How to Rev Up Your Sunday School

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So, what can we do to help kids have more fun?

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  • Do something different each week. Hitting a doughnut shop once
    a quarter might not be a bad idea!
  • Try meeting in a different room once in a while. Meet outside
    when the weather permits.
  • Talk about whatever interests your kids. Let kids tell you what
    would be fun for them; then do whatever is feasible.
  • Allow for something crazy now and then, such as having an
    air-band contest using kids’ favorite Christian artist tapes.
  • Make learning fun. Don’t play games for the fun part and then
    make kids sit down and shut up for a serious Bible study. Play
    games kids like, if they can be tied into the class theme. Having
    fun studying the Bible can get kids excited about scripture.
  • Have kids act out Bible stories. Or use creative writing and
    have kids write advice to Bible characters facing a decision.

Let kids draw, sing, move around and laugh as they discover new
things from scripture. If you’ve got your kids sitting quietly in
their seats for the whole hour, they’re probably not learning much.
And they’ll quit coming the first chance they get.

If we want our kids to develop in their faith and keep attending
church and Sunday school as teenagers and adults, it had better be
enjoyable for them now.

BIBLE APPLICATION IS WEAK

Another big concern with fifth- and sixth-grade curriculum is
the scarcity of Bible applications to kids’ lives. Most curricula
are strong on Bible content, but few really help kids make
scripture relate to their lives.

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Darrin Ronde of Mesa, Arizona, complains: “Curriculum just isn’t
meeting their needs. It doesn’t deal with the tough issues-divorce,
blended families, violence, drugs, alcohol. These kids are watching
R-rated movies and slasher films. Most curriculum is just not real
to them.”

“What’s missing,” adds Arlene Linderer of Boise, Idaho, “is how to
bring truths into kids’ lives-fitting the learning into their
thought processes. We’ve got to help kids ask and answer the
question, ‘How can I really use God and his truth in my life?’
Sometimes we need to talk about feelings, like the anger kids have
at Dad for never coming around.”

“But wait,” you say. “Our curriculum talks about love and kindness
and salvation. That’s application.” Yes, to a degree it is. But
does your curriculum directly address issues your kids are facing
daily like those Darrin and Arlene mentioned? or other topics like
the difficulty of single-parent homes, developing sexuality,
too-busy parents and belonging? Does the curriculum help kids work
through their feelings and thoughts on these issues and help them
see how God’s Word can help them with the difficult time they’re
going through? Few do.

Here are ways to build more application into your lessons:

  • Listen to your kids. Ask them what they think; what they feel.
    Don’t settle for pat answers. Kids will talk to you if they know
    you really care and will listen.
  • Find out what issues are really bothering kids, then tailor
    your lessons to hit those issues.
  • Look over the lessons for the coming quarter and decide which
    ones can be slanted to cover the topics your kids need to learn
    about. If some just don’t fit, find a different approach. For
    example, if kids want to talk about the pressure to have the right
    “things,” take them to a mall for a Bible study on God’s view of
    possessions.
  • Help kids serve. “These kids can be doing things. They can be
    helping the poor and getting involved in community needs,” says
    Bonnie Anderson of Maple Plain, Minnesota. Kids are old enough to
    help others and will love it if given the chance. If you’ve
    discussed helping the less fortunate, arrange to take your kids to
    a nearby homeless shelter or an elderly person’s home. Let kids
    clean, paint, rake, shovel or whatever is needed. And when it’s all
    over, talk about why they did it.

ACTIVITIES AND METHODS ARE BELOW KIDS

Fifth- and sixth-graders are able to do more than many people
think. Sunday school teacher Kathi Beitman of Boise, Idaho,
observes: “Curriculum needs to be more ‘grown up.’ It needs to hit
kids who are growing up fast. Today’s fifth- and sixth-graders are
like the teenagers of a few years ago.” Flannel graph and lecture
just won’t cut it. These kids want to be involved, and they’ll
learn more when they are.

Unfortunately, most material is teacher-oriented rather than
student-oriented. It keeps the spotlight on the teacher, expecting
that the teacher’s outpouring of information will fill up kids’
brains with wonderful facts from the Bible. Don’t get me wrong-I
believe fully in the wonderful facts from the Bible. But
teacher-centered methods just aren’t as effective for learning as
student-centered methods.

Fifth- and sixth-graders need to be involved in discovery. They’ll
remember longer and apply more fully things they’ve found for
themselves. And they’ll be on the road to developing their own
faith, not one that is simply a regurgitation of their parents’ or
teachers’ faith.

To better involve kids in learning, take a look at how you conduct
your class. How much time do you spend talking or reading? How much
time do your kids spend digging things up for themselves? How often
do you let your kids help each other learn? And how much time do
kids spend quietly looking up answers for filling in blanks?

To involve your kids more:

  • Give kids responsibility for organizing classroom supplies or
    leading sections of lessons.
  • Get kids out of their chairs. Involve kids physically through
    energy-burning relays or other non-threatening activities.
  • Instead of having children fill in blanks, have them brainstorm
    answers as you write them on the board. Or have kids draw symbols
    as answers.
  • Have kids act out a scripture narrative as you read. Or have
    groups prepare skits or art projects to present the message of the
    passage.
  • Play games that help kids feel what you want them to talk
    about, such as pressure, fear, anger or frustration. Then talk
    about the feelings and relate them to life.
  • Ask kids how the scripture applies to them. And if they don’t
    answer right away, ask more questions to help them discover how it
    applies.
  • Get groups of kids working together to find an answer to a
    question someone in the group has.
  • Charge kids with responsibility for learning. Children are
    naturally curious. If we involve them in the learning process, that
    natural curiosity will create real learning.

IT’S THE SAME OLD THING

Even the most fun, creative, involving idea can get old if it’s
used too often. “Kids need variety,” says Judith McKim of New
Castle, Pennsylvania. “They get bored with the same old things
every week. We need to keep finding things to challenge them.” And
sometimes that’s not easy.

For variety in your class:

  • Analyze your curriculum to see if the same types of activities
    are used each week, such as role-plays, relays or drawing. If so,
    adapt the activities. Perhaps kids can draw a picture each week,
    but vary the medium by using crayons on paper, chalk on a sidewalk,
    paint on fabric, tempera paint on glass jars or water colors on
    leaves.
  • Borrow a video camera and capture a biblical drama to replay
    for kids.
    Move your class to a location fitting for the topic-like a
    lakeshore for a study on Jesus’ disciples.
  • Surprise the kids with a fun, get-to-know-you Sunday. Make kids
    the center of the lesson.
  • Look up creative ideas in other books and replace
    not-so-exciting activities in your curriculum.
  • Ask the most creative people you know for new ideas.
  • Most of all, don’t cut your own ideas short-if you think of
    something off-the-wall, try it! Let God be creative through
    you.

Whatever curriculum you use, liven it up and make it more
effective by using these ideas. But don’t think that these ideas
alone will transform your class without two other vital parts of
teaching: Love your kids and pray for them. If you love kids,
they’ll know it. And as you pray for kids, God will make a
difference.

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