If you have volunteered for very long in children’s ministry or youth ministry at your church, you may have noticed something. Inevitably, someone will ask for a student to read a scripture. Many times the student breezes through it only stumbling on those names no one can pronounce. Other students may mumble something about forgetting their Bibles or not being able to find the scripture or give a variety of other excuses. A few may even attempt to read the passage, stumbling over almost every word.
I once knew a woman who was illiterate. She said she hated Bible class as a child because everything involved reading and writing. She didn’t have those skills and it was so embarrassing to her to have it pointed out because she wasn’t participating. Eventually she stopped attending and was only back in church as an adult because of the grace of God and her willingness to try again.
Many students struggle with reading and writing for a variety of reasons. It is crucial teachers do everything they can to prevent these young people who are already struggling with this on a daily basis from being further stressed in Bible class. There are some things you can do to make class work for even those who can barely read and write:
- Keep reading and writing to a minimum in your class. As a Bible class teacher, your responsibility is not to improve their academic skill sets. Your primary focus should be their spiritual growth. There are many ways to accomplish your goals without forcing every students to read and write.
- If you ask students to read scriptures, ask for volunteers. Do not call on someone to read who has not volunteered. Sorry for the double negative, but the struggling reader called on to showcase his academic issues will leave your room with very negative impressions of Bible class and by extension possibly church and even God.
- Provide plenty of meaningful, hands-on activities for your students. Your students will remember meaningful, hands-on activities much, much longer than they will fill-in-the-blank worksheets or crossword puzzles.
- If your activity involves some mandatory reading or writing, consider putting the students into several small groups. Make sure each group has at least one student who is a strong reader or writer. The struggling students can participate in the other aspects of the activity without having to reveal they are struggling with the reading and writing portion of the task. You may even want to assign a group reader and “recorder” who you know reads and writes well to prevent the students from accidentally forcing the struggling student to take on one of those roles.
- Reach out to the parents of your students who struggle. Admit you have noticed their child may be struggling with reading and/or writing. Ask if there is anything else you can do to make the class better for them. If you are a tutor and know the family well, you may even consider offering free tutoring help for their child as a way to serve the family.
Being aware of your students’ struggles can help you prepare lessons that not only reach them, but also keep them from viewing Bible class as a place where they are put in embarrassing situations. Showing sensitivity also helps you reflect God’s love to them and let’s them know God cares about their struggles.