I would imagine that most of us have been teaching children in ministry or church settings that do not require any professional qualifications. Churches and ministries around the world are blessed by this dedication and heart for children.
Some of us, however, would like to add to what we know in a way that leads to a more professional qualification. This may come from a personal desire for excellence or to add a professional qualification to a Curriculum Vitae.
In an online course that can be done in as little as one year students can earn a Certification in Children’s Ministry from a recognised university. The studies are done online and the cost is very low when compared to any other university studies. A previous degree is not required.
Here is a quote from their website:
“OC’s Certification in Children’s Ministry is designed for anyone interested in ministering to children, but lacks the necessary preparation and training to do so effectively. It is ideal for those who are:
Interested in a lifetime commitment to ministering to children and their families
Presently leading the children’s ministry in congregations
Graduates who now want to specialize in children’s ministry
Ministry leaders or Bible class teachers desiring to acquire specialized training in children’s ministry
And you will receive this Certification from the College of Biblical Studies at Oklahoma Christian University without quitting your job or moving! “
So, for those of us who continue to use good resources and help lead children into a relationship with Christ, “keep up the good work!”
We often speak of emptiness as a bad thing but sometime “empty” is good. That is the case of the empty tomb!
Many of us re-tell the resurrection story around Easter time. I thought I would share my favourite teaching tool for telling the Easter story. And, yes, it involves plastic eggs.
I did not come up with this teaching idea but I have to say I’ve used it over and over through the years. Kids love it and teachers find it very easy to use. I published a blog post about it in 2012 but I think it is worth posting again.
Collect 12 plastic eggs and a used egg carton to store them in. Note that you don’t have to use plastic eggs if they are not available. You can use 12 sacks or boxes or just cover the items with 12 cloths or paper.
Use a permanent marker to number the eggs from one to twelve.
Collect representative items (listed below) and put them inside the eggs. Place the eggs inside the egg carton.
Introduce the story by asking the children how they would feel if they went on an Easter egg hunt and every egg they found was empty. Lead into the lesson by saying sometimes it is GOOD if an egg is empty. Sometimes an empty egg is the best egg of all.
Open the egg carton and begin the lesson by opening egg number one.
As you open the eggs one at a time you re-tell the story to the children. You might let them guess what each of the items might represent.
After you tell the story distribute the eggs to the children and let them take turns re-telling the story.
If you are able and have fewer children then you might help the children make one of these sets each to take home.
As I read about King Josiah and his zealous destruction of idols and places of false worship I wrestled with how I would relate the severe actions of destruction and even death to the lives of these 4 and 5 year olds without giving them nightmares or encouraging destructive behaviour in general.
How do we relate tough lessons in the Bible to children?
Here’s how I prepared for the lesson about Josiah. There were many actions and themes that children this age would find confusing and disturbing. So, as I read about Josiah, I tried to focus on God and then thought about how Josiah responded to him. Here’s what I came up with:
God is Holy and Josiah believed this passionately and wanted to honour him.
God desires and commands our sole worship. Josiah was indignant about the prevalent idol worship in the kingdom.
God expects to be taken seriously. Josiah took his kingship seriously and was determined to change his kingdom.
God displays emotions but he always does the right thing. Josiah’s anger, indignation and outrage did not lead him to sin. These emotions propelled him into actions that honoured God.
God’s Word is true. Josiah had respect for God’s Word and obeyed it.
God is concerned about everyone. As king, Josiah displayed leadership and shared God’s Word with his people.
Trying to teach all of these would have been too much for 4 and 5 year olds to comprehend so I focused on just two main points that I thought they could best relate to. I felt confident in the priority of these choices since they are also how God started when he issued the 10 Commandments.
God is Holy.
Do not worship idols or anything else besides God.
God is Holy
We spent time in a “special” area I had created in our classroom. I wasn’t trying to re-create the temple but I made the space special with some silver wrapping paper and some strings of gold beads that I found. As we sat in this space we read from God’s special book, talked about the special tabernacle and temple and then spent some time talking about how God is different and holy.
Do Not Worship Idols
After sharing the Bible story we spent some time destroying idols! The children took turns finding a scroll I hid underneath some carpet tiles. If they found the scroll they “read” it.
Yes! for God……….No! for idols
Once they found and read the scroll they then followed Josiah’s example in clearing out all of the idols. The biblical version is much more graphic. We expressed our outrage by kicking them and knocking them down.
To conclude the class we gathered in and focused on God’s holiness one more time.
For older children I would follow up by taping pictures of other “idols” on the boxes to show that anything we place as more important than God can be our idol. This might include possessions, beauty, sports…and the list goes on.
We’ve probably all taken children to fast food restaurants. I, for one, don’t mind the occasional escapism provided by playgrounds and toys and packaged quick-fixes to hunger.
It is certainly an easy option and the kids leave the restaurant with full tummies. They think we’re great when we take them. But what would happen if this were the only kind of meal that a child ate? There are plenty of nutritional studies that have shown not-so-happy results everywhere from obesity to diabetes to even a low IQ.
Although restaurants are providing some healthier choices there are still no substitutes for regular, healthy and well-balanced family meals provided by parents who are intentional in planning for the growth and well-being of their children. Granted, this is not the easier option but it has been shown that there are some possibly unexpected benefits even beyond the obvious health issues. One resource I came across, the Family Dinner Project, lists some of those additional benefits as better academic performance, higher self-esteem, greater sense of resilience and even a lower risk of substance abuse
So what, you may be wondering, does that have to do with teaching the Bible to children?
Sometimes, we naively expect healthy, grounded and long-lasting spiritual results in the lives of children while taking a “fast-food playground” approach to teaching God’s Word to them.
I’m not sure if you find this to be true where you are but I am constantly having to check myself and re-focus in this area. In our busy and “instant gratification” societies I think we are sometimes tempted to forget that that is not the way of our God. How much time has he spent on his purposes in my life? What has he given up for me? Has his goal been to keep me busy or entertain me or has he always been concerned with leading me to be more like Him (and who I was meant to be)?
Is this ever your struggle?
I thought it might be interesting to put together a sort of check-list for myself. In writing this list a couple of the points required more than a little soul searching. Maybe my list will be helpful to you.
Warning Signs That I Am Becoming a McTeacher
I’m content to passively let others do the study and thinking concerning Scripture. That is not a priority for me in planning a lesson.
Instead of taking a careful inventory of the spiritual growth and discipleship of my students I call a class a “success” when I have kept the children busy and they like me.
I’m satisfied teaching a “little serving of this” and a “package of that” without considering long-term goals for a child’s overall faith journey.
My individual classes begin to “stand alone”. One lesson does not relate to the next or last and I don’t talk to the children about how each relates to God’s overall story.
I wait until the last possible moment to prepare my lesson and do not see a need to make it a priority.
The required amount of my own time and effort rise to the top as my most important criteria when choosing curriculum.
For the children I often substitute non (or loosely) related activities, social events or class excursions for actually teaching the Word of God.
I am not convinced that the Word of God is enough to maintain a child’s interest. I keep it to a minimum so children can concentrate on the “fun stuff”.