Friday, May 29, 2009

Hit the Mark

"Take aim so your programs hit the bull's-eye to meet kids' needs every time"
by RaNae Street

Your children's ministry is much more than programs. And that's a good thing because programs don't change people; only God changes people.

Yet your children's ministry includes programs. Lots of programs. The question is, are the programs meaningful to your children and volunteers?

The Four R's

It's not the quantity of programs that counts in children's ministry - it's how effective each program is in carrying out your church's mission and vision. Our goal for every program we host is to help connect children and their families with our church. We want to form healthy relationships with children. Those relationships prompt kids and their families to come back.

Pause and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of your existing programs. Are they meaningful for children? How can you really know?

Here's an easy way to measure whether a program will be meaningful and life changing: Ask if the Four R's are present in each program. If you see that a program is Relevant, Radical, Reflective, and Relational, you've got a great one. Here's what those words mean…

* Relevant - Programming needs to be relevant to kids in your church and kids in your community. Research kids' interests. Identify the specific needs of your church, area schools, and the families in your neighborhood. Every community is different, so avoid the temptation to simply import a program that's been successfully done elsewhere.

Don't rely on written surveys alone. Instead, make personal contact and actually ask what programming would be relevant. Pay attention to available resources. Prioritize program ideas so you meet people's expressed needs first.

* Radical - Churches lose their effectiveness when they try to offer programming that meets all the needs of children, their families, and their communities. Instead of trying to do it all and failing, focus on creating a program that's unique to your children's ministry. Intentionally select the one thing that'll set your children's ministry apart from other churches in your area; then do it very, very well. You won't be shortchanging your kids or their families because you can refer families to capable, Christ-centered, community-based resources that your church simply can't provide.

The challenge is that to do one thing well, you may have to stop doing several things poorly. There's a cost when you ask your church to stop doing programs that have outlived their effectiveness, but it's a cost worth paying if you can redirect resources to support truly meaningful programs. "The way we've always done it" may no longer meet the needs of your children.

* Reflective - Children love exciting and fun things, and meaningful children's ministries reflect excitement and fun. Meaningful programs are active, carefree, enthusiastic, and inspiring. They reflect what children love to do, mirroring children's creativity and enthusiasm for hands-on learning. Meaningful programs also reflect real day-to-day situations that kids encounter and help children apply what they're learning to those situations. Most importantly, meaningful programs reflect God's unconditional love and acceptance.

* Relational - Of the four R's, relational is the most vital. Too often we focus on giving information, not transforming lives. Meaningful programs aren't focused on tasks. Rather, they cultivate an environment where relationships can be built.

Relationships matter! We need to help children make new friends and help families build a network with other families and church leaders. Jesus' ministry is a great example of the importance of relationships. Jesus nurtured others through compassion and invested deeply in people who later changed the world. Our programs need to be places where children are turned on to faith through the power of relationships.

The Four Options

At the heart of most children's ministries are Sunday school and midweek programs. Many churches focus nearly all their attention and finances solely on these two programs. But are these two programs enough?

Here are four children's ministry program options, each designed for a different purpose. A well-rounded, meaningful children's ministry includes each of these program options. Why? The goal is to engage a child at any point and move that child toward the center of the target. A word of caution: Hosting a poorly executed event is worse than not hosting one at all, so plan for excellence.

1. Momentum programs are designed to bring new people into the faith community. They're "come and see" events that provide positive first impressions of your ministry. Think of them as entry-level opportunities that facilitate numerical growth. Momentum events include theme days, special events, and community outreach events.

* Theme days promote excitement among children who are already part of your ministry and encourage children to invite friends. With a bit of creativity, you can turn nearly any day or event into a theme day. Possible theme days are Super Bowl Sunday, Ice Cream "Sundae," Dinner at the Movies, and Day at the Beach.

* Special events are often seasonal. Involved families are encouraged to invite their friends to join them for fun. Special events offer kid-friendly activities, food, and time for families to get to know each other better Special events include a New Year's celebration, bike rally, or back-to-school event.

* Community outreach programs fill needs or interests in your community. They provide partnerships between your community and your church. Outreach programs offer families that aren't drawn by traditional Sunday school or church the chance to be exposed to spiritual people and biblical lessons. Examples of community outreaches are team sports and skills camps, child-care centers, fine arts lessons, and storybook hours.

2. Support programs offer assistance to families and children who are dealing with challenges. Support programs provide a safe place for children to learn, talk, and express their feelings.

Many support programs are offered as classes or small groups that last between six and eight weeks. The goal is to help kids explore issues in the context of God's Word. Support programs offer more than just coping skills; they also provide hope. These support programs exist to help children with issues such as school, grief, character development, homework, or divorce recovery.

3. Service programs involve children in opportunities that help them develop a heart for serving others. Service programs help children cultivate a servant attitude and the desire to make a positive difference in the world. They're great opportunities for children to develop friendships.

Service opportunities can be inside your children's ministry, such as puppets, drama, clown ministry, multimedia ministry, or hospitality. Or service projects can benefit the larger community. You'll have to decide if you want one-shot, short-term, or long-term projects. Either way, keep service programs open to newcomers at all times.

4. Discipleship programs build a community of kids who want to grow deeper in their Christian faith. Discipleship programs aren't for first-time visitors or sporadic attendees. They're designed to help children dive deeper into spiritual development as they study the Word of God, pray, develop friendships with other believers, and share their lives. Children experience a personal relationship with Jesus and also disciple others as they build up each other's faith.

Discipleship classes can be long- or short-term, but they're intentionally more intimate so children can connect with each other. Experiences where children encounter God and make life-changing decisions are the bull's-eye of the target. It's where you want every child to ultimately end up.

The Six Questions

Answer the following questions before you begin any new program to determine whether a program will be meaningful to your children and church.

* Who will lead? In his book Doing Church as a Team, Wayne Cordeiro suggests that before launching a new program, the first step needs to be building a team of four other leaders to serve with the program leader. This team becomes a support system that shares responsibilities of the program and provides accountability for each other. A strong leadership team also helps prevent frustration and burnout.

Accurately predict the number of servants needed to support a program. Do you have enough leaders? The right leaders? Are they equipped? Are they all on the same page regarding the vision?

* What will you do? To be meaningful, any program you develop must connect people with an experience they'll value. Meaningful programs also bridge people to your church and toward relationship with your church family.

Have you considered the culture and daily life of kids you want to reach? Have you found a name for the program that's interesting and inviting? Have you decided precisely what need you'll meet?

* When will you meet? Timing is important. Schedule a day of the week and a time in the day that's convenient for families. Be considerate of young children and their routines.

Consider God's timing for the program. Great program ideas move forward and become reality only with God's blessing. You may be able to recognize God's timing for your program as you evaluate how easily the components of your action plan come together. What would happen if you chose not to launch a program until you had all the volunteers you need in place?

* Where will you meet? Whether you have a huge facility or a tiny one, space is always an issue. Be creative as you search for the ideal location.

Some events and classes need to be held at your church building, but others may be appropriate for a neighborhood park, community building, or back yard. Growing a children's ministry may require you to go where the kids are. Take into consideration what supplies you'll need and what setup is required when thinking about where you should meet.

* Why are you considering this new program? Is the program aligned with your church's vision and children's ministry philosophy? What's your desired outcome? Will you seek to expand your current children's ministry, offer support to children and their families, provide service to your community, or develop disciples? How will this program engage kids and move them toward the center of the target?

* How will you move ahead? This question may be the most important because your answer becomes your action plan for making the proposed program a reality. You'll sort out the program's goals and determine publicity, budget, and team communication. Decide up front how you'll evaluate your effectiveness — so you can make midcourse corrections.

But it isn't just a matter of logistics. A detailed plan also ensures your program will be meaningful for children and volunteers. Remember that what counts most isn't pulling off a spectacular event. What counts most is what kids learn and how relationships develop during the course of the event — from the initial brainstorming meeting to sweeping up after the event ends.

The One Target

Anyone can pull together a slapdash program to entertain kids. But creating a meaningful program requires something more.

It requires that you're intentional about building a program that's relevant to your kids, that meets the needs of your church and community, and that's radical in its creativity and uniqueness.

Meaningful programs also reflect God's love and mirror how kids learn and what kids already love to do. Meaningful programs encourage transforming relationships.

Creating excellent children's programming is hard work, but it's rewarding, too. You'll touch kids' lives in ways that have lifelong impact and draw children closer to God. It's worth the effort!

RaNae Street is a children's ministry director in Tipp City, Ohio. This article is excerpted from the new Children's Ministry That Works! (Group Publishing, Inc.).

© 2002 Children's Ministry Magazine. Used by permission.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Guerrilla Training

by Cynthia Crane and Keith Johnson

Creative training approaches that can happen in hallways, over the internet or phone lines, or any old place.

You've just finished one of the greatest summers in children's ministry history! Now it's time for you to kick off a new school year, plan a Halloween alternative, get ready for a Christmas musical, recruit volunteers, sort curriculum, get the newsletter out, put the bulk mailing dates on the calendar, reserve rooms, coordinate child care, and train volunteers. So much to little time. Let's talk about the ever-present need to train volunteers.

When can you fit that in? The world tells our team members that a packed calendar is a sign of success. When will they fit in training? Besides, training events sound optional; do people really have to go to those—every time?

When can you train? On, that's soccer-baseball-water-ski-family day.

Okay, how about Sunday? Pleeease! Today alone three teachers needed subs at the last minute; next week the kids are singing in big church...Sundays are jammed!

Could you schedule it during the week? Wait! Miss Debbie can't come on Mondays because she's at Weigh Down Workshop; the Campbells can't come on Tuesdays because that's ballet night.

Sound familiar? Time-crunched families and volunteers are the norm today. So maybe training doesn't always have to be a set time, place, or agenda. Instead you can sneak in training when your volunteers least expect it. The following guerrilla training ideas can refocus your time, energize your team, and mobilize your teachers to remain faithful to their calling!

1. E-Team—You don't have time to meet personally with each volunteer. So create an "E-Team" that'll be in charge of encouraging and equipping others. Meet with your E-Team to develop a quarterly game plan so everyone on your team receives encouragement. Use these criteria to select your E-Team members: creative, supportive, sensitive to people in need, and detail-oriented.
2. Coffee Break—Do you have someone who struggles more than most with the lesson? Meet with that person one-on-one at a coffee shop and share several ideas for a successful Sunday school class time. Help him or her design four to six weeks worth of totally awesome lessons! Follow up with this person each week to ask about how a specific lesson went.
3. Success Stories—Use play-by-play videos or digital photos each Sunday to show great things that are happening in classrooms. You can play the video as children arrive, or post the photos in hallways. Volunteers will not only learn from one another, but they'll be encouraged to see they share similar challenges with others.
4. Party Time—Throw a planning party for your teachers to celebrate individual successes and the things people are doing right. It's the ultimate volunteer training because they'll learn from each other.
5. Snack Time—Bring in leaders from other churches on Sunday morning to mingle with your team during a continental breakfast or coffee break. Your guests can ask your volunteers questions to help you assess who's struggling (because sometimes they won't tell you) and what's working (because sometimes we get home-blind and don't see all the good things).
6. Conferences—Send teachers to a conference and make sure they drive together. Their discussions before and after the event are sometimes even richer than the conference itself. It's especially helpful for conference attendees to wrestle together with how they'll apply what they learned.
7. Tag-Team Training—Match new recruits with experienced volunteers for one class. Then have the new recruits share what they've learned. This is a great way to get your veteran teachers-who may feel they can't learn anymore-to learn how to transfer their years of knowledge relationally.
8. NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) Day—Give your Sunday school teachers a day off to visit another church, then have them report what they saw. Because most teachers have families that they'd bring with them, include the stories of children in those reports. Print the reports in your monthly newsletter or weekly teaching tip sheet. Or simply have your "scouts" tell their stories to your other volunteers at a coffee meeting or planning committee.
9. Task Force—Do the above assignment but with a twist. Assign volunteers different ministry aspects to research, then have them share what they learn. Empower them to make the difference!
10. Prayer—Organize prayer groups with no more than six people. As your volunteers pray together, they'll also encourage one another and share helpful training insights.
11. Testimony Night—A night to honor kids turns into kids giving testimonies about specific volunteers who've changed their lives. Take photos to put in your newsletter, and add specifics that'll help your volunteers see the big picture. It's important for your volunteers to see the results of their labor in the hearts of changed lives.
12. Online Tutor—Send an e-mail with some great websites that have ideas you know your volunteers can use. Or send your volunteers to's Children's Ministry Magazine Live Training Institute. Your volunteers can read one of 22 brief tutorials and then answer three questions related to the topic. Push one button, and they fire off an e-mail to you to let you know they've completed a training piece.
13. E-mail Training Tips—Send out a weekly teacher's tip sheet via e-mail! Let your teachers know that you're praying for them. List prayer requests, birthdays, anniversaries, and helpful hints. A good way to do this and solicit some discussion is to offer a "problem of the week" where people can e-mail a solution. Post answers in your next newsletter.
14. Book Club—Many volunteers love to learn on their own. Their best approach to instruction is self-discovery. So give the same book to three different volunteers, and have them each share the top three things they found in it with each other during a coffee discussion.
15. Book Review—Read through a book with your volunteers and share how it touches each of you.

Cynthia Crane is a children's pastor in Huntington Beach, CA. Keith Johnson is the field services manager for Group Publishing, Inc., leading more than 200 REAL learning specialists to provide training and consultation to churches.

© 2001 Children's Ministry Magazine. Used by permission.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Make No Assumptions

By Becky Ussery

Your teacher training session is just around the corner, and you're staring at a list of volunteers—a mixture of people from various backgrounds. You have Rookies, Veterans, and Experts with a wide range of abilities and teaching experiences. How can you possibly meet all their needs?

Identify which category your volunteers fall into, and then customize training to meet their unique needs. Rather than having individual meetings for Rookies, Veterans, and Experts, sprinkle in a variety to meet all their needs. The following ideas will help you understand your volunteers and provide them with the basic skills needed for each experience level.

Your new teachers and assistants come to training with preconceived ideas about what's going to take place in their classrooms. They're either eager to pitch in and make a difference—or terrified at the possibility of being asked to pitch in and make a difference! This is your opportunity to set their minds at ease, inform them about the basic ins and outs of their responsibilities, and let them know what's really going to take place in their classrooms.

Training Needs

Relationships—Introduce all new teachers to your team. Let your Rookies know that they're a welcome, valuable part of your team. Present each new teacher with a tote bag of supplies or a tub of materials as a welcome gift. Intentionally plug Rookies into relationships with Veterans and Experts by having them pair up for discussion and prayer times.

Mission Statement—Provide Rookies with the written mission statement for your ministry. Let them know that accomplishing this mission will be their motivation for all that takes place in their classrooms.

Job Descriptions—Develop job descriptions for the different positions within your ministry. By the way, these can be one paragraph long. Give each Rookie the appropriate job description.

Age-Level Characterisics—Provide age-specific information for the grade level each Rookie ministers to.

Curriculum—Review the curriculum you've chosen with your Rookies, focusing on each component of the lesson. Consider having a mock classroom to demonstrate teaching a lesson. (Your Experts can even teach this.) Include a suggested schedule that'll also be posted in the classroom as a backup reminder to keep things moving in class.

Safety—Review safety procedures and administrative policies regarding finding substitutes, chain of command, discipline methods, and confidentiality agreements.

Supplies—Tell Rookies about your resource area. Discuss your system for checking out resources, purchasing supplies, and adhering to classroom budgets.

Partners—Pair Rookies with Veterans or Experts in classrooms. Have partners evaluate the teaching sessions in four-week intervals. Encourage teaching teams to pray together for the children in their classes as well as for each other.

With one year in children's ministry under their belts, your Veterans can be a valuable resource. They've learned by trial and error how to run a classroom and have experienced success in making curriculum and schedules work. It's time to take your Veterans to a deeper level and further develop their skills and interests to make an even greater impact on children.

Training Needs

Mission Statement Review—Keep your mission statement and policies in front of your Veterans. Everyone needs a "refresher course" on these topics.

Job Description—Have your Veterans review their job descriptions to see if they've been taking on too much or if there are responsibilities they've let slip through the cracks.

Skill Development—Help Veterans pinpoint their "specialties" so you can help further develop those skills. Provide training from guest speakers or team members on worship, prayer, Bible teaching, and creativity geared toward children.

Growth Plan—Have Veterans identify personal areas for improvement. Connect your Veterans with other volunteers who have strengths in these areas.

Deeper Training—Provide in-depth training on teaching skills and understanding the needs of children. Discuss learning styles, involving the five senses in lessons, delegating responsibilities, in-home visitation, and outreach projects.

Veteran Stories—Have your Veterans share testimonials with Rookies about what they learned during their first year in the classroom. Use their enthusiasm to make announcements to the congregation about children's events and recruiting needs.

Volunteers who've put in five or more years of service are unique in their own way. They've gained a great deal of experience in the classroom and have seen their assistants and other teachers come and go. They may've begun teaching out of guilt or just to fill a slot, but they've found a reason to stay. Your best way to provide continuing training for your Experts is to find out why they've stayed in the game and maximize on their desires. Show respect for the years of service your Experts have given to children's ministry. Help them stretch beyond their experiences by introducing them to new resources and strategies for ministry.

Training Needs

Ministry Reminders—Remind your Experts of nuts and bolts of your ministry, such as your mission statement, administrative policies, and procedures. Provide Experts with age-level characteristics, curriculum overviews, and administrative policies annually. Go over any changes to curriculum, schedules, classroom assignments, or teaching teams on paper and in person. Ask for Experts' feedback the first week after any changes have been implemented.

New job Descriptions—Have your Experts create or edit their job descriptions to fairly represent all they're doing. This will provide affirmation about the impact they're making on children. It'll also give them an opportunity for personal evaluation in areas where they may've started "coasting" through the preparation process out of familiarity with the curriculum or children.

Personal Touch—Spend one-on-one time with your Experts outside of your regular training sessions. Ask for their input on special events and additional programs for your ministry. Train them to handle responsibilities in these areas with less involvement from you. Ask these volunteers to tell you what's working in their classrooms. Affirm them for the work they're doing and ask how you can help. What areas of development would your Experts like to explore? Just ask them. Have them suggest possible topics to cover in future training sessions, and see if they'd be willing to serve on a question-and-answer panel or teach about a topic they've suggested.

Extended Training—Pay for your Experts to receive training at national and regional conferences where they can choose the seminars they want to attend. Have them report what they learn to your Rookies and Veterans.

Leadership Development—Help your Experts recognize their opportunity to make contributions to the teachers with whom they teach as well as the children in their classes. Pair these teachers with Rookies and Veterans. Your volunteers will learn from each other if you promote these relationships.

Feedback—Allow Experts to offer advice on problems in the classroom and share common experiences and struggles. Before making any dramatic changes in curriculum choices, teaching teams, or classroom assignments, ask for your Experts' feedback. Valuing their opinions and insights will make them stronger team players when changes are implemented.

Update—Some Experts may feel close to retiring from your team because they think children today have changed too much since their first classroom of kids. Other Experts are teaching in your children's ministry because they know it's what God created them to do, and they wouldn't consider doing anything else. Either way, Experts need to keep in touch with today's kids. Create a "What's Hot" list detailing the interests of kids in each age group. Include movies, books, hobbies, clothing trends, and other details, with a brief description or blurb about each topic. Give your Experts their own copies of Children's Ministry Magazine to keep them in the know. Better yet, encourage your Experts to survey kids about their interests. Although members of your ministry team have different levels of experience and talents, your training can level the field and help all of them, regardless of their years of service, feel confident and equipped to accomplish the mission the Lord has laid out for them and the children in your church. Your sensitivity to your volunteers' needs and understanding of how to effectively address their concerns and interests will lay the foundation for a strong and effective team that sticks together for the long haul.

Encouraging Long-Term Service
While many people are willing to volunteer for a year or so, long-term workers are harder to find. What can you do to turn your Rookies and Veterans into Experts? Make a strong start with the following steps.

Pray, pray, pray. When facing the challenge of recruiting volunteers and assigning teachers to classrooms, ask God to lead you to the specific people he wants ministering to children.

Make it personal. Approach each individual personally, focusing on gifts rather than availability. When you know the specific positions you need filled and the best types of people to fill them, seek out individuals who are good matches—not just warm bodies.

Connect consistently. You've only begun your job when your classes are staffed with equipped teachers. Your volunteers need to see your face and hear your voice weekly. Lend support verbally and physically. Offer to serve as an assistant from time to time. Volunteer to take over a class to give a teacher a non-vacation related break. Call, visit, and send notes.

Listen as you lead. Ask for input from your teachers about ideas, implementing as many as you can to give them ownership in children's ministry.

Offer timely training. Meet in large and small groups throughout the year. Hold weekly or monthly prayer times whenever possible.

Develop relationships outside of your roles. Take time to invest in the lives of your volunteers, not just in their ministries.

Practice what you preach. Demonstrate the level of commitment you expect from your workers. Treat your volunteers as if they were your class.

Be flexible. Keep in mind that children's ministry isn't the only area where your workers are involved. They need personal ministry, time with family, and occasional breaks from the grind. Keep the doors of communication open so you're approachable when your workers need to ask for getaways. Better yet, build into each person's job description a clause that provides for refueling and time off at the end of a yearly rotation. When people know they have a break coming, they're likely to be more consistent.

© 2001 Children's Ministry Magazine. Used by permission. To learn more about Children's Ministry Magazine and how to subscribe go to Children's Ministry Magazine. Use your browser's back button to return to

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Important VBS Ordering Information

We can't emphasize enough how important it is to order your VBS materials now! The VBS season is in full swing, and at this point we can't guarantee we have everything you need in stock. We're constantly getting orders in, so we'll get everything you need ASAP. But we can't tell when the most popular items will stock out for good! View a list of items going fast, backordered, or stocked out.
When churches order VBS materials after the “For Best Service” date (which was April 30), it’s like your teenage son brought six of his hungry friends unannounced to dinner. Sometimes we have to scramble. We’ll do our best, but because we haven’t anticipated your order, we don’t always have inventory of each one of the more than a thousand VBS items we offer. The simple reason is that since VBS programs run for one summer only, the publishers can’t afford to be left with extra inventory at the end of the summer (and neither can we!). Therefore, many items stock out before the summer is over. View current stock-outs and backorders.
So...put "Order VBS" on your to-do list for today, and visit Shop VBS to place your order. Ordering is really easy and we have lots of information on our website! Or if you'd prefer to talk to someone, call us at 800-854-1531. Be sure to use the money-saving coupons below!
Have a great VBS,
Your friends at Christian Ed Warehouse
(Click image for a larger view.)
P.S. The same goes for Sunday school curriculum! We recommend ordering your summer curriculum by May 1, so if you haven't ordered yet, please do so now!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Hints and Tips for Teaching Grades 5-6

More Teaching tips can be found on our website.

Positive Feedback for Preteens
All students respond well to positive feedback. The key is to teach your point in a positive way, even when you feel like saying something negative. Following are a few tips:
  • Positive feedback must be a result of student behavior. This tells students that you are aware of their performance individually and in a group. Students will begin to see that you give feedback to the best performance of every individual.
  • Positive feedback should be given matter-of-factly. Flowery, emotional praise can embarrass preteens. Positive feedback should not imply that you are treating students any differently from the way you would treat an adult.
  • Use descriptive statements that briefly tell students what was worthy of comment.
  • Positive feedback to individual students should be relatively private. Preteens can be embarrassed by comments that single them out as the "teacher's pet."
  • Give feedback to student groups whenever possible. Frequent group praise helps establish a sense of cooperation and community among your student group.
  • Eliminate pauses after giving positive feedback. For preteens this can be very uncomfortable. Instead say, (Julie), good job on reading that Scripture, now let's turn to…
  • Be persistent. Some students feel uncomfortable with praise because they have had so little. But every student needs to learn that he or she has enough self-worth to accept recognition from someone else.
  • Give negative feedback in private. Conclude in prayer.
A Record of FaithEven though God's work is incredible, we often forget about experiences not long after they happen. Keep spiral notebooks on hand and let your preteens write their names on the outside. Encourage them each week to keep journals of their faith journey. They might write prayers or record answered prayers, describe how they saw God at work in the previous week, jot down thanksgivings, or write what this week's Bible memory verse means in their life. Keep the journals in a special place and allow the children to write in them once they have finished any class projects.

Bible Verse Word Search
For your students who enjoy word-search puzzles, prepare this simple Bible memory verse review activity. Write the week's Bible memory verse on the bottom third of a sheet of paper. Underline ten or more key words in the verse. Above the verse, create a word-search puzzle that includes the underlined words. Make a copy of the page for each preteen. Hand out a piece of candy or a sticker to each student who completes the word search and brings it back to you the following week. Follow up by having the children take turns creating a similar word-search puzzle for each memory verse of this quarter. Have them create a corresponding answer key too. Each week, have the child say his verse for the class. Then duplicate that puzzle for the entire class.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hints and Tips for Teaching Grades 3-4

These hints and tips were written to help you with your 3rd and 4th graders, but can also apply to other age levels. More hints and tips can be found on our website.

Seven Learning StylesWe learn things in seven different ways. Are you providing activities for children that use all seven learning styles? For children who are WORD-oriented, provide reading, writing, and story activities. For children who are LOGIC-oriented, provide brainteasers, puzzles, and strategy games. For children who are ART-oriented, provide crafts, maps, and visuals. For children who are MUSIC-oriented, sing songs and play instruments and rhythm games. For children who are PHYSICAL-oriented, provide plenty of play time, sports activities, and active games. For children who are SOCIAL-oriented, provide sharing time, relationship activities, and parties. And for children who are INDIVIDUAL-oriented, provide personal activities like diaries and independent study projects. By using all seven learning styles, you will be helping every one of your students to succeed.

Sing a Song of SymbolsHelp your children make a rebus of their favorite song. (A rebus is a form of writing that substitutes pictures and symbols for key words.) Look for key words in the song that can be illustrated. Print the rest of the words on a poster board, leaving space for the key word pictures and symbols. Add illustrations drawn by the children and sing the illustrated song vigorously.

Get the most out of your Bible storiesBefore you read or tell the Bible story, brainstorm ideas regarding the topic of the story with your children. Ask them to write down their feelings regarding the topic or to remember a time in their life when they were faced with similar circumstances. Then read the Bible story to them. After you have read the story, ask your students open-ended questions to prompt discussion about the story itself. Conclude the story time by bringing the children back into the present by asking them to relate modern-day examples of the Bible story's lesson.

Make the most of memorizationWhat is the goal of Scripture memorization? Are you looking for perfect recitation or are you looking of a connection between the verse and the child's behavior? After a child recites a verse to you, ask her to tell you what it means in her own words, or ask for an example of this verse in daily life.

Seldom is heard an encouraging wordElementary school age is an age of teasing, criticism, and nicknames. Your students need positive feedback to balance the barrage of negativism they receive. Make an effort to compliment each of them about something in each class session. Provide plenty of opportunities for them to enhance their self-concepts.

Bible navigation
To help the children find the books of the Bible, let them try doing a little exploration. Ask, Which book do you think you will find if you open your Bible in half? (Psalms) Try it. What if you open the back half of your Bible in half? (Matthew) What if you open the front half of your Bible in half? (I Samuel) Continue opening your Bible in eighths, then sixteenths, as the children guess which book of the Bible they will find at that point.

Bounce this idea aroundThink of your words as tennis balls. Every idea or lesson point is one ball. When you teach using the lecture method, you are tossing several balls to the children and expecting them to catch and hold on to all of them. (How many balls do you think the children can handle before they start dropping some of them?) When you teach using a question/answer method, you toss out a ball (your question) and ask a child to hold it and then toss back a ball of his own (a stab at an answer). Is your teaching a singles match between you and one other child or do you see that everyone gets a chance to handle the ball? When you use group discussion, you toss out a ball and ask a child to toss it to another child, then to another and to another. How many balls can your children juggle at one time? By thinking of your words as tennis balls, you can visualize what you are expecting the children to do with the concepts you toss their way.

A mile of nickelsOne way to increase interest in your missions offering would be to have all offerings given in nickels. Tape the nickels side by side on a heavy gift wrap ribbon approximately _ to _ inches wide. As you complete one roll of ribbon, safety pin another roll to it. For every foot of nickels you collect, you will have 70 cents; for every yard, you will have $2.10. If your ribbon stretches to the mile mark, you will have collected $3,696.00 and your ribbon will weigh approximately 925 pounds!

More hints and tips can be found on our website.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Hints and Tips for Teaching Grades 1-2

First and second graders are really developing their personalities and becoming more intellectual. Here are some tips for teaching your primaries. More hints and tips can be found on our website.
A Blooming Story
Here's a unique way for a story to unfold. Cut identical size circles, one for each element of your story plus one more. Use one circle as the center of your story plus one more. Use one circle as the center of a flower, glue an appropriate picture or print the title of the story on it. Use the other circles as flower petals. Attach them with staples. Print or put a picture of each story element on the petals so they are in order clockwise. Then beginning with the last element of the story and working toward the first element of the story, fold all the petals behind the center of the flower. Now you are ready to tell the story. Introduce the story with the center of the flower, and fold each petal forward as each story element is told. When the story is finished, the flower will be in full bloom.
Color Day
Help your students remember lessons better. Design the lesson around a color featured in the lesson. (For example, blue can be used for a lesson about the children of Israel crossing the sea or Jesus walking on the water.) On Blue Day (or whatever color you choose) everyone must wear something blue. (Have some blue ribbons or bandanas available for children who don't wear blue.) Snacks must be blue. Everything you do must have something to do with blue. What do you do as a follow-up to a color day? Why, have black and white day, of course!

Party TableclothHelp your students design their own party tablecloth. Use a flat, white, twin-size bed sheet. Place newspapers under it to prevent the colors from bleeding onto the floor. Use fabric dye markers for drawing or writing. Use acrylic paint in a shallow pan for hand prints. Personalize the tablecloth with everyone's signature. You can use the tablecloth again and again throughout the year for special events or to add interest to your room. If you wish, choose a central theme or make the tablecloth for a special occasion.
Look! Up in the sky! It's a lesson visual!
When setting up visual displays, don't limit yourself to bulletin boards. Other possible display areas include the classroom door, the sides of a desk, the sides of a file cabinet, or the back of a piano. You can use large cardboard boxes for movable stand-up room displays. If you feel adventurous, use the ceiling and have everyone lay on the floor for the lesson!

Primary humorOrdinary things out of place are funny to primaries. Mix things up. Do things backwards. For primaries, silly is fun. When you plant a seed, don't use a flower pot (that's too ordinary); plant your seeds in an old tennis shoe. That's something your students will talk about.

This week, shape the future

Most people only talk about making the world a better place, but you are doing something about it! In a series of experiments on the moral development of children, a significant discovery was made: children who are enrolled in Sunday school showed significantly better conduct in the areas of honesty, cooperation, persistence, and inhibition of undesirable behavior! How important is this week's lesson? You are making this world a better place. You are shaping the future!

Keep it concrete
Primaries are making tremendous intellectual progress. By this age they can manipulate data mentally, come to some logical conclusions, and define, compare, and contrast things. But they still do not understand symbolism. After touring the defense plant where her daddy worked, one first grader resisted when told it was time to go home. She cried, "But I haven't seen where Daddy makes the money yet!" When teaching primaries, say what you mean and mean what you say. Always teach them in literal concrete terms.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Hints and Tips for Teaching Ages 4-5

Preschoolers are fun and full of energy! And they have a short attention span! Here are some hints, tips, and ideas for teaching your 4- and 5-year-olds. More tips can be found on our website.

Threading Activities Made Easy
Before using yarn for threading activities, dip the ends of the yarn in glue, twist them, and let them dry overnight. Or tape the ends with a small amount of clear tape. This will give the yarn a firm point to work with. For smaller threading projects, use chenille wire.

Preschool Vocation Guidance
Preschoolers are always wondering what kind of person they will grow up to be. They test possible vocations, consider future goals, and learn what it is like to be grown up by pretending to play the role. All of this is important to their future development. Help your preschoolers begin to discover what kind of person God has planned them to be by providing props, dress-up clothes, and opportunities for them to imitate and role play a variety of vocations.
Special Delivery. Send letters to your children. Be sure to include a stick of sugarless gum or a plastic bag of raisins. The parents will appreciate the letter and the child will remember the gift. Sending letters to absentees is always a good idea, but don't forget to send letters to your faithful members, too.

Taming Tempera Paint
When mixing powdered tempera paints, add a small amount of powdered detergent. This will give the paint body and will also make it wash out of smocks and clothes more easily. Adding a pinch of salt will keep the paint from souring.
Well done, good and faithful preschooler. Self-respect is an essential building block for healthy personalities. You can help your preschoolers lay a solid foundation of self-respect. Teach them the satisfaction of achievement by praising them for good work. Teach them that their accomplishments are significant. Give them small tasks they can do for the good of the group.
Language Explosion. At ages four and five, a preschooler's vocabulary increases tenfold, from 150 words to 1500 words! You can help them manage this explosion of words by doing two things. First, teach preschoolers how to use their new words correctly by speaking to them in complete, literal sentences. Second, let them practice using their new words by asking them to retell a story.

Jesus (Stop talking, Brian!) loves youAs a teacher, you talk about love, you read Bible passages about love, and you sing songs with your children about love. But do you give your children opportunities to practice loving one another? A Bible class that talks and sings about love but doesn't let the children talk to each other long enough to become friends is a contradiction in terms.
Let your fingers do the story telling, Try using finger puppets if you are telling a story with many characters. Finger puppets can be made from strips of construction paper that are decorated with crayons and then taped around your fingers. Finger puppets can also be quite elaborate creations made from felt and yarn. Fingers of gloves can be decorated so each finger becomes a different story character. Keep fingers bent when those characters are offstage, and raise your fingers as the story characters appear.

What's in a name?If it's a child's name, plenty! The sum of a child's existence is packaged in that name. And most children hear their name only when they're in trouble. They hear, Stephanie! How many times do I have to tell you to stop hitting Chris? Children need to hear their names spoken in positive sentences. When each child arrives for class, greet him or her by name. Say Jason! I'm glad you come today! When a child does something well, use his or her name with a compliment. Say, Philip, you did an excellent job cleaning your work place! When a child does something commendable, include his or her name in the recognition. Say, Andrea, letting Matthew borrow your crayon was a kind thing to do! Saying the child's name at the beginning of the sentence helps capture their attention so they are more likely to hear the rest of what you have to say.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hints and Tips for Teaching Ages 2-3

Teaching 2- and 3-year-olds can be challenging. They're so cute...but it's hard work! We've put some teaching tips together for you to help you understand these little guys better and make teaching them easier. Plus there are some craft/game ideas you can try. There are even more ideas on our website.

Why? Why? Why?
To stop an unending series of "whys", give the child a clear explanation, then ask her to repeat it back to you. Explain to her that you want to make sure she understands it. This works best with three-year-olds.

Egg Heads
Use plastic Easter eggs to make play people for your children. Pull the eggs apart and glue pebbles into the bottom half of the egg. (If you want your play people to make a rattle noise, use pebbles without any glue.) Glue the two halves of the egg together and decorate the egg with drawn-on eyes, nose, mouth, and hair using a non-toxic, permanent pen.

Edible Play Dough
Combine 1 cup peanut butter, 1 cup honey, and 1 1/2 cups dry powdered milk in a large bowl. Mix together well. Place the dough in a covered container and store it in the refrigerator. Cover a table with a clean plastic tablecloth and make sure the children wash their hands before playing with the dough. This mixture can also be used for no-bake cookies. Let the children decorate, then eat their own cookies.

Transform your crafts into learning activities
Crafts are for adults. Learning activities are for children. By turning your crafts into learning experiences, you give the children worthwhile lessons that will be with them long after the craft is gone. Here's how: Focus on what the children can learn rather than on what they can make. Do this (1) by allowing the children to make their own creations even if they vary from the suggested pattern; (2) by describing to the children the sensations they are feeling as they experience their creations; and (3) by pointing out acts of kindness and relating them to what the Bible says about being kind (for example, you might say, "Taking turns is one good way to be kind.").

"Me. Mine."
Twos and threes do not understand sharing. This is evident in the frequent use of the words "me" and "mine." This is not all bad. It is a necessary stage before sharing can take place. Before a child can learn to share something, he must learn to possess it. Sharing is voluntarily giving up what we possess.

"My best friend is a stuffed animal!"
Twos and threes are likely to see their toys as persons and their peers as things. They see other children as nothing more than another toy to play with. It is important that we teach each child that he or she is special. And it's just as important that we teach them other children are special, too.

Make your own picture books
Here are two easy-to-make picture books:
(1) Use a photo album with magnetic pages and insert pictures to show the children.
(2) Use reclosable plastic bags to make a flip picture-book. Sew four or five bags together at the bottom, using a zigzag machine stitch. Cut colored poster board to fit the bags to give the plastic bag book stability. Insert appropriate pictures. Another way to bind the books is to punch holes along the reclosable edge of the bag. Then use yarn or shoestrings to fasten the bags together like a book. Besides pictures, you can also display various objects, like colored leaves or feathers, in the bags.

Now that's a story
Find ways for young listeners to participate in the storytelling. Create a phrase that can be repeated many times when you give a hand signal. For example, you might say, "Jesus said" (extend your arm, then move it toward you), "follow me." The children will say "Follow me" each time you do that motion. This works best when a co-worker can prompt the children.

Pro-Noun, Anti-Pronoun
When you speak to toddlers, be specific. Emphasize nouns, not pronouns. Instead of saying, Scotty, put them over there, say, Scotty, put the books on the bookshelf.

Tour guide for life
Toddlers are their own best teachers. Don't think of yourself as a teacher; think of yourself as life's tour guide. Your task is to plan the itinerary, show toddlers to the place of learning, and then let them explore and discover. Talk to them like a tour guide. For example, while they are finger painting, talk about the colors and texture of the paint. Describe what you and the children are experiencing. By linking language with sight, sound, and activities you will teach the children important pre-reading skills.

Diaper discourse
Some twos are still in diapers. Don't waste diaper changing time ---­ it's an excellent opportunity for one-on-one teaching. Play these simple learning games while changing a child's diaper: Using the child's name, say, God made Aaron's legs! (Touch his legs.) Say, God made Aaron's arms! (Touch his arms.) Say, God loves Aaron! (Hug him.) Sing nursery rhymes or short songs together or recite simple, rhythmic poems. Choose three or four vocabulary words a week and put numerous pictures of these on the wall next to your changing area. Occupying the child with interesting things to look at and do will make the process go more smoothly. Lots of times toddlers fight and squirm out of boredom. Don't' neglect the opportunity for a special hug at this time.