Having taught children’s Bible classes in three states and multiple cities, I can tell you most Bible curriculum is not designed for the maximum benefit of the students. Usually, Bible curriculum goes one of two ways. Either it is coloring sheets and worksheets with a two minute object type lesson or it’s hyped up fun with an “Oh by the way” about the Bible story and principles.
To be a truly effective Bible class teacher, you will most likely have to adapt the curriculum a little or a lot in order to really impact the lives and hearts of your students. It is worth the effort for the difference it makes in both your classroom time and the lives of your students. I will warn you though, enhancing curriculum has some tricky spots. Here are a few of the most common and strategies for overcoming them.
- The person in charge of children’s education wants you to use the material they purchased. Having been in that spot a couple of times, I completely understand the concern. Children’s Bible classes are the Wild West of Church. It often feels like you are the volunteer sheriff thrown into a room of young, unruly outlaws. The person who throws you in the room doesn’t really want to know what happens when the door is closed, but they also want to know the truth is being taught accurately and there won’t be a hundred calls from irate parents during the week. Boxed curriculum is safe. What you are doing may not be. The best tip is to remember the authority figure is coming from a basically good place. You don’t want to be defiant or ugly. As the teacher who supervised my student teaching taught me, you can be compliant and creative at the same time. Use the Bible story and scriptures you are given. Substitute some Teach One Reach One activities for the ones suggested in the curriculum. Send coloring sheets and worksheets home with a note to parents explaining they can use these for reviewing the story at home during the week. Over time, the person in charge may be so pleased with the positive reaction from students and parents, she will agree to give you scriptures for the quarter and save some money on pre-boxed literature.
- You don’t know where to start enhancing. This will vary depending on the curriculum you were given. The first thing I do is compare any retold stories in the curriculum with the actual scriptures. It’s amazing sometimes how much detail is added – especially some which assumes a few possibly very inaccurate things. The accuracy of the Bible communicated is your number one priority. (Check old posts for some suggestions on this topic.) The second thing to check is the main principle you are trying to communicate. Is it accurate according to the Bible? Is it communicated in a clear way? Is there a way to challenge students to focus on the principle during the week? Once you have the story and application on solid ground, then take time to examine the activities. Are they hands-on? More importantly, is there a strong connection between the activity and the Bible concept being taught or is it just silly fun with you repeating the concept at the end? If the activities are boring or meaningless, substitute more hands-on, meaningful activities.
- You aren’t creative. Fifteen years ago, you would have gotten a free pass for that one! Now, the internet is a teacher’s best friend. Check through Teach One Reach One for ideas. Email us if you are stuck and we don’t have activities posted for that story yet. Check our Teach One Reach One Pinterest Board or some of my other boards with great secular ideas which can be adapted. You don’t have to build a rocket ship. Small meaningful activities will still impact children used to coloring sheets or activities with little or no meaning.
- You don’t have enough time. Try taking the last Saturday of Sunday afternoon of the month and spending an hour or two, planning all of your lessons for the month, gathering materials and making needed items. A bit of extended time will make you more focused and productive and you will have four or more prepared lessons at the end of your block of time.
As Christians, I know grace covers us. On the other hand, I honestly believe God wants us to do everything in our power to be as effective as we can when we teach children and teens about Him and His Words. So take a deep breath, say a prayer and enhance that curriculum. You may just change the lives of your students!