Fear. When is the last time you found yourself afraid of something? How about the kids in your children’s ministry? Fear is a natural emotion felt by all ages. Fear often causes people to make some really bad choices. Taking lying for example. Typically, a person lies when they are afraid of the consequences from the truth. Theft? When someone is afraid of losing their house, not being able to keep the electricity on or food on the table, they have a choice to make. Sometimes, stealing is the answer chosen. For students, how about cheating? When afraid of failing, the temptation to turn to cheating is very real.
Jesus gives us an excellent example of fear that hurts. He told a story about three men given an opportunity by their master. How did they do? As you read, pay attention to the third servant. Matthew 25:14-30 says:
14 “At that time God’s
kingdom will also be like a man leaving home to travel to another place for a
visit. Before he left, he talked with his servants. He told his servants to
take care of his things while he was gone. 15 He
decided how much each servant would be able to care for. The man gave one
servant five bags of money.[a] He gave another servant two bags. And he gave a
third servant one bag. Then he left.16 The servant who got five bags went quickly to
invest the money. Those five bags of money earned five more. 17 It was
the same with the servant who had two bags. That servant invested the money and
earned two more. 18 But the servant who got one bag of money went
away and dug a hole in the ground. Then he hid his master’s money in the hole.
19 “After a long time the
master came home. He asked the servants what they did with his money. 20 The
servant who got five bags brought that amount and five more bags of money to
the master. The servant said, ‘Master, you trusted me to care for five bags of
money. So I used them to earn five more.’
21 “The master answered,
‘You did right. You are a good servant who can be trusted. You did well with
that small amount of money. So I will let you care for much greater things.
Come and share my happiness with me.’
22 “Then the servant who
got two bags of money came to the master. The servant said, ‘Master, you gave
me two bags of money to care for. So I used your two bags to earn two more.’
23 “The master answered,
‘You did right. You are a good servant who can be trusted. You did well with a
small amount of money. So I will let you care for much greater things. Come and
share my happiness with me.’
24 “Then the servant who
got one bag of money came to the master. The servant said, ‘Master, I knew you
were a very hard man. You harvest what you did not plant. You gather crops
where you did not put any seed. 25 So I was afraid. I went and hid your money in
the ground. Here is the one bag of money you gave me.’
26 “The master answered,
‘You are a bad and lazy servant! You say you knew that I harvest what I did not
plant and that I gather crops where I did not put any seed. 27 So you
should have put my money in the bank. Then, when I came home, I would get my
money back. And I would also get the interest that my money earned.’
28 “So the master told
his other servants, ‘Take the one bag of money from that servant and give it to
the servant who has ten bags.29 Everyone who uses what they have will get
more. They will have much more than they need. But people who do not use what
they have will have everything taken away from them.’ 30 Then the
master said, ‘Throw that useless servant outside into the darkness, where
people will cry and grind their teeth with pain.’
The third servant given the one bag of money was afraid of what his master would do to him if he lost it. He was so fearful that instead of trying to do something positive with it, he simply hid it and waited. If you are in children’s ministry, God has entrusted you with his little children. What are you doing to reach these kids? Are you playing it so safe that you cannot get their attention or are you trying new things, trusting God to help you?
Children are important to our Heavenly Father. Continue to pray for his hand in guiding them, and their parents. Our society is changing and it often takes creativity to get through to kids these days. Don’t be afraid to try new things. If they aren’t working, change them again. Find something that works and don’t worry, God is with you if you are including him.
If you liked the post, you may enjoy: Overcoming Obstacles, Booger Fun, andLeaving Boring Behind
Disney’s got nothing on God!
His great big story will keep kids on the edge of their seats. A
serpent convinces Eve to eat forbidden fruit. A burning bush suddenly starts speaking. The earth swallows disobedient divisive
men. A king was so fat that his gut
swallowed the sword that killed him and the culprit, God’s representative
escaped while the king’s men thought he was using the restroom. An evil queen had her grandchildren killed so
she could rule. A man was swallowed by a
big fish and spit out three days later.
Our Savior conquered death. This
is all in the bible and there is more where this comes from! God shared plenty of exciting stories that
show us who He is and how He takes care of His people. So why do kids dread bible class and beg to
watch television or play video games instead?
Kids just do not seem to connect with God and nothing is
more important than raising a child to know God, to love Him and to know He
loves them. Their identities need built
on the foundation of Christ so when things get tough, and life always does,
they will turn to God instead of the answers our world offers. The key to engaging kid’s in God’s amazing
story is in understanding how the mind of a child learns combined with what
excites a child. Figure this out and you
have a formula to raise kids for Christ, kids who take God into adulthood and
share the gospel with others.
Growing up I attended bible class and worship service three
times weekly like clockwork. If there
was anything additional, my family was there too. I dreaded it.
Could I recite my memory verse?
Did I bring my bible? We would
repeat the same well known bible stories with outdated story books and flannel
boards. And then there was my all time
not so favorite teacher. Not only was she
incredibly boring, but she was scary to top it off. Every week we would walk into class, pick up
our binders and turn to a page full of questions. We would read a passage of scripture to
ourselves, then quietly write the answers to the questions. How much more unexciting could it get? There was no life to the stories, nothing to
get excited about. As an adult I began
working with our kindergarten through fifth grade teachers and watched lifeless
faces on our children as God’s word was shared.
Something had to change or they would grow up seeing our powerful,
gracious God as boring and distant.
After countless hours researching, I realized the value in
understanding how a child develops.
During their early elementary years, these kids are little sponges
capable of soaking up tons of information.
This is the time to teach them all the stories of the bible, laying the
foundation. The key is in the delivery,
but we will get to that in moment. In
their middle school years they begin questioning things deeper. Why did Eve eat the fruit? Why did God kill people? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why isn’t God answering my prayer? This is the
perfect opportunity to focus on how God’s stories apply to them. And in their high school years, they are
searching for their identity, testing boundaries and striving for
independence. You have given them the
stories and applications, now is the ideal time to share real world issues and
teach them to find the answers in the bible, setting the stage for the rest of
their lives. If they can do this, they
are ready to take on the world!
When it comes to bible class, give kids a reason to get
excited about attending and arriving on time.
You want them reminding their parents on Saturday that they want to be
at church Sunday and they do not want to be late. As kids are arriving, give them something fun
to participate in that gets them thinking about the lesson without giving the it
away. They love trying to figure it
out. This must be fun to work. As an
example, when learning about Job’s patience, kids are given cards and told to
build a tower. As the cards collapse,
they start again working on their
patience. When learning about “hearing”
the good news, they played a round of “Name That Sound” listening to and
guessing a series of sounds from chickens to trains and waterfalls. For the story of Balaam’s donkey, kids played
a version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey tossing magnetic darts. Are you getting the idea? This is something fun kids look forward to
that sets the stage for the lesson. They
cannot wait to get into the classroom.
Now for the most important piece, engaging kids in God’s
story. The average attention span of a
kindergartener is approximately 15 minutes.
If you have a child with ADHD that drops dramatically. We typically have
an opportunity to engage our kids in God’s word
for 30 minutes to an hour each week.
What is the trick? No trick. Just God’s perfect design. God created us to be unique. Some learn best watching. Others by listening and speaking and still
others, through movement. Would you be
surprised to hear that 65% of us are visual learners, 30% auditory learners and
only 5% learn through movement? Teach
every lesson with all three learners in mind, keep things moving and you will
be a hit. Kids will no longer have a
glazed look over their faces but instead, they will engage in God’s story. They will retain more of what you teach and
the icing on the cake, I cannot tell you how much your teachers will appreciate
implementing these techniques.
Think about the last time you sat
through an oral lecture. How long was it
before you looked at your watch or started thinking about food? What would have made this more interesting
for you? Let’s take a look at teaching
the visual learner since this is over half the population. They simply need to
see to engage so provide them with something visually appealing to them. This may be a picture book, a short three to
five minute video or a series of objects.
For instance, imagine the impact of the cross when you show them the
size of nail likely used to nail Jesus to the cross. Listen to the squeals and excitement as you
spray a water mist during any one of the stories with a storm involved. Try a puppet show or skit if you have the man
power. And object lesson using science
or magic fascinates them. They engage
when they are interested in what they see and then they hear what goes along
Auditory learners are the next
largest group of learners. You can
easily combine this with the visual learner.
This is where delivery is so powerful!
Kids can tell if their teacher is interested, so tell God’s story with
enthusiasm, a lot of it. Fluctuate your
voice and use your hands. Constantly ask
questions as you go making sure they are listening. Even better, at key points, take a moment to
let them put themselves in the story and wonder. Ask kids, “I wonder what the ark smelled like
with all those animals” or “I wonder what the people of Jericho were thinking
as the Israelites marched around their city day after day.” When they begin to wonder this way, they see
that these bible stories are real.
Although only 5% of the population
learns best through movement, this is often times your ADHD kids making it
essential to spend time in this area of learning. A great way to combine it with the auditory
learner is through verbal repetition. Give them a key word to listen for as you
tell a story. When kids hear the word,
there is an action to accompany it. When
reading the beatitudes, ask kids to listen for the secret word, “Blessed.” Every time they hear the word, they stand up,
turn around and sit down. You can choose
all kinds of fun actions. Recently I
shared a lesson on fellowship and connecting with our Christian family. Each time they heard the word “connect” all
the kids would hold hands and lift them above their heads. They listened very carefully!
My favorite activity to reach my
kinesthetic learners is through play. I
read a part of our story from the bible and then instruct them in creating
something applicable using Play-Doh, Floam, Kinetic Sand, White Boards and
more. We keep it interesting and they
all have their favorites. Children are
using their hands to learn about God.
This prevents them from fidgeting, looking for an escape route or
bothering the child next to them. They
engage in the lesson. This is the
easiest lesson to prepare, share and gets a huge response from all of the kids. Reading about Noah’s ark? A certain parts, they create a boat, animals,
rain, a dove… you get the idea. Wondering
what to create when verses do not seem to have something simple? Roll a snake and form the letter of the name
of the person or city your just read about.
Truly, it does not get any easier than this!
One more technique to make a part
of your program is games. Kids love
playing games. Not only are they fun,
but they encourage building relationships with their Christian family. Sometimes it will be a game where kids are up
out of their seats and moving around.
Other times they will have a set of fun foam dice and their own game
board. How do I use dice? It’s simple and fun. When the bible talks about the number seven,
we may play a game of sevens. Who can
roll the most sevens? Each time you roll
a seven, your game piece moves up your board.
See who can climb to the top the fastest. There are a number of games you can play with
dice if you are limited on space and need kids seated in their personal space.
After playing the designated game make sure to tie it to your bible lesson so
kids connect that game to the bible every time they play. It’s just another way of helping kids engage
with God’s story.
After considering child development
and learning styles, take a look at what you are teaching. These techniques work for engaging kids in
anything you are teaching, but what do we really desire for our children to
learn right now? Growing up, did you
ever feel like the bible was a collection of short stories? True stories, but not really connected to one
other? I did. Especially when it came to the Old
Testament. I grew up thinking the Old
Testament was boring, outdated and did not have much purpose. Boy was I
wrong! It is not only far from boring,
but our Savior is interwoven throughout it.
From Genesis to Revelation, God shared His plan for His people and Jesus
was always a part of that plan. By putting
each story in context and showing children how it ties into the New Testament
when applicable, our kids experience this and see God’s incredible love and
patience. It also becomes more
interesting, like a movie. There is a
beginning, a middle and an end. Better
yet, we see where we fit into God’s story.
Our children love to learn when
they are having fun. Make your bible
class so much fun that kids do not realize they are learning. They will look forward to attending and
participating and in turn, they learn more and retain more. Try it.
A month after teaching kids using the above suggestions, ask some
questions about the lessons and your jaw will drop to the ground. Mine does.
I am still amazed with what our kids now know about their God. And once they begin to really know God, they
begin to really love and connect with Him for life. This is when we know we have succeeded at
engaging our children in God’s incredible story.
Obstacles. This past Sunday our children learned about the
exiles returning home to Jerusalem from Babylon, part of our three-year chronological
bible study. They learned about Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah. The loved saying,
“Zerubbabel.” As God’s chosen people tried
to rebuild, they continued to run into obstacles. There were even people who did
not want to see them succeed and worked against them. Have you ever run into
As bible class teachers, children’s ministers and parents, what
obstacles have you come across in
your pursuit of God? How about in your journey to train up and raise kids for Christ?
We may become discouraged when kids do not engage, when it feels as though they
are not interested in God in the least. Sometimes we lose motivation as kids simply
quit showing up. There are times of frustration when we hear about our children
being hurt or bullied and we want to jump in to fix it, but there is not a
quick, easy fix. How about time? Does a lack of time ever get in the way of
serving God? There are so many obstacles that can interrupt our walk with God if we let them.
We can learn from the Zerubbabel, Ezra and Nehemiah still
today. There was prayer, fasting and
dedication to God. Yes, fear got the
best of them at times and the work stopped; however, they listened to the encouraging
words of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. Nehemiah never backed down and encouraged
the people he was leading in rebuilding the walls. The point is, with God, we can accomplish
great things for Him. Pray, pray and
pray some more. There is amazing power
in prayer. Surround yourself with people
who love and support you, who will encourage you to keep working for and
Remember, God is at work. Allow God to work through
you. Be His hands, His feet, His
mouthpiece to spread His message. We
need to persevere in doing God’s work and let Him take care of the rest. He never said it would be a cakewalk. On a brighter note, focus on the incredible
feeling you get as you overcome obstacles with God’s help and see children (and
their parents) loving God.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. –Galatians 6:9 (NIV)