Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Storytelling Tips

By Brenda Mills

Everyone loves a story. Children move to the edge of their chairs when they hear, “Let’s have a story.” Use this method of teaching to reach young hearts with Christ’s love. It’s your responsibility to become the best storyteller you can.

Note that we said storyteller. Reading stories to children is an art in itself to be discussed later. First we’ll concentrate on the techniques of telling the story.

Prepare your introduction carefully. Begin your story smoothly. If you fumble through your first few statements, you’ll become frustrated and may lose your train of thought. If you stammer to a stop and have to start over you’ll want to leave the room and never return! Never memorize a story word for word. But if it makes you feel more comfortable, memorize the first few lines for a snappy opening.

An introduction with interest-catching appeal will capture your listeners from the first word. “Mac had been Peter’s dog for as long as Peter could remember, and they were real pals.” Doesn’t that sound like a lot more fun than ‘Peter had a dog named Mac?” Use your imagination and knowledge of the group to make your introduction sparkle.

Progress naturally from the introduction, building to the climax or most exciting or interesting portion of the story. Then finish the story with a brief conclusion. Don’t attempt to delay the conclusion, for once the climax of the story has been reached, listeners’ interest drops. A story is a unique teaching tool. Most contain a moral or teach a lesson. Let the story do it! Don’t attempt to tack on your own “sermonette” on the end of the story. Weave the moral into the plot in such a way that your hearers can’t miss it as you tell your story. When you’ve finished telling the story, stop!

Being yourself is important. Thorough preparation and practice will lead to naturalness in storytelling. You’ll probably feel most comfortable if you sit in a circle or semi-circle with your listeners. It suggests intimacy with the group and conversation at their level. If you must stand, due to a large group, stand naturally and relaxed. Never hide behind a podium.

Use gestures such as the shrug of the shoulders, a raised hand, a finger over the lips to indicate quietness. But don’t force or overuse them. And by all means, use facial expression. Raise your eyebrow, smile, frown, show enthusiasm. Try to portray the feelings of the story characters.

Some storytellers show pictures while telling their stories. This is fine, but don’t show 27 pictures during a four-minute story! Have several attractive illustrations to use at the appropriate times. Display them so all can see, then put them aside.
Place your hands quietly in your lap when you aren’t holding a picture or gesturing. Avoid the “gymnastics” of too many hand motions. They only draw attention to yourself. Beware of distracting habits, such as playing with a string of beads or a button on a jacket. Remember, you are the means to help your listeners SEE the story in their minds. The less they see of you, the better! Thorough practice, perhaps in front of a mirror, will help you know where and when to use gestures effectively. If well used, they can add life to the story. If overused, they can distract and spoil the story.

Your voice tells the story. Use your natural voice. By all means avoid a whiny, monotonous, or honeyed tone. Practice to develop variety in inflection. Let your voice reflect wonder, strength, sadness, etc. Imitate noises and sounds indicated in the story, such as “Buzzzz — was the sound Kate kept hearing outside her bedroom window.” Practice these sounds beforehand so they resemble the natural sounds. Pause to impress or to increase suspense. Work on projecting your voice. Record your own voice — it may surprise you!

Use dialog or direct discourse frequently to bring your characters to life. Make them speak to your hearers , rather than always telling your hearers what the characters say. “Hi, Mom!” is much more realistic than, “Jerry greeted his mother when she entered the room.” Change the voice to indicate the different characters. Use action verbs and colorful adjectives to tell your story. Never use words your listeners may not know.

If you suddenly discover that you’ve left out an important point, don’t try to correct it by saying … “Oh, I forgot to say…” Continue on, and if it is an integral part, weave it in. But don’t interrupt your story to apologize for your goof!

When you’re telling a Bible story, hold your Bible so all can see it. This especially impresses little children with the fact that your story is from God’s Word.

“Let’s have a story.” Do your students’ eyes brighten at the sound of those words? Use these helps to make story-time an exciting high point in your class.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Free Christmas Coloring Pages

Here are some coloring pages we’ve created for the Christmas season. There are two separate coloring pages in this file. Each coloring page has a memory verse. There is a coloring page in the file for the New International Version and a separate page for the King James Version. If you use a different Bible version than the ones given, feel free to cut off or white out the verse and replace it with the version you prefer. 

You can make as many copies of these coloring pages as you need for your children's program (or your friends and family). Click on either image to download the Christmas coloring pages. Visit our Sunday school downloads store for more coloring pages, crafts, and puzzle downloads—many as low as $1.99 each! 

If you're looking for even more Christmas program and outreach ideas, take a look at the Church Family Christmas Celebration outreach program with a candlelight service,  crafts, puppet skits, a Christmas pageant, fellowship ideas, and lots of reproducibles on CD-ROM.

Visit our Classroom Decorations store for some fun Christmas and new year's decorations to liven up your classrooms. Here are just a few samples of the large variety of bulletin board sets and trims available. Many are on sale for 30%-50% off.

May God bless you as you teach children (and their families) about the Christmas season and God's Son, Jesus, the best gift of all!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Decorating for Christmas

In some churches, decorating the church building with pine boughs and wreaths is an annual tradition called the “hanging of the greens.” Decorating your classroom for the season doesn’t have to be an expensive or elaborate proposition. Here are a few money-saving ways to involve parents, friends, and your little ones in sprucing up your classroom for Christmas:
  •   Spice up a small tree with the wonderful smell of cinnamon sticks. For each ornament, tie three or four cinnamon sticks together with ribbon. Glue a cluster of three cranberries to the sticks for a festive touch.
  •   Cut doves, angels, stars, manger scenes, and other items from old Christmas cards. Punch a hole in the top of each card, add a ribbon hanger, and hang from the tree.
  •  Tie colorful ribbons onto your Christmas tree. See how many bows, large and small, you can create.
 •   Let each child glue three craft sticks together to form a snowflake shape. Spread glue on the sticks and sprinkle with glitter. Add a sticker in the middle of the snowflake (one sticker on each side). Use these Jesus Dazzle Stickers or others you have on  hand. Tie a yarn hanger to each ornament.
 •   Decorate plain glass ball ornaments with glitter glue. Let each child use a paintbrush to create a personalized and unique family treasure. Make sure each person initials and dates the ornaments he or she creates.
  •  String beads and jingle bells onto chenille wire or ribbon. Twist lengths of wire together to form long garlands or twist the ends of one wire together to form a “bracelet” to hang with ribbon from the ceiling.
  •  Cut colorful paper into 8-inch strips and link the strips to form a paper chain. Make several, and hang the paper chains in your windows and doorway.
  •  Have older children make paper chains to take home. Let them print a Scripture verse on each chain link before gluing them together. Encourage them to read one verse to their families each day between now and Christmas. Choose verses that tell the Christmas story from Luke or Matthew.
  •  Fold white paper into a small triangle. Then cut a variety of shapes from the triangle. Unfold it to form a snowflake. Sprinkle it with silver or gold glitter glue, if you wish. Tie a string or piece of thread to the snowflake so it can hang from your ceiling or in a window.
  •  Collect pinecones (and fir cones). Spread glue on the cone and let the children add glitter. Wrap a wire around each cone, nearest its large end. Bring the wire up at the back of the cone and twist it into a loop for hanging. Tie a colorful ribbon into a bow around the wire at the base of the cone.
  •  Place a plastic or wooden creche (nativity scene) under the tree to help the children focus on the real meaning of Christmas—Jesus! Make sure your nativity figures are not breakable. As the children play with the figures, talk about the Christmas story and how Jesus was born and died for our sins (the wrong things we say and do). Explain that Jesus came alive again and now lives in heaven with God. Let the children retell the Christmas story as they play.

Monday, December 6, 2010

7 Steps to a Successful VBS

1. Pray
This is a big job, so meet with your Christian Education Director, Children’s Pastor, or Sunday School Superintendent. Begin with prayer, asking the Lord to direct you and give you wisdom as you plan for your vacation Bible school. You may want to organize a prayer team who will continue to pray for your program before, during, and after your VBS dates.

2. Plan
Once you have a budget, order several VBS starter kits to determine which one(s) will work best with your church and community. Return the kits you won’t need or keep an extra kit to use as an outreach program over spring break—or any time you need a special program. Your kids will enjoy the fun VBS crafts and gifts anytime. Visit Shop VBS to see a VBS Comparison Chart and print out a VBS Planning Guide and Timeline for organizing your VBS preparation.

3. Recruit
Ask the Lord to direct you to the people whom He wants to teach your precious children. Ask Him to prepare the hearts of these people to be receptive to becoming VBS leaders or helpers. Then make a list of qualified people who might be interested, and make an appointment to visit them in their homes. Explain the VBS program and the responsibilities of a VBS leader or helper. Ask him or her to pray about the decision, and if desired, leave a specific job description with him or her. To ensure your children the very best experiences in your VBS program, look for leaders and teachers with the following qualifications:
ü     Are dedicated Christians who seek to live for Christ daily, who study God’s Word, and who know the plan of salvation
ü     Are tuned in to kids, and able to build upon their natural interests
ü     Enjoy sharing in the children’s joy of discovery
ü     Are warm, outgoing, and have a genuine love and sensitivity for children
ü     Appreciate and seek to follow God’s command to teach children
ü     Have a basic understanding of children in terms of their physical, mental, and emotional development, and their spiritual needs
ü     Are reliable and disciplined to prepare for each meeting
ü     Are suitable role models for children

4. Prepare
Before you begin signing up children for VBS, print registration cards onto heavy stock. You can download free VBS Registration Cards. Design your own for VBS or use these. Give the cards to parents when they register their children. Have parents fill out a registration card for each child attending your program. The card should contain emergency information and a place to list allergies and other medical conditions of your students. For any child with allergies, create a special, brightly colored name badge with the allergies listed so all leaders and helpers are aware of the allergies and don’t inadvertently give the child something that might cause an allergic reaction.

5. Be Creative!
Creativity may not be your strong suit, but no doubt your church is full of creative talent just waiting to be put to good use. Someone who can paint backdrops, another person who can concoct inexpensive yet healthy snack options, a seamstress who can design skit costumes or theme decorations, a crafty mom who can modify the suggested VBS crafts into easy-to-prepare keepsakes made from household supplies—all of these people can play a role in kicking your VBS program up a notch. The key is to tap into their talents without giving them overwhelming responsibilities.

6. Pray (Continually!)
Each day during your VBS program, have volunteers arrive 15-20 minutes early for announcements and a time of prayer. You may want to provide coffee and juice each morning, with donuts or bagels and fruit the first day. Or provide dinner in the evening and invite your VBS families to come (have your volunteers arrive 15-20 minutes before dinner). Use your VBS theme for a brief devotion, then make announcements, share prayer requests and praises, and conclude with a time of prayer (for each other, for the children, and for God’s wisdom and discernment). Each day, let volunteers share stories of how God is working during VBS. Then take time to thank Him for the ways He is using each person to spread His Word and change lives.

7. Consider Including Preschoolers in Your VBS
VBS is a great way to introduce young families to your church. Consider including 2- to 5-year-olds in your VBS program. You may want to run a separate preschool program for your little ones. The hours can be the same as for your elementary program, but younger children can have their own learning centers, games, and age-appropriate crafts. The preschoolers can join the other children for your VBS opening and then go their own preschool rooms for the rest of the morning. If your VBS begins with everyone together for an opening song time, be prepared to have one or two helpers take younger children to your preschool classroom for free play if the large group setting becomes overwhelming. Read other blog articles for more ideas on including preschoolers in your VBS (See the article, "How to Have a Preschool-Friendly VBS"). Visit Shop VBS to take a look at Jesus in Nazareth for Preschoolers and the Preschool Summer All-in-One Kit, VBS curriculum written especially for your two- to five-year-olds.

And Finally…Evaluate!
Before your VBS ends, have thank-you notes and evaluation forms ready for your helpers. Gather feedback about what worked and what didn’t so you can make changes for next year. Make notes so if you are not involved, you can pass them on to your successor. Thank God for the ways He worked to change lives during VBS. Be sure to let your volunteers know how much they were appreciated. While they’re still excited about the great things that happened during VBS, ask if they would be willing to consider being a part of the team next year. (Just to get an idea, not for a firm commitment.) Then follow up around March or April (or just as soon as you set the next date) to have them start praying about volunteering for your next VBS program.

Visit Shop VBS for a PDF of this article to share with your coworkers (7 Steps to a Successful VBS).

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Celebrate Jesus! Preschool Christmas Lessons

Use this new Celebrate Jesus! Preschool Download from Christian Ed. Publishers to teach your preschoolers about Jesus' birth. Written especially for 2- to 5-year-olds, this five-week series of preschool lessons includes Bible stories, snacks, crafts, and games with reproducible student sheets and colorful visuals—all as a download. Begin with the story of Adam and Eve, the sin problem, and God's plan to send His Son, Jesus. Then your little ones can travel to Bethlehem as they enjoy the stories of Jesus' birth, the wise men's visit, and the family's escape to Egypt written at their own level. Crafts and games in the Preschool Leader’s Guide are preschool-friendly and give lots of opportunities for your students to explore the Bible stories using all of their senses.

This preschool Advent and Christmas series is completely flexible and makes a wonderful supplement to any elementary program. Celebrate Jesus! Preschool Lessons are a great way to include your younger children with Christmas lessons, Bible stories, and activities written just for them.

The Celebrate Jesus! Leader’s Guide includes five complete lessons, a course overview, reproducible activity sheets and crafts with KJV and NIV memory verses, “How to Lead a Child to Christ,” colorful visuals, creative teaching ideas, Bible background information, and lots more.

Preview samples and take a look at the contents and lesson overview of this Christmas series written especially for preschoolers. Celebrate Jesus! includes a reproducible Preschool Leader’s Guide plus student sheets and visuals for five lessons...all for only $19.95! This is a download version so you can order it today and use it tomorrow. Once you place your order, you will receive an email with download instructions. 

Bring the sights and sounds of that first Christmas to your preschoolers this Christmas season. Help your little ones understand that God loves and cares for them so much He sent His only Son, Jesus, to be born as a baby in Bethlehem. 

May God bless you as you begin your Christmas celebration and teach children the real meaning of Jesus' birth!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Discipline Basics

Discipline tells a child that you care enough about a child and want him to behave in a manner that you know to be right. Be sure your youngsters know what kind of behavior is acceptable, and set limits and boundaries for them while they are with you. It’s unfair to punish them for breaking rules they didn’t know existed.

Here are five guidelines for maintaining good discipline:

1. Establish the necessary standards and limits at your very first meeting, and make sure everyone knows what they are. Keep the list short!

2. Consistently enforce the standards. If they’re not worth enforcing always, for everyone, they’re probably not worth having.

3. Be reasonable in your expectations. “No talking” is not reasonable. “No talking during prayer time or when someone else is speaking” is a reasonable rule and should be enforced. Simply stop talking until the offender realizes he’s the cause of the problem. Your silence should be sufficient. The second time it might be necessary to say, “Ricky, you’re interrupting our story. Please stop talking so I can continue.” If it happens a third time you might say, “Ricky, the next time I have to stop this story because you’re talking, you’ll have to leave the group.” Then be sure he’s removed (quietly) if it does happen again.

4. State your expectations before transitioning to a new activity. Let children who attend regularly repeat the expectations for visitors to hear and as a reminder to everyone else. Be sure to restate the expectations each week and before each activity. Don’t expect children to automatically remember to raise their hands before talking if you haven’t reminded them.

5. Be logical about punishment that must be administered. Don’t make a federal case out of a minor infraction, or you’ll have to send a major offender to jail! If a child smears glue in another child’s hair during craft time, separate the offender from the glue for the evening, or have him work alone at a table. Children do bizarre things at times on impulse — usually to get attention!

Once you’ve established your standards and enforced them firmly and fairly for awhile, the best rule to follow is to assume that each child can be trusted to handle his own behavior until he proves otherwise. Let the youngsters know that this is what you expect now. Then, when a child misbehaves, you can let him know that you’re disappointed that he isn’t ready to be in charge of himself in the group, and that you’ll have to help decide where he should sit, and whether or not he can work with others. Make it clear it’s the behavior you’re disappointed with — not the child. When the child and you determine that he’s ready to try to be in charge of his own behavior again, emphasize how much you want him to be successful this time.

Children who have serious problems at home will test you to see if you really care about them. Some will try your patience to the limit before they’re convinced you really like them. You can usually spot such children during your first meetings. They’ll be doing everything possible to get you to notice them.

Love and discipline are inseparable. Love wants what’s best for the loved one. The product of no discipline during a child’s early years is irresponsibility, which leads to lack of self-respect, and can mean unhappy, unproductive adult life.

Find some strength or asset in each child that you can commend him for. If you’re sincere they’ll know it — and your efforts will be rewarded. Make a point of emphasizing the positive qualities of every child, no matter how hard you have to look to find them sometimes! Reward the positive behavior and try to overlook the negative as much as possible.

One primary goal of your time with the children is to provide opportunities for leadership training, but you can’t develop leaders out of children who don’t believe they have worth, or who have a poor self-image.

While these basics will not solve every discipline problem you may encounter in your class, they will go a long way to making sure your classroom is a happy, fun environment where the children can effectively learn about their heavenly Father.

Monday, November 15, 2010

More Tips for Teaching Twos and Threes

Here are some hints and tips we've put together for teachers of two- and three-year-olds. However, some of these tips will work well with your preschoolers of all ages. Visit our website, ChristianEdWarehouse.com for more hints and tips.
One Eye + One Ear = Two Learning Opportunities
Everyone knows that twos and threes learn through sensory experiences. But do you know which senses provide the best learning experience? Studies have shown that children learn 1% by taste, 1.5% by touch, 3.5% by smell, 11% by sound, and 83% by sight! The more senses a child uses, the more learning that takes place. Your little ones will remember best when all their senses—sight, touch, hearing, smelling, and even taste—are involved in learning. In your Bible lessons, you will want to include activities that use a variety of senses. Check out
Honeybees for Jesus Bible curriculum for lots of sensory experiences and activities for teaching the Bible to two- and three-year-olds. For classroom decorations and bulletin board sets, visit our Classroom Decoration Store.
Hard at Play
Are your toddlers playing or learning?
If they're playing, they're also learning! According to psychologist Gary R. Collins, playing performs four important activities:
(1) it provides a release of energy,
(2) it stimulates thinking,
(3) it develops motor skills, and
(4) it encourages the child to act out role models for future reference.

And you thought they were just having fun!
Clean Finger Paint
Mix 1 cup powdered soap or detergent with 1/3 cup of liquid starch (or 1/4 cup of water). Beat with an egg beater until fluffy. Use this mixture as paint on brightly colored (or black) construction paper. The contrast between the paint and the paper will provide a delightful experience for your children. As the children work, talk about how God gave us eyes to see many colors. Explain that God gave us hands for touching many textures. Thank God for giving us all five senses and for creating a beautiful world for us to enjoy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Hints and Tips for Teaching Twos and Threes

Teaching twos and threes can be a challenge. They can be cute as a button one minute and strong-willed and defiant the next. Some days can be simply exhausting trying to get them to focus their attention on God and His Word. But the next minute, your little ones can come up with the most insightful prayer or comment about God. What a huge blessing! Here are some hints and tips to help you face those challenges and to equip you to watch for the blessings. More hints and tips for teaching this age group are on our website, ChristianEdWarehouse.com.

Spiritual Building Blocks
Twos and threes are laying a foundation for future spiritual development. One basic foundation block for every child is learning the difference between right and wrong. Teach them that some things are always right and some things are always wrong. But remember when correcting a child, two-year-olds (and younger threes) respond better to distraction than to reasoning. Be sure to get the child's attention before speaking. Adults often waste breath, saying things when no one is listening. For instance, shouting across the room to a child simply results in confusion rather than communication.

Say the most important words first. Begin with the child's name, then state briefly what action you want the child to do. Finally, add a reason why: "[Timmy], you can feed the birds now. I think they are hungry." Phrase suggestions, directives, and corrections in positive terms: "[Janna], blocks are for building, not for throwing."

Use specific words. General terms leave a child confused. Rather than, "Put the toys away," say, "[Evan], your red truck needs to go here on the shelf." Make a clear distinction between when a child has a choice and when he does not. Ask a question wen you are willing to let the child have a choice: "[Molly], would you rather look at a book or do a puzzle?" Use questions that focus the child's attention on the situation but leave him free to determine the action: "[Elliott], it is time for our snack. What do you need to do with your ball?" 

When his obedience is necessary, make a direct statement (do not ask a question), assuming cooperation. A statement such as, "[Elliott], you need to put away your truck," lets Elliott know you mean business. Be alert and sensitive to each child. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Harvest Coloring Pages

Here are some coloring pages we’ve created for the harvest season. There are two separate coloring pages in this file. Each coloring page has a memory verse. There is a coloring page in the file for the New International Version and a separate page for the King James Version. If you use a different Bible version than the ones given, feel free to cut off or white out the verse and replace it with the version you prefer. 

You can make as many copies of these coloring pages as you need for your children's program.

If you're looking for even more harvest, thanksgiving, and outreach ideas, take a look at the Church Family Harvest Celebration outreach program with lots of reproducibles on CD-ROM.

Visit our Classroom Decorations store for some fun harvest and Christmas decorations to liven up your classrooms. Here are just a few samples of the large variety of bulletin board sets and trims available. Many are on sale for 30%-50% off.

Click on either image below to download the harvest coloring pages. Visit our Sunday school downloads store for more coloring pages, crafts, and puzzle downloads—many as low as $1.99 each! May God bless you as you prepare to teach children (and their families) about the harvest season and how much God loves them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hints and Tips for Teaching Children in Grades 3-4

We've put together some hints and tips for teachers of third and fourth graders. However, many of these ideas can be used with children of all ages. Visit our web site, ChristianEdWarehouse.com, for more hints and tips for teaching the Bible to children.

Memory Verse Chain
Challenge your students to memorize as many Bible verses as they can in one month. As each child says his verse to you, add a link to a paper chain with the student's name and the memory verse reference written on it. This is something everyone can contribute to, even if it is just one link. At the end of the month, present the chain to the church and request that it be displayed in a prominent place with a sign indicating that the chain represents the Bible verses memorized by your class in one month.

Making a Difference 
Children this age are beginning to realize that their activities and beliefs can make a difference in their lives and in their world. They are anxious to use their abilities in beneficial ways. They need projects that show them they can make significant contributions at home, school, church, and play. Involve them in church workdays and service projects. Let them collect canned food for distribution to local families or food pantries before Thanksgiving.

A Get-Well Tree
Make this clever tree to cheer up a sick classmate. On a poster board, have one of your students draw a large tree with no leaves and print:
     To _____ (the name of a sick member), and
     From _____ (the name of your class).
Cut large leaves out of various colored construction paper. Have each student write of draw a get-well message on a leaf and then glue it to the tree. Have one or two of the students go with you when you deliver the get-well tree to the class member who is ill.

The Key to Student Involvement 
The key to involving elementary-age students in any activity is to capture their interest. They have an adequate supply of energy to work diligently for increased periods of time on projects that interest them. Capture their interest and challenge them. They will respond.

Good Graffiti Corner
Post a large sheet of newsprint or butcher paper in a prominent place. Inform your students that his is a "good graffiti" wall, a place where they can jot down their thoughts and feelings, messages to friends, etc. A "good graffiti" wall is a great ice breaker. It gets student involved and encourages interaction and communication. Keep the good graffiti wall up for several weeks. Some students will come early or stay late just to put something on the wall.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Relating Successfully to Preteens

Knowing as much as possible about your preteen students can be a big help in improving your teaching effectiveness. First of all,  it's important that you know the physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual characteristics of the age group with which you work. Knowing these facts—why kids act the way they do—can affect how, why, and what you teach. Meet with your coworkers to study these age-level characteristics.

Then accept kids where they are. Accept them because of who they are, and respect them! There's no room for "favorites" if you want to reach all the kids in your group. Every preteen has something special about himself and something unique to offer. Find out what it is, and get busy helping that young person feel special and wanted.

Challenge your students to participate. Use them as helpers and leaders. All-Stars for Jesus Bible Clubs are expressional training programs designed to involve kids and let them learn by doing. So don't always do things for them. You as the teacher should always be available and ready to help, if needed, but you should sometimes be in the background. Instead of finding the answer for them, show them where they can find it for themselves.

When your students get restless, you as the leader always need to ask "why?" Usually it's because (1) the activity is too long for the attention span of the group or (2) the activity itself is boring. If this is the case, it's your responsibility as the teacher to correct the situation. Change the activity and always have a variety of activities up your sleeve in case one doesn't work out or is over faster than you anticipated. Again, be prepared. Your preteens will seldom grow bored or restless if there's a fast-moving, variety-filled program or lesson in which they are actively involved.

Give your preteens plenty of responsibility—not just by participating in programs, but in maintaining the appearance of the room, distributing and collecting materials, and in general, being a contributing member of the group. Provide your preteens with plenty of meaningful tasks, even if it would easier to do them yourself. Always thank your students and show your appreciation.

Youngsters, even preteens, are looking for role models. You have a unique opportunity and responsibility as a preteen Bible teacher to be the kind of positive, Christian example they need!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sunday School Teachers—Architects in Children's Lives

How Sunday school teachers interact with their students has been compared to the job of counselor, advisor, peer, and coach. But the best description of a Sunday school leader or teacher is as an architect.

An architect designs buildings, planning for physical stress, making them as functional as possible, and creating them to be pleasing to the eye. But once the design is finished, the architect's role stops. He has to let other people lay the brick and pound the nails. he has to let other people live and work in the buildings whether or not he likes how they live and what they do. An architect may work on a projects for months or even years, so his job requires patience and endurance. Yet the architect is simply a planner; others will actually create the buildings and use them. Yet often the architect is blamed if something goes wrong.

In may ways, a Sunday school teacher's job is similar to the role of an architect. It takes patience and endurance. A Sunday school teacher can only influence the students with whom he or she works. The students will be the ones who decide how they will respond to the "plan" the Sunday school teacher has presented to them.

As an "architect" in helping develop the lives of your students, your responsibilities as a leader in ministry can include the following:
  • Lead weekly Bible lessons.
  • Plan and help lead parties and special activities.
  • Work closely with the students and parents in creating lessons and events that interest them and help to meet their spiritual needs.
  • Get to know each child in your group by name.
  • Visit your students in their homes. Invite them to your house or to the church for a special activity, fellowship event, or party.
  • Develop a solid relationship with each child. Be sure all children are nurtured—not just a few.
  • Have periodic prayer and sharing sessions with the pastoral staff of your church. Communicate victories and needs to them for prayer and assistance.
  • Personally pray regularly for each student individually and for your ministry in general.
  • Faithfully attend the services of your church (and bring your Bible), not only because you need the spiritual nourishment but also because you are an example to the children who are watching you.
  • Live an exemplary, Christ-honoring life before your students.
  • Recognize that everything is the Lord's work—your career, your family, trips and getaways, and even baking cookies for your Sunday school class.
  • Honor the time of others. Be responsible and plan ahead before meetings. 
  • Have respect for those in authority over you.
"Developing caring Christian relationships" best sums up the role and results of effective children's ministry. The leader who establishes and nurtures Christian relationships with students and their parents while growing in his or her own relationship with Jesus Christ, will experience great joy and effectiveness as a servant leader.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bible Lesson: God Has Made Me Wonderful

Have the children stand and sing the following words to the tune of THE FARMER IN THE DELL:

God has made my hands (hold out hands),
      God has made my hands,
God has made me wonderful (hug self),
      God has made my hands (hold out hands).

Add the following stanzas as you have time:

2. God has made my head (pat top of head).
3. God has made my arms (wave arms).
4. God has made my knees (pat knees).
5. God has made my nose (wrinkle nose and point to it).
6. God has made my feet (stomp, stomp).

7. God’s Word will keep me safe 
       (hold hands together as an open Bible),
God’s Word will keep me safe,
       If I obey God’s Word each day (nod head),
God’s Word will keep me safe.

Give each child some soft modeling clay. Tell the children to make something special with the clay. Set each finished creation on a piece of paper on which you have written the child’s name. Ask each child to tell you about his creation.  Remind the children that God made their hands able to mold clay into shapes. Say, “God made us and loves us very much.”

Open your Bible to Psalm 119:73-76. Explain that the Bible is God’s Word and it is true. Hold your Bible open on your lap as you tell the following Bible lesson:

The Bible says (read Psalm 119:73 aloud from your Bible). Who made us? (God) That’s right. God made us. God made (name each child). God made our hands (hold out hands). God made our feet (point to feet). God made our arms, and God made our legs. God made very part of us.

[Jeremy], did God make your head? (yes) [Elizabeth], did God made you ears? (yes)

(Ask something of each child.) Our God is awesome! When you made your clay sculpture, did you want to throw it away? (no) You want to take care of it. You want to keep it safe. God made you and wants to take care of you (point to children). God cares about [name each child]. God wants [Sean] to be safe. That’s one reason God gave us the Bible (hold up your Bible).

The Bible is God’s way of talking to us. The Bible contains God’s rules for keeping us safe. When you obey your parents’ rules—such as don’t touch the hot stove, or don’t play in the street—you will be safe. God wants you to be safe. God wants you to obey His rules in the Bible. Obeying helps you be safe. Let’s sing the last verse of our song once more. (God’s Word will keep me safe.)

Thank You, God, for making each person wonderful. Help each child keep safe by obeying Your rules. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Edible Finger Paint

Bring new combs of various sizes (one for each child), wet wipes, and prepared vanilla or strawberry pudding. Bring a sheet of finger paint paper or wax paper for each child. Cover the work area with newspapers or a plastic tablecloth.

Have the children wash their hands. Spoon a scoop of pudding on each child’s paper. Have the children comb through the pudding to make patterns on their papers. Show them how to use their fingers to make a variety of designs.

Say, "I smell something good. It smells like vanilla (or strawberry). Do you smell it? I’m glad God made us with noses so we can smell good things."

Let the children use their fingers to print their names on their designs. Use a permanent marker to print the names of younger children (or help the child use her finger to help her print their names).

Set the papers aside to dry. Let the children taste their fingers. (Make sure no one is allergic to the pudding.) Say, "This finger paint tastes good, too. It tastes like vanilla (or strawberry). Did you taste it? I’m glad God gave us mouths so we can taste good flavors." Use wet wipes to clean sticky fingers.

Say a prayer of thanks to God for giving us hands to create, noses to smell, and mouths to taste.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Recruiting Sunday School Teachers

Many churches have a Sunday School Director and/or Bible Club Leader to oversee the Sunday school  and Bible club program and to order materials for everyone. Good leadership is the most important part of any successful children's program.

Pray for God's guidance as you look for people to teach your precious students about Jesus. Ask your pastor and Christian Education Director for suggestions. There should be at least two to three people assigned to each preschool and primaries class and at least two for each of your older elementary classes or Bible club groups.

For a two-year-old class, there should be no more than three children per leader or helper. Ideally, there should be one adult for each learning center you provide plus a leader who will conduct the group activities during the class time. In this way, each helper can be responsible for setting up, equipping, and teaching at a specific learning center. If it is simply impossible to recruit three or four leaders and helpers, you can still have a  program for your two-year-olds, but be sure to have at least two workers. Allow children to play freely in the block area or with other toys while one leader teaches a small group in a learning center. After 5 to 10 minutes, the children who have been in the learning center may go to "free play" while three or four new children come to the learning center. Continue in this way until all of the children have had a chance to participate in the learning center.

Ideally, there should be at least one adult for every ten elementary-age children. Try to have a variety of people working with your Sunday school and Bible club classes. Make an effort to involve men in the program. Many people who have no children of their own, or who have youngsters of a different age might enjoy working with the children.

Teenagers and college students also make wonderful helpers, with supervision. Perhaps you know college students who are majoring in elementary education or early childhood education. Let them intern in your Sunday school or Bible club program for experience. And high school youth make energetic helpers.

Those you choose as regular leaders or as occasional helpers should be people who share a genuine love for children—and they should like children, too! Choose the kind of people who can be depended n to be there on time, always well prepared. Look for workers who love the Lord, will do their jobs enthusiastically and cheerfully, and will transmit their joy in Christ to the children who will be watching them so closely.

There are always some people who aren't available on a weekly basis but who like to help when presented with a specific need. These individuals could be invited to prepare craft materials, visual aids, or bring refreshments. Some might enjoy coming occasionally to teach songs, tell a story, or do something special. You'll find these people in many areas of your church—teen groups, singles fellowships, and seniors. Make sure the members of the various groups are aware of the needs and of the opportunity to be of help. However, don't make them feel trapped. Let those who respond know you appreciate them.

Assure your prospective workers that a willingness to learn and a love for Jesus is just as important as previous experience or specialized training. Then be sure to give them opportunities to be doers—not just spectators. Sunday school teachers and Bible club leaders should think of each child as an individual and make every effort to know the children with whom they work. Teaching children about Jesus and His love is an important job—and it takes the best people you can find!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Sunday School Registration Cards

Get a head start on your fall Sunday school registration with these helpful cards. Copy the Sunday school registration cards from below onto heavy paper or cardboard. If you divide your students into different age groups or classes, use a different paper color for each age group.

Cut the cards apart and give them to parents when they register their children. Have parents fill out a registration card for each child attending your Sunday school program and for each child attending your preschool or nursery program. 

The card contains a place to record emergency information and has a section to list allergies and other medical conditions your students may have. For any child with allergies, create a special, brightly colored name badge with the allergies listed so all leaders and helpers are aware of the allergies and don’t inadvertently give the child something that might cause an allergic reaction.

Click on the image above for a larger view.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ten Commandments Bible Lesson

Before your Sunday school or Bible club class, cut two tablet shapes from construction paper. Print five commandments from Exodus 20 on each tablet. Use the Bible version you prefer or simply write a summary of each commandment. Glue each tablet to a piece of sandpaper or a slab of stone to make them look more realistic.
Ten Commandments Bulletin Board Set 
Another option is to prepare a Ten Commandments Bulletin Board (item #CD210003)This bulletin board set is just $12.99 and can be ordered from ChristianEdWarehouse.com or by calling 1-800-854-1531. Click on the bulletin board set for more information. A summary of each commandment is included, each on its own tablet. Hand one commandment to each child and let him place it on the board as you discuss it.

Ten Commandments for Kids
You may also want to use Ten Commandments for Kids Chart to help your visual learners. This chart is available for just $2.99 each (item #CD6359) at ChristianEdWarehouse.com or by calling 1-800-854-1531. Click on the chart image for more information.

Show the Ten Commandment tablets to your students. Say, Moses climbed the mountain to meet with God so God could give Moses His Commandments for the Israelites. Why did God have to give them these rules? Aren’t they just common sense? Have different students (or adult or teen helpers) read each commandment from Exodus 20. Then discuss it. Have verses 1-3 read. Why did God have to tell His people to worship only Him? (because He is the only true God)

Have verses 4-6 read. Ask, Who made graven images (idols)? (countries who didn’t worship the true God) Why would God need to punish the whole family? (People imitate what their parents do; if their parents worship idols, they would tend to worship idols, too.)

Have verse 7 read. Ask, What does it mean to take God’s name in vain? (“Vain” means “not as intended” and “empty.” To misuse God’s name as a swear word is not what God’s name was intended for. It shows disrespect for God.)

Have verses 8-11 read. Ask, Does this mean that we have to do nothing on Sundays? (It means we worship God then and do not forget to take time to do so.)

Have verse 12 read. Does God mean that we have to honor and obey only biological parents or does He mean anyone who is responsible for us? (It means we obey our caregivers, whoever they are.)
Have verse 13 read. Does God mean that if we treat someone in hateful ways but don’t actually kill them, that’s okay? (No, it means we should not think or say murderous things with our eyes or words. Jesus clarified this in Matthew 5:21-26.)

Have verse 15 read. If anyone wonders why you skipped verse 14, tell them that this verse deals with what adults do, not what children usually do. Ask What is stealing? (taking anything that does not belong to you, no matter how small, without permission)

Have verse 16 read. Say, Bearing false witness means to lie, to say something that isn’t true. Is it ever right to lie? (No, you should always tell the truth, but out of love so that you don’t hurt someone.)
Have verse 17 read. Ask, Why is it wrong to wish for things you don’t have that belong to others(because it can lead to stealing and lying to get them for yourself, and God wants us to be content with what we have.)

Toss a foam ball to a student and have her give the first commandment. Have her toss the ball to another student who will give the second commandment, etc. If anyone has trouble remembering his commandment, the rest of the group can help. If necessary, refer to the Ten Commandments Tablets. Encourage your students to follow God's commands during the week. 

Ten Commandments Certificate
Give a Ten Commandments Certificate to each child who can say all Ten Commandments (with your help) after this lesson (or the following week). These certificates are available in packages of 36 for just $2.99 (item #CD201007). Click on the image for more details and to order the certificates. Visit ChristianEdWarehouse.com for more classroom decorations and teaching ideas.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Using Learning Centers with Preschoolers

Effective teaching with learning centers

In your preschool Sunday school and Bible club classrooms, the place where the most in-depth and long-term learning will likely take place is in the learning centers. Learning centers are areas of your classroom that are the setting for a particular kind of activity (home living, block building, reading, looking at picture books, etc.) that teach or reinforce a biblical concept to the children.

The dramatic impact of learning centers on effectively teaching spiritual truths to twos and threes and fours and fives lies in the fact that the activities in the learning centers help to give meaning to Bible teachings through associating these teachings with everyday activities.

We can talk to the class about Jesus showing kindness to others and then pray, "Help us all to be kind this week," but many young children may not know what it means to be kind. The learning center approach is for children to work together in meaningful activities (playing with toys or blocks, pretending in the home living center, etc.) while guided by a teacher who labels and encourages acts of kindness and relates what the children are doing to what the Bible says about kindness. 

However, effective teaching in learning centers happens only through the careful guidance of the teacher or helper who guides the children's attention toward the lesson theme or biblical truth through "directed conversation." In directed conversation, the teacher uses spoken words to relate what the child is doing to the spiritual truth or biblical aim of the lesson. The teacher is not simply watching or caring for the children while they build blocks or play in the home living area; the leader actively facilitates Bible learning in light of the children's activities. (This is one of the most important roles leaders and helpers play in your preschool classroom and the reason it is crucial that there is one adult leader or helper for each learning center each week.) Directed conversation is the key ingredient in making learning centers effective in your classroom. Combining words with actions in a relaxed climate greatly increases a child's ability to respond to Bible truths and also helps the child build positive attitudes about himself and others.3

Suggested learning centers
In Honeybees for Jesus Bible Clubs, three learning centers are suggested each week, and two are suggested each week for Cubby Bears for Jesus Bible Clubs. In the Preschool Bible Foundations Downloadable Sunday School  Curriculum, two learning centers are suggested each week. The same learning centers (with different activities each week) are used for four weeks at a time. Instructions are provided in the Leader's Guides for setting up the centers, supplies needed, and ideas for directed conversation to help fulfill the lesson aim. However, there are many more learning centers that may be used effectively, in addition, in your classroom.

Well-equipped Sunday school and Bible club rooms for preschoolers should definitely include a permanent Home Living Center, God's Wonderful World Center, and Art Center, as these form the basis for the learning centers suggested in the curriculum mentioned above. Below are listed the basic furniture and supplies needed for these three centers.
   • Home Living Center: This center should include a play sink, a stove, a refrigerator, doll dishes and pans, doll beds or cradle, a doll blanket, dolls, doll clothes, a child-size rocking chair, a small table, chairs, and a play telephone. Group materials to simulate a kitchen arrangement.
   •  God's Wonderful World Center: Based on the season, this center may include sprouting seeds, rocks, fresh flowers, colorful dead leaves, blossoms, pine cones, feathers, a magnifying glass, a bird’s nest, growing plants, a goldfish in a fishbowl, and seashells. Children may also make leaf collages, water plants, plant seeds, or make a bird feeder.
  •  Art Center: This center should have low tables where the children can sit plus a heavy-washable drop cloth to provide work space. Basic art supplies include crayons, felt tip markers, glue sticks, glue, scissors, and construction paper.

 Optional learning centers
The following additional, optional centers may be provided, either permanently or temporarily, if space and finances allow. (Children feel more secure if they see the same learning centers week after week, so do not feel you must constantly change your learning centers; this is the reason each learning center in the curriculum mentioned above is used for a minimum of four weeks before being changed.)
  • Worship Center: This center should include a picture of Jesus, a picture of Jesus with children, a Bible (preferably with colorful pictures) that the children can touch and hold, and a picture of a church building. All items should be arranged attractively on a small, low table.
  • Book Nook: This center should include picture books (Christian stories or Bible stories only), a Bible, a photo album showing families together, "touch and feel" books, and places to sit comfortably.
  • Puzzle Center: This center should include simple wooden-type puzzles (no more than 12 pieces in each for your twos and threes) and low tables and chairs where the children can sit to work on their puzzles. The center may also include the wooden, three-dimensional puzzles of cars, trucks, and animal shapes. (If necessary, children can work on puzzles on the floor rather than on tables.)
  • Block Center: This center should include assorted sizes and shapes of plastic, wooden, or cardboard blocks and toy cars and trucks.

Well-equipped rooms for preschoolers will include learning centers where your little ones can learn about God, Jesus, and the Bible as they explore, play, and use their five senses. Your guidance through directed conversation will help them begin to understand basic Bible concepts as they grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.