Teacher Training – Understanding Biblical Doctrine

childrens ministry: teaching biblical doctrine

Redemption, Sanctification, Atonement, Forgiveness, Sin, Justification – These are big words that a lot of adults have difficulty understanding. I believe that it is important to teach our children these truths. In order to teach them, we must first understand them ourselves.

“It takes as much or more understanding of a biblical doctrine to teach it to children than it does to teach it do adults. If you understand a thing well, you can usually make it plain for ordinary people and children. But if you are fuzzy in your own understanding, you will generally be overly complex in your explanation.” (John Piper)

I have seen the truth of this statement in classrooms that I have observed. Teachers who don’t fully understand the concept they are teaching end up being overly complicated and lengthy in their explanations.

This is one of the reasons why teachers should be encouraged to prepare for their Sunday School lessons early in the week. Doing so gives them a chance to fully understand a concept they will be teaching on Sunday morning. It also gives them the opportunity to come up with and prepare for illustrations and activities that will help to explain the doctrine or concept.

There are resources available for teachers who are interested in learning about Biblical doctrine. Watch for adult Sunday school classes or Bible studies on this subject at your church. There are some good books also that help teach Biblical doctrine. Consider making a good systematic theology book available to your teachers. One book I highly recommend is called, “Big Truths for Young Hearts,” by Bruce Ware. This book was written by a theology professor. The purpose is to help adults teach children Biblical doctrine. I have used this book a lot – it is helpful first for understanding a concept and second for teaching it to children.

Teachers who have taken the time to fully understand Biblical doctrine will be able to teach it well to their students.

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.

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.

Good Friday – Jesus is our Mighty Savior!

On Friday, I am leading a preschool program for the Good Friday service. The program is for children ages 2-6. A number of churches get together to remember the death of Jesus and to celebrate the gift of salvation together.

I love serving with children’s ministry volunteers from other churches! I love getting to know the kids from other churches as well.

Our theme for the morning is “Jesus is our Mighty Savior!”

Through activities, games, crafts, songs, and Bible stories, we are helping the kids discover what it means that Jesus is our mighty Savior.

As they kids arrive, they will be encouraged to join an activity station. We planned activities that will get the kids thinking about our theme.

For example, one of the activities is called “Spicy Scents.” We will give each child a clump of play dough and put a few drops of lemon or peppermint extract on children’s dough, and let children knead it in. As children are working the extract into the dough, we will explain that in Bible times, people put fragrant spices on people’s bodies when they died. I love this activity because it is very hands-on and uses the sense of smell (one we don’t use very often.)

During story and singing time, we will tell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, highlighting the theme that Jesus is our mighty Savior. Through the stories and the songs, we will explain what the word mighty means and what it means to be a Savior. One song we are singing is called, “Mighty, Mighty Savior!” It is a song of praise to Jesus our Savior and it does a good job of explaining what a Savior is and why we so desperately need one.

After storytime, we have planned a game and some crafts. Again, each was picked purposefully to continue highlighting our theme.

For a game, we are playing “hide the cross,” a simple hide and seek game. As the children play we will encourage them to remember that crosses help use to remember that Jesus is our mighty Savior.

When planning a special event, remember to use every opportunity to highlight the theme of the event. If you can’t explain how an activity highlights the chosen theme, then it probably should be used for this occasion.

I have mentioned before the importance of teaching 1 thing. This is true in Sunday School and in special events. Plan everything around your one theme and the children who attend your event will remember it!

Don’t miss the opportunity to share the gospel with kids this Easter!

Here are 4 tips for sharing the gospel with kids during Easter:

1. Be intentional about weaving the gospel into the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection

When you tell the story of Jesus death and resurrection to the children in your ministry, include the gospel. Children will not understand why Jesus had to die if we don’t tell them about God’s holiness and people’s sinfulness and Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. When we share the truth of the gospel, we give the kids something to really celebrate Easter morning.

2. Redeem crafts and games

I recently did a craft with my class of preschoolers. The original instructions were to color and glue two popsicle sticks together to make a cross. Stand it in some modeling clay and add a swath of red felt and some flowers at the base. I realized that I wouldn’t be able to tell the kids what the red felt was supposed to be, so I decided not to add it at all. Instead, I printed off small rectangles of card stock that read, “Jesus is our Mighty Savior!” As we were making the craft, we focused on what it means that Jesus is our Savior. Now, when the kids look at their cross crafts, they will hopefully be reminded that Jesus is a mighty Savior.

As you are planning crafts and games to play, take time to think about what the game or craft focuses on. Don’t be afraid to change or refine them to highlight a gospel theme. Redeem the craft or game you are playing by using the opportunity to share the gospel.

3. Use the symbols of Easter

It’s important not to make assumptions about what children understand. Especially when it comes to symbols, it’s important to explain what they mean to children. The cross is probably the biggest symbol of Easter. Children will recognize a cross having seen it in churches, on necklaces, etc, but it is unlikely that children will understand what it symbolizes. Explain simply that a cross helps us to remember that Jesus is our Savior. When you explain what it means that Jesus is our Savior, you are sharing the gospel. Tell children that when we see a cross, it helps us remember that Jesus died to take away our sins. Jesus saved us from our sin. Jesus is our Savior.

I played a game with my preschool class called Hide the Cross. It was a hide and seek game where one child hid the cross and the rest of the class found it. If I had just played the game with the kids without talking about why we were using a cross, we would have had fun, but I would have missed an opportunity to share the gospel with my class. Instead, I told them that we were using a cross because a cross helps us to remember that Jesus is our mighty Savior. Jesus is mighty; that means He is strong! Jesus is our Savior; that means that He died to save us from our sin. Jesus is our Mighty Savior!

4. Gospel-centered activities

There are many activities connected with Easter. Many of these activities do not focus on Jesus or the life-changing message of the gospel. Turn those activities into gospel-centered activities.

At Christmas, it is quite common to see Nativity sets in homes and at churches. Nativity Sets highlight the true meaning of Christmas and if they are child-friendly, allow children to interact with the story. Something similar can be done for Easter.

Make a diorama of the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is a great deal to be learned by making the key characters with your children and using them to tell the story over Easter weekend. You may choose how many characters are necessary for your ministry based on your children’s ages and how detailed you want your re-enactment to be. You can create your characters and set with play dough, clay dough, cardboard, etc. A basic set would include Jesus, a cross, a couple of guards, a tomb with stone, and an angel. As you re-enact the story over the actual time frame of the weekend it makes children (and adults) more aware of the hours Jesus suffered and the days his followers waited in fear and confusion. It also highlights the wonderful surprise of the empty tomb.

If you are looking for a snack idea, try Resurrection Buns. Form some dough around a marshmallow. When baked, the marshmallow melts so there is a hollow space in the middle. As you enjoy these snacks with your children, talk about how they remind us of the empty tomb. The empty tomb shows that Jesus is a Mighty Savior! Follow this link for a recipe for Resurrection Buns.

If you choose to have an egg hunt, you could hide plastic eggs with verses or symbols of Easter within them and after they have been found, gather together to read or talk about the significance of each. A few of them could be left empty as well, as a reminder of the empty tomb. A few treats mixed in will also be appreciated.

There are many activities to offer children over Easter. Take the time to plan gospel-centered activities that will provide children with more than just a fun time.

 

Don’t miss the opportunity to share the gospel with kids this Easter! Give them something to celebrate! By being deliberate about sharing the gospel with kid this Easter you are making it all about Jesus, our Mighty Savior.

Christ died for sins once and for all time. The One who did what is right died for those who don’t do right. He died to bring you to God. His body was put to death. But the Holy Spirit brought Him back to life. (1 Peter 3:18 NIrV)

Here is a saying that you can trust. It should be accepted completely. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15 NIrV)

1 6 7 8 9