“Middle school? No thank you.” Famous last words of mine.
I mainly work with kindergarten through fifth grades; but recently took on a small group of middle school girls on Sunday afternoons. It is definitely different! To be honest, I had NO desire to work with the age group. They drive me insane… too much drama; but there was a need. Parents of kiddo’s who had moved from my children’s program into middle school were sharing their concerns. Their children were struggling with the pressures of middle school. Sure, they know their bible stories, but they didn’t know how to apply them to their lives. They weren’t ready for the serious application lessons in elementary, so what was I do? Well, I began teaching a middle school small group and it has been an amazing experience so far! Their interest and enthusiasm are contagious.
I am not suggesting everyone run out and add middle school to your plates. It’s something that needs addressed in some way to prepare your children for the real world, but there are multiple ways to handle it. I actually wanted to share what I’ve been learning. As I teach these kids, I am reminded of some of the basics that are so important.
Our first week we talked about being made in the image of God. We talked on a deeper level about each of us being made unique, flaws and all. It’s amazing looking back at life to see how God uses our strengths and our perceived weaknesses for his glory. For me, I see my ability to teach a strength. God blessed me with the ability and the desire to teach; so here I am, teaching kids about God… for his glory. Then I combine that with a weakness. I am short. I mean short! Five foot on the dot. Growing up, I embraced my shortness, but I really wanted to be taller. No matter how hard a prayed, it was the thorn in my side that God was not going to change. As I look back at my life in children’s ministry, I see that God had a plan all along. The kids are immediately comfortable when they come into a room with me because I’m a lot like them. I am short and small; so I do not intimidate them at all (although sometimes I sure wish I did). God combined my strength in teaching with my weakness of shortness and uses me to build his church through children.
This may be a strange example, I know; but it made me think about other areas in my life and those around me who have weaknesses that we let stand in our way. Instead, we should give those weaknesses to God and let him do his work. Look what he did with Moses who had trouble speaking, David who was a little boy when he faced a giant, a bunch of fisherman and tax collectors. God uses our weakness for his glory if we’ll just let him. I would like to challenge you to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses. Pray about them. Has God been working through you or do you need to let him in?
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Teach them to Serve Like Jesus
Looking for a good gift for kids/youth who have been baptized? I combine a prayer journal with a rubber bracelet reminding them of God daily. (Our youth already get a nice bible.)
It’s a new school year and a great time to develop new good habits. At my congregation, everyone is together for the first half of services. We sing and pray together, then take communion. Following this, our K-3rd graders are dismissed to Children’s Church. But what about my fourth and fifth graders, or even the middle school kids? I looked around the auditorium disappointed. Kids galore were playing on digital devices, some wearing headphones and others simply had the volume muted. They were not learning about God nor were they learning how to behave properly in a worship service during a sermon. Granted, the sermon is above their little heads, but it still a great time to learn how to listen. What to do about it…
Not everyone is on board yet, but I will keep working on it with both the kids and their parents. I saw a number of “sermon notes” options for kids but none that hit all the areas I really wanted to zoom in on. I want kids to listen for scriptures, for things they don’t understand and things they think are interesting. I developed sermon notes pages just for them that I’m happy to share with you. Each week I print out new copies for them to pick up before services. I’ve even got a 3-hole punch next to the forms in case they would like to keep these notes in a binder. I plan on asking our preacher to remind them to pull these out when it’s time to pay attention. By directly talking to them from the pulpit, they are included and will feel important. I’m hoping this helps get them involved.
Now for the part that is required to get participating in
something they really don’t want to- incentive! Honestly, I don’t like
this part, but it’s important. Think about it. You are starting a new diet. You
want to lose weight or get fit but it’s never easy in the beginning. By incentivizing
yourself with a small treat at certain points, you work hard to meet that goal.
It’s part of being human… we will chase the carrot if we want it badly enough. Back
to the kids. After the sermon, we have an invitation song. During that song,
kids who have completed their sermon notes form can be the first to exit to the
foyer where they find me with prizes. They can choose from pencils, trinkets,
gum and more. I keep these things very inexpensive. (Another thought is playground
time. They would have 5 minutes on the playground with friends while services
wrapped up and parents pick them up.)
I would love to hear ideas of how you get kids listening and
learning how to worship. Comment hear or feel free to send me an email at email@example.com
There was a recent shooting at a fair where children were
shot and killed. One was just six years old. I can still see his picture in my
head, and it breaks my heart. The senseless killings, horrific acts of violence,
are etched in my brain. Why are people doing these things and how do we stop
First, prayer. I believe in the power of prayer with all my
heart; however, I understand that there is evil in this world and it will be
here until our Savior returns. The first question is why? Why are people going
into schools and public places to randomly shoot and kill people? In most
instances, we learn that the shooter felt wronged and was in pain. They were
bullied, made fun or simply ignored. They wanted to be heard or desired revenge.
The why doesn’t make it acceptable; but understanding the why offers insight
into the solution.
God created us with a need for others in our lives. In a
perfect world, we would all love one another and act kindly. Imagine a world
where the person you passed in the halls of school simply smiled at you or offered
a kind hello. Imagine the popular crowd inviting the loner dressed in all black
to come sit with them at lunch. Imagine a girl rejecting a boy’s request for a
date with respect rather than laughing about him with her friends. Yes, a world
like this might be the answer to peaceful living.
So, what is the solution? It’s written throughout scripture…
to love. As a nation, we need to spread the message to show love, kindness and
respect to everyone. As soon as
we all realize we each have our own shortcomings, that no one is perfect, maybe
then we can accept the strange person we see next door or down the hall at work;
after all, he was made in God’s image just like you and I.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with
one another in love. -Ephesians 4:2
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over
a multitude of sins. -1 Peter 4:8
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.
As children’s ministry leaders, bible class teachers and parents, it is our responsibility to teach our children this very important lesson. Whether they are the popular kid or the one being bullied, showing love and respect to others will help and it is what God calls us to do. As a new school year begins, challenge your children to find someone who is alone and include them. Whether they are the new kid or established for years, there’s always someone else. No matter what age we are, going to a new place where we do not know anyone is scary and uncomfortable. Your child could be the one to put a smile on another child’s face and make their day much more enjoyable!
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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: