As I travel around conducting training workshops for ministry volunteers teaching Bible classes for children, I’ve noticed that there are often so many things people want to tweak or change, it can become overwhelming. Since it’s almost impossible to change everything at once, what are the top five priorities that will have the greatest impact towards making your ministry to children even more effective?
Opinions will vary (and I might list different items if you ask me again later!), but here are the things I would focus on tweaking or changing first.
- Throw away the script. Did you know that Bible curriculum writers for children have theological biases? Or that they can slip those in with seemingly innocent sentences? Or that they can shape the theology of the children who hear them repeatedly? Or that some of these ideas are not at all biblical and in fact in some cases can undermine faith? I am not suggesting you have to write your own curriculum. What I am suggesting is that teachers study the story in an NIrV translation (because it is the most accurate translation to date that is written on the lowest grade level) and either read students a verse or the entire story from the Bible or tell it in their own words. It does mean you have to be more aware of the theological beliefs of your volunteers, but that should be vetted before allowing them to teach children anyway.
- Tweak or change activities. Our litmus test for a great learning activity? Is it hands-on, meaningful, memorable and does it add to the students’ knowledge, understanding or application of what is being taught? Coloring sheets and activities that have little educational value should be tossed. If an activity is marginal, try tweaking it to add value. Need help? We have hundreds of free activity ideas on our website that you can use.
- Ask better questions and make room for student questions and doubts. Questions should come from every level of Bloom’s taxonomy – not just remembering facts. (We have free resources on our website explaining how to use Bloom’s Taxonomy in questioning students) Many children have spiritual questions that go unanswered, leaving them vulnerable to doubt and even rejection of God. Encouraging their questions can give them a place to puzzle through what they don’t understand with the guidance of a strong Christian.
- Encourage more meaningful relationships between the children and their Bible class teachers and mentors. My professional educator friends are concerned that most of their students have little, if any, emotional support at home. They must now undergo suicide prevention training as child suicides have sky rocketed. Give young Bible students strong, supportive relationships with several adults in your congregation. It’s an added bonus for kids from healthy families and may change everything for those who aren’t.
- Help children discover, develop and use their gifts to serve God. We are losing young people in great part, because the church doesn’t give them the meaning and purpose Christianity promises and they struggle to find it on their own. Understanding their mission is the Great Commission and that God gave them gifts to discover, develop and use in serving others and sharing their faith, will give them enough meaning and purpose to last a lifetime. Don’t wait until they are teens or adults – start when they are toddlers!
Are there other changes you need to make? Quite possibly, because no ministry is perfect. The only way your ministry will reach its full God given potential is by constantly analyzing and improving what you do. Otherwise, the results you get now will be the results you get in the future – or perhaps even worse.