Teaching Bible classes for children in a church environment can feel hectic and scattered. If classes are before the worship service, students may arrive at various times over the course of the entire class period. When classes are after worship, the length of the service can vary from week to week – making it a challenge to even know how much time you will have with students. You may feel like you are constantly changing the plans for your lesson – even while class is happening. Routines feel impossible and possibly even unnecessary.
From an adult perspective, routines can be flexible, ever changing or totally rejected. Children, however, need routines to feel safe. This is especially true for children who have experienced trauma. The trauma doesn’t even have to be extreme from an adult viewpoint. Parents separating, a distant relative dying, friend troubles, a move to a new neighborhood or school can all make a child feel as if the world is suddenly unstable and undependable. Routines and structure provide the security that some things can still be trusted – thereby helping the child feel safe again.
Routines are also crucial for children with certain special needs. Some children on the autism spectrum, for example, may even have a meltdown if a routine is changed with no warning. Routines also help children with memory issues. A posted routine can be referred to at any time, so they know what to do next. (They are also helpful for visitors so they don’t feel uneasy during a new class.)
Since Teach One Reach One Ministries makes such a big deal about having engaging, hands-on activities, you may believe supporting the idea of routines is counterproductive. Actually creativity is more accepted by children when it fits within a comforting routine. Not knowing when some out of the box activity is going to happen can add to any stress a child may be feeling about trying something new.
And what about those class timing issues inherent in Bible classes at church? For Bible classes before worship, try having a Bible lesson introduction early, your activity and then the Bible lesson at the end of the class period. For classes after worship, try to include the same elements, in the same order – just allowing less time for each. When you must change a routine, giving children a warning five or ten minutes before the change can ease the transition. Try adding routines to your Bible class. The extra security it gives your students may make it easier for them to learn.