Sunday School teachers (or any type of educator, for that matter) have quite a lot of competition these days…children are bombarded with all types of demands on attention. Between movies, video games, computers, and all the other “noise” that clutters our lives, it is no wonder that children might find a trite flannel graph less than thrilling. It is essential to catch the interest of our youngsters and as much as possible make them part of the story to communicate our Biblical points and values.
This need not involve too many electronics, bells and whistles, or technical thrills, though. There are many simple methods available to draw students in and hold their attention. It is merely a matter of making stories and lessons interactive. Here are some examples of ways to do so:
“Virtual reality 4D experience.” Teaching the story of Jonah? Bring in all of the senses. Have students climb (safely) onto a table or large box of some sort when Jonah boards the ship. Then rock the table around to mimic the ocean waves. Use a spray bottle to “storm” on them. Once the children jump “overboard,” have them dive under the table if possible (or into a tight space) for the whale’s belly. Have an open can of tuna or cat food to create the smell of fishiness, and maybe even a slimy wall to touch. Once Jonah gets to Nineveh and cries out in the city, demonstrate the act of repentance with real burlap “sackcloth” and charcoal “ashes.”
Or maybe it is Moses crossing the Red Sea. Split the class between “Israelites” and “Egyptians.” Have them march around the room and set up a small space to squeeze between. Hold up a sheet for the Israelites to safely walk through; then smother the Egyptians when they attempt to cross. Or while wandering the dessert, pass out Manna “wafers” and/or spread on the ground to gather up.
Have children act out stories as much as they can. Assign roles (or allow students to choose, but sometimes having kids in mind first is helpful) and feed the students lines and actions to carry out. Students who struggle with shyness can help do “prop work” if possible. Peter and Cornelius? Stronger actors can portray the parts of the title characters, while others play angels or guards. Prop people can lower a sheet or blanket full of stuffed animals for the vision on the roof.
The more children can be involved with the story or tangibly feel it, the more they will learn and remember what you feed them. It can be as simple as an extra picture or sound effect, or as elaborate as a full performance. The less opportunity to merely sit and absorb the better! Your own creativity may inspire new insights as well…have fun!
Here are some more tips for helping children experience the Bible: