Is Your Sunday School Balanced?

Children's Ministry Balanced Sunday SchoolWhen I was a kid I loved playing at the park! If I could find a friend I loved to play a particular game – trying to balance on the teeter totter. It was hard work to find that sweet spot! But it was worth it when you were balanced up in the air.

There is a sweet spot in Sunday School too. It is when you find the right balance between the Bible lesson and the application.
Start with Scripture. Use every minute you have to teach your class the truth about our great God!

In Larry Fowler’s book, “Rock-Solid Kids,” he spent a chapter talking about the content of our children’s ministries. He said that the content of what we teach needs to be God’s Word. “That’s the foundation for application. The Word of God has to come first. Why do we start there? Because the word themselves are truth. Because they are from God…Start with Scripture. We must not only teach children about the Bible and how to apply the Bible, but we must also as first priority teach them the Bible.”

So, make sure your lessons are based on Scripture. Are you teaching kids the Bible? Kids need a solid foundation of Biblical teaching.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17

Next, we go to application. When you start with Scripture, you have something to talk about during application. During the lesson, the focus was on God’s Word. The application time is when the kids make the connection between God’s Word and their own lives. Your job is to connect Bible truth to a child’s life. Application time is for helping children to bridge the gap between Biblical knowledge and heart transformation. The goal is change. By the end you want the kids to respond to what they have learned by applying biblical truth to their everyday life.

How can a young person keep his way pure? By living according to Your word. I seek You with all my heart; do not let me stray from Your commands. I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You. Psalm 119:9-11

Here is why balance is so important. If a Sunday School class is just the Bible lesson, there is a chance that it may become a purely intellectual exercise; all about knowledge. If a Sunday School class is just application, then it may become good advice for living but no authority behind the suggestions.During Sunday School, we have the opportunity to dig deep into the Bible and learn about God and ourselves and living life as followers of Jesus.

Tony Kumner (of recently said, “Thinking about the REAL JESUS in the Gospels this morning and worried that we spend too little time walking with him in the Scriptures. Let’s pray and encourage one another in this essential calling – to know Jesus Christ in truth, rather than forming him to our own imagination.”
In children’s ministry we want to introduce kids to Jesus and help them to grow up in their faith.

So, start with Scripture. The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself. A relationship with Him needs to be rooted in His Word. A relationship is current and active. To keep it that way we keep reading and studying the Word of God.

Strive for the right balance in your classroom of Scripture and application.

When Your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear Your name, LORD God Almighty. Jeremiah 15:16

Tips for Leading Application Time #9

Get to know your kidschildrens ministry girls club

It’s important to know about your kids so that you make the application time as applicable as possible. You don’t want vague responses to biblical truth – you want very specific responses.

Here are some ways you can get to know your kids:

  • Make it a point to spend a few minutes talking one-on-one with a child every Sunday.
  • Plan some ‘get acquainted’ questions ahead of time and bring one with you every Sunday to ask during class. For example, “What’s your favorite movie?” “What is your favorite way to spend a Saturday?” “Tell me about your family.”
  • Play the ‘Hi, my name is…’ game. In this game kids will pull a card out of a bag and finish the sentence written on in. On their turn, the student will pull a card out of the bag and say, “Hi, my name is  ____________ and my favorite ………..” It is a quick, fun way to get to know the kids in your group. Don’t forget to play yourself! Find a small gift bag and some index cards. On each index card write “My favorite _______ is…” (“my favorite food is…” “my favorite sport is…” “my favorite candy is…” “my favorite subject at school is…” “my favorite pizza topping is…” “my favorite Bible story is…” “my favorite animal is…” “my favorite vacation spot is…”)
  • Encourage your small group to share prayer requests.
  • Find out your groups birth dates and send birthday cards.
  • Allow time on Sunday morning for conversation. If you are rushed off your feet, you won’t take the time to chat with your kids. Make some breathing room in your schedule and use that time to talk with the kids in your small group.


Tips for Leading Application Time #8

Teenagers Sitting And ConversingPrevent distracting chatter

You want the kids in your small group to build relationships with you and with each other. The downside of this is that you have friends sitting together who sometimes can’t resist the urge to have their own conversation right in the middle of application time! Or kids want to tell you stories about what is going in with them.

Both of these are examples of distracting chatter. Application time is a time for talking, but it’s focused group discussion. So, you need to do your best to prevent distracting chatter.

There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Set up ground rules
  • Let kids know what you expect
  • Be prepared with good questions
  • Know what the lesson’s key theme is, the key Bible passage, and the aim of application time
  • Think out ahead of time how you will deal with distracting chatter when it does happen

You may need to move certain kids away from each other. If a child shares something that is totally off track, tell them that you will talk about that later, and move right back into the conversation.

During application time you are guiding kids to a response. It’s important to focus. Distracting chatter causes loss of focus. Do your best to prevent it from happening in the first place.

Tips for Leading Application Time #7

Childen's Ministry Sunday School BehaviorInvolve all the kids

All groups of kids are different! In your group you may have kids that love to talk…and talk and talk! You may have kids who prefer to keep quiet or are really shy. You may have kids who seem to only want to talk with their best friend. There will be all kinds of kids in your small group/class. Do your best to involve all of them during application time.

Set up an environment that makes kids comfortable and is a place where they can share. If you can, have application time in a different place from the lesson. That can mean simply moving from the table to a circle on the floor. Let your group know from the beginning that during application time you want them to talk!

It’s important to have ground rules for application time. For example, we don’t interrupt when someone is talking; we don’t make fun of people; we show respect for everyone in the group.

Try not to let certain kids dominate the conversation. Let your talkative kids talk, but remind them that everyone gets a chance to share during application time. If necessary, have a word with them privately. Ask them to help you by sharing and then letting other kids share as well. Ask if they would help keep the conversation going by saying after they have shared, “What do you think?” to another person in the group.

Encourage quiet or shy kids to contribute. In one Sunday School class I taught I had a student who was excessively shy. She could go for an entire class without saying anything. But she was engaged and interested and wanted to be more involved. So we worked out a system. She would usually sit by me and if she had something she wanted to share, she would whisper in my ear. Then I would ask if I could share it with the rest of the group. If she said yes, then I would. If not, then I would just thank her for sharing and move on.

If you have kids in your group that are more interested in talking to each other than participating in the group discussion, there are couple of options. Talk with them privately. Remind them of the importance of application time and let them know that you want them to participate. Tell them that if what they are talking about with their friend can’t be shared with the entire group then it is something they will need to save to talk about until after Sunday School. Also, let them know what will happen if they persist in talking only to each other during application time. The best option is probably to just separate them. Tell them that it will be for one Sunday. The next Sunday is a new day and they have a new chance to participate in the group discussion. Another way to tell with this without focusing on certain kids is to assign places for application time.This way you can choose ahead of time where kids will sit. You can separate best friends or put kids you want to keep an eye on close to you.

Application time is such an important part of Sunday School. We want our kids to respond to the truth taught in the lesson. We pray for the Holy Spirit to work change and transformation in the lives of our students. This is why it is so important to involve all your students in the application time discussion.

Tips for Leading Application Time #6

job search - womanKeep it focused on the lesson

During application time you want the kids to be actively involved. You want them to talk; to answer questions and think deeply and choose to respond biblically to the truth in the lesson.

It will be your job to keep application time focused on the lesson. It can be easy for a discussion to stray off course. Kids want to share stories and talk about life; you need to do your best to keep the discussion from straying into tangents.

Keep it focused with good questions and by guiding the discussion. I’ve talked about preparing and asking good questions in a previous post.

You want the kids to be involved in the discussion. How do you keep them focused? Have a stash of good questions ready to go. Also, be prepared to help guide the conversation. Be ready to ask follow up questions. Be ready to allow for and encourage silence as kids think about a question asked or the topic being discussed.

If the discussion does start to stray off track, interrupt and re-direct the conversation before it gets too far off track.

Say something like, “That sounds interesting, but we will have to talk about it later. Tell me what you think God wanted you to learn about Him today?” Or, “Oh, off-topic! Let’s get back to our Bible point. Tell me about a person in the Bible who has faced a similar situation?”

There are a couple of things you can do when the discussion gets off track.

Use a prearranged signal – talk with your small group about a signal to use that will help everyone to re-focus. It could be something like saying, “Off-topic!” or maybe using a pair of binoculars. When you hold them up, the groups knows it’s time to focus.

Refocus with the central Bible verse or key theme – When the discussion gets off track, help your group re-focus by highlighting the key theme of the lesson or reading again the central Bible verse from the lesson. Focus their attention and then continue the discussion.

* Note: There may be times when something happens that takes the discussion in a whole other direction. The Holy Spirit may be at work directing the conversation. Be sensitive to those possibilities and be ready to go with it. For example, you may unexpectedly have a child open up and share. If the Holy Spirit prompts you to drop the questions you have prepared and take the discussion in that new direction, then do it.

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