You may be wondering whatever possessed me to even consider the idea of giving kids and teens homework for Sunday School classes. Perhaps your students are barely engaged during class time. The idea of them even considering doing anything extra outside of class makes you want to roll your eyes! Yet, handled properly, a few homework assignments from you might increase student understanding and even involvement.
If you are willing to try it in your class, there are some important things to remember. If you really want students to participate, learn and become more engaged with their faith, make sure your assignments are given with these important principles in mind:
- The assignment needs to be engaging. Your students are busy. The last thing they want to do is fill out a worksheet, color a picture or complete some other dry assignment. If you are going to assign homework from time to time, make it interesting, fun and challenging. Change it up, so those with different interests will want to complete them.
- Make it a family assignment and let the parents know the details. It’s great if you can get the entire family involved. Just make sure it is something that can be done with just one parent and one child. You don’t want kids with single parents or only children to feel they can’t participate.
- Realize not everyone will complete the assignment and that’s okay. Few children get any Bible training at home during the week. Learn to view any extra Bible study done by any of your students outside of class as a victory. Even the best baseball players only get a hit 1/3 of the time. One child completing an assignment is one child who spent extra time in Bible study outside of class and that’s a victory!
- The assignment should be personal. Challenge older kids and teens to find a Psalm that comforts them when they are afraid or a Proverb that speaks to something they are currently experiencing. Your assignments should help them learn there are important things in the Bible that God knows will help them and encourage them in their lives – even when what they are experiencing is different from the rest of their peers.
- The assignment should be tied to your lesson in some way. Did you teach the Good Samaritan? Challenge them to notice this week opportunities they may have to help someone – and how many times they helped versus how many times they made excuses why they didn’t need to help. You want assignments to provide fun ways for students to dig deeper into the Bible or practice the principles and commands that were covered in your lesson.
- Don’t shame students who don’t participate and complete assignments. Most Sunday School volunteers have limited information on the academic skills and family lives of their students. Your students may not complete an assignment for a variety of very valid reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with how much they love God. Shaming or embarrassing them in any way can make them want to flee – in this case from your class and perhaps even church or God.
Try giving an assignment and then ask for student feedback the next week. Did it really meet the suggestions above? How would your students re-design it to increase student participation and learning? Your students may actually come up with even better assignments and be more likely to complete ones designed by fellow students. Experiment with it. You may find your students are taking advantage of the extra Bible study challenges and learning throughout the week.