Here’s a great idea for teaching children Bible stories that allows you to have some fun and reinforce the story over and over. I would love to claim credit for this idea because I like it that much, but the truth is I heard it from some genius in children’s ministry somewhere else along the way. It seems like I heard it on the CMMonthly.com podcast, but I didn’t go back to make sure. If the idea was yours, I’ll just go on the record now and thank you for it.
What I can attest to personally however is the effectiveness of this method. Anytime I use this technique in teaching the Bible to children, it always leaves them wanting more and asking if we can do it again next week.
Here’s how it works!
Plan to do your lesson (at least the Bible story part of it) as a skit. Explain to the kids that you are going to be putting together a play or directing a movie, and you’re going to need their help with. I if you have, or can get, one of those “lights, camera, action” clipboards to use, that will add to the fun. Explain to the kids that you were hoping that you would have had time to rehearse this play/movie ahead of time, but you’re just going to have to go ahead and make do with what you’ve got.
Update: You can see an example of this teaching method with our Lot Escaping Sodom Bible lesson.
Select kids from the group to play each of the parts in your movie/play. Depending on the role you are trying to fill, you might find it fun to mix things up a little bit. Pick the shy kid to play the lead. Make your resident “troublemaker” the hero of the story. Pick girls to play boys roles, etc.
Remember, the success of this tactic rests largely on messing the play up as many times as possible. Once you’ve selected all the kids for your story, explain to them where you want them to stand and tell them just to “follow your lead.” Your role is to serve as the narrator, director and sometimes puppeteer in this production.
You have several options for how to utilize the kids you selected. You can give them directions and have them move as you direct them, or you can treat them like mannequins and move them yourself as the scene dictates. In terms of delivering lines, you also have several options:
- Give them cards with pre-printed lines on them and prompt them to read them at the appropriate time.
- Tell them there lines as the director and have them repeat them.
- Stand behind them and deliver their lines for them in funny voices as you tell the story; or
- Simply narrate the story without lines for individual for the actors.
All of these options allow you to mix up how you use this technique which will allow you to use it over and over again without it getting old or stale. So, here is the key to making this tactic as effective as possible. As the director of this play/movie, you must interrupt often and yell “cut!”
Plead with your “actors” for stronger emotions or over-the-top gestures. Suggest better postures or stronger delivery of lines. Mess things up yourself on purpose if you have to. The more ridiculous and animated you act in your role as director, the more fun the kids will have with the skit.
After yelling cut, either start the story over from the beginning (i.e., “take it from the top”) or simply have the kids redo individual scenes over and over. The more you have to repeat scenes, or the entire story, the better! The key is, along with having a lot of fun, the kids will effectively get to hear the Bible story multiple times during the course of one class thereby increasing the odds that they will retain it.
I used this technique a couple of weeks ago with the story of Jesus cooking fish on the seashore while the disciples fished. We had a make-shift boat with nets and actors portraying Peter, John and five other disciples. We also had a stranger on the seashore cooking up fish (the kids love it when they find out they’re playing the part of Jesus). We also threw in a couple of other fun effects like squirt guns to recreate the splashing as Jesus jumped out of the boat to swim to Jesus and gold fish crackers for the seaside breakfast. In the span of about 10 minutes, we must have acted out the entire story (in pieces) about four times. The only downside to the lesson was that several of the kids were upset that they didn’t get to be one of the actors. They made me promise that we would do another similar skit in the near future.
If you utilize this technique in your teaching, please come back and leave a comment to let us know what you did and how it went for you. For additional tips on large group teaching, please see a series I did on Dad in the Middle called (creatively enough) Tips for Large Group Teaching.