Sometimes I prepare what I think is a great class and yet my students struggle to think past the surface level of the Bible story. But sometimes, often when I least expect it, the kids run ahead of the teacher and want to go deeper.
Instead of just appreciating the facts or even the drama of the story they may ask questions about the characters or wonder why the characters did what they did. They might want to discuss motivations and causes. They may even ponder over what God was up to or discuss how he interacted with the characters.
Sometimes the Biblical truths become personal. They dig deep into a child’s heart and convict them to act upon these truths.
And them sometimes, like this past Sunday, a child takes one more step and actually makes a plan. It is at times like these that a teacher knows she has truly passed on the message.
Earlier in the week a young woman and I had prepared a lesson together on the Tower of Babel using the Lesson Template. This time I stood back and she did the teaching.
First she had the letters of the words “proud” and “humble” written on cards. She mixed the letters up and showed how to unscramble them to form the words.
Then she drew the face of a girl on a balloon and spoke as if she was the girl on the balloon. She began “bragging” about everything from her good looks to her amazing skills at sports. Every time she bragged she would blow some more hot air into the balloon. The bragging continued until the balloon finally popped.
Using a simple flip chart she then told the story of how people began building a tower thinking only of how they would make a great name for themselves. God was not pleased and mixed up their language so it must have sounded like they were just babbling to one another. Not being able to communicate led to the people going their separate ways.
After this, two towers were built in class…
One was built out of large Lego blocks. As each block was stacked the young teacher talked about how great God was.
The other tower was built from wooden Jenga blocks. As we had planned, I built this tower making a point to blatently brag about my own abilities at each level. As expected, my tower crashed and the first one held.
As we gathered back together we looked once more at the word “humble” and talked about what it meant.
One boy had taken in the facts and had been convicted that he should be humble. But now, he was ready to put it into ACTION. At his own instigation he devised a way to go deeper!
And here is a seven year old boy’s simple plan of action…
“Every time I start being too proud I think I’m going to just hum.” In answer to the perplexed expressions on our faces he went on to explain, “I’m going to hum because that will help me stop being proud and remember to be HUM-ble.”
Yes, that little boy really understood the message. He has a plan of action and now, so do I. Next time I start thinking that teachers have all the answers…I’m going to start humming.
What an amazing Bible story! A disabled man well known for begging. Two apostles who responded to the beggar by giving him much more that money. A man who could now walk because of the healing power of Jesus Christ.
Children can really relate to expressing excitement in the same way that this man did. He praised God while walking and jumping in front of everyone. Of course we had to practice this for a while in our class this past Sunday.
We also used our feet to express praise. First, we wrote “Praise God” on the centre of a piece of paper. Then we used our toes to paint.
It was messy. It was joyful. And it allowed the children to relate to the feelings the man had and to express praise with even the most humble of instruments…toes.
Oh, for this exuberance in accepting God’s power in my life!
But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold, but I do have something else I can give you: By the power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth—stand up and walk!”
Then Peter took the man’s right hand and lifted him up. Immediately the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk. He went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping, and praising God.
All the people recognized him. They knew he was the crippled man who always sat by the Beautiful Gate begging for money. Now they saw this same man walking and praising God. The people were amazed. They could not understand how this could happen.
I had a lot of fun this week working with students at the South Pacific Bible College here, in New Zealand. It was their “Outreach Week” so I got to share with them the importance of reaching out to the children around us.
After talking about that we launched right into some hands-on participation in the behind-the-scenes work of Mission Bible Class. Among other things, the students prepared a demonstration video for the website. In the future teachers around the world will be able to access this free resource when they share God’s Word with children.
Click here or on the picture below to link to the “Pick a Card” Memory Verse Game demonstration video. I can tell you first-hand that children really enjoy playing this game.
As a Scripture was being publicly read in the church of my childhood I would sometimes watch my grandmother’s finger slide across the page of her Bible. As a small child I would light up when I could occasionally read a word or two.
There is no other book like the Bible in its importance for people of all ages. It has always amazed me how God’s Word can seem so simple and yet so complex. Even when I am reading Scripture as I prepare lessons for infants and toddlers I am often astounded at a new concept that I had never noticed before.
I think Gregory the Great said it best many many years ago when he wrote the following (emphasis is mine),
“Divine speech sometimes stirs up the clever with mysteries, but more often provides consolation for the simple with the obvious. It has out in the open food for children but keeps hidden away the things that fill the minds of the eminent with awe. Scripture is like a river again, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim”.
What a blessing to help lambs wade in God’s Word! As I teach children I want to be attentive to their stage of development and help them experience God fully. I usually have my own Bible open on the table when I am teaching so that children can see that I refer to it and respect what God says.
In addition to my own Bible I want children to be very familiar with handling a Bible on their own. If at all possible I try to have bibles available for the children. Over the years I’ve developed a few measures for what children of various ages are able to do so I’m sharing them with you here in case you might find them useful in your teaching and at home.
Allow the infants and toddlers to hold small Bibles. These should be inexpensive because they will inevitably, at one time or another, be chewed and pulled apart and the pages torn.
Show them how to hold the Bible carefully and how to turn pages.
Place a sticker of Jesus inside the front cover so the children can “find Jesus” when they hold their bibles.
Hold the Bible in front of each child, in turn, and slide your finger along as you “read” from it. I usually read, “God Loves Suzy.” (inserting the child’s name) Or “God loves Mummy.” “God loves Daddy.”
Pre-Schoolers can look at pictures in a children’s Bible. If you do not have picture Bibles then tuck pictures between the pages of a Bible before class.
Guide the children in pretending to read along with you as you tell a story or read a verse.
Children of this age can learn to spell and write a few basic Bible words. I use magnetic letters or puzzles to do this. And of course they are learning to write letters at this age so they really enjoy just writing the letters. We practice one word over a few weeks until the children have it down. They are so proud of themselves!
Depending on reading level children of this age might be able to read a few verses in a row or even a very short Bible story. You will have to plan this carefully if children are reading out loud in class. This can be embarassing for some children and it does take time.
Children in this age group can copy verses onto paper. These can be used in the classroom or taken home as reminders.
Children aged 8-10 years are often able to confidently find a verse from a book, chapter, verse reference. A fun game is for the teacher to call out a reference (like Ephesians 6:1). The children then “race” to find the verse in their Bible and begin reading.
One of the most profound aspects of helping shape the spiritual lives of children is guiding them in talking to God.
A few years ago I realised that I was not giving proper attention to prayer in my Bible classes. I found myself sometimes tagging a prayer on at the end instead of taking the time to facilitate an actual connection between the children and the Creator of the Universe. He has, after all, invited these children into his presence and that is no insignificant thing to be passed quickly over!
Since that time I have used a number of different methods to encourage active prayer. You can read more at Prayer in Bible Class but I thought I’d just share a few of my favourites here.