobile Device Users Can Schedule Bible Reading and Reminders to Apply Biblical Truth to Everyday Life.

One great thing about mobile devices is the ability to schedule reminders. Kids can compartmentalize things. They sometimes have a hard time applying what they have learned in Sunday School with the challenges they face during the week. Mobile phones can help to solve this with scheduled reminders. During class, encourage the kids to schedule a reminder to read their Bibles throughout the week and during application time, have them write their practical idea for applying Bible truth into their phones and carry it with them throughout the week.

4. Users Have Access to Online Devotionals.

In Sunday School, we are teaching our kids how to read and study their Bibles. We should also be encouraging them to read their Bibles throughout the week. We should also encourage them to find a good devotional book to use along with their Bible reading. A good devotional will help kids study and apply the Bible. Kids with cell phones can access online devotionals so teachers need to do some research so they can provide kids with good online devotional options.

5. Kids Are More Likely to Carry their Cell Phones to School than their Bibles.

Kids take their cell phones to school. If they have access to the Bible on their phones and have made notes about the practical way they are going to apply what they learned in Sunday School, then those phones have become a means for kids to grow as followers of Christ.

 

People are now reading the Bible on their mobile devices and that includes kids in our Sunday Schools. At first it can seem like kids are spending more time on their mobile devices than in their Bibles. However, this technological innovation gives kids the opportunity to access their Bible and more in ways they might not have before. Children’s Ministry leaders need to embrace the change and teach kids to use their phones wisely as tools to help build their faith.

For some teaching tips and strategies about cell phones in the Sunday School classroom, check out my blog post “Cell Phones in Sunday School.”

 

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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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10 Essential Classroom Supplies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you were to ask children’s ministry leaders or Sunday School teachers what the essential supplies for the classroom were, you would probably get a wide variety of answers.

Those answers would reveal what is felt to be most important in the classroom and they would also reveal the personalities of the teachers/leaders.

I believe that Sunday School is all about discipling kids. In Sunday School kids discover who God is and who we are. They discover the Bible that is God’s Word to us; they learn to understand how the Bible is put together and how to read it and study it for understanding. They learn to apply the truth found in the Bible to their own lives.

So, here’s my list of essential classroom supplies:

1. Bibles

Always have extra Bibles on hand.  Kids who have forgotten theirs can borrow one and kids who don’t have a Bible can have one.

2. Bookmarks

We don’t want kids to just bring their Bibles; we want them to use their Bibles! Often though, kids lose their place or close their Bibles and then the class is distracted as one or more kids have to find the passage again. Have some bookmarks on hand and ask your class to look up the passage and then bookmark the page. Find bookmarks that highlight God’s character, list the books of the Bible, or simply share the gospel.

3. Bible maps & atlas

Having these available in the classroom gives kids the opportunity to see that the places in Bible stories are real. Looking at maps and atlases helps kids understand context and makes the stories come alive. They can see mountains and lakes and oceans and wilderness. These resources also help kids start to understand distances and how far Bible characters travelled. Seeing locations on a map in relation to each other also helps the kids put numerous stories into context.

4. Bible dictionary/Handbook

Having a Bible dictionary in the classroom allows teachers to encourage students to discover on their own. If a student asks a question about a word or a Bible character they are unfamiliar with, the teacher can show them how to find the answer using a Bible dictionary. These great resources can also be called Bible handbooks.

5. Concordance

A concordance is an index to the Bible. Arranged in alphabetical order, it shows the location of the major words (or in the case of an exhaustive concordance, all the words) in the Bible. Helpfully, it also provides several words of the context in which each word is found. For example, if your class is studying the fact that God is good, you could look up the word good in the concordance and note all the references that speak of the fact that God is good.

If you have internet access in your classroom, you can use www.biblegateway.com. Although not exhaustive, it is very helpful as a concordance resource.

6. Construction paper

Have lots of different colors available. Construction paper can be used for lesson time, application time, and game or craft time. Kids can be creative as they interact with Biblical truth.

7. Plain paper

Plain paper (lined or unlined) can be used for so many different things. Some kids like to take notes; others like to draw what they are learning. Paper can be used for lesson time, application time, game time and craft time. Use it for review games or comic strips. It’s a great, simple resource for getting kids involved.

8. Markers/pencil crayons/crayons

Now, I know this one seems a little obvious! Provide markers that are washable. If you teach toddlers, the little fat ones are perfect for little hands that are still developing small motor skills. A variety is good, if possible. Sometimes different mediums are needed. It can be a bit of a hassle making sure pencil crayons stay sharpened (depending on the size of your class!) This is a good opportunity to give some responsibility to your students. Give them the job of keeping the pencil crayons (and pencils!) sharpened.

9. Pencils

You may ask why I specify pencils here. There is nothing wrong with pens, but pencils are a better tool when working with kids. Depending on their developmental level, kids may be struggling with spelling or wanting things to be perfect. When you give them pencils to use, you are setting them up for success by making it easy to erase and try again!

10. Erasers/pencil sharpeners

On that note, erasers and pencil sharpeners are the last essential supplies for the classroom on this list. Depending on the size of your class, you may want multiple small pencil sharpeners. Make sure you have lots of erasers as well.

Bonus: Current world map

A current world map is not essential but I recommend it.

A current world map used alongside a Bible atlas and Bible maps can be so helpful for kids. They can see that the stories in the Bible took place in real places. It also helps them to gain some perspective.
A world map can also be used to highlight missions. Put stickers to indicate where missionaries that your class is praying for are working.

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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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