Passing on our personal faith in Jesus Christ to children is one of the most important things we can ever do. A recent Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%), and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.
Sometimes kids can be difficult to teach. They need to bounce. They need to talk about their pets. They interrupt. But put a few tools in your teaching tool belt and the problems will smooth right out.
- Teach the kids – not the curriculum. Many times, teachers enter the room with prepared curriculum and are insistent that the class get through the material. I have watched kids sit through lessons as words fly past them. Then the kids get up and go home with no idea of what it was all about. Speak to them, look into their eyes, let them ask questions. If you don’t finish all the material, bring it back for a second lesson. It’s better for the kids to go home with one firm thought, than for them to leave with everything over their head.
- Ask them if they have any questions. I often start my lessons this way: “What questions do you have about God?” I am amazed at the deep questions the kids have, that no one has taken the time to answer. “How can God be everywhere at once?” “How can Jesus be God if he is on earth and the Father is in heaven?” “Why is the Bible so hard to read?” “How did Jesus know what was going to happen to him?” These are all very important questions. If you don’t know the answer to something they ask, that’s okay. Just say, “I don’t know.” Then go find out and report back. Kids often feel shy about asking these kinds of questions, so I always let them know how important their questions are. The next time, they won’t be so hesitant.
- Give them hands on activities to connect with the ideas. Children are tactile. They need to see and touch – even taste. Let the kids act out Bible stories in mini-skits. They LOVE any kind of costumes. Keep the lines short and simple. Usually when we act out a Bible story, it only takes a minute or two, so we repeat it several times with different kids in different roles. Everyone is excited to try every role at least once! By the end of our time, they know the story very well. Paper cut outs, drawings, water paints, and clay molding all work very well too. Give them a theme and let them get to work. You will be astounded at some of the results.
- Respect their individual maturity levels. Some kids are full of deeply thought through questions while others just want to talk about their last soccer game. Don’t push kids. When they are ready, they will respond.
- Keep it short. Young elementary kids need a change of topic or activity every 10-15 minutes. Older elementary can maybe go 20-25 minutes, then change up the activity. Get them up and moving. Give them something to create. Watch for signs that they need a change. When the kids lose focus, they are not being disobedient, they are being the kids God created them to be.
- Really listen to them. What did they go through in the past few days or week that was hard for them? What excites them? Children often struggle with the death of a pet for far longer than we think they should. If they are still talking about something, it’s important to them.
- Teach in small groups. Five to eight students in a group is ideal. Any more than that and some kids will get lost in the crowd. Those are the ones who will most likely choose to stay home when their parents give them the choice or when they become teenagers. And they may never come back.
Children love hearing the stories of the Bible. And they love any adult who will sit with them and share their own stories of faith. I teach children because they pour their love right back to me.
What have you found helpful when teaching children? Let’s get a conversation going and reach those kids for Christ.