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Moving Up to Middle School

Moving Up to Middle School

What you believe by the time you are 13 is what you will die believing

“In essence,” the researcher noted, “what you believe by the time you are 13 is what you will die believing. Of course, there are many individuals who go through life-changing experiences in which their beliefs are altered, or instances in which a concentrated body of religious teaching changes one or more core beliefs. However, most people’s minds are made up and they believe they know what they need to know spiritually by age 13. Their focus in absorbing religious teaching after that age is to gain reassurance and confirmation of their existing beliefs rather than to glean new insights that will redefine their foundations.”  (Barna Group)

Are they ready to move on?

I work with elementary students and LOVE it!  These are the years when they are still cute, inquisitive, think you are super cool and are still acting like themselves.  Typically, they haven’t reached the stage where they have to act a certain way or do certain things to fit in and be cool.  Seeing my fifth graders leave my children’s ministry program to move up to the middle school is bittersweet.  Are they ready?  Did I positively impact their lives with Christ?

Wait just a minute!  I have to remind myself that God is working through me to reach His children.  Of course they are ready!  God is with them and will continue to be with them.  They will need encouraging Christian teachers and role models to surround them helping them mature in their spiritual walk, but God’s got this.  I’d encourage each of you to find reassurance in this too.  Of course, we will continue to pray for “our” kids, but we can find peace in the knowledge that we have been God’s ambassadors, water our little seeds, but God is the one who will help them grow.

Send them forward

We love to send our kids off with a gift to help them remember who their Savior is and to be obedient to Him.  A very simple idea is a rubber wristband with an inspirational word or verse.  Kids love these so they will actually wear them!  I got some from Amazon.com: “Walking With Jesus” Bracelet (1 DOZEN) – BULK  There are tons of options.  I liked the reminder that Jesus is with them every day, at every step. (Oriental Trading has them too!)  Send them away with a short devotional explaining what it means to “walk with Jesus” so they will remember this each time they see their bracelet.  Plus, it’s a good way to get other kids to ask them about their bracelets giving the perfect opportunity for kids to share their faith with their peers.

Other suggestions are bible journals or teen devotional books.  Encourage them to keep God in their daily lives.  Take God to school with them.  Take God to athletics.  Take God everywhere!  As teachers we do our very best to help our kids make wise choices and remember their Heavenly Father!  I’d love to hear some of you ideas!  I often find my readers have some of the best ideas!!  Post them in the comments.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

Say a Prayer Entering into 2018

Intentional Parenting & Teaching

 

Does It Matter If Kids Know Bible Studies?

Does It Matter If Kids Know Bible Studies?

Does bible knowledge really matter

A relationship with Christ or Bible Knowledge?

“The facts don’t matter as long as children have a relationship with Christ.”

 

Those are the words I recently heard from a well meaning children’s bible school teacher.  Those words kept repeating in my head.  Something just did not sound right to me.  I supposed this could be true, but I was still bothered.  You see, another teacher was struggling with one child coming to church week after week for years, but never recollecting what had been taught.  In seeking advice, it was suggested that the facts were not important; it was only their relationship with Christ.  What kind of relationship can you really have with someone you don’t know though?  Sure.  I can say, “I love Jesus” and “God forgives me,” but if I don’t know God, I don’t really know what these things even mean.  How can I love Jesus if I don’t know Him?  And how can I know Him if I don’t learn about Him?   How can I understand forgiveness if I never get a picture of what forgiveness is?

Take a moment and think about the people you would say you have a relationship with.  Who are they?  Let’s take a few that most of us would agree we have a relationship with:  Postman, Bank Teller, Pastor, Best Friend, Spouse, Parents and our children. Now let’s look a little deeper into these relationships.  I wave to my Postman and occasionally say “hello” when he brings a package I have to sign for.  I know my bank teller a little better.  She lives on my street so I chat with her a little about the neighborhood and her kids when I stop in.  Then there is my Pastor.  I would say I am closer to the Pastor than the other two I mentioned.  I see him every week and because we serve on a few committee’s together, I know a little more about him; but I don’t ever sit down to a dinner with him or discuss his personal life much.  A best friend and a spouse… not these people know everything about me and I know all about them.  I know when they are happy, hurting, sad or mad.  We have close relationships.  My parents and my children don’t know near as much about me, but they know a lot.  I see them and talk to them all of the time.  When something good happens in my life, I want to share it with them.

These are the relationships I have with those around me.  Which kind of relationship do you want your kids to have with Christ?  Would you be content with them having a relationship similar to the one I have with my Postman or Bank Teller?  I don’t see them or talk to them often.  I know very little about them if anything at all.  It’s a relationship, so surely it is good enough.  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  We want our children to have a deep, meaningful relationship with God.  This means they need to know who God is first to be able to love Him with all of their heart, mind and soul.  Knowing God helps us understand how much our God loves us, what He sacrificed for us and how He continues to work in our lives every day.

God carefully decided what would go into His word, His message for us.  From the Old Testament to the New Testament, it is through His word that we know Him.  The more we study His word, the closer we get to God; the more connected with our to Him.  Our children do not need to know every bible fact nor do they need to be prepared for a bible fact test.  Our kids should be able to tell us a basic overview of what is being taught and how they see God in the story.  Was He kind?  Was He angry?  Was He forgiving?  Was He Jealous?  Was He Right or Wrong?  How did they see God?  This helps kids form a picture of who their God really is and this is the God they can have a real meaningful relationship with.    So do facts matter over a relationship with Christ?  Absolutely not!  But can you have a true meaningful relationship without the facts, without knowledge of who someone (in this case, God) is?  It’s not likely.  So continue to share God’s story with children and work to help them see God.

 

Beat the Bible Reading Blues & Build Bible Readers for Life

Beat the Bible Reading Blues & Build Bible Readers for Life

I was recently reading a study conducted by the Barna Group and was surprised to read that Americans desire more bible reading.  Fifty-eight percent of adults wish they read the bible more often, but most say their bible reading is about the same as it was a year ago.  (Barna Trends 2018)  This is not a big surprise though.  Think about it.  How often are goals set at the first of each new year and when you come to the next year you find yourself writing the same goals all over again because you did not accomplish them?

We may not be able to change this overnight, but I believe we can begin working on this very thing with our children now.  If we begin with kids, the idea is they will grow up continuing to read their bibles.  But how do we get kids to read this old, outdated, archaic, boring book?  Wait just a minute!  That’s what kids think of the bible but it’s all wrong!  For starters, it may help to read a bible version that reads more like a story, bringing the bible to life in a kids mind.  When it reads like a story, it begins to make sense and they enjoy it.  Have you ever read the story of Abimelech in Judges 9?  I just taught on this and had so much fun with it because the whole story is dripping with sarcasm.  When kids see and hear the sarcasm, the people become real to them and the story itself is humorous and interesting. Plus, they read about people hiding out in towers but the enemy burns it down and they die.  It’s like movies they see and enjoy.  If we can help kids see that the bible is enjoyable like the movies they watch, wouldn’t it be awesome to see them desiring to read more scripture?

For younger kids, you may try this to get them interested:

For those leaving the elementary program and entering into middle school, this may be a great option:

Remember, the goal is to get kids picking up a bible to read and WANTING to read it because they enjoy it.  If they enjoy it, they are more likely to stick with it, remember it and share it with others!

 

Leave Boring at Home-Bring Your Passion

Leave Boring at Home-Bring Your Passion

The Incredibly Boring Bible Class (A short play) Class:     (Sits with all eyes on the teacher.) Teacher:  (Dry, boring tone.)  So (long pause)  today we will learn about, uh (another long pause)  Jesus turns water into wine. Class:     (Begins to look around the room and one messes with the kid next to him) Teacher:  Class.  Pay attention.  (Looks at paper like trying to find place.) (Some look up.) Teacher:  This was a miracle. Class:      (Again, looks around the room bored.)
Remember the scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day off?”  The scene with the blah teacher?  Have you ever sat through a class or training like this where the speaker was unbelievably boring?  A class where you wondered if the presenter even cared about the topic?  Our kids see right through us!  If we are not excited, passionate about sharing God’s word with them, they are not going to get excited either.  Why would they? We know that a child’s attention span is short and it will be even shorter if they are bored out of their minds.  Take a moment to reflect on what kind of teacher you are.  Be honest with yourself.  Do you have a passion for God’s word?  Does it bring a smile and excitement to your face when you talk about it?  Do you get energized when teaching children?  If you answered “no” to any of these, you may need to serve in another area.  Teaching children may not be your gift.  At the very least, you need to change your presentation. Now, if you truly have a passion for God’s word and a desire to teach His message to children, but it doesn’t show, there are things you can do right now to fix this.

  • Number 1 seems obvious, but is often overlooked.  Know the lesson and find the thrilling parts, the parts you now the kids will love.  For example, in the story of Adam and Eve, they are going to go crazy when you tell them they were naked in the garden or that a serpent talked to them.  In Jonah, they will think it is gross but interesting when you share how nasty and fishy it must have smelled in the belly of the fish.  You get the idea.  Find what is intriguing so you can engage the kids.
  • Smile when you talk!  If this doesn’t come naturally to you, practice in a mirror.  Practice while you drive.  Practice, practice, practice until it becomes natural.  “It seems that the simple act of a physical smile, authentic or not, tricks your brain into thinking you’re actually happy.” (Huff Post)  And we want all of our kids to be happy when learing about their amazing, powerful God.
  • Read with inflections and movement.  Raise and lower your voice.  Use your eyebrows.  Use your hands.  If this is not natural to you, it will feel weird at first, but keep exagerating your tones and motions and eventually, it will be.  In theater, students are taught to exaggerate their movement so people in the audience can tell what they are doing up on stage.  It’s the same idea.  We want kids to see and engage.
  • Engage the class.  As you are sharing God’s word, a story from scripture, ask questions.  Engage the hearts and minds of the class.  Getting them involved gets them excited.

More than anything else, as a children’s bible class teacher, you must have a passion for God’s word and sharing God’s word with children!  Passion brings energy and it is contagious.  What could be better than a class full of kids with a contagious passion for Christ?

God Doesn’t Need Easter Gimmicks

God Doesn’t Need Easter Gimmicks

Is Easter really the Super Bowl for churches?  Does attendance increase enough to make a noticeable difference?  You bet it does!  So what are you going to do about it?  How are you going to encourage those annual visitors to return more frequently?  Do you need a creative give away, a bribe?

Well let me tell you, God doesn’t need gimmicks.  He needs His church to act like a church.  People need people.  They desire friendships.  Just go back to the garden to see this, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  When you see a visitor, go to them.  Talk to them.  Ask them about them.  Invite them to an Easter egg hunt or lunch during the week.  Get their contact information and follow up!  You do not need a gimmick to be a friend and this is what most people really seek!

According to a study by Barna Group, only 38% of Americans say they go to church weekly.  Compare that to the many other studies showing over half the population of Americans attends church services on Easter.  This tell me that Americans fell some sense of spiritual obligation, but they are not finding the piece that brings them back on any given Sunday, the piece that lets them know God’s church is a family they want to be a part of.

Many churches have tried creative ways to entice the non-church goers to return.  They send home welcome packs, drop off a gift at their door or mail a postcard.  These are great works and I think we should keep doing them, but I have yet to come across an outreach idea like these that consistently and effectively turned visitors into regular church goers.  I will be providing all kids in attendance with crayons and a color sheet focused on Easter.  We will have an Easter egg hunt following services full of candy and goodies!  But I do not expect these ideas to be what draws families back week after week.

So what’s missing?  Connections!  Easter provides and incredible opportunity to put this theory to the test.  Try it this Sunday!  Talk to a visitor.  Get their information and have coffee or send a note.  Invite them to your small group bible study.  If they have kids, send some stickers during the week showing you noticed them too.  You are establishing a relationship.  When people have friends they are more likely to participate.  We love talking to and being with our friends.  No, God does not need gimmicks.  He needs us to show we are Christians by our love.

Where’s the respect in and out of class?

Have you noticed a real lack of respect from children these days? It used to be that a child appeared angelic everywhere but home, but that’s not the case anymore. Now, children not only smart off to their parents but to teachers, neighbors and other adults. They aren’t afraid, or too ashamed, to share their bad attitudes. Young children may stick out their tongues while older ones roll their eyes and smart off. What is happening in our society?

It starts with each one of us.  The first step is to take a good hard look in the mirror, and be honest with yourself. Do you put down others? How about where kids can hear you?  Do you call the policeman ridiculous for giving you a speeding ticket, after all, it was only five miles over the speed limit?  Do you talk about your in-laws inappropriately?  That means in any way other than positive. Do you leave worship services talking about the lady behind you that sounded like a freight train or the man who led the longest, most boring prayer ever?  How about the cashier that wouldn’t stop talking? Do you roll your eyes? These examples may seem minor, like they are not a big deal, but they are.  Our kids hear our words, they see our attitudes and emulate them.  Often times, we are to blame, at least partially, for this disrespect.  Well, us and a few million other very human parents out there.

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person. Colossians 4:6

So now what? We know it’s a problem but how do we fix it.  Again, it begins with each one of us and God’s church. And it’s not a quick fix. We need to stop immediately letting negative, worthless talk come out of our mouths. Can you imagine what our kids would sound like if they learned to find positive words to say all the time?  If the church, that’s all of God’s people, do this I am certain we will see a huge change. It will take time to reverse the bad behavior, but consciously making this change in our own lives where we make it obvious to children will cause a change in behaviors. Stop yourself when you realize your doing it again and comment on your change.  Let kids see you fixing a negative pattern.

Ministers, please begin teaching intentionally on this topic and change the world. Children’s ministers, share this, teach this to your parents. The earlier they start the more likely they are to see success. Parents and grandparents, take this to heart. It’s time to make a nationwide difference starting at home. Kids who feel loved tend to show love, thus, respect.

For teachers looking for solutions in the classroom, be firm, but kind. Don’t ignore bad behavior, but address it in the proper setting with the proper attitude. If a child is telling you no, they will not participate or sit and listen, have an assistant take them outside the room so they are not disrupting others and so the behavior can be addressed privately. Once pride kicks in, you’re not going to get far. It may seem strange, but pray with the child. Tell them the behavior is not acceptable. When they commit to behaving, let them rejoin the group. With a very patient helper it is effective. Give it a try and share your experiences.