How To Teach Multi-Age Sunday School

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A majority of the churches in America and across the world have less than 100 members.  These are small churches with small children’s ministries.  Many of these churches will have all children in the same classroom for Sunday School. That means multiple age groups will be learning together in one Sunday School classroom.
What can a small children’s ministry do when they have children from kindergarten through sixth grade in the same group?  Here are some ideas for how to bridge the age gap in your multi-age classroom on Sunday mornings. Click here to share your tips with other readers.
1. Establish Buddies
Pair one older child with one younger child as a “big buddy” and “little buddy.”  The buddies can work together in a variety of ways in the classroom.

  • Pair them up for working on scripture memorization.  The older child will be amazed how easily the younger can memorize and the younger will enjoy helping the older learn a new verse.
  • Pair them up for craft projects.  Many times we do not attempt complex crafts with younger children because there are not enough adult helpers.  In a multi-level classroom you have an advantage, which age-separated children’s ministries do not; you can utilize the “big buddy” to assist their “little buddy” in completing the craft.  They can work on the craft together!

2. Utilize Experienced Readers
Children sustain more attentiveness when they are not hearing the same voice for the duration of the Sunday School lesson.  Enlist your older students to read aloud the Bible verses.  The older students will love reading aloud and the younger children will be eager for the day when they will get to read aloud in Sunday School!
3. Create Special Privileges for Older Children
Create certain privileges which can only be done by the older children.  For example, if your classroom goes up through 6th grade, set aside special tasks only given to the 5th and 6th graders to complete.

  • These older children could help lead the other children in singing a few songs at the beginning of class each week.
  • These older children could be used to act out an upcoming Bible story, as an introduction for the other children, in the form of a play or reader’s theater.
  • The older children could help set up and close down the room each week or make copies for the teacher before the start of class.

By setting aside special privileges for the older children, they will get to experience leadership and set an example for the younger children.  This will also give the younger children something to look forward to doing when they become 5th graders.
4. Modify Supplemental Activities
Most lessons you will teach, when reading a passage from the Bible and explaining its meaning, will look similar across all elementary grade levels.  The difference and challenge comes in the application and follow up activities.

  • One modification is to break them up into age leveled groups at the close of a lesson to discuss how the lesson can be applied to their everyday life.  Then the groups will report back to the whole class.  There can be a K-1 reporter, a 2-3 reporter, and so forth until all groups have shared their application of the lesson.
  • Another modification can be made in the area of crafts.  The same craft can be completed by K-5 children, but for the K-2 children you can prep part of the craft ahead of time.  You can have everything prewritten on their craft or you can precut parts of the project.  The older children can complete all of the writing and cutting independently in the same about of time it takes the younger children to complete their modified version.

Serving in a small children’s ministry can be challenging, but it also has its great rewards!  You get to know all of the children in your church personally.  You are blessed to work with one child from kindergarten through 6th grade and see how they grow in their knowledge of the Lord over a period of years.

2 thoughts on “How To Teach Multi-Age Sunday School”

  1. Hi! A basic Google search led me here… I’m not a teacher; I’m a mom.
    Maybe you can offer me some guidance?
    I’m a married mom with ADHD – Inattentive Type; I am *just now* getting treated at age 46. My kids’ ages are 16, 14, 11 and 7. My husband doesn’t pursue God, so sharing the Bible with the kids is squarely on my shoulders only. I accepted Jesus in 2002, so I’m not a new Christian. My kids have all been raised in the church.

    The reason I mention these things is because – as is typical for my diagnosis – I have trouble with organizing and prioritizing; I have a “riddle” of sorts that I haven’t been able to unravel:

    1) What part of the Bible do I read each day? I’m spoiled for choice, and it’s rendered me paralyzed. Too many conflicting ideas of where to read in the Bible each day. Same with devotionals – I have a few I enjoy; how do I settle on just one?
    I don’t wish to overload myself with reading/devotionals to the point where I’m gourging myself – taking in so much that not much of it can be studied, meditated on, and absorbed. But I don’t want to take such teeny “bites” that it would take 10 years to get through the Bible cover to cover. I love how the Bible in a Year plans usually give me a taste of the OT, the NT, a Proverb and a Psalm in each day, but it’s too big a bite. To read the entries in each day is doable; to have time to study and pick each one apart is not. Is there a 3-year Bible, maybe, that breaks it down that way also – but in smaller bites?

    2) Once I’ve figured out how to nourish myself, how do I share the Bible with my kids, since they’re 4 different ages? When I’ve tried to all read the same passages at the same time in one sitting, the chaos is out of control – my youngest starts bouncing around all over the place, my 14 yr old whines and asks when we’ll be done, my oldest becomes utterly irritated by the youngest, etc. It’s proven futile! If I have them read the Bible individually, how do I give the older ones “meat,” but the younger ones “milk”? And how do I have us all in the same spot of the Bible? I don’t want my 7 year old to still be using a “My First Bible” type thing, which has the stories condensed and is 50% illustrations. He can read well already, so I’m ordering him a Young Readers Bible. I want him to have the verses listed, just like mine.

    Each time I think I’ve settled upon a plan, I decide it’s not quite right, and switch again. The kids and I have been stagnant in our God journey for over a year now and I feel a strong burden to get it together! Can you help?

    Thanks so much!

  2. Hi Melissa,
    I am was interested in your questions. I have one granddaughter who is somewhat interested and another not interested and they are 4 and 6. I hope to have the older granddaughter read a simple Bible story to them next time they are here. For your questions, I wouldn’t try to do too much and aim for a verse a day that you might focus on. They could each one hear it as you settle them in bed and pray with them. If this is not routine, it will take some time. Another good place to start is reading to them at night once you’ve mastered just a verse. I recommend The Reed, Firecloud and the Ark. The animals come to life. If they get restless, stop and try the next night. Your persistence will be rewarded. Remember, it takes 30 days to establish a new routine. I regret not doing this with my own grown children when they were young.

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