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9 Easy Ways to Make Life Application Part of Every Lesson

A lesson is just words if it doesn’t include meaningful life application. Here’s how to be sure every activity goes deeper for true understanding and transformation.

You jumped into children’s ministry because you love kids and you love Jesus. Teaching God’s Word is your passion. It’s your deepest desire that kids know, love, and follow Jesus—from childhood into adulthood.

So you work hard to make Sunday morning lessons creative, funny, and full of Bible information. There are kid-friendly puzzles that unscramble the Bible verse and prizes for kids who can say the verse. All this will definitely help kids grow in their faith…right?

Think again. A creative lesson is awesome, but it’s no guarantee that kids will understand how to apply or live out the Bible truth you’ve taught. A funny skit sure makes church a joyful place to be, but it doesn’t automatically mean that kids will “get” what you’re teaching. And all that Bible? Well, it may just be a bunch of words if kids don’t understand and connect it to daily life.

Life application means kids take what they’ve learned and incorporate it into everyday life. It means they clearly understand the implications of a Bible truth, as it applies to them personally. Life application deepens our friendship with Jesus and our faith in God. Even better, it can make faith as natural as breathing.

In Thom and Joani Schultz’ book, Don’t Just Teach…Reach!, they challenge leaders with this: “You see, your job has never been to just teach. Your job—your calling—is to reach people with the good news that Jesus loves them and wants to be their friend.”

Reaching goes deeper than teaching. Teaching is talking. Reaching is transforming.

Here are nine tips to help you reach kids—giving them the tools to apply scriptural truth to everyday life.

1. Enhance life application by familiarizing yourself with a kid’s world.

Take a few minutes and mentally walk through a kid’s day. If you have kids, you’ve already got a good idea of the challenges or decisions they regularly face, who they interact with, and things they struggle with. Think about points of conflict with friends, or when it might be hard for kids to boldly be a Christian. Consider what other kids in your ministry are facing, too (not just your own kids). Does every kid get breakfast at home? Do some kids have to juggle life in mom’s house and dad’s house? What’s that like? Consider daily life for kids who are home-schooled. The more you truly understand a kid’s daily life, the better you can shape your questions and experiences to show how friendship with Jesus looks in their world.

 2. Always ask yourself, “So what?”

As you plan activities, look at your main Bible focus, then ask, “So what? What difference will this make to kids?” If you’re exploring the story of God parting the Red Sea, what does that matter to a child’s life today? Is it just good to know because it’s in the Bible? No way! This would be a great time to dig into ways we see God’s power in our lives, or think of times when our backs are up against a wall (like the Israelites!). Giving Scripture meaning for today helps kids apply it to life, long after they walk out of your classroom.

Remember that Jesus used common items to connect spiritual concepts to real life. He bridged the heaven-to-humanity gap with things like bread, fish, water, mud, and seeds. He told stories about everyday life—cleaning a house, lighting a lamp, tending sheep, and being a father. We can follow Jesus’ example by connecting God’s Word to our world today.

3. Ask life-application questions.

As you move through a lesson, be sure you ask open-ended question such as:

  • What was that like?
  • When have you felt like that in your life?
  • What does [forgiveness, grace, boldness, prayer] look like at school?
  • Tell about a time someone showed you [hope, kindness, love, Jesus].
  • Let’s list all the people who need [mercy, joy, God’s power] this week.

Rather than filling a lesson with questions that require kids to regurgitate Bible facts, pose thoughtful questions that connect faith to real life. And incorporating these questions can be a ball—literally! The Throw and Tell Life-Application Ball is an easy way to turn life application discussions into a game.

4. Give your own examples of life application.

Briefly share how faith matters in your everyday life. Kids may need to see what forgiveness, grace, or boldness really look like—authentically. Be practical and try to use examples that kids can relate to. You might share how you needed to ask forgiveness for arguing with a family member or calling someone a mean name. Or tell about a time when you boldly prayed for a friend or went to “See You at the Pole” during high school. Your vulnerability helps kids see faith is part of real, nitty gritty, everyday life.

5. Allow time for discovery.

Be sure you’re not the one doing all the talking. Application takes thought, and thought usually takes time. Rather than lecturing or providing all the answers, provide “think time” as you dig into how Scripture connects to daily life. Give kids the opportunity to make those connections themselves, instead of just hearing them from you. The links that kids make will be stronger and more long-lasting!

That can be scary for teachers. We worry that, if we’re not teaching, kids may not be learning. Explore more about the difference between teaching and learning.

6. Try out life application—right then and there!

Provide opportunities for kids to act out what it means to live part of the Bible lesson. For example, after exploring 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”), give kids the opportunity to write encouraging words on sticky notes and put them on their classmates. Or role-play what it looks like to affirm someone who’s sad. Don’t just tell kids what it means to live out their faith. Give them the opportunity to try it out right then and there. A test run in your classroom provides a safe place for kids to practice these faith-in-life skills.

7. Incorporate service projects.

BE BOLD, a cutting-edge curriculum for preteens, is infused with life-application opportunities. A key part of every lesson is a service project that kids do, right then and there! Kids might make and deliver encouraging notes for church staff, craft toys for the nursery, or create a snack for the classroom next door. This gives kids a taste of living out their faith as they care for and serve others. Look for practical, meaningful ways that kids can put their faith into action alongside you and other classmates.

8. Use kid-friendly language.

Most Bible translations are written at a seventh or eighth grade reading level. That means a memory verse you’re working on with a first grader is likely to have words that are difficult or unfamiliar. During their work on The Dirt on Learning, Thom and Joani Schultz interacted with kids right after their Sunday school classes. One boy shared that he’d memorized John 3:16, and rattled off the well-known passage: “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” When the authors asked what “perished” meant, the boy paused and then hesitantly answered, “to praise.” The words of the passage had stuck—but not the meaning.

Many words we take for granted aren’t part of kids’ everyday language. Think of terms you commonly hear in church: Savior, Redeemer, hope, grace, anointed. Use these words sparingly, if at all. And explain words that are unfamiliar, putting them in kids’ language. Remember, Jesus spoke in the common language of the time—never aiming to use lofty or academic terms.

9. Keep it simple.

Oftentimes, Bible stories are full of details that aren’t central to the point you’re making. For example, the story of Peter healing Tabitha (Acts 9:32-43) is a jaw-dropping example of Jesus’ power displayed through his followers. However, including all the names of people and places (Sharon, Lydda, Joppa, Aenas, Tabitha who is also called Dorcas, Simon) can confuse kids. Who is who? Where are they? Those aren’t key factors in the story; Peter’s use of Jesus’ powerful name is important! In some cases, it’s okay to omit town names, or just say, “There was a man,” if that man isn’t central to the story.

Make it your goal to go deeper, not wider. Avoid lengthy memory verses. Instead, reach kids with bite-sized, memorable pieces that they can call on during applicable life events. (Learn more about the science of memory—and what really works!)

You jumped into children’s ministry because you love kids and you love Jesus. By incorporating meaningful life-application discussions in your class time, you connect two things you love most! Take the time to make life application a key part of every activity. As a result, you’ll watch kids’ faith deepen and become their own—for a lifetime!

Want more? Check out these easy ways to assess kids’ spiritual growth.

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