Tag Archives: Christianity

Devotion: God’s Word Power

From He Loves Me – Family Devotions:

God’s Word Power

Read: Genesis 1:1-19

Have you ever made something? Maybe you have drawn a picture or built a toy.  How did you feel about making it? Did you enjoy making it?   God made everything in the first six days of creation. Today we read about how He made light, the sky, water, land, plants, the sun, the moon, stars, day and night.

Whenever we make something, we need to use things. For example, if we want to draw a picture, we use our hands to hold a pencil and create something on a paper. But when God makes something, He does not use things that are lying around. Instead He uses His Words. He speaks, and it happens. It always does. God is so powerful, that His Words make something out of nothing. He does not make just simple little things like the pictures we draw, but instead He makes big things like the sun and the sky. When you draw, you may have to erase some things and try drawing it a few times before you get it right. But God never makes a mistake. We just read that each time God made something, He took a look and saw that it was good. God makes good things!

God’s Words are powerful.  When you read God’s Word, the Bible, you can be sure that the Words in the Bible are true. You can trust what it says. His Words are so powerful, that they created the world and the heavens! He gave His Word, the Bible, to us so that we can know Him. Even though He is so incredibly powerful, His desire is that you know Him!

  • Take a look around and name the things you see that God has created. What are some of the most amazing things God has created?

Give thanks to God for all the things He has made! Thank Him for His power and that His Words are powerful.

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Acts Curriculum

Coming soon!

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A Children’s Ministry Curriculum based on the book of Acts. Includes 14 Large Group – Small Group lessons.

The stories in Acts are filled with important, powerful, transforming lessons! Kids  will discover that God calls them to live their lives fully devoted to Him, and how they can reach out to the world around them. Twelve lessons are based on the book of Acts, one lesson focusses on how God uses kids all over the world today, and the series concludes with a lesson about Heaven.

Different creative teaching methods are used in each lesson. Highly practical. Uses only easy-to-find-materials. Reproducibles included.

Price: $24.99

Contact us if you want to be notified at the time of the release of this series!

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Barrier #6: I’m SO Smart!

This is the last barrier in the series From Barriers to Values, and it is one that I didn’t discover until after I had started been giving this training module at our church for some time. As I began to recognize the existence of this well-disguised barrier, I started to see that this is a barrier we cannot afford to ignore.

As we get to know the children in our classes, we can easily divide them into a few categories. There are the disruptive ones, who often get in trouble because they always push the boundaries and step outside them in order to see what will happen. There are a few clowns, who may or may not get in trouble, depending on how good they are at staying just within those boundaries. There are some average kids, who are neither clowns nor pushers, and although many of them may not be particularly eager to learn, they do quite well in general. And then there are the smart ones. Some of them are simply very smart, and may not even realize it or they may not think much of it. But there may be some who like being smart and they are proud of it. Some of them want to answer all questions and do so before anyone else does. Some have a need to show off.

This sixth barrier, I’m So Smart, is not a barrier in all kids, but it is a barrier for kids who are prideful about being smart. This barrier is different than the previous ones, as most of those focus on kids who struggle to engage. This barrier focuses on kids who actually are very engaged, but they focus on head knowledge and impressing others, without engaging their hearts with the message. They have pride in their hearts.

The Bible says, “Knowledge puff us.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) Pride is never good. We can be proud of our accomplishments in a humble sort of way, knowing that what we accomplished we were only able to do because God gave us the ability, but pride is not like that. Pride says, “I’m better than you!” In this case it says, “I’m smarter than you and therefore I am better than you!” And, though it may be subtle, it says so with attitude.

Well-meaning teachers often feed into this barrier, perhaps mostly unintentionally. It is fed when we have children memorize verses and hand out prizes to the ones who have memorized the most. It is fed when we only ask knowledge-based questions. It is fed when we always let the same children answer. It is fed when teachers favour smart kids. If left unchecked, the smart kids get more prideful and the not-so-smart-kids feel more and more left out, and will eventually give up and stop trying.

Knowing a lot about the Bible, of course, is great. Memorizing verses is important. Having brains that can process information well is a wonderful blessing. So how do we deal with this barrier?

Strategy 11: Reaching Hearts

Children’s Ministry is not about head-knowledge only, and it’s not about giving perfect answers. What is it about, then? I believe the answer is not so hard to find, although implementing it will require constant watchfulness on our part. Here’s our strategy: we must focus on reaching the hearts of the children.

“Knowledge puffs up,” the Bible says, and then it continues, “but love builds up.” Our answer is love. Focus on love. Help the children discover God’s amazing, powerful, transforming love for them. Help the children to love God above all, and to love others as themselves. As we do this, they will be built up in a healthy way.

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You see, God has always been after our love. He wants us to love Him with all of our hearts, souls, minds and strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5) Although He wants us to know Him with our minds, God does not just want us to have head-knowledge about Him. Neither does He want just an emotional response from us. He wants all of us. No holding back. And the most amazing part of it is that above all He wants our love. He wants us to love Him with our hearts. He wants us to love Him with our souls. He wants us to love Him with our minds. He wants us to love Him with our strength. How amazing that the Creator of the universe longs for my love, for your love, and for the love the children can give Him.

Here are some practical steps:

  • Teach the children from your heart. Let the stories enter your heart as you prepare to teach them, as I described in Strategy 7: Value Excellence – Excellence from your Heart. Let the story change you, move you, penetrate you. You cannot teach from your heart if the story has not entered your heart. If it has only entered your head, it will only come from your head and reach the heads of the children.
  • As you teach, point out things about God’s character and how He demonstrates His love, care, protection and faithfulness to the people in the stories. Focus on things that will help the children stand in awe of God, rather than just focussing on the facts of the things that happened in the story. This will help to strengthen their love for God as well as their faith.
  • Instead of asking “knowledge” questions, include other kinds of questions. Ask questions about how they can apply the stories to their lives. Ask questions that require honesty and openness about the things the kids might be struggling with. Praise kids for giving honest answers, not just the “right” answers.
  • Do not reward answering questions with candy or stickers or other things. This will only motivate the kids to answer by telling you what they think you want to hear, rather than telling you what is in their hearts.
  • Don’t always choose the same children to answer your questions.
  • Don’t treat smarter kids as your favorites, as this can breed bitterness in the other children.
  •  When children give answers that you don’t quite understand, or that don’t seem to make sense, ask more questions to clarify what they are trying to say. Sometimes they have a hard time expressing themselves, and they may actually have a great point hidden underneath their confusing answer.
  •  Encourage children to obey God, not out of obligation, but from their hearts. Teach them about having a positive attitude as they obey. Teach them to obey God because you love Him, not because you want to stay out of trouble.
  • Sometimes doing the right thing is hard. Sometimes understanding what is going on in our lives is hard. Model transparency and honesty. Tell the kids that you sometimes struggle with certain things as well so that they can see that nobody is perfect, and that it is okay to talk about it. Do this in a child-appropriate way. If they ask a difficult question and you don’t now the answer, tell them. You can say that you’ll look into it and will try to have an answer next time. Or you can tell them that some things are a mystery, and we do not have answers to all questions.
  • Model being teachable. Being teachable requires humility, and is the opposite of a prideful “I know it all” attitude. You can tell them about the new things you have discovered in the lesson yourself. Encourage the kids to be teachable as well.

When we focus on reaching the hearts of the children with God’s love, we will work to bring down this prideful barrier in our children. As we seek to build up our children through love, all children, the smart ones and the not-so-smart ones, will be able to know that they are loved and valued, not because of the perfect answers they give, but simply because they were wonderfully created by our God. Let’s show all our children that our mighty God dearly loves them.

Other articles in this series:

From Barriers to Values
Barrier #1: No Relationships
Barrier #2: Church is Boring
Strategy 3: Value Fun
Strategy 4: Value Creativity
Strategy 5: Value Learning Styles
Strategy 6: Value the Uniqueness of Childhood
Barrier #3: Poor Presentation
Strategy 8: Value Storytelling Techniques
Barrier #4: It’s Just a Bunch of History
Barrier #5: I Don’t Understand!

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Storytelling Videos

How to explain some of the techniques used in storytelling…?
I figured that it’s better to use videos! Here are a few.

Here’s a video that shows how important it is that we pay attention to how we say words when we tell a story:

Do you know the story about Bartimaeus? It’s in Luke 18:35-43. It’s one of the great stories included in our He Loves Me curriculum. Here is a video that introduces the story:

Our Joseph curriculum tells the great stories about his life, and helps children discover how they can live their lives for God as well. The story of Joseph’s life was full of drama, hardships, unexpected twists and turns. If you don’t know the story, it’s found in the Bible in Genesis 37, 39-50. Here’s a short video from one of the lessons.

Get some great storytelling ideas! Read more about storytelling, and watch more videos about how to step into the story, how to switch roles as you tell a story, and how to step into the narrator’s role.

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Barrier #5: I Don’t Understand!

We were asked to do Sunday School at a church one day, and I asked one of the girls in my small group her name.
“Grace,” she answered.
“That’s a beautiful name!” I responded. Knowing about the importance of the meaning of names in her culture, I asked her, “Do you know what it means?”
“Yes,” she said, and she proceeded to tell me something that was completely off.
I hesitated. “That’s not quite right,” I said. “Does anyone else know what ‘grace’ means?”
Several children attempted to answer, but none of them knew what ‘grace’ meant. It was a word they had heard many times in church, but they didn’t know what it meant.

Grace. Mercy. Repentance. Sin. Salvation. All these words are often used in churches, but I wonder how many children have an accurate understanding of what words like these mean. Add to that the fact that young children take things very literally.

“You must be washed by the blood of Jesus!”
“Really? Eeewww. I don’t want to do that!”

We must be careful in how we communicate with our children. Often times kids won’t ask what a word means, especially if they have been coming to church many years, have heard the words many times, and sense that they should somehow have caught on to the meaning of the words long ago. Not understanding “christianese” can be a barrier for the kids in our Children’s Ministry programs.

Strategy 10: Value Child Appropriate Language
Pay attention to words and expressions, and casually explain the meaning to the kids as you teach. Often, when I talk about sin, I just insert a short and clear description: “Sin separates us from God. God does not like sin – all the bad things we do and say and think.” By doing this repeatedly without putting much emphasis on the fact that “I am teaching you is a definition now”, kids will pick up on the meaning of these words, and that in turn will help them understand important concepts that are key to our faith.

What else can we do to conquer this barrier – the 5th barrier we have looked at so far?

Age Groups 
This barrier also presents itself when parents insist on having a child join a group that they are too young for. I have dealt with this issue many times, and tell parents that their child should really attend the class that is right for their age as they will be able to understand what is happening there. Sometimes parents are very persistent, but I choose to be more persistent yet. Children who do not understand what is happening in class will also become disruptive, taking away from the children who are able to understand what is being taught. So I choose to stand up for these other kids, and insist that children should be in their age-appropriate classes.

Mother Tongue
Some churches also face language barriers in terms of dealing with different languages. The church may be an English speaking church in a place where most people speak another language. Sometimes parents want their children to learn English, and send their kids to Sunday School for that reason. Whenever I sensed that this was the case in the church I used to be at, I gently told the parents that Sunday School is not the place to learn a new language, but it is a place to learn about God. And since we want the message of God’s Word to reach our hearts, it is best to learn in the language that will most easily reach our hearts – our mother tongue. Therefore children should attend a class in their own language if possible. If more than one language is spoken in a church or the area, consider having small groups in these different languages. For example, you may have a group for Spanish 6-8-year-olds and a group for English 6-8-year-olds. In this way, when they interact with the story and talk about the application, they can do so freely as they can do it in their own language.

Coming Soon – Barrier #6: I am SO Smart!

Read the articles in this series:
From Barriers to Values
Barrier #1: No Relationship
Barrier #2: Church is Boring
Strategy 3: Value Fun
Strategy 4: Value Creativity
Strategy 5: Value Learning Styles
Strategy 6: Value the Uniqueness of Childhood
Barrier #3: Poor Presentation
Strategy 8: Value Storytelling Techniques
Barrier #4: It’s Just a Bunch of History

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Barrier #3: Poor Presentation

Jesus told us not to hinder the children from coming to Him. What does hindering look like? What are the barriers in children’s ministry that keep children from coming closer to Jesus? We looked at two barriers so far: No Relationship and Church is Boring. Now we will look at the third one: Poor Presentation.It may look something like this:

Teacher: Today we are talking about… [Looks at her paper, tries to figure out where to look.] Ehm… Jonah… I think. [Fumbles some more with the paper, turns it around.] I mean Esther. Esther, yes, that’s right. She was ehm… a woman… who lived in… [Reads from her paper, holds it up in front of her face, squints] a country. And she was a girl, I mean. Women are girls too, but she was not quite a woman yet. But she was female. She was not grown up yet. She was still a girl. Like you guys. Well, some of you… I guess… Because some of you are boys. So the boys are not girls. And ehm… [Looks at the paper again, smiles reassuringly at the kids. But the kids are not reassured by her smile. They don’t even notice her smile. They are not listening to the teacher-who-doesn’t-know-what-she’s-talking-about. They do know what they are talking about – they are talking to the kids beside them about their new iPad game. And, unlike their teacher, they do have a lot of interesting things to say about them.]

Does this sound a bit over the top? Perhaps it does. Unfortunately, it is probably closer to the truth that we’d like to admit, and it’s all because we often do not prepare our lessons as well as we should, and that does present a barrier – the barrier of a poor presentation.

Honestly speaking, taking down this barrier was a something that I did not learn very quickly myself. I remember that probably the first year that I volunteered in our church in The Netherlands, I always felt defeated after Sunday School. Every time I sighed as I told myself, “I have got to do a better job preparing.” The following month I put in more effort, but it still was not cutting it. Part of the problem was that I did my preparation on Saturday. I had to think of what I was going to do, and that was all I did. I had a general idea, I had a few main points. I kind of envisioned what I was going to do, but in real life, it never turned out that way. I always fell short of what I had pictured in mind. Picturing it was not good enough. So how could I take down this barrier?

Strategy 7: Value Excellence – Excellence from your Heart

When I volunteered some years later in our church in Canada, we started off by using a curriculum called FLIPT from Promiseland, Willow Creek. I learned tons from using that curriculum and it continues to be one of my favorites. I noticed that they did things with excellence. Indeed, the lessons were excellent. But the videos with the stories were done so professionally, so well, so fresh, so child-oriented, so beautifully, that I was sold out on the concept of excellence immediately. The kids were captivated. “If I can teach the kids like that… Wow! That is what I have been missing all this time!”

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There is a catch to excellence. When we have a single focus on excellence, we can easily become somewhat obsessed with giving a perfect performance for the kids. This is a dangerous path, because we shift our eyes from Jesus, and start focussing on having the coolest, best presentation, and it becomes about bringing glory to ourselves instead of to God. How can we avoid this? How can we focus on excellence and still make it all about bringing glory to God? I believe that the Bible gives us the solution. Have a look at this verse:

‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’ Colossians 3:23, 24 (NIV)

When I read this verse, it spells excellence to me. And it spells it beautifully and perfectly, because it shows that true excellence comes from working at things with all our hearts and with a single focus on Jesus. We get in trouble when we want to teach with excellence for the purpose of being excellent and impressing our audience. This is never right. We must teach with a desire for excellence that comes from our hearts and we must do so humbly. As long as we are clearly aware that we work for the Lord and serve Him in order to make His name great, we will bring glory to Him. We teach with excellence not to be cool or engaging, but simply because we are madly in love with Jesus, and because of our great love for Him. We teach with excellence because we want to see Him glorified.

As I discovered the importance of the Value of Excellence from our Hearts, I started to ponder about the great honor it is to teach God’s Word. God, the Almighty Creator, all powerful and glorious, who is in charge of the universe… He reached down into our world. He decided to make Himself known to us. He did not just give us a sign to show us that He exists somewhere, but He actually made Himself known through His Word. He did not just give us a few pages, but He gave us a Book with sixty-six books, written by different authors during different centuries in different countries. And this Book is all one great big story – the Story of how God reveals Himself to us and rescues us from an evil, horrible mess that we chose ourselves. It cost Him dearly. It cost Him His only Son. And His Son decided to obey and follow God’s plan to rescue us. And rescue He did. Not only did He save us from hell, He also restored us, redeemed us, and continually transforms us so that we can now have a relationship – a deep, strong, beautiful love-relationship with Him. Incredible. Unbelievable, and yet we must believe it. How could I ever give anything less than my very best, my excellence, as I share this Story with the children God has entrusted me with?

Prepare

Excellence, not perfection, means that I pour my heart into preparing to the very best of my ability. It means that I pray as I prepare. I seek God’s guidance. I ask Him to open the hearts of the children. I ask Him to use me as a humble vessel. I ask Him to speak through me.

And then I memorize my lesson. Yep, memorize. I take time. I do not memorize word-for-word necessarily, but I do memorize sentence-by-sentence without giving myself too much freedom in how I change the sentences. The meaning of the sentences must remain the same, although sometimes the order of the words or the order of sentences may change slightly. I memorize lessons paragraph-by-paragraph. I take hours to prepare so I will know very well what I am going to say. Memorization brings your teaching to a whole new level, guaranteed. I didn’t believe in memorization at first, but I accepted the challenge to try it, and I have never gone back. You see, if you do not have your lesson memorized, as you speak to the kids your mind will think, “What is coming next again? I hope I remember…” And while you teach with a worried mind, you teach from your head. If you teach from your head, you’ll likely only reach the heads of the kids. In order to reach their hearts, you must teach from your heart. So let the story enter your heart. You must know it, and know it very well. Memorization is a crucial key to excellence.

As I prepare, I let the message sink into my own heart. It is easy to skip this in our preparation and focus on the listeners and how this message is so important for them. But we must apply the truths to our own lives first and let the message change our own hearts before we teach it to the children. As you prepare, take time to let it sink deeply into your heart and spirit. Pray that God will reveal the depth of the message to you, and that He will help you see how He wants you to apply it to your own life. Ask Him to reveal things to you that you may not be aware of yourself.

After that, I practice teaching out loud. Now that I know the words, I want to figure out how I am going to say them. Because I memorized the lines, I am now able to focus on “how”. So I practice, usually in my bedroom. I tell people not to disturb me and I practice it several days in row. I test-drive my lesson, and try different ways of saying different things. I try out different ideas I have for body language, I play with volume and I figure out how to bring across the emotions in the story. As I do this, I get to know the story in a new way, and (I smile as I write this) that is actually one of the most powerful Bible study methods I know. As I practice, God reveals things to me. This is often when the story enters my heart. I get excited about how God reveleals Himself through the story and it touches me in a deep and personal way. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I just savour the beauty. Good stuff.

So I encourage you to prepare and prepare well. It takes time, but this investment is well worth it. Then, as you teach with excellence, let your message flow from your heart. Then your teaching will be genuine. You will see that you will be much more passionate about the stories and the truths you will teach the children. The blessings that flow through this will take your breath away. It will take down the Barrier of a Poor Presentation.

Coming up next – Strategy 8: Value Storytelling Techniques

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Strategy 5: Value Learning Styles

Some years ago, when I was a volunteer in our church in Winnipeg, Canada, I was asked to do a short training about learning styles. I actually knew very little about learning styles myself, but I guess they figured I knew about this. So I looked into this subject, and made some eye-opening discoveries. I have been tailoring my lessons to these learning styles ever since. It has given me a tremendous motivation to make my lessons much more interesting and engaging for all children, and for myself as well!

God has created each of us in different and unique ways, and just like the colour of our eyes and the shape of our noses is different, we also have different ways in which we learn best. There are different ways to classify learning styles, but I want to look at three basic ones that will help us understand our kids better, and will help us strategize how to reach all the children in our classes, and not just a few of them.

Auditory (Hearing) Learning Style

These children learn well by listening. They love to listen when a story is told, and often remember specific words that were used. They love things like sound effects and word jokes. They also may be good at coming up with very specific words to describe situations or feelings. When they tell a story they are expressive and they can mimic voices of different characters. They do well when verbal instructions are given. They may love music and can detect when someone sings off-key.

Since most teachers love to talk and talk and talk, the traditional way of teaching works well for these children. These kids are the ones who can sit still in class without a problem, who listen well and can answer questions the teachers ask. They probably cause the least amount of problems in your class. This is usually a smaller group of children in your class.

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Auditory children are distracted by sounds, so ringing cell phones, whispering children and noises coming from outside your room will be a distraction for them.

Visual (Seeing) Learning Style

These children learn best when they can ‘see’ things. They primarily remember the things they see. If there is something for them to see, that will be the thing they will remember. So if their mom asks them after church, “What did you do in Children’s Church today?” they’ll think, “Eehhmmm… o, yes, the teacher was wearing a scarf over her shoulder… I remember now! It was about Joseph!” When they tell you a story, they may add detailed descriptions of what things look like.

Adding visual things to your lessons will greatly assist these kids in remembering what was taught. Think about using props, science experiments, costume items, puppets, pictures, maps or charts. All these things serve as great hooks for their memory. If you use an illustration of how something works, they will be able to figure it out. Having a visual like a picture, an item, or a diagram helps them to understand and remember what is being taught. They also pay attention to your room, the decorations, the types of building materials used, the furniture and the seating arrangements.

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These kids also pay attention visual things that are not important, like the clothes the teacher wears. Carefully look at your teaching space to discover what they will notice. Decorations can be a great help for them – or a great distraction. If someone moves in your room, their eyes will be drawn to it and they will automatically notice. You can imagine how their thoughts will wander away as well: “What is that person doing?” Minimizing the visual distractions is very important for your visual learners. It’s important to pay serious attention to these things, because the largest group of children in your class will be visual learners.

Kinaesthetic (Hands-on) Learning Style

These children love action! They often struggle to sit still in class, and easily become bored or distracted if nothing “happens” in class. Engaging these children is perhaps the hardest, but if you put an effort into reaching these children, you will have the most creative, interactive and fun lessons, and you can be sure that you will engage all the children in your class.

When you ask for volunteers, the hands of these kids shoot up first. These kids love doing the actions to the praise and worship songs, jump the highest when they are excited and their eyes start to glimmer whenever you say, “We’re going to play a game!” Often these kids loves sports and drama and running. When they tell a story, they move their hands as they speak and, if possible, their bodies as well. When your time with the kids only involves sitting and listening, they will be the first to become bored.

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So how can you reach these active, bouncy kids? It may seem intimidating, but it’s not impossible at all! Include them. Make them part of what you are doing. Make sure your praise and worship includes lots of jumping and challenge them by doing fun, different actions that require their attention. Once they got rid of some of their energy during Praise & Worship, it’ll be easier for them to sit down and engage with a Bible story. When you tell the story, often use Creative Teaching Methods such as Audience Participation so they can channel their need to move in an acceptable way. Let them help out by collecting the offering and when it’s time for things to be handed out, let them be your helpers. Make sure you play games in Small Groups that require doing something, even if it is small like picking up cards or playing a board game (connected to the Main Point of your lesson – not just games to kill time or even have fun only).

Sitting still will push these kids to misbehaviour. They are not bad kids, this is simply how God made them, and so it’s our responsibility to ensure that we teach in a way that will help these kids learn and enjoy learning.

Combinations

Some people may have a combination of two learning styles, and all combinations are possible. Some people may not have a dominant way to learn but utilize whatever learning style fits a particular learning environment. Regardless of your own particular style or styles, it is important to be able to recognize the characteristics of all three, and to tailor your lessons to them so that all kids will be engaged and will enjoy learning.

Learning Style Barriers

As we looked at these styles and how we can tailor our lessons to help them learn, we already saw some of the specific things that make it more difficult for children to learn – the barriers. Here are a few more possible obstacles to consider:

  • Have the teaching area on the opposite side of the door if possible. Anyone who comes through the door will be a distraction if the door is on the same side as your teaching area. If people enter the room from behind the children, it is less likely for them to be distracted.
  • Avoid having more adults in the teaching area than necessary. It is distracting for children if there is a second or even third teacher who is just standing there. The problem is that the teacher won’t just stand there, but moves and has facial expressions. Every movement will be observed and will distract from the actual teaching. Every facial expression sends a message, and even a blank expression communicates, “This is boring”.
  • Make sure cell phones are switched off, and do not let teachers answer their phones. If a teacher starts to answer a cell phone or text a message where children can see it, they will immediately think, ‘I wonder who she is talking to!’ It inadvertently sends the message that the phone call is more important than what is happening in the room.
  • The other teachers should move around as little as possible during the lesson, because whenever someone gets up and starts to walk, heads of the children will turn and they will be distracted easily.
  • Children often bring things into the room. Have a rule about where they should put their stuff. You may tell them to put their things underneath their seats so that they cannot see them and cannot touch them – and won’t be distracted by them.

The goal of this strategy is simple: we need to design our lessons in a way that will engage children with all these different learning styles so that learning will be fun for all of them. We want them to enjoy coming to our Children’s Ministry programs. Let our lessons be fun and engaging for kids with all learning styles, so that each of them can grow in their faith!

Coming up next – Strategy 6: Value the Uniqueness of Childhood

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Strategy 4: Value Creativity

Another way to conquer the Barrier of Boredom (Barrier 2: Church is Boring) is to highly value creativity. Present each lesson, each week creatively. There are tons of ways to do this. In our lessons we always use at least one (but usually several) Creative Teaching Methods. These methods can include using props, drama, audience participation, drawing, puppets, science, special messages, games, and more. Lessons are never just a delivery of information to be deposited in the brains of the kids. They always, always use creativity in the delivery. This keeps kids engaged and curious. They want to discover new things in new ways or even old things in new ways. Creative Teaching Methods are like a hook to draw the children in. Once they are ‘in’, once you have their attention, you can speak into their lives.

Let me give you a few examples. One of my favorite tools is drama, and one of my favorite ways to use drama is to step into the role of one of the characters in story, and “visit” the classroom as that person. This can be done in several ways.

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First of all you can simply visit the kids. “Hi, kids! My name is Matthew and I am one of Jesus’ followers. Let me tell you what happened to me the other day. I lost my job! It was awesome! Maybe you think I’m crazy for saying that losing my job was awesome. Let me explain….”

A different way is to conduct an interview. Have another teacher interview you and ask you to tell the kids about the event. You can change this by having the teacher interview more than one person from the story to get different sides to it, let’s say Matthew and one of the taxcollector. Or the teacher may interview a person who was present but was not actually mentioned in the Bible, for example one of the servants in Matthew’s house who served the food at the dinner party and overheard the different conversations that evening.

Another really fun and engaging way to present the story through drama is by playing all the roles in the drama yourself and switch between the roles as the story continues. You move to the different places where the characters are, and show the emotions of all the people involved.

Props are also an easy way to add interest to your lesson. And they do not need to be complicated or expensive. Our lessons only use easy-to-find materials. Scarves are great, because you can use them in many ways as a costume item. Wrap it around your head, drape it over your shoulder, tie it around your waist, or hang it over both shoulders like a cape. Look for items you can find around the house and outside. Use a stick as a walking stick to add something visual to your presentation.

Many children love to participate in your lesson in some way. They can become characters in your story, each with one very short line that is repeated throughout the story. Or perhaps you give them very clear, specific instructions on what sound effects they will add as you tell the story. You can also let them participate in games, activities, interviews and contests. There are tons of options.

One last note on this subject. It may sound like I am the expert on creative ideas, but I am not. As I have been writing these Children’s Ministry lessons, I have come to realize that my ideas and creativity are very limited. But God is our Creator, and He is full of creativity. He is the One who gives us creative ideas. I often think, “O, I am not sure if I can come up with anything for this story…” So I pray that God will give me an idea. Usually I leave it and go do something else, and very often, while I am not thinking about it and I am doing this other thing, suddenly an idea pops up in my mind. “Thank You, God!” is all I can say. I believe God enjoys it when He sees the desire in our heart to teach creatively, and He is always there to guide us and give us the ideas we need. So when you draw a blank and your creative juices seem to have evaporated altogether, pray and He will help you.

Coming up next – Strategy 5: Value Learning Styles

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Strategy 3: Value Fun

We just talked about Barrier #2: Church is Boring. And we talked about Strategy 2: Value This Opportunity. Isn’t that just so exciting? So… what do we actually do? How do we go from having a boring program to having a non-boring program? Beside never losing our excitement about This Opportunity, the second thing we must highly value is FUN. We must have fun with our kids! Our kids love to have fun. In fact, learning is easy if it is also fun. But mostly we have fun because we want to show the kids that we enjoy being around them, and that we appreciate and value them.

So what do you do to have fun? There are so many ways to have fun! Joke around, give out random prizes for crazy things (Who has the most orange in his clothes today? You will receive today’s prize!). Use fun, cool actions in the songs that you sing with them. Do the actions with them and do them BIG, even if it initially feels weird or uncomfortable. Make them giggle and laugh. Do not be serious all the time. Play fun games. Use water, balloons, magic tricks – kids love these things. Celebrate with them. Have fun!

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I do want to bring a word of warning about fun. Sometimes fun becomes the only objective in ministry settings, and that is not a good thing. Our main objective is not to have fun. We simply have fun as we are building relationships and learning about God and growing in our relationship with Him. We must balance fun with our other values, so that we do not become “just another entertainment option”.

Coming up next – Strategy 4: Value Creativity

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Barrier #1: No Relationships

In the story in Mark chapter 10, the disciples didn’t realize that they were doing something that Jesus was going to take very personally: they hindered the children from coming to Jesus. They were rebuked by Jesus in front of the parents, because Jesus became indignant. He was upset with them. He told them not to hinder them, but to let them come. Jesus wants us to remove the barriers. So, how do we do it? How do we not hinder the children? How do we let them come closer and closer to Jesus? Let’s look at the first barrier that keeps many children in our churches from coming to Jesus.

Barrier #1: No Relationships
The first barrier is No Relationships – or a lack thereof. Real ministry happens in the context of relationship. We open up our hearts to those we trust and to those who respect us and value us. If the children in our churches do not have relationships with people in church, they will not feel connected. If there are no adults who purposefully enter into a genuine relationship with a child, who show a child that he is seen and valued and wanted, it will become very difficult for this child to feel like he is part of the church.

Let’s think about it from a child’s perspective. He might say, ‘If you don’t pay attention to me, and if you act like I am a nuisance and need to be babysat so that I won’t interrupt your precious program, please don’t expect me to ask you any questions about God. Don’t expect me to tell you about any of my problems. And certainly do not expect that I will ever open up my heart to you.’

Value: Relationships!
We conquer barriers with values. When we highly value something, it will always be part of how we do things – not just one week, but each and every single week. The value that conquers this barrier is obvious: we must build relationships with the children! These relationships must be genuine and must be based on love, trust and respect.

In order to be able to build relationships with our kids, we need to know why we are in Children’s Ministry in the first place, because if our reasons are not right, we will spend time with them, but we probably will not enter into relationships with the kids. Only if we are genuinely interested in the kids, if we actually really care about them as individuals, then we will be able to build relationships. There may be many reasons why people are involved in Children’s Ministry, and often several reasons are mixed together. Kids are able to sense if our motives are genuine or not. We need to examine and re-examine our motives to make sure we are involved for the right reasons. Are we there to meet our own needs? Are we trying to look impressive? Are we trying to be the coolest teacher with the most fans? These kinds of motives mostly focus on us and not on the kids! Not a good foundation for relationships! Are we serving because we really care about the kids? Do we truly see them as they are? Are we aware of God’s fierce, passionate, deep love for them, and of His desire to pursue them because He wants to have an amazing relationship with them?

Our relationships need to be based on love. We need to ask ourselves: Do we actually love them? Do we love the kids who behave well and the kids who disrupt the program? Do we love the quiet kids and the loud ones? The wiggly ones and the giggly kids? You see, the funny thing is that it is actually much easier to love these kids once we build a relationship with them! The more you get to know them, the more you will see their strengths and uniqueness, the stronger your love for them will grow.

Our relationships need to be based on trust and respect. We need to ask ourselves: Are we trustworthy? Do we listen to them, and take their questions seriously? Do we treat their questions and the things they share with respect? Do we ask more questions when we don’t quite understand what they mean so that we can draw out what they truly are trying to communicate? Do we make sure that the kids in our Small Group won’t be laughed at by the other kids in the group?

Relationship building takes time, but it is so rewarding. I’ve noticed that the behavior of the children changes when there is a relationship with the teachers. It’s always a lot more work to work with a group of kids you don’t know, so never let your first experience with a group of kids be the determining factor in whether or not Children’s Ministry is the right place for you to serve. The first time is always hard!

Fear-based Relationships
It’s interesting to see what happens when a teacher leaves the room. If the relationship is based on fear (“I better behave so I don’t get in trouble”), the children are quickly inclined to misbehave when the teacher leaves the room. This also happens when the kids have a lack of respect for the teacher (“He is not here to see what we’re doing, so we don’t care that we are misbehaving!!”). When the relationship is based on fear, there needs to be pressure coming from the outside to motivate the kids to behave properly. But when there is a relationship based on love, trust and respect, the children are more inclined to behave well when the teacher steps out of the room, because they have an internal motivation to do so.

Relationship Building Strategy: Small Groups
The easiest way to build relationships in Children’s Ministry is through Small Groups. Jesus modelled this for us. He had his own Small Group of twelve disciples. Small Groups are the perfect setting for building relationships. One teacher and up to twelve kids see each other every week (or every two weeks), talk about how to live their lives for Jesus, share their experiences, and hold each other accountable; that is the perfect setting for cultivating relationships. Week after week the teacher shows the children that he cares about them, that he remembers the details of previous conversations, that he takes them seriously and that loves having fun with them. Can you see it? It is so beautiful. As the relationships grow, the teacher gains the right to speak into the lives of the kids, and he gets to be ministered to by the children, too.

Building relationships takes time and effort and it does not happen overnight. You must be willing to invest, just like Jesus invested in his disciples. In order to facilitate this, I always keep the rule that volunteers must come every week or every two weeks. No exceptions. When I started in Children’s Ministry, I volunteered once a month and real relationships simply did not develop. It just doesn’t work. If a child doesn’t come the week that you are there, you won’t see that child for two months! If you are serious about reaching kids, volunteering every 2 weeks is no big deal at all, and it will actually make it much, much more rewarding for everyone involved.

Kids are desperate for adults who will invest in them in this way. I have seen it happen so many times; suddenly kids start to share very personal stories, or they ask questions that have been on their minds for a long time. They are waiting for an opportunity to share with someone – someone they can trust, someone who will actually listen, someone who genuinely cares and who will pray for them. Sadly, often kids don’t have many adults in their lives who are really there for them. If you are willing to invest your time, you can be the person for them. The kids are waiting to have this barrier broken in their lives – the barrier of not really knowing people in their church, people in Children’s Ministry. And this barrier keeps them from getting closer to Jesus. They are waiting for someone. Will you be that person for them?

Coming up next – Barrier 2: Church is Boring

 

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