“From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:15, NIV
Most of the teaching ideas you will find on Mission Bible Class relate to teaching children aged 3 years and older. But this week my mind has been on infants and toddlers as I have been uploading some lesson plans for teaching this age group.
For a demonstration of how infants and toddlers can learn about God in a Bible Class take a look at the following 5 minute video created for Mission Bible Class by Virginia “Vivi” Vitalone (http://www.virginiavitalone.com/). I think you will agree that the little one featured in the video is a very precious little boy, indeed.
I spent this week preparing for my Bible class that was scheduled for today. The class was for infants and toddlers and we were going to learn about the Birth of Jesus. I studied the Scripture and prepared the classroom.
We would start with a welcome time and then I would show them all sorts of animal families. We would look at toy ducks, cows and puppies and talk about Mummy, Daddy and Babies. Then I would tell the story of Joseph, Mary and Baby Jesus. I even prepared a little craft with Jesus in a manger. We would end the class by giving cuddles to baby dolls and rocking them to sleep. Everything was ready.
I knew I would not have many students but today…only one child showed up.
Only one child. People who are used to having lots of children in Bible Class might have questioned whether it is worth teaching if only one child turned up for class. For many of us who are with small churches this situation might happen quite often.
In the years that I have been a Bible Class Teacher there is one important thing that I have realised. I have realised that I am not here to TEACH A CLASS. A class is impersonal. A class is just a group of children. No, my calling is not to simply “teach a class”. My honour and privilege is to SHARE CHRIST WITH EACH CHILD. I will share Christ whether I have one student or ten.
What’s the difference between teaching a class and sharing Christ?
If I’m teaching a class then I am disappointed that only one child attends. If I am sharing Christ then I see it as an opportunity to spend one-on-one time getting to know the heart of that child so that I can build a better relationship with him or her.
If I’m teaching a class then one child is not worth my effort. If I’m sharing Christ then it is my pleasure to do whatever it takes to help that child get to know my precious friend, Jesus.
If I’m teaching a class then one child is not worth my time. If I’m sharing Christ then it is not “my” time at all. God has granted me golden moments to affect a life for an eternity and I do not want to waste any of those moments pining for some false version of his will that I have created for myself.
If I’m teaching a class then one child would be a waste of a good lesson. If I am sharing Christ then I know that my attitude IS the lesson. I want the child to know that I have a personal relationship with God and so can they. Even when I am all alone I talk to God and he gives me his full attention. If God can give me his full attention then I can give mine to one child.
If I’m teaching a class then I think God needs large numbers to do his work. If I am sharing Christ then it is because I believe in the all-sufficiency of Christ. God has plans for this child beyond anything I can imagine.
So back to today’s Bible Class for infants and toddlers. Just one little child but I tried my best to share Christ with him. We held our bibles and turned the pages. He found the sticker inside the bible’s cover that has a picture of Jesus. We sang about the bible. And then, when his mother and I least expected it…he said in a clear voice and with a proud smile on his face, “BIBLE”.
So I got to experience a small step in a journey of a lifetime. Today, I had only one student. Today, I shared Christ with a child.
In the rush to find scissors and glue we should not neglect the natural supplies God has provided as teaching resources.
We do not teach alone. We join the Master Teacher, the Creator, who is already using his creation to draw people to Himself:
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4, NIV)
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NIV)
A student I supervise, Cristy, recently encouraged a group of teachers to bring God’s teaching resources into our classrooms. Cristy sent a group of teachers outside the building to find and bring back items that teach about God. (She only allowed them 3 minutes!).
Here are the types items these teachers found:
A leaf to illustrate the waving of the palm leaves when Jesus entered Jerusalem in his Triumphal Entry.
We thought this might be more of a challenge when we taught the same workshop in Metro Manila (Philippines). The church building we were in was surrounded by a parking lot devoid of plants and next to a busy street. Still, when Cristy sent the teachers out they quickly adapted and came back with a wonderful collection of both natural and other teaching items including items such as:
Pointing out God’s creation when we teach brings a profound richness into what we are sharing. In the years to come children may forget a picture used for illustration or a worksheet. But, for the rest of their lives they will continue to see leaves and stones and soil. Connecting these things with spiritual lessons now will mean that the lessons will be reinforced over and over.
I can just imagine the future when one of my students, as an elderly person, picking up a stone and telling his or her grandchild about how the stone was rolled away from the tomb.
So, you’re going on a Mission Trip. Perhaps the trip is geared toward benevolent or medical work. Or maybe the plan is for adults to gather for bible studies or preaching. Whatever kind of mission trip it is it is highly likely that you will meet children along the way. God will bring these children your way…are you prepared to share Christ with them?
Here are some things you can do before you leave home:
Talk to children before you go: You will feel more comfortable talking to the children in a new place if you have had experience talking to children in your own church or family. Talk to the children about the mission trip you will be going on. Ask children in your home congregation to pray for you while you are on your mission trip. Need help learning to talk with children? See How to Talk to a Child.
Learn how to do string tricks that relate to bible stories. This is a good way to start up a conversation with children and begin talking about God. It is easy to pack a piece of string in your bag. You may think of others but here are two ideas I would suggest:
To some of us, having a conversation with a child seems like a natural and simple thing to do. To others it is awkward and even a little intimidating at first. Here are some simple tips to help you along the way.
Get on the child’s level and maintain direct eye contact. This may mean you need to get on your knees, squat down or sit in a chair.
Listen attentively (in the same way you would like to be listened to).
Talk about things you have in common (freckles, dark hair, taste in food, number of siblings).
Ask the child for his or her opinion on a topic.
Compliment the child’s actions and choices and not just how the child looks or dresses.
Say the child’s name often.
Do not use “baby talk”.
Do not rush the child but listen patiently.
Do not make everything a lesson or lecture. Just enjoy getting to know the child better.
Do not force conversation when a child is not in the mood to talk.
Easy Conversation Starters:
Of all colours, my favourite colour is purple. What is your favourite colour?
When I was your age I used to hunt for lizards (or whatever you liked to do). Can you guess where I used to find them?
I like to read stories about Jesus in the bible. Who do you like to learn about?
Could you teach me how to play that game (or sing that song, or draw a picture like that…)?
You seem so big now. I remember when you were too little to tie your shoes (or skip or read).
Which game do you like better… “Hide ‘n Seek” or “Snakes and Ladders”?
Jesus Blessed Children
In the story Jesus Blesses the Children (Mark 10:13-16) we learn how Jesus interacted with children. When his disciples tried to keep children from him he became indignant.
In fact, Jesus turned the situation around completely by telling the disciples that they must receive the kingdom of God like little children or not enter it at all. Then Jesus took the children in his arms and blessed them.
Get to know children. They can teach us something about what we need to know to receive God’s Kingdom.