Tag Archives: Teaching

Small Groups

Ministry is most effective  within relationships. And the easiest way for us to build relationships with our children in Sunday School 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 to cultivate relationships and to see children grow spiritually. 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 to have 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.

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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.img_6092

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?

So what do you do in a Small Group? Check out some of our lesson samples to get some ideas!

Joseph - Living for God Sample Lesson

 

Acts Sample Lesson

 

He Loves Me sample lesson

 

For more on the importance of building relationships, read Barrier #1: No Relationships, or read the series starting at From Barriers to Values.

You can also download the full document From Barriers to Values.

 

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Soft Drinks, Raisins and the Holy Spirit

What do soft drinks, raisins and the Holy Spirit have to do with each other?

Good question!

The answer lies in a science experiment found in lesson 1 of our Acts curriculum. It is used in the introduction and the connection part of the lesson. It goes like this:

I have some raisins here who think they can swim up and down if I drop them in a glass of water. Do you think they can do it? No! Let’s try it and see what happens. (Drop the raisins (or lentils) in a glass of water – they sink and nothing happens.) You were right, they cannot swim.

Now we are going to check again if the raisins can swim.

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The jar is the same.

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But this time I’m using carbonated water. Water with bubbles.

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The raisins are the same. Let’s drop them in and see what happens.

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Something is different this time. They are swimming up and down! Is it something the raisins did themselves that made it possible for them to swim? (No.) No, the raisins did not do it themselves. The raisins did not change, but the water has. It’s not normal water, it’s Sprite®. The water has bubbles in it, a special type of gas. Those bubbles attach themselves to the raisins and they are strong enough to lift the raisins up. When they get to the top, the bubbles burst and the raisins sinks down again.

This is such a cool picture of what happened to the disciples on the day of Pentecost, the day the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples! These bubbles give the raisins the ability to do something they cannot do in their own strength. In the same way the Holy Spirit gives us power. God gives us the Holy Spirit. We cannot give the Holy Spirit to ourselves, but God gives His Spirit to all believers. He lives inside all people who believe. So if you believe, the Holy Spirit lives inside you! And because of the power of the Holy Spirit inside us, we can do the things God calls us to do to build His Kingdom and tell the world about Him. Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible, but with the Holy Spirit we can reach out to the world!

 

Did you enjoy this article about using science in your lesson? Check out this article and video about using language in creatively to teach your children in a way that will capture their attention and will help them engage with the stories from the Bible!

Download a copy of our module From Barriers to Values for more practical ideas to teach your children about Jesus. 

All our lessons use creative ways to teach children! Check out our lessons books in our Resource Shop.

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Teach with Creativity – Creative Language Use

Capturing the attention of our children during Sunday School may prove to be more challenging than we’d like to admit. Many children have already heard the Bible stories, so it’s easy for them to ‘tune out’ quickly. What can we do to grab hold of and keep their attention?

Teaching with creativity is a great way to reel in those kids who are about to let their minds wander off in a different direction. There are many creative methods for us to choose from. Let’s look at Creative Language Use.

Here is an example from one of the Acts lessons.

Throughout the lesson the children are taught the phrases that summarize the key parts of the story. By adding motions to the phrases, different learning styles are utilized, and as they memorize the phrases, the kids will be more likely to remember the story itself.

So how can you use this creative teaching method as you prepare to tell a story?

First, divide your story into segments. Make sure that each segment contains an important event from the story.

After that, come up with two phrases or sentences that point out key elements of the story. Try to make rhythmic rhyming phrases. Count the syllables in each phrase to check your rhythm. For example:

“They were beaten but were glad (7), even if it hurt so bad (7).”

“Go stand in the temple and tell everyone (11) about God’s love and what Jesus has done (11).”

You can also keep them shorter, like this:

“We disobey (4), God far away (3). Be born again (4), Be God’s friend (3).” (From He Loves Me, lesson 4)

Finally, come up with simple, clear, interesting motions that flow with the rhythm of your lines. Practice them to make sure that they will work with the story and with your children.

As you tell the story, teach the children the phrases and motions as they come up in the story. After you teach them a set of phrases, repeat the entire set from the beginning of the story and add your new lines at the end. Then continue to tell the story until you finish telling the next key event. Teach the children the next set of phrases, repeat from the top, and continue your story again. This may seem repetitive, but many children will enjoy the challenge and at the end of the lesson they will have memorized all the key elements of the story in a fun way. The children will remember the story and they will be able to use the rhymes to tell someone else the story as well! Have fun!

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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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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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