Teaching Tips: Snack Time Is Teaching Time

We mostly think of the toddlers thought 5 years when it comes to snacks during class. Elementary children love them too. Keep in mind this is not a feed a hungry program. We are meeting a basic physical need most children might have in a 2 + hour trip away from home. Younger children 2-5 yrs will be unusually quiet during this time due to the fact their mouth is full of food, so why not tell the Bible story during this time. You will need to plan in advance for this to work. If your students start eating as soon as you pass out snack to them by the time you reach the last child the first child may be finished. Train your class to wait until all have there food, pray, then all may eat together. Not only is this good etiquette but while they eat you can teach. Making this change might take a couple of services if your class is a custom to eating as soon as they get their snack in hand. If spaced allows set it all out before hand, and have them come to the snack table or area.  Another option is to have the child do something to “earn” the snack. Say the memory verse, answer a question, or give an example of the lesson taught.

Try to make the snack apply to the lesson. If your teaching on love you don’t have to make heart shaped cookie. Use your heart shaped cookie cutter to make hearts from slices of bread. For really creative people have he kids make an editable craft. For example you could use celery, peanut butter, and raisins to make an ark and Noah’s family. There are plenty of kid’s cookbooks that you can get ideas from. One of my favorites is tying a marshmallow to a ice cream cone, let the kids try to swing the marshmallow into the cone. I use this with the lesson; God wants the Holy Ghost in us. What ever you do don’t use snack time as break time for the teachers. Teachers do need breaks, but we have the children for such a small amount of time lets make the best of it. The elementary children would love to have a snack now and then in there class. Feeding someone is an act of love. This is an opportunity to make a deposit into your students. In fact the term “breaking bread” refers to talking about the things of God while eating. The elementary children have learned to talk while their month is full, so no guarantees on a quiet class during snack time for them. They do open themselves up more as they eat. This would be a great time to break the class down into smaller groups that includes a teacher who can direct the conversation toward the lesson goal. This can have a very high value then the students can give their input to a lesson, see that others have the same issues that they do, make a new friend, or even get to personally know the teacher.

Note: There maybe church policies concerning snacks and food in the class, be sure to follow them and if there is any question – ASK. And always choose the safest path. 

Teaching Tips: Stay on Message

To help your students get the message God has given you to get to them, stay on message. Have only one primary learning out come for each class time. Primary learning out come can also be called the objective for the service.

 

Have your students never responded “I don’t know” then asked right after service what their class was about? One of the main causes for this is not having the class focused on one truth. In adult services the minister may take “rabbit trails” off from his main message, but doing this in children’s ministry leads to confusion. It is not as easy as you might think to teach only one thought. Scientist say we can only hold one thought as our center of attention for a maximum of 7 seconds. If you’re the kind of person that says what every come to your mind, this could be issue.  Class planning is so important because it will keep you on the one truth.  The challenge is to say the same thing as many different ways as you can. Politicians call this staying on message. If their platform is cutting taxes, then every speech will have that as the main message. The food chain Subway sandwich has one message “eat our food and loose weight”. They don’t say it taste great, it’s a good value, or we can have you in and out in less than 3 minutes.  All that may be true but the one message is Jared lost weight and you can too, by eating our food.

 

Each class needs only one Primary learning out come.  Some curriculums call this the goal, lesson aim, or central truth. Every adult in the class needs to know what the Primary learning out come is for that class. Every activity in the class needs to support the one primary learning out come. The Holy Ghost does this all the time to us. If  on a Sunday morning we hear a radio minister preach on the value of prayer, in the church service Pastor Janet exhorts us to pray, then Pastor Mark says she preached his message, he then does a sermon on the value of prayer, and we phone a missionary and they testify to the importance of pray, you would know you need to spend some time in prayer. You got the message the primary learning out come the Holy Ghost want you to get. 

Teaching Tips: How to Teach the Memory Verse

Sunday School curricula have included a memory verse with every lesson for decades. Many teachers and students think of the memory verse as dull and boring, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

The first step is to make sure the students understand the wording in the verse. You can do this by choosing a different version of the bible, writing your own translation, choosing a different verse that applies to your lesson just as well as the one offered by the curriculum, or you can teach the meaning. All of the above are workable solutions. Anything is easier to memorize if you understand it. The International Children’s Bible is a great resource to make a verse understandable. Although it is written at a 3rd grade reading level, it is understandable by children much younger. It is OK to rewrite the verse using smaller words so your class can understand it easier. I would highly recommend this for the preschool age classes. For the older children, if they can put the verse in their own words, you will know with certainty that they understand the verse.

The next step is to give the students a physical activity to help memorize the words. By adding activity to the process of memorization, their ability to learn and to retain is increased. You may have seen some vocalists do a specific movement with their arm or body at certain portion of a song. This is to help their voice hit the same note at the same time in the song every time.  We can use the same technique for the memory verse by adding activity as the students say the verse. An example would be adding hand motions that correspond to certain words in the verse for the younger children.  Or you could place paper plates on the floor with one word written on each one and have the kids step on each one as they say the word. Use pictures, not words, when you can for the little ones. Post the verse on the wall, each word a different piece of paper. Make it big! Make it fun!  Use colorful paper, yarn and tape to make a path to each word on the wall, have the kids follow the path with their finger. As they follow the paths to each word, they will discover the entire verse. Once they know the verse, have them repeat it before they get a item for a craft, get their snack, get to play with a toy. Reward them enthusiastically for saying the verse all by themselves. Remember, if you’re not excited about learning the Word, why should they be?

 The older children would enjoy alternating words of the verse between the boys speaking and the girls speaking and standing each time they say a word. See who can say it the loudest. A game idea is to print (not cursive) each word on a large card (the size of 1/2 a sheet of construction paper), display these cards on the wall in order of the verse for the students. Then take away one word each time after the students say the verse aloud. If the verse has 6 words in it, the students will have said the verse 6 times before all the cards are gone. This game works much better than just having them repeat the verse back to you. You could get teams of 3-4  and give each of them a bean-bag or ball, for example. The first person says the first word of the verse and tosses the object to a teammate. After the teammate catches the object, he/she must say the next word in the verse, and tosses it off to the next person on their team. See which team can do it the fastest. We will be working on a list of games to play. The players will not enjoy the game if they don’t know the verse, so you work on your ability to teach the verses, and we will work onthe games and get them out to you soon, by the end of April at the latest. Also if you display the verse from the beginning of class, it will act as an advance organizer for your students. In other words, the students will be able to figure out for themselves what the subject of the lesson will be. The older students will even start memorizing the verse before you reach that portion of the class.

Teaching Tips: Tools

Every job has tools. Tools will bring assistance to the task. I wouldn’t recommend digging a hole with your hands. It can be done. How long would anyone want to continue at that job with out a tool? A shovel would bring a lot of benefit. I personally wouldn’t get too excited about a shovel. A huge back hoe is thing that can dig a big hole, which would be a cool tool. The job of teaching has tools as well. The more tools you have the better you can do a job, and the less effort it takes to do the job.

Auto repair centers have books that tell the standard time to do each repair. If the mechanic has specialized tools he can reduce the time to do the job. The customer still pays for the allotted time of labor the book allows. The reason why is, the mechanic has to pay for the tools and repair broken tools. There are draw backs to tools. The plus side is the mechanic can get more jobs completed and make more money. Mechanics that don’t keep their tool inventory up to date usually don’t do a big business.

We have the biggest business there is, teaching the Word of God to His children. Teachers need tools. The more tools they have the more Word can be put into our children and the more children they can reach. Plus, teachers will stay with the job longer and be eager about it.

Below is a partial list of some general tool categories that teachers can use and developed their skill in.

Story telling, games, object lessons, preaching, moving with the Holy Ghost, dramas, character skits, puppets, media, worship, asking questions, motivation, memorization, playing with toys, hand work, crafts, art, prayer, class participation, guests, reading, quizzes/test, coaching.

Each one of these general categories has specific tools that a teacher can developed and become proficient with. Take an inventory of your tools. Do you have any? What tools do you want to add to your inventory? What tools do you wish you had? Which tools have you over used? Are you working with a shovel and you need a back hoe?

You can take things you like to do outside of class and make them tools in your class. A personal example is: we do prescribe burns of about 300 acres on the ranch, if you like excitement and hard work; they are a lot of fun. I also like to take pictures. So I brought some of the fire tools and pictures of the fires in to class as we are studying on “spreading the fire of revival”. If I had a friend that was a firefighter, I would use him as a tool. You have tools that you never thought about using to teach in your class.

Our church has tools for teaching as well. These resources can be obtained by making to proper request. If you don’t know how to make a request, just talk with your captain about how to do so.

Teaching Tips: What is Your Focus?

As it is in all churches problems arise. You don’t have to even believe for them, problems just show up. You might ask why. The answer is churches are made of people and people have problems. The presence of problems doesn’t indicate a lack of faith. Paul had multiple problems; however he was a man of faith. Paul had to deal with everything from attacks on his life to disagreements with coworkers, yet he stayed focus on making disciples.

Our purpose is to make disciples of children.  Our objective is to cause them to believe the Bible, act on their beliefs, and share their faith. There are opportunities to lose the focus of discipling. We are to meet the physical needs but we can’t become babysitters. We have to get their attention but were not in the entertainment business. We have to have order and discipline in the class but we are not here to do parenting. We need to minister the Word but children’s ministry is not a stepping stone to “higher” ministry, nor is it a soap box to say and do what we want.

Here is a natural situation in which focusing on the problem can be disastrous. The main purpose of a cattle ranch is to produce calves to sell and make a profit. Weeds can be a problem because cattle eat grass and weeds in the pasture take up the space you would want grass to be in. To kill all the weeds could cost $40 to $50 per acre.  If it takes 17 acres each year for a cow to raise a calf then it would cost $680 in weed killer for that one cow and calf. If your profit in the calf is $400, you would lose $280 per cow. With a cow heard of 50 cows your bottom line would be minus $14,000. If you focus on the removal of weeds you will lose big time. A weed prevention plan is needed, but the cow producing a calf needs to be the center of attention. We can’t afford to focus on problems.

Think about the “weeds” you have in your ministry to children. Be aware of them, but don’t allow them absorb the majority of your efforts. After your class is over reflect and ask your self, “What was done to make disciples of the children?” Are these things the focus of your time and energy? If not, changes are in order to be successful.

 

Teaching Tips: What's for Dinner?

On Wednesday night the 11th of Feb. Rev Greg Fritz ministered on Feeding on the Word. Church is a place to get a spiritual meal. We are serving kids meals while Pastors Mark and Janet are serving regular meals. A kids meal is the same food as adult’s just a smaller portion that is packaged to appeal to a child, but it is the same food. The meat in a happy meal is the same meat in a big Mac. We don’t need to “water down” the Gospel. It is the same Gospel just prepared in a way that children can receive it. The key word is prepared. You can produce a thanksgiving meal, a bag lunch, a sit down dinner, cold cereal, or order out pizza. All of these meals have there proper use and time.  These all require some type of planning and preparation. Granted pizza has very little planning and preparation. If you’re not planning and preparing then you’re serving fast food. I would rather service pizza than to have no food for my children to eat. No matter know how much kids like pizza, could they stand it 3 times a day 7days a week? Pizza has little nutritional value. A child’s nutritional needs are high than that of an adults. They have maintenance needs as well as growth needs. A baby needs very little variety and could choke or be up set by the wrong food. By the age 4 or 5 you better have a selection of different foods. A good meal takes time to prepare and is worth the effort. Remember, if the teacher is bored teaching the material then the students will be bored too. Try serving different kinds of meals. Ask yourself, do I cook the same meal over and over? Do I serve nutritional meals? Do I serve adult food to my children?  Now, here is a deeper thought, am I teaching the children to feed themselves.  Get the children to be able to feed themselves and you’re really cookin! Please get Rev. Fritz’s message and think about your class as you listen to it.

Teaching Tips: Ministry is Spelled W-O-R-K.

Ministry is spelled w-o-r-k. Ministry is doing God’s business. We can work in or work on the business. Both are important, but there is a big difference between the two. We need to be able to realize the difference to be sure we are doing both. In every ministry, including children’s ministry there are at least 2 kinds of jobs: $10/hour jobs and $100/hour jobs.  The $10/hour jobs include scheduling, copying, keeping up with supplies, and maintenance type work.  The $10/hour jobs are working in the ministry. These are the hands on, nuts and bolts parts of ministry. The $100/hour work includes: establishing long range goals and making plans to reach them, creating a management succession plan, establishing an emergency plan (what to do when things go wrong). The $100/hour jobs are working on the ministry, they are the vision, expanding, and leadership part of ministry. With is this approach lets look at a few connected thoughts.
 
Each person needs to do $10/hour jobs and $100/hour jobs. Your position may dictate the amount of time you appropriate to each job. A person in charge should spend most of their time working on the ministry but also working in the ministry will help them to lead those that mostly work in the ministry. An assistant would spend most of their time working in the ministry, but they need to do $100/hour jobs by working on the ministry as well.  This it will help them to mature and be grateful of to those leading. Caution: leading and assisting are not classes of people but types of positions. The Holy Ghost is a helper but is not lesser than the Father or Jesus.   
 
There are so many $10/hour jobs that need to be done in every ministry, that it isn't surprising that most of our time is spent working in the ministry. Working in the ministry jobs are usually very pressing but are not always needful. Working on the ministry is always needful but not pressing. Sometimes we neglect the working on the ministry.
 
The classroom should be time for working on the ministry. In the class room, as a teacher, make this job a $100/hour job by reaching into the lives of the children and creating positive change that can only accomplished by fellowship with the Father through  the Word and by the Holy Ghost. Make teaching a $100/ hour job by instilling a passion and vision for the children in other workers/teachers. Never allow your class to be $10/hour work by having a just get it done attitude.
 
Just as there are two kinds of work in ministry, there are two kinds of time.  We have time when we are worth $100/hour and time when we are only worth $10/hour.  For most of us the $100 hour time comes first thing in the morning.  What do most of us do in our $100/hour time?  We do our $10/hour work.  If we ever get to the $100/hour jobs, it is usually after we are worn out from a day of working in the ministry and we are only worth $10/hour, if that.
 
Evaluate yourself. Am I doing both working in and on the ministry? Am I dong $100/hour work at $100/hour time? Is my class $100/hour work?
  

Teaching Tips: Your Goal Must Be Obtainable

We all have sat through a service where the minister went on what seemed like forever. When a guest minister starts out with, “If I don’t teach you everything I know tonight the church might have me back,” there is a sigh of relief from the church. We know the minster has learned to refine his message to a reasonable time frame. Likewise, regardless of the length of time, your students will think your class goes on forever if you fail to make your goals obtainable.

To be effective teachers, we need to learn to refine the goal for our class. If you set the goal of  my students will know faith as the primary learning out come, your students had better be your own personal children because that would take a life time to teach that goal.  If your lesson aim or out come is my class will be able to use their faith to get healed then you should have had several classes about faith and healing prior to this one. This goal, too, would be too large to obtain in one class period.  Successful ministers have seminars before ever planning to release faith for healing. Of course, the Holy Ghost can move and heal anytime He wants, and we want to be open to that, more about that later. This article is directed toward teaching. If your goal is my students will know that faith is now would be reasonably obtainable for elementary age children but a tough goal for preschoolers. So again it is the lead teacher’s responsibility to design and write a goal that is obtainable for their students; then communicate that goal to the other teachers and helpers and ultimately to the students in the class. 

We have great curriculum compared to what was being offered in the 1980’s and I am very thankful for it. I have used Mark Harper’s material and love it. I want to take an example of his Prayer curriculum. There are 13 lessons to cover the kinds of prayer. I had a similar course on prayer in Bible School that lasted 13 weeks with classes 2 or 3 times a week. So there are a lot of spiritual truths to be taught on each kind of prayer. Some of Mark’s lessons may cover 2-3 points on a certain kind of prayer. As a teacher, you must make a determination as to what you can convey to your students. The curriculum doesn’t know your students, it doesn’t know your teaching abilities, and it doesn’t know the resources you have or don’t have. The curriculum is for guidance and must be refined by you as the teacher.

Take heed of your expectations for each class. Be sure your primary out come / goal is obtainable. As we said earlier, the Holy Ghost wants to move in your class. He confirms the Word. He is only able to move to the extent your students receive the Word. By setting good goals, we empower our class to receive the Word which makes room the Holy Ghost to move.  

Teaching Tips: Recognition

Do people come up to you and ask, "How did you get started in children's ministry?"  "That is such a great and important ministry, how in the world did you ever get started?"  No, very rarely does anyone ask you those kinds of questions.  Now maybe if you were a famous singer, they would come up and ask you those questions.  Or if you were a television evangelist, you would have people calling you on the telephone, and coming to you in person, saying, "How did you get started?”

I am sure there are some well known children’s ministers that do get asked how they became so successful. When people see great accomplishments, they think “I want to be like that and I want others to see me as successful too.” We all want to be noticed. But in the children's ministry you're not usually seen.  The children come in, you have class and they leave.  They're gone and some times a parent gives you a “thank you.” All the hard work you just put into the class is gone as they leave your room. Where did all the hard work go?  What was the impact? You don’t know and truthfully you may never know.  This is just the way it is in the children’s ministry. It truly is a faith ministry.

What really blesses me is when the children acknowledge me outside of the classroom. Sometimes as adults we say “hello” and greet people out of courtesy, but children seldom do that. When children say “hi” to you there is a genuine concern/value for you and what you mean to them. A student acknowledging me out of class is the best praise I can think of. I think Jesus feels the same way about us as his children.

We need to be careful about receiving praise though. I can recall a minister that when praised by people would only respond by, “Glory to God, praise God.” He wouldn’t even say “thank you.” He wanted to be sure to not take God’s glory. We can receive praise but it is like receiving an offering; we need to be mindful of whose money/praise it truly is. Be assured there is a heavenly reward that is gained. Getting attention from the King of Kings is so much more meaningful than getting the attention of others.