Ironically, the most important classes children can have are their Bible classes at church. These classes were meant to supplement what is taught at home, but for better or worse have become the primary source of religious education for many young people. Yet there is basically no assessment made of teachers or student progress.
While I am in no way promoting some sort of standardized testing for young people in Bible classes, I do think we need to start thinking about and talking about attempting to assess how effective our classes are for the children we teach and tutor.
Assessment can help in other ways too. When you begin teaching a group of children, it’s easy to assume they all have the same amount of Bible knowledge. I don’t think I have ever found that to be the case anywhere I have taught.
The first thing I encourage people to do when they begin teaching a new group of kids is taking a good part of that first class to assess your students. It’s important to make it fun though, so you set a positive tone for your class. No paper and pencil tests, please. Instead, how about a fun game of Bible trivia? There are a lot of them available or you can invent your own. Start with easy questions and gradually make them more difficult.
Notice the responses you get. Do most of the children seem to know the basic Bible stories? Are there some children who don’t seem to even attempt to answer the questions? Are some children able to tell you minute details of stories or know the less popular stories well? Is it obvious some children even have memorized passages of scripture?
Your conclusions will help you adjust your material so it meets your students where they are and moves them into a deeper understanding of the scriptures. If your students don’t know basic Bible stories, you will need to focus primarily on increasing their basic Bible knowledge. It doesn’t mean you won’t work on understanding and application, but they can’t understand and apply something they have never heard.
Do most of your students seem to know their Bible stories really well? Congratulations! You are working in a rare congregation where most, if not all of the kids are getting lots of BIble at home. With groups like these, you can spend more time on applying, analyzing and even creating while discussing the stories.
It’s worth taking the time your first class to find out how much Bible knowledge and understanding your students already possess. Doing so will help you make your lessons what your students need to grow spiritually while in your class.