Time is money." We've all heard that. But time is a lot
more than just money -- it's the most precious, non-recyclable
commodity we have.
For some teachers, time is something to control. There's always
too little of it, and these people are left dashing here and there,
perpetually on the verge of panic, wondering when life will settle
down, fearing it'll never happen.
For other teachers, time is elusive. Their conundrum: how to
harness time and best use it. How to keep time from controlling
Either way, don't let time get away from you! These guidelines
will help you get the most out of every minute -- before, during,
and after class.
Need to sharpen your organizational skills?
Join Jim Wideman as he explains how to grow your ministry through
effective administration. And, this isn't just theory--this book is
filled with practical advise from folks who have years of
children's ministry experience.
The children all wandered in around 8. Some a few minutes early,
and some as many as 10 minutes late. Not that it mattered.
Mr. Dierden was always late -- and not just by a few minutes. He
had some personal issues that kept him busy at the beginning of
He'd been punctual at the start of the year but had quickly
slipped. In his absence, the kids entertained themselves,
occasionally glancing at the clock. Left to their own devices, the
kids adopted a Lord of the Flies mentality. They separated into
packs. The noise level rose.
Eventually, it was a free-for-all. Kids played Tag, took
unescorted walks in the hall, upended desks, and raced around
wielding scissors and pencils.
Get organized. Block off 30 minutes every day
over a period of weeks to get organized. Don't try to do everything
at once. Being organized is a habit -- one you won't adopt
overnight. If you make it a process, it'll become a habit. Trying
to organize your entire life in one fell swoop is overwhelming, and
it probably won't work.
- Buy inexpensive, clear plastic tubs in a variety of sizes for
your classroom. Label them with a permanent marker according to
what they hold: after-class games, craft supplies, glue, and other
items commonly used (but normally scattered around the room).
- De-clutter your area. Whether at home or in the classroom, do
something with all the stuff sitting around. If it's paperwork --
toss it or file it. Inventory your books and magazines. Can some of
them be donated?
Be prepared. Create a game plan. Prepare mentally and
physically. Will you need sponge cut-outs for a craft? Prepare
them at least one day beforehand. Is maintenance being done in your
room? Make arrangements ahead of time to use another room. This may
seem like common sense, but think back to the most recent thing
that cost you time. Could it have been avoided with a little more
The same goes for your lesson. Are children supposed to grasp
the impact of Jesus
feeding the 5,000? How will you ensure they do? If you show up
unprepared, without having given forethought to how you'll achieve
the end goal, you're setting yourself up for failure.
- Define your goals. From the smallest accomplishment to the
grandest, write what you hope your teaching results will be. If you
hope to change a child's life, write it. If you hope to finish the
book about leadership you started, write it. If you hope to arrive
on time to all your Sunday school classes, write it. Putting your
goals in writing gives them tangibility and keeps you focused. Keep
your list of goals with you.
- Make a to-do list. Keep it in your wallet or purse. Mark off
the things you've accomplished, and reward yourself with a mental
pat on the back (or ice cream).
- Keep current. Take any available technology training for new
systems and programs in your church.
Learn to say no and to delegate. Nobody wants to be the bad guy.
But if you say yes to every request, you'll quickly find yourself
stretched to the breaking point. Time becomes your enemy, and
stress and fatigue become regular companions. It's okay to say no.
If you say, "I'm already committed to so many projects that I
wouldn't be able to devote time or energy to this one," people will
understand and appreciate your honesty. If you agree to do a
project when you're already overloaded and do it halfheartedly,
neither you nor the person you're helping will feel good about it
in the end.
- Don't be ruled by guilt. You have the opportunity to be very
good at a few things or very mediocre at many things. Choose the
few things that mean the most to you, and dedicate yourself to
tasks that don't have to have your fingerprints on them. Can
another person be responsible for making sure your newsletter is
printed and mailed? What other projects can be handed off?
God put YOU in a position of leadership in
children's ministry for a purpose. Let Larry Shallenberger help you
discover your personal leadership style so that you can maximize
When Mr. Dierden finally showed up, he'd simply mutter, "Let's
take roll." Was he blind? Did he not see that Jamie was about to
put an eye out? Or that Karyn and Elise were missing? By the time
Mr. Dierden took attendance, it was time to end with a prayer and
try to put the room back together.
His actions sent a message to kids that they weren't important,
and that what they were supposed to be doing in class wasn't
Prioritize. At the end of a class, do you ever say to yourself,
"I didn't get anything important done today"? If you do, prioritize
and stick to it. Establish the level of importance for each task,
and schedule your class accordingly.
- Separate your tasks into A, B, and C categories. A tasks are
urgent or highly important. B tasks are important but not urgent. C
tasks are low-level and can be shuffled.
- Decide on one thing in every class that you want to accomplish.
At the end of the class, ask yourself if you achieved your
- Eliminate interruptions. Interruptions -- while sometimes
welcome -- are huge time stealers. Learn ways to thwart
interruptions you'd normally be willing to put up with.
- Send the red flag signal. Establish a system for your classroom
with a red flag or a sign. When the flag or sign is posted outside
your door, the message to all passersby is: "Do not disturb --
class is in progress."
- Organize bathroom passes. For example, allow one break halfway
through the class for all kids to get a drink or go to the
- Deal with behavior issues before they crop up. Does Johnny have
a temper tantrum at 9:47 a.m. each Sunday? Put a plan in place. Can
someone take him away from the group until he feels better? For
every chronic interruption, ask yourself what you can do in advance
to diffuse the situation.
- Don't allow others to distract you. Whether you're teaching or
preparing for class, set rules and create boundaries. When you're
teaching, your classroom is to be left undisturbed except in
emergencies. It's up to you to decide what constitutes an emergency
and to communicate that to others.
Stop striving to be perfect. No one but God is perfect. Aim for
excellence, but don't spend all your time trying to achieve
something unachievable. That's not to say settle for "good enough."
Excellence should color everything you do. Perfection is an
Perfectionism leads to a form of procrastination. Because the
perfectionist fears failure, he or she often puts off doing what
needs to be done.
- Is it worth the time you spend to measure out to the millimeter
the length of the chenille craft wires you're using? Is it really
necessary to convey God's accounting of every hair on our heads by
counting, hair for hair, a student's head of hairs? Can you
substitute Kool-Aid drink for hand-squeezed grape juice?
- Take time to reassess your processes. Are there ways you can
trim repetitive or inconsequential duties? Do you go on
craft-buying excursions for individual lessons, or do you keep a
bin of craft supplies well-stocked in your classroom?
Mr. Dierden was habitually late, but it wasn't because he didn't
care about his class. He was actually late because he was trying to
pull together all the paperwork for a scholarship he was applying
for. A scholarship honoring Sunday school teachers!
If only Mr. Dierden could've taken the time to genuinely
evaluate what was happening in his classroom. Then he might've
known the real honor of having children say, "Thanks -- you took
the time to make a difference in my life."
Get help cleaning up. Don't be afraid to ask for help. When
class is over and you're standing in the shambles of your
classroom, speak up. Asking for help is something a lot of people
have a hard time doing, but there are great advantages in enlisting
the help of others. For starters, you'll be finished with this
least pleasant of teaching tasks sooner. And, you may be led to
wonderful people you might not have met otherwise.
- Use job cards or a rotation schedule to have parents or kids
help you. Ask that parents who can't make their rotation let you
know in advance, and let kids know that sharing in cleanup is a
- Put the room in order before you go home. Don't leave a mess,
thinking you'll clean it up later; left messes seem to grow into
insurmountable heaps that breed despair and resentment.
Evaluate what you've done. How did class go? Consider this while
classroom events are still fresh. Did the kids hate the craft? Why?
Was it too difficult? too easy? Maybe they loved the craft, but
didn't make the faith connection. How can you change that? Would
things have gone better with another adult? Would Styrofoam balls
have worked better than clay?
- Jot notes. Follow up by making appropriate changes you have
- Communicate larger changes you'd like to make. With your team
leader, brainstorm possible curriculum changes or ideas for recruiting extra volunteers.
- Capitalize on what works. If you use a lesson that really packs
a punch, analyze why it's so successful. Are there less successful
areas you can bolster by applying those principles?
At All Times
Set limits. Don't allow yourself to become overwhelmed. People
who are overwhelmed experience stress, burnout, and plain old
unhappiness more than those who aren't. If you catch yourself
daydreaming, playing with paperclips, or staring into outer space,
it usually means your brain needs a rest. The key to avoiding
overload is knowing yourself well enough to know how and when to
- Break large tasks into smaller ones. Spend about 15 to 20
minutes on each task.
- Set a timer for the amount of time you'll work on a project.
When the timer goes off, stop. Your brain will thank you.
Communicate clearly. Communication is the key to success and the
foundation of a cooperative environment. If you need help, tell
someone. If you see a process that needs to be changed, discuss it
with others. When someone helps you, acknowledge it. Let people
know what you're doing, what your expectations are, how you plan to
achieve them, and who's supporting you along the way.
Establish a system of communication with parents.
- Touch base frequently with your team leader.
- Make note of important things.
- Let people know what you expect of them.
- Be clear when you talk to people. Ask if they have any
questions or concerns, and listen when they respond.
- Discuss things that aren't going the way you'd hoped.
- Say thank you.
Get To The Bottom Of The Top Excuses For
- "My alarm didn't go off." While sometimes a legitimate claim,
this excuse is often translated to: "I hit the snooze seven times,
crawled out of bed, stumbled into the shower, and stood in the
stall, dazed, for 30 minutes." Or "It's not important enough for me
to get out of bed in time to get ready."
- "I had to return home because I forgot something." This excuse
is boiled down to: I didn't prepare. We're all rushed in the
mornings. Why not spend a few extra minutes gathering all the
supplies you'll need for class and putting them near the door the
night before, when you aren't pressed for time? You'll be a lot
less likely to forget things.
- "We couldn't get everyone out of the house on time." This is
Frenzied Family Syndrome. Alex and Andy are having a water fight
rather than getting ready, the dog ran off, and your spouse is
taking time burning the pancakes. The obvious solution? Get
everyone out of bed earlier.
- "I had to pick up some last-minute supplies." If your class
uses a large amount of a particular item, such as glue or tape,
keep an abundance of it on hand. Watch for bargains on these items
when you're shopping for other things. Or get creative and figure
out ways around a missing supply.
- "I'm not feeling well." Examine what's really going on. Are you
sick, or are you sick and tired? Do you avoid going to class until
the last minute? Is every sniffle a reason to show up late or not
at all? If so, you may be experiencing burnout.
- "The traffic was terrible." Leaving earlier or taking an
alternate route will usually put this excuse to rest. Plan on
arriving at church 15 minutes early instead of right on time.
- "I couldn't find my (insert item here)." This excuse means you
need a habit overhaul. If it's your keys, get a key holder. If it's
your dress shoes, make a point to always put them back in your
closet. Create a habit of always putting things in the same place,
and you'll never be caught at five minutes past rifling the couch
cushions for keys.
- "I'm running behind...again." Why? This nonspecific reason
raises more questions than answers. If you're chronically late for
everything, it's time for a lifestyle change. If you're only late
for your class, it may be time for a different kind of change. Stop
finding ways to sabotage timeliness.
- "I was doing a favor for (insert name here)." While no one will
fault you for lending a helping hand, there are certain downfalls
to being a recognized yes-person. Eventually, you'll be stretched
so thin that even everyday things are overwhelming. Learn to say
You are the only one for your class; God led you to be there.
Choose by first assigning your class the priority it takes. Can
someone else do the favor? Can you ask the person to wait until
after your class?
Jennifer Hooks is managing editor for Children's Ministry
Magazine. Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and
prices are subject to change.