Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tips for Teaching the Bible with Crafts

When you turn your art projects and activities into learning experiences, you give the children worthwhile lessons that will be with them long after the project is gone. Here’s how: focus on what the children can learn rather than what they can make. As the children work, talk about the Bible lesson or theme of the day. Keep the focus on the Bible story or the memory verse. Tie the craft back into the day’s point.

Help the children have a fun time. Don’t let them get frustrated. If a craft becomes too difficult, switch gears and adapt the craft to the child. For example, if threading yarn becomes tedious, stop the threading. Chenille wire stems are much easier for a young child to thread than yarn. Let him try using chenille wire, if you have some on hand.  If not, let the child add stickers to the craft or decorate it with markers or jewels. Turn your time with the child back into a fun experience. If a child finishes early (or just gives up), let him move to a free play area or begin a coloring project.

Allow each child to be the creative being God intended. Encourage creativity by:

        1) Allowing the children to make their own creations, even if they vary from the suggested pattern.

        2) Explaining to the children the sensations they are feeling as they experience their creations. (Saying, “This clay feels smooth on my hands. It’s fun to make things with clay. I’m glad God gave us hands to feel clay.”)

        3) Describing to the children the colors and shapes they are seeing as they create their art projects. (Saying, “These colors are beautiful. I see blue, red, and green. I’m glad God gave us eyes with which to see such wonderful colors.”)

        4) Pointing out acts of helpfulness and relating them to what the Bible says about being helpful. For example, you might say, “Taking turns is one good way to be helpful. I like the way [Niko] is helping his friends by waiting patiently for his turn with the red paint.”

        5) Commenting on the process (or asking the child to comment) rather than focusing on the finished product. For example, saying, “I like the way you are molding the clay into such fun shapes” or “Tell me about your colorful creation” rather than asking, “What is that?” or incorrectly guessing what it is.

        6) Tying the craft into the Bible lesson by including a memory verse with it. If you teach young children, print the memory verse on a sticker they can add to the finished craft. Say the verse together as they work. Including the memory verse or Bible point somewhere on the craft can help parents understand the lesson theme, even when the child isn’t able to verbalize it.

        7) Talking about the Bible story or the lesson theme as the children work. Read through the Bible story the week before your lesson. Then pray throughout the week, asking God to work through you to help the children understand His Word and to prepare their hearts for what He wants them to learn. Briefly review the Bible story or theme while the children finish their crafts.

As you help your students with their crafty creations, enjoy the experience and let God's love shine through your attitude and actions. After all, you're not just encouraging children to be creative, you're teaching them God's Word!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

7 Steps to a Successful Sunday School Program

1. Pray
This is a big job, so meet with your Christian Education Director, Children’s Pastor, and Sunday School Superintendent. Begin with prayer, asking the Lord to direct you and give you wisdom as you plan for your Sunday school program. You may want to organize a prayer team who will continue to pray for your program before your fall registration, during your kick-off week, and on a regular basis (monthly or weekly) as needs arise.

2. Plan
Once you have a budget, order your Sunday school starter kits and print some sample lessons to determine which curriculum will work best for your church. Return the kits you won’t need or keep the extra kits to use as a filler when the sermon runs over—or any time you need an extra lesson. Your kids will enjoy the fun crafts and games anytime. Visit our Sunday school store to see a Sunday School Comparison Chart and print out a Scope and Sequence and sample lessons. Check out the affordable downloads and reproducible Sunday school programs available for all ages.

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 Sunday school teachers 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 Sunday school program and the responsibilities of a Sunday school teacher 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 Sunday school program, look for leaders and teachers with the following qualifications:
 Are dedicated Christians who seek to live for Christ daily, who study God’s Word, and who know the plan of salvation
 Are tuned in to kids, and able to build upon their natural interests
 Enjoy sharing in the children’s joy of discovery
 Are warm, outgoing, and have a genuine love and sensitivity for children
 Appreciate and seek to follow God’s command to teach children
 Have a basic understanding of children in terms of their physical, mental, and emotional development, and their spiritual needs
 Are reliable and disciplined to prepare for each meeting
 Are suitable role models for children

4. Prepare
Before you begin signing up children for your Sunday school program, print registration cards onto heavy stock. We've created some free Sunday School Registration Cards you can download. Design your own or use these and simply add your church logo. 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 classrooms, another person who can concoct inexpensive yet healthy snack options, a seamstress who can design skit costumes or puppet show decorations, a musician who can accompany your songs or lead the children in singing along to the CDs, a crafty mom who can modify the suggested crafts into easy-to-prepare keepsakes made from household supplies—all of these people can play a role in kicking your Sunday school program up a notch. The key is to tap into their talents without giving them overwhelming responsibilities. Check out our Classroom Decorations Store for lots of fun bulletin board sets and attendance charts to make each classroom a welcoming and creative place for your students.

6. Pray (Continually!)
Schedule a regular time (weekly or monthly) to have volunteers gather at your church for praises, prayer requests, and a time of prayer for the children, parents, teachers, and helpers. You may want to provide coffee and juice. Use your Sunday school 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). For a complete collection of teacher devotions and training tips, view samples from the book, Refresh! Teacher Training and Devotions by Joyce Tepfer. During your prayer time, encourage your volunteers to share stories of how God is working during Sunday school. Then take time to thank Him for the ways He is using each person to spread His Word and change lives.

7. Consider Having a Preschool Sunday School Program
Sunday school is a great way to introduce young families to your church. Consider including 2- to 5-year-olds in your Sunday school program so they have a Bible curriculum rather than just a babysitting hour. Younger children can have their own learning centers, games, and age-appropriate crafts. The preschoolers can join the other children for your opening song time and then go their own preschool rooms for the rest of the morning. If your Sunday school hour 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. (See the post, "Using Learning Centers with Preschoolers".) Visit our Sunday school store to take a look at Bible Foundations Reproducible Curriculum and the Preschool All-in-One Kit—Sunday school curriculum written especially for your two- to five-year-olds.

And Finally…Evaluate!
Before the end of your Sunday school year (or quarterly), 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 Sunday school. Be sure to let your volunteers know how much they were appreciated. While they’re still excited about the great things that happened during the past year, 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 May or June to have them start praying about volunteering for your next year of Sunday school. For tips on recruiting Sunday school teachers, visit our Recruiting blog post.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Our Responsibility to Nurture Kids, Part 2

Mark 9:36-37 — “He took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me.”

Jesus explains that when we receive a child into our care in the name of Jesus, we are receiving Jesus Himself. The importance of nurturing children, loving them with Christ’s love, and providing them with strong Bible teaching cannot be over-emphasized.

Luke 18:15-17 — “They brought unto him also infants, that he would touch them: but when his disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise enter therein.”

It’s interesting that even though the disciples tried to push the children out of the way, Jesus welcomed the children into the center of things. And isn’t that just where children want most to be – right in the middle of whatever is happening. As a church, we can encourage children to be right in the middle of our programs and our congregation – stressing the importance of bringing children to Jesus and exposing them to God and His Word at every opportunity.

II Timothy 3:15 — “From a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”

Paul mentions that Timothy developed his genuine faith as a very young boy. The children who come into our household of faith can be taught to know the Scriptures at a very young age, so they can become wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

I Peter 5:2 — “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.”

God calls elders of the church to be shepherds of the flock that is under their care. Some of the flock are children, and God tells the church to feed and nurture these little ones while they are in our care. We have a responsibility to give children the best Christian care possible, introducing them to God and His Word as soon as they come into our flock, no matter how young they may be.

Jeremiah 31:33-34 — “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

This is our prayer for each of the children we minister to. Our top priority is to see that children come to know God through His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Our Responsibility to Nurture Kids According to God's Word

Deuteronomy 6:5-9 — “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”

God instructs us to get to know His commands on a personal level. Parents are to teach God’s Word to their children; we are to talk about God’s Word in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our communities. As a church, we have a responsibility to help parents learn God’s Word so they can teach it to their children. We also have a responsibility to teach God’s Word to all who enter our doors, children included. Part of our responsibility is to share God’s Word with the surrounding community of adults and children alike.

Proverbs 22:6 —“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

God commands us to train up a child in the way he should go so God’s Word will stick with him as he grows older, and he will continue to follow God’s way. Children who are grounded in God’s Word and who have Christian examples to follow are much less likely to stray from it.

Matthew 18:5 — “And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”

Jesus compared our attitude toward children with our attitude toward Him when He said, “Whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me.”

Matthew 18:10-14 — “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.”

Jesus instructs us not to look down on children, for God does not want any of them to be lost. As the church, we have a responsibility to train up children in God’s way so they can come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Matthew 19:13-15 — “Then were there brought unto him little children, that he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence.”

Jesus gathered the children to Him and blessed them. He let the children know how much He loved and valued them. Jesus reminds us that children (even preschoolers) are an important part of the church right now. He did not say, “Let the children come to me when they are old enough to read” or “when they reach the age of accountability.” There were no conditions on His acceptance of children. Rather, Jesus welcomes all children
just as they are. All children are stars in Jesus' eyes!

For a PDF version of this post, download the full article: Our Responsibility to Nurture Children.