Children's Sunday school lessons - 5 simple mistakes and how to learn from them
Imagine walking into a Sunday kids group, a teacher is sitting with the children gathered about her, sharing with them the treasures of scripture. You look at the children and realise they aren't really engaged with what's happening, so you decide to stay and watch. From this perspective the problems are obvious, but you wonder if she realises that she has fallen into one or more of the 5 most basic mistakes the children's ministry teachers make.
Availability over suitability,
Equality over individuality,
Result over effort,
Program over people,
& Time over message
Read on to find out how to spot these mistakes and what to do to stop yourself falling into them
Availability over suitability
Have you ever found a plastic bag stuffed with random objects, a scrap of paper attached states “kid's work” in capital letters. Ministry that works with empty cardboard tubes, yoghurt pots and old boxes will always need donations, but what do you do with the 'extras' that often turn up with them. I've seen too many sessions tailor the creative aspect to the resources they are left with, rather than the message they are teaching. When you get those random bits and pieces, think what would you like to use them for, make a note of the possible bible passages and then store them until that passage comes up.
Equality over individuality
According to Thomas Jefferson - “All men were created equal.” I don't believe that for a minute. I would like to say it's true but I'd rather pin my flag to - all men were created individual or with potential or in need of friendship and love. Equality is a big thing for kids, and favouritism is a big no-no. If you fall into favouritism you lose your credibility with the kids, but if you overplay equality then you lose love. To love truly is to treat each child as an individual, to expect different things of them as you recognise their different abilities and levels.
Do you have hovering mummy's in your groups, if mum always awards the prise to her own child, or tests out the lesson on them so they know the answers you need to stop it - yes it's uncomfortable, but it's only harming the group as a whole!
Result over effort
Making mistakes is one of the most effective learning methods for both children and their teachers. Mistakes are not a bad thing, and yet many teachers fall into the trap of expecting their children to produce answers, worksheets, and crafts according to the 'right' way shown in the book. The effort the children show, the enthusiasm and engagement is a thing much more worthy of praise than the formulated expectation.
If you work with children with special needs don't forget that every child has special needs! Expecting no mistakes from them is as unfair as expecting normal reactions and results from the special needs child.
Program over people
I think this is such a huge problem in so many groups. Sometimes you will find a newcomer skirt the edge and them walk away, not because the group is unwelcoming or irrelevant but because they feel they have to be a certain thing in order to fit into the program. Equally some many feel like a failure because they can only attend one of the myriad of sessions. Each session or group must be able to stand alone, each program must serve the people doing it not expect the people doing it to conform to their approach. Even if it's awkward, or means substituting just one part of many, review your programs, put the individual group first and they will blossom. (10 benefits of under-programming)
Time over message
This is the hardest one to solve, the children's work often has to slip in between the first hymn and the coffee time. I've found children's workers who attach times to each activity, others plan the morning into a time chart. Weather you use timestamps or you have a free-flow, the timing has to be a servant not a master. Prioritise the parts of your lesson and let them overrun, if you aren't engaging the children ditch the activity and move on to something different, it may be that they will be more responsive to trying again at a different point, or that you can give them more time on something else.