Bible classes for kids and teens have a very similar rhythm no matter where they are held. There is some sort of Bible lesson, usually followed by questions or discussion. For kids there is also some sort of activity that often involves a worksheet or craft.
Yet are lecturing, discussion and crafts enough to help young people know how to live a Christian life? For years, the question has been pushed aside. The assumption was that kids and teens would pick up actual comprehension and skill sets from observing their parents and other Christians around them living a Christian life.
While that was probably never a safe conclusion, it is probably less so now. The church has been bullied by our culture into accepting a worldly lifestyle that is contrary to much of what the Bible teaches. Young people are often supplied with very few positive Christian examples to copy.
Part of the answer may be giving kids and teens more time for guided practice during their Bible classes and activities. It’s a model very similar to that often used in private, secular music lessons.
A recent article in the secular Edutopia found that having students observe, participate, practice and perform a desired learning goal made them more successful. It also led to their taking more personal responsibility for their learning.
So what does that look like in a typical Bible class? First, we need longer Bible class periods. Next, we need to go beyond just telling young people what God wants them to learn from a particular Bible lesson.
We need to demonstrate what that command or principle looks like in their daily lives. We need them to try it out while teachers give them helpful feedback. At times, this may also mean teaching one or more skills needed to do what God is asking them to do.
Our Bible students also need encouragement to continue practicing the skill, command or principle. This practice may take the form of scenarios or game play during class, with additional practice between classes.
Finally, we need to give them opportunities to showcase what they have begun incorporating in their lives from the lesson. Not by an actual performance, but by encouraging a reflection activity or having them find fun ways to teach the same godly lessons to others.
Your Bible lesson, for example, may be about Jacob and Esau, emphasizing the conflicts they had during their lifetime. After explaining how God wants us to handle our conflicts, you would take the time to teach them the steps of a godly conflict resolution model.
Then you would walk them through a real life scenario, asking them what each person should say or do next. After they appear to have understood the model, you would give them plenty of time to practice in pairs using multiple scenarios.
At the end of class, give them a summary of the model to take home and encourage them to use it whenever they have a conflict over the next week. You may even want to text them encouraging reminders during the week. Then start the next class finding out how well they used the model during the week and talking through any issues they encountered.
To encourage performance, you might have them write and perform a skit on godly conflict resolution for their parents or write and illustrate a children’s book on the topic.
To really cement godly behaviors, you would need to revisit the model with additional times of practice at different intervals. These additional reminders and practice sessions will help move the concepts into long term memory and make the behaviors a habit.
Adding guided practice to your Bible classes may change the way you execute your sessions, but it should ultimately prove more helpful to your students. Guided practice can help turn a Christian lifestyle into a reality for the young people served by your ministry.