Your children’s ministry team won’t want to miss your meetings with these fun and creative teacher training meetings!
Ahhh…training meetings. You plan and show up early. You wait and watch the clock. Eventually a handful of your most devoted teachers trickles in. As you lead the training, in the back of your mind you wonder whether your bulletin printed the wrong date or if aliens have landed somewhere in the neighborhood and that’s why more people aren’t coming.
It’s a poorly kept secret that training meetings can be a sticking point between leaders and teachers. Sticking point or not, though, teacher enrichment is critical to the growth and development of the skills your teachers need most.
You can do something to draw your teachers: Make it active, engaging, meaningful, and most of all, practical and focused. We asked two veteran children’s ministers to deliver four can’t-miss enrichment plans you can use at any time. These four plans are guaranteed to grab your team and get them excited all over again about ministry–all while giving them practical techniques they can use the very next time they’re with kids.
Teacher Training Meeting #1: I Have a Question
The Point: Know how to answer faith-filled questions.
Beforehand, write random words such as tree, toilet, dog, or pants on separate 3×5 cards so you have enough cards for everyone. It’s okay to repeat words if you run out of ideas.
At your meeting, say: Kids are naturally curious-and that’s a good thing! Although their questions can take us off track, it’s good when they want to know more about the Bible and about who God is. We want to do all we can to encourage that curiosity–even if we don’t always know the answers.
Let’s try this challenge to reignite your curiosity–and see if we can stump each other with good, childlike questions!
Give everyone a card and allow 30 seconds for people to think of a random, faith-related question that somehow uses that topic, such as, “What kind of toilet did Jesus use?” for the word toilet. Then have people form pairs and take turns asking and answering their questions.
Form groups of four, then have group members each go to one of four areas in your room and learn one of the following skills or techniques. After 10 minutes have them return to their group and take turns sharing what they learned.
Teach Bible Skills
In area one, have people brainstorm three ways to help a child find the answer in the Bible to the question, “Do I have a guardian angel?” Provide concordances.
Have a Question Party
In area two, challenge teachers to choose one day in the coming quarter when they’ll bring in an “expert.” The expert can be any witty Christian adult who loves kids and loves the challenge of questions. (Have an “expert” in this area for your teachers to try to stump with tough questions.)
Answer With Questions
In area three, have pairs read Matthew 22:15-22 to see how Jesus answered questions. Then ask: “When did dinosaurs live?” and have partners go back and forth answering that question with another question, and so on. When people run out of questions, they must sit down. Give a big cheer to the last pair standing.
Keep a Question Envelope
In area four, have volunteers write one faith question they have on a paper strip and place it in an envelope as a reminder of kids’ many questions. Then have them read the questions in the envelope. Encourage them to collect kids’ questions in an envelope, then research and answer one each week.
Take it With You
Regroup and then have people from each area share what they learned. Read Romans 8:31-39. Invite your team to explore and pray about their questions throughout the week and to keep asking their own faith questions so they learn from children’s curious hearts.
Teacher Training Meeting #2: A Pinch of Imagination
The Point: Remember that imagination is the secret ingredient to unforgettable lessons.
Say: The difference between drab and remarkable is often found in small ingredients. No matter what Bible passage or point you’re teaching, just a pinch of imagination makes all the difference.
Imagine for a moment that I’m teaching you about Jesus calling James and John from Matthew 4:18-22. Pretend you’re a child as I lead. The disciples fished on a lake. Come on over. Let’s pretend we’re in their boat. Jesus walked by and said, “Come follow me.” Let’s all get up and follow Jesus.
Have people get up and follow you around, then sit back in their seats.
Add in Imagination
Say: That lesson was fine. But let’s try it again with just a pinch of imagination. You’re one of the kids…so play along!
The disciples fished on a lake. Let’s pretend we’re in their boat. Pause to tell people what to do, such as sit in an area. Whoa! This boat is kind of wobbly. Everybody hang on while you wobble with me. Wobble together, then give direction for someone to play James and stand up. Whatever you do, don’t stand up! James, don’t stand up! Oh no, James fell out of the boat! Somebody pull James back in the boat. Now tell others to fall out of the boat. Oh no, all sorts of us are falling out of the boat! Tell people to help everyone back in the boat.
Whew…we’re all back in the boat. Let’s sit down and be really quiet so we can catch some fish. Get your fishing pole out and cast out your line. Swing your arm like you’re casting. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing. Plop. Come on, cast out your line. I hope I catch a–what’s that? It feels like a big one! Does anyone else have a fish on the line? Quick, let’s pull these whoppers in to add to James and John’s fish! Wow. This one is humongous. Let me see your fish.
Good job. We’re having loads of fun and Jesus is still on his way! How does adding imagination like we just did impact the way kids understand and remember the things we’re teaching them? Remember, it’s okay to use a little imagination and add some colorful details to make the account come alive.
Say: Your turn! Think of a way to add a pinch of imagination to the next part of the passage. Read the passage. Maybe you’ll hear Jesus calling out in the distance. Maybe you’ll need to blow on your sail as hard as you can to get to shore. Be ready to lead others in what you imagine!
Form groups of three, and have people each take a turn leading. If another person uses their idea, they must think on the spot to come up with a new idea.
Take it With You
Give each of your volunteers a bottle of Mrs. Dash seasoning as a reminder to add a dash of imagination to their teaching.
Teacher Training Meeting #3: A Cup That Runs Over
The Point: Fill your own heart so you can pour it out.
You’ll need a pitcher of water, a foam cup, and a bowl. Poke holes in the cup. At the training, hold the cup over the bowl and pour a small amount of water into it so that it quickly drains into the bowl. In trios, have people share about a time they served when they felt like they had nothing to give.
Then hold up the cup again and continually pour water into it. This time, have people share with their groups about a time they felt God giving them the strength to serve.
Give everyone a cup (to make this truly memorable, give them a blank ceramic cup and paint pens to create a keepsake) and have them mark how full they think they are right now. In their trios, have them discuss:
- Why did you mark your cup where you did?
- How is the mark on your cup impacting your ministry?
Have people fold a piece of paper in half. Ask them to consider what things in their lives would need to change for them to feel more spiritually filled up. On one side, have them write things they have some control over. On the other side, have them write things they don’t have control over. After they’ve made their lists, allow some time for them to share their findings with their trio and then pray together for the things on the second list. Then have everyone rip their paper in half to split the two lists and bring forward the list of things they can’t control. (You may want to have a cross where they can leave the list. If you have a worship leader available, consider playing the hymn, “Fill My Cup, Lord” during this time.)
Take it With You
Read aloud Psalm 42:1-8, stopping after each verse for silent prayer. Then go around with pitchers of water and fill each person’s cup. Let them drink the water as they reflect on what action God is calling them to take this week to seek him and thirst after him. Have them each write that action on their cup and the reference of Psalm 42:7. Then have them pass their cup so others can write words of affirmation on it. Encourage people to take the cups home with them as visual reminders of how God can fill them and prepare them for service.
Teacher Training Meeting #4: All Ages, All Stages
The Point: Help a group of kids at varying levels of spiritual development grow in faith.
Form groups of five and have each person put on a name tag with one of the following labels: teacher; church first-timer; four-time Bible Trivia champion; comes to church to socialize; trying to connect faith and life. Give this assignment: The teacher tells about Noah and the Ark and leads a discussion on what God’s promise means for us, as the rest of the group acts according to their various labels. Allow about five minutes for role-playing.
Have people remain in their groups as you lead them through these three strategies for encouraging spiritual growth.
1. The Buddy System
Have teachers lead their group again, but this time try pairing labels together according to spiritual maturity. Then have partners share about a time they saw God keep a promise. (Allow 10 minutes.)
2. The Tailored Take-Away
Have people each think of a take-away from Noah’s life that would help a child like the one they role-played grow deeper in his or her faith. Encourage teachers to try to pull at least one or two different children aside each week and challenge them with a tailored take-away. (Allow five minutes.)
3. Spiritual Smarts
In their groups, have people practice combining different ways to engage kids by using multiple intelligences or kids’ different learning strengths. To learn more about multiple intelligences, CLICK HERE. For instance, have everyone stand up during a discussion on trusting God as Noah did. Have everyone march in place during the discussion. Stop and then have people draw what they think it looks like to trust God. Or make up a clapping rhythm and rhyme about trusting God. Afterward, brainstorm other ways to add creative elements to lessons that tap the strengths and smarts of all children.
Take it With You
Have people reflect on their faith growth as a child, whether they were a Bible know-it-all or never went to church. Have them close their eyes and picture one faith-related memory, then call out words to describe how they felt in that moment.
Afterward, say: Sometimes kids feel (insert negative words shouted out) in church because their needs aren’t being met. But we want to do our very best to help all our kids feel (insert positive words shouted out) at church. The greatest thing we can do to reach kids is to pray that God would touch their hearts.
Have groups pray together for each child they minister to.
Ali Thompson is a veteran children’s ministry recruiter and an editor for Group. Karl Leuthauser is the executive pastor at Grace Community Church in Montrose, Colorado.
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