The best lessons are not what goes on in my Bible class. The best lessons are what the children take with them when they leave.
Years ago I was teaching children about the Fruit of the Spirit. One young child was in total agreement with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness. These were great concepts and he loved learning about them and exploring how they apply in church and in school and with his friends. But I’ll never forget his reaction when I mentioned that the Fruit of the Spirit should also be displayed to our brothers and sisters in our family.
This young man, moments before, had been enthusiastic when talking about these concepts in various other settings. Now, he looked at me in shock and horror and said, “What! This counts at HOME too?”
This child realised a truth that is for all of us. It is God’s intention that we apply what we learn to ALL parts of our lives.
Prayer Cards are one way to help children understand this important truth.
I was able to use these recently when teaching about Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery. As we explored the tense relationship between Joseph and his brothers I asked the children in my class to consider relationships with their own siblings. Even if we do not always get along we should want the best for them. One way to do this is to pray for them.
I supplied paper, scissors and pens. As we talked about our siblings we wrote their names on cards. In class we prayed for each one. Then, the children took the cards home so they could remember to pray for their siblings.
Yes, prayer counts at home, too.
Full instructions for prayer cards
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.
Prayer requests written on craft sticks encourage children to pray in this activity.
- At prayer time guide the children in drawing out the prayer sticks. Each child prays for the request that is written on the stick he or she has drawn.
- Use this prayer method over a number of weeks. As prayers are answered move the sticks to a different container.
- From time to time pull the sticks out of the “prayers answered” container and praise God for how he has heard and answered our prayers.
Children pray in their own words for five different groups of people represented by each of their five fingers.
- Thumb (As it point back at us. Praying for people who are close to us)
- Pointer Finger (Praying for those who point the way and lead us)
- Tall Finger (Praying for people in authority)
- Ring Finger (The weakest finger. Praying for people who are weak or vulnerable)
- Little Finger (Lastly, I will pray for myself)
Children write prayer requests on the links of paper chains and then use the chains as prayer reminders.
- Guide the children in writing specific prayer requests on the slips of paper. One prayer request on each piece of paper.
- Staple or tape the ends of the papers together to form links of a chain.
Connect the links to from a chain of prayer requests.
- Children can hang the chains in the room in the classroom and bring them down at prayer time. The leader of the prayer prays for the requests listed on each link.
- Or send the chains home with children so that they can use them at home and invite their families to pray with them.
During a planning meeting for a holiday program I challenged the group to define the word “respect”. At first it seemed like it would be a simple thing to do. We seemed to have no problem coming up with scenarios where respect was shown but we found it hard to actually put a meaning into words. Here’s what we came up with:
Respect is feeling that something or someone is valuable and worthy of honour while at the same time showing this feeling by actions.
Both feeling and acting are required for respect. Actions without feeling are not respect. The statement “I respect you” is not respect when it is not lived out.
- Respect God. God is worthy of our words and actions.
- Respect others. God created other people so we respect God by respecting others.
- Respect yourself as one who has been created and loved by God.
While studying the bible character, Daniel, we explored the idea of respect. In the story of the Writing on the Wall in Daniel chapter 5 King Belshazzer hosted a drunken party. Instead of normal dishes he served food and wine in the special temple dishes used in worship to God. His disrespect for God ended badly for the king.
During the party a mysterious hand appeared and wrote “Mene, Mene, Tekal, Parsin”. The king was afraid and eventually Daniel was called in to interpret the words. Daniel told Belshazzar that the king was arrogant and had insulted God. The words meant that Belshazzar’s time was finished. He died that very night.
Here are some of the ideas we used for teaching this lesson:
Attributes of God Boxes:
- Talk about some of the attributes of God with the children. Each child should choose 2-4 attributes they feel are important to them and write (or draw) them on small white cards. (Below is a list of attributes I found at http://www.josh.org/video-2/attributes-of-god/)
- Because God is a personal Spirit…I will seek intimate fellowship with Him.
- Because God is all-powerful…He can help me with anything.
- Because God is ever-present…He is always with me.
- Because God knows everything…I will go to Him with all my questions and concerns.
- Because God is sovereign…I will joyfully submit to His will.
- Because God is holy…I will devote myself to Him in purity, worship, and service.
- Because God is absolute truth…I will believe what He says and live accordingly.
- Because God is righteous…I will live by His standards.
- Because God is just…He will always treat me fairly.
- Because God is love…He is unconditionally committed to my well-being.
- Because God is merciful…He forgives me of my sins when I sincerely confess them.
- Because God is faithful…I will trust Him to always keep His promises.
- Because God never changes…My future is secure and eternal.
- Decorate small boxes and place the cards inside. We used Chinese Take-out boxes but you could use any kind of box or bag.
- Guided Conversation: As the children are decorating the boxes the teacher can continue conversation about the various attributes of God and how these attributes lead to our respect for him.
We assigned different letters to children and had them put them together to form the words “MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIN”. No one knew beforehand what the letters were going to spell so the children had to put them together like a puzzle.
Application and Prayer Time:
- Continue the earlier discussion and talk about how we should try to reflect the attributes of God in our personal lives. Guide children in writing their name down the left side of the paper. Beside each letter they should write something about God that starts with that letter (example below).
- M- Merciful
A- Artistic in His beautiful creation
Y- Yes is yes and No is No (truthful)
Encourage the children to circle one attribute that they would like to be better at. Teacher should pray for the children one by one for the item circled.
Group Memory Verse:
The children will learn this verse together through repetition. The challenge is to say the verse again and again even though an increasing number of words are covered up.
“Show proper respect to everyone. Love the community of believers. Have respect for God. Honor the king.” 1 Peter 2:17 New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
- Print the verse on a paper before class.
- Provide the children with scraps of paper and glue.
- Place the printed verse on the table top and guide children in reading the verse together with you.
- Child glues one of the small bits of paper over a word and then everyone says verse again.
- The paper then passes to the next person so they cover another word. Everyone recites the verse again.
- One at a time cover word(s) and repeat until all words are covered and verse is memorised.
More resources for this story can be found at Writing on the Wall.
I just finished participating in a 3 day holiday programme where we had 3 different lessons from the book of Daniel.
In the first day we studied Daniel chapter 1 and talked about how Daniel and his friends were taken into captivity by the Babylonians.
Then we covered the story of Daniel and the King’s Food and talked about how Daniel and his friends respected God and respected themselves enough to eat the healthy food God allowed instead of what the Babylonian King offered from his table.
Here are some of the activities we did…
During the prayer time we talked about how God was with Daniel and his friends even when they were chained and forced to leave their homes and families. God heard Daniel’s prayers and he hears us when we pray. We wrote prayer requests on slips of paper and put them together into chains. Then we took turns choosing links of the chain and praying the requests. In the end everyone joined their chains together to make one very long chain.
Healthy Food Place-mats:
Daniel and his friends refused to eat the food that King Nebuchadnezzar offered because it was food that God did not allow his people to eat. Instead they chose the healthy food that was approved by God. We pre-cut place-mats from burlap (hessian) fabric and then provided fabric glue and fabric pictures of healthy food so the children could decorate the place-mats.
The children loved this one! We placed small amounts of food in cups and then blind-folded one child at a time so they could taste the food and guess what it was. Each child tasted one food item The other children got to watch the facial expressions of the one testing the food.
Our aim was a variety of tastes including sour, sweet, bitter and salty. So we chose lemon juice, chocolate sauce, vinegar, ketchup, soy sauce, honey and fish sauce.
No one is a PERFECT teacher!
But everyone can be a BETTER teacher.
Here are some ways to improve:
You will not be able to improve without God’s wisdom and help.
- Read the bible!
It doesn’t matter how good your teaching methods are if you are not accurately teaching the Word of God.
- Talk to children.
Find out what they like to do in school. Ask them how they like to learn.
Tips on Talking to Children.
- Observe other teachers.
You will learn new things and find out which methods you would like to use and which methods would not. Even the most experienced teacher can be energised by observing someone else teach.
- Read books and articles about teaching.
You will find books at the library, good Christian book stores, websites or Pinterest. Ask other teachers what books they would recommend.
Learn to discern. Not every book in the library or every article on the internet is good. If you are not sure about something ask someone who is a mature Christian to help you understand.
- Try something new.
If you do something the same way every time you will become even more bored than the children. Teaching Ideas Here.
You will never improve if you don’t give it a try.
- Spend extra time in preparation.
If you are always preparing at the last minute then you will not improve.
Step-By-Step Instructions here.
- Write a lesson plan.
Taking the time to write it out often clarifies your thoughts and gives your class more focus. And looking back at some of your previous lesson plans will often spark new ideas. Try these Lesson Plan Templates
- Reflect on your teaching.
As a teacher you will probably learn more than the children do! After class take the time to think about what happened in your class. If I teach on Sunday morning I often spend a little time Sunday evening reflecting. What went well? What would you do differently next time? Teacher Reflection Template Another way to do this is to ask someone to watch you teach and give you feedback.
I hope you will always try to improve as a teacher. God bless you as you teach!