Attendance had been low. In fact, it had been so low that I began to wonder what I was doing wrong. Did I need fresh blood? My classes are small anyway with 6-8 kids per class and that is for two grade levels combined. The last several months our numbers for children’s bible classes had shrunk to sometimes as few as three kids each week. This can be discouraging for a teacher and heartbreaking when we think of our children’s souls.
Two things changed and over the past two weeks, attendance changed. I now have my 7-10 kids per class each week. Back on track. What happened? First, we hired a new preacher after a year long search. I do not believe the preacher should make this much of a difference in bible class and worship attendance, but the reality is, it does. People want stability. They want to know what they are getting each week. They want to see passion and energy from the pulpit. Our preacher is excited about God and it’s getting people back through the doors and excited too.
What was the second thing? I started emailing every parent and grandparent of an elementary student at my congregation on a weekly basis. I send them the scripture reference for our lesson, an overview of the bible story and some things to think about. I invite them to attend the adult bible class that is learning the same story on a deeper level. This has shocked me. We have had several people come because of this consistent email. I have had a couple of people tell me that when they could not make it to class or worship on a given Sunday, they printed my email and their family read the story together and discussed. Of course we want to see them, but if they cannot make it, then I am thrilled they are dedicated enough to God and their family to worship at home that week and if I can help, I am glad! We are a church and their to help one another.
If you already have a preacher/pulpit minister, then you are in great shape when it comes to stability. Now it’s time to work on communicating to families and inviting them every week. Get them excited about the topic. Show them in your communications that scripture applies to them today. If I can show families how Hezekiah, Jeremiah and Daniel apply, then you can show them too with whatever you are studying.
And finally, what should be first but often is not, PRAY! You can never underestimate the power of prayer. I am constantly shown God’s amazing power and involvement in our daily lives through prayer. There are days I even think to myself, “Wow! God is hearing me.” When my husband’s adult class shrunk it discouraged him. I prayed each week for his class to grow and gain new energy. Over the next few weeks, it happened! I did not do anything special. I let God take care of His church. (And I know it was not only my prayers, but others too. God heard us.)
Coming soon I will introduce a new course on “The Effective Children’s Bible Class” that will walk you through, step-by-step, how you can grow a bible class where kids learn who God is, grow a love for God and a desire to share him with others. I will share methods I have used to double our attendance and involvement. More on this later though!
There’s always that one kid. You know the one I’m talking about. The one that distracts the rest of the class and just does not want to focus. You expect this. You prepare for this every week. But for some reason, today this child just does not seem to respond. You don’t want to yell at him/her; but you do want the kids to learn about God. What’s a teacher to do?
This happened to me last Sunday while teaching my second and third graders about the crazy prophet Ezekiel, the prophet who had to cook his bread over poop (they loved that). I had one child that decided he was going to stand up on his chair during the lesson. I’m not sure what possessed me but rather than fight it, I decided to go with it.
I said, “Alright class, who wants to stand on their chair?” Of course they all shouted out, “Me! Me! Me!” I told them they could all stand on their chairs, but they had to stay on the seat, no one could put their feet on the backs or this game was over for everyone. (The chairs are short but I still did not want them tipping over.) Now how to tie this into the lesson and make sure they were paying attention….
I instructed them to listen carefully. I was going to read a few sentences then ask them a question. If they answered correctly, they could stay standing and if wrong, they would sit until they next question. It worked amazingly well. They focused because they were doing something in bible class they thought they would never be allowed to do. They listened and they learned! What’s more, we were able to tie it back to Ezekiel. God had Ezekiel do some strange things to get people’s attention and here we were standing on chairs to help us pay attention.
Being a teacher can be hard sometimes when kids don’t fit into a little box of listening quietly, raising their hands to answer questions, and staying seated to do an activity. As teachers, we need to think outside the box. Don’t always fight what’s going on, but roll with it. You will have kids that love being in your class and they will learn more than ever.
I do not particularly like “crafts” in bible class because they just get thrown away. With that being said, I do like crafts when they draw kids in and cause them to invite friends.
Kids love to paint. Let’s be honest. If there is a chance of getting messy, most kids love it. When we find something they love, I am all about incorporating it into learning about God. So this week I am sharing a fun cotton ball painting that is simple and a lot of fun. Basically, we are sponge painting with cotton balls on the end of clothes pin. Take a look and see what you think.
As I prayed and reflected on 2018 in children’s ministry, I could not stop thinking, “Jesus came to serve, to teach and to show us the power of God.” Can you imagine a world filled with servant hearts? Am I teaching kids to be like Jesus?
It hit me, that yes, I am teaching them to know their awesome God and to see His power, but I’m not teaching them to serve. Why not? Well, kids do not want to serve and I am trying to get them through the doors of the church building. Let me say that if this is you, there is nothing wrong with this. In fact, I would start again by making bible class fun so kids learn best, retain more and want to bring their friends. A few years down the road and I am ready to help my kids grow through service, growing in spirit.
I do not know how this will go. It may be a complete bust, but I am ready to try. With God all things are possible and I have to believe God will bless a work that trains his children to be his hands and feet. Of course, combining service work with some fun and reminding them of the value in what they are doing should help… I think.
I brainstormed some ways my kindergarten through fifth graders can serve. Here are some ideas I have come up with:
Package meals to take to our sick
Make cards, small gifts, or take flowers to shut ins
Package items needed at children’s homes, homeless shelters or others
Invite kids from a children’s home for pizza and games
Cards or care packages for missionaries
Clean the sanctuary
Paint happy stones with bible verse on one side and leave along a nature trail during our Spring Break nature walk
Surprise staff, elders and teachers with treats (even for school teachers with a verse for encouragement)
This service work will be outside of bible classes. I still believe kids need to learn who God is and what he expects of his people. Studying to know God is scriptural. Take the biblical account of King Josiah, for instance. While cleaning up and repairing the temple, the Book of Law that was given to Moses was found. When Josiah heard the words, he knew they had not kept the commandments. He had the words read aloud to the nation so they would know what God expected of them. They had been living in sin, apart from God, because they had poor leadership and did not know the word. We need to be strong leaders for our kids and share God’s amazing plan for us with them.
Please share your ideas, things you have tried or even just thought about. I would love to see a generation grow as servants of Christ. Kids growing up not thinking about how God would want them to “feel” rather, kids choosing to live like Jesus. Wow!
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
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.)
Why is it that God’s timing seems to be so different from ours? We have such grandiose ideas and if God would just bless them now, then I could do great things for Him. As I pondered this thought, I turned to the scriptures for answers. I must admit I was not thrilled at the answer, but I was comforted.
God loved Abram. He was a good man, but he and his wife could not have children. And we all know that in that culture, this was highly frowned upon. No children, yet God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, the father of many, and promised him he would have so many descendants they could not be counted. They would be as many as the stars, yet God had not even given them a single child to date. Instead of trusting God to keep his promise, they took matters into their own hands. How often do we try to do this too? And problems came from that calamity of errors; however, God worked through it and eventually blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son, Isaac. This led to a long line of descendants making him the father of many. If we stick with God’s plan, things will be simpler, but God is bigger than our faults and can bring about good in spite of ourselves. Just remember, the path may be bumpier.
Later in scripture we read about the Israelites. They disobeyed God so He allowed them to become slaves in Egypt for 400 years. Wow! That’s a long time. But God promised them he would rescue them and eventually, He did. He sent Moses to present the 10 plagues until Pharaoh let God’s people go. They crossed the Red Sea and were free. Of course, they complained. What God provided at that point was not good enough in their opinion. They were impatient. We know the story; God was not finished yet. They suffered some consequences but God gave them beautiful land, land flowing with milk and honey. We need to be patient and trust God’s plan for our lives.
Now let’s take a look at Joseph. He was living the good life! He parents were in love and Joseph was his father’s favorite son. Then one day his jealous brothers sold him into slavery. What an amazing attitude Joseph had though. He trusted God and God took excellent care of him. The Pharaoh trusted him with everything! Then because of someone else’s lie, Joseph ended up in prison. From there, Joseph still appears to have had a good attitude, trusting God. It took years, but God worked him back into a position above all but the Pharaoh. Joseph went through some very troubling times, unfair times. He did not say, “It’s just not fair,” and quit. No, he simply continued to trust God’s plan. We are God’s hands and feet on earth and need to allow God to work through us for His purpose.
I could go on and on with examples of God providing for His people… in His time. I have so many things I want to accomplish for His church; so many children I want to reach with His word. I will continue to pray for speedy results, but I find it comforting knowing that God has a plan and will bless His ministry the way He chooses in His time. I just need to be ready when He calls. I need to be prepared to be His hands and His feet. Remember, the hands and feet are not the brains. Let’s let God do His job and work through us.