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repeat the same well known bible stories with outdated story books and flannel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)
Easter is coming! Easter is coming! Although some denominations do not believe in celebrating the resurrection on this day each year, we can all agree that we are to celebrate the resurrection of our Savior every Lord’s Day. Whether it is Easter or any other given Sunday, the resurrection of our Savior is an incredible and selfless gift for us. And regardless, Easter is the time of year when a large number of society takes time to worship the God of heaven. This is an amazing time for outreach when people are coming to churches instead of churches going into the communities; so use this time wisely.
Of course we want to use the time wisely, but how? Start with the setting. What do people see as they are walking into your building? Flowers? Green grass? When guests come into the building, are they greeted with a smile and someone helping them find their way? If they arrive late, is there someone to help them find a seat in a possibly crowded sanctuary? And of course, are you providing them with information about your congregation, the times you meet, the topics they can learn about in individual classes, the things you are involved in, and more? We want to give them reasons to return.
Kids! They are often timid about going to a new place and they certainly are not going to beg to return if we do not give them a reason to. Perhaps offer them something special when they arrive, to your guests and members. This may be a set of colors and coloring book about Easter, Easter Egg slime or putty, Easter chalk set, a stick of gum with a note… you get the idea. It doesn’t have to be expensive. With their little gift, offer an incentive to come back to class next week or another upcoming event. Have a special service, a children’s church, just for them so it is on their level. We want them to understand why they are there and enjoy being a part.
Here are some Easter lesson ideas from some of the best. I have not used these but have been exploring my options. I do not make money for sharing these with you, just putting what I’m looking at in one place to make it easy.
Children’s Ministry Deals: Newest Easter Curriculum
Children’s Ministry Deals: 6 FREE Easter Program Choices
High Voltage: Surprise! Easter.
Teaching Sunday School: Exploring Easter
Need some freebie ideas to hand out to kids this Easter? Here are a few I like (I may receive a small commission on these items):
Not a FREEBIE, but nice to use as a prop in class:
Have you noticed when people are going through a rough patch, nothing seems to make them happy? They start picking at things that never seemed to be an issue before. They are grouchy and begin to cause problems. If you are lucky, you do not become the focus of their negative attention, but someone does. And when it is you, it’s just plain frustrating.
Something must be in the water! This week I noticed an older gentlemen my husband works with had become irritable and unpleasant to be around. He was bringing up issues from his life that had happened years ago and were resolved… long ago. What was going on? Then it came to my attention a man I have volunteered alongside for your years has been upset and stirring up the pot. Why?
When you notice people around you who are not normally agrrivated now show many signs of irritability, there’s probably more to the story. I’d like to challenge you to keep this in mind next time you run into a situation similar to mine. First, be patient. Second, prayer for them. And third, ask if there is something going on in their life they would like to talk about. They may just need a friend. In my husband’s case, the gentlemen was having financially struggles. In mine, a volunteer was feeling uncertain of where he stood in his job. These uncertainties bring about stress that overflows into other areas of life.
So what does this have to do with children’s ministry? A co-worker or volunteer may be needing your patience, prayers and understanding. A child may be going through these very same feelings. I recently had a third grader acting out in class. She normally is a hyper child and can be a bit disruptive at times, but this was different. She was telling the teacher “no” and drawing a devil when instructed to draw and angel. This was out of the ordinary. What was wrong? Turns out, her mom had been in the hospital the past few weeks. All this little girl needed at that time was patience, prayer and understanding.
Children are being robbed of their childhood; they are growing up too fast. Unfortunately, they are growing up without God. Believe it or not, many have never even heard the gospel in America. Really? In America? I’ve been reading Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World by James Emery White. Over the next few weeks I will continue to share what I learn. It is truly eye opening and scary; but helps in paving a path for the next generation to know their God.
God’s people, the Israelites, received blessing after blessing from God yet they repeatedly turned towards false gods. Have you taken a good look at our culture today? How about just the church? Do we look like God’s people? Are parents sharing God with their children daily and making God a priority in their families? If not, how can we expect things to change?
Let me share some of the things I have recently learned about Generation Z, our children today:
- 12 and 13 year old girls are some of the highest paid models in America and are presented as sexually enticing adults. Our girls see this and want to be like this.
- Even the children on television act like adults now in the way they speak, dress, attitudes, desires… And this is who are kids are emulating. Tracy Vaillancourt who specializes in children’s mental health at the University of Ottoway said, “Kids mirror the larger culture, from reality TV to materialism.” Kids want to be who they see. Take a good look at who and what your kids see today. Is this someone God would be pleased with?
- Per proven research, teens who watch movies or listen to music glamorizing drinking, drug use or violence tend to engage in those behaviors themselves. And sexual behaviors? The more teens are exposed to sexual content in movies, the earlier they start having sex and the likelier they are to have casual, unprotected sex. We don’t want to believe it, but it has been proven.
- Then there is pornography. Wow! These statistics are incredibly disturbing.
- Nearly three-quarters of 15-18 year old’s have sexted
- 50% have sent naked or semi-naked photos/videos of themselves
- 84% have received sexually explicit messages by phone or email
- 70% of teens surveyed were sexually active with nearly three-quarters not regretting it
“It’s a social, online world our kids live in and sending these images and messages is part of the sexual relationship so it’s really a new form of courtship.”-Anne Mitchell. We cannot protect our kids from everything, but we can give them a strong foundation in Christ so they are prepared to make the tough decision to go against the grain when these situations present themselves. We have a responsibility to teach our children, to train them up in the way of the Lord.
This brings me to another alarming statistic in the growing number of parents to Generation Z who classify themselves as nones: the spiritual, but not religious. Perhaps this is why many children today have never heard the gospel. “The degree of spiritual illiteracy is simply stunning.”
I do not have all the answers, but I believe God can turn things around. He proved this throughout scripture. He worked through His people. Do you want to be one of those people? I know I do! I will begin opening the doors to my online learning opportunities for children next week, fun hands-on bible for kids. Grandparents can even get links to send to their grandchildren. It starts with a tiny seed. This is not the final answer, but it is as start. I pray that we can get Christ into all homes with children and open their eyes to see a loving God who wants amazing things for them.
If you are interesting in reading more about from Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World by James Emery White, just click on the link.
How to teach God’s word to kids… Is there one way that is better than another to teach God’s word? Especially when it comes to kids, how should I teach them? What is most effective?
- Popular Old Testament Stories
- Popular New Testament Stories
- Mixed Old and New Testament
- Current Events
The list goes on and on. To be honest, as long as you are teaching kids the truth, then you are doing good. And if you are teaching them in a manner they receive it well and retain that information, you are doing great! Me personally, I love all these ideas and believe they all have a place; however, my preference is chronological.
Why chronological? By teaching from beginning to end, we show kids that God has always had a plan and a purpose for us. Start with the beginning. He created a world that we could flourish in. God knew man would mess up so God even had a plan for that. Everything from the beginning leads to the cross and that leads to us! I believe this will help kids better understand God.
How do you read a book? Do you start in the middle? Okay. There are some of you that read the end to make sure they like it before reading the whole story. There may be something to that. How about a movie? Do you fast forward to the end before watching the entire movie? Do you go back and forth throughout the movie? Not typically. We want to see the story, the build up and the resolutions and the big end. We get to the know the characters as we go and often develop a love or hatred toward them too. This is how I like to teach kids.
Growing up I was taught popular stories from the Old Testament and then spent the majority of time learning from the New Testament. This was good, after all, I turned out pretty well I think. But I missed so much. I thought the God of the old was mean and harsh while the God of the new was gracious and loving. It was not until I grew up and went back to the old to see that God has been the same since the beginning, just like the bible says. He was loving and merciful even in the Old Testament. Just look at how many chances the Israelite’s got even though they kept going back to idols over and over again.
Learning the bible as one big story, God’s story for us, helps us to really learn who God is. From here, we develop a love for God and the other people in the bible, just like kids do with Batman or the newest cartoon heroes. Only when it’s the bible, it’s amazing! Kids wanting to be like Joseph or Daniel, an angel or Jesus… Wow! This makes them want to share their God with others.
As you go from story to story in the bible, there are topical lessons to learn all the way through! Teaching kids the stories and touching on application prepares them for a life for Christ! When they run into trouble down the road, they will know where to turn for answers.
Yes, I prefer teaching chronologically, but I do move away from this at times to promote fun series, mainly for outreach. For instance, I just took the month of October to teach “Scary Bible Stories to Tell in the Dark.” At Christmas, I will have something in honor of the season… more on that to come later. I usually promote a series for my mid-week program and keep my chronological study on Sunday’s since it is a three-year program. Bottom line, do what works for you and your kids. What is important is that they are learning about God, growing in their love for Him and developing a drive to share Him. Lay a solid foundation in scripture so they know where to turn when they need God most. Our goal is to Raise Kids for Christ!
Need some ideas? Take a look at my chronological curriculum. It’ free so feel free to use if it works for you. This is the first quarter. I’ve seen something from The Gospel Project that looks pretty interesting. (I do not receive a commission for this. I also have never used it but think it looks promising.)