Anyone who has worked with education of any sort is well aware that teaching can truly be the most effective method of learning. When we have to communicate a point or enforce a lesson, it usually forces us to study it thoroughly ourselves. Teaching stories that are less familiar to us can be even more educational, as we study to first familiarize ourselves with key lesson topics. However, all too often in children’s ministry it can be easy to fall into the tiresome trap of tedium, wherein we go through the same materials, highlight the same characters, multiply the same goldfish crackers, and paste together the same paper plate lions.
While the basic lessons of the Bible are important and youngsters can surely benefit from any lesson we provide, something of God’s glorious might and splendor gets lost when the vigor and vibrancy drains from our teaching motivation due to boredom. We can become immune to the messages we are trying to emphasize by automaticity. If we do the same lessons and settings continuously, we risk apathy as the platitudes we preach fade to something banal and trite. When surviving furnace flames and coming back to life from rigor mortis fail to amaze and excite us, there is a serious problem. So how do we maintain motivation and fresh perspective as we instruct youngsters? Several methods may help…
Incorporate new stories…this can be especially helper if teaching a class with older students. Chances are if a child has grown up in church he has probably been once or twice through the tales of Adam and Eve, Joseph’s Technicolor coat, and slingshot-swinging David. What about the story of Nehemiah? Of Deborah and her tent pegs? Gideon or Jehoshaphat? Or what about studying some of the prophetic works and what they mean? Whenever possible, try to bring in some exciting new tales. If curriculum constraints prevent this, then take a new spin on old classics by putting the spotlight on another character. Sure, Paul was amazing, but how much do we know about Silas or Barnabas? And we hear plenty of Ruth, but what about her mother-in-law Naomi? Peek at some of the “unsung” heroes of God’s word and focus on their perspective.
Study Commentary: Make sure that you entirely and intentionally READ the passage that accompanies each lesson you teach. Not only that, study surrounding context. If resources are available, look at what commentaries have to say about the story and research cross-references. Perhaps even look to language materials and original words for enhanced comprehension.
Nourish YOUrself, too! It may sound selfish, but this somewhat follows the old airplane rule of “secure your own oxygen mask first”…if you are bored or burned-out your lessons will likely seem the same. Before every lesson you teach take time to pray and remind yourself WHY we do these things. Get involved in a small group or Bible study of your own. Study scripture daily, and memorize verses along with the kids. Remember, the Bible is God’s word. We are studying what HE communicates. If you are eager and excited about your own learning, it is bound to be contagious!
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