You 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.