It’s your turn to teach, you have the lesson, now what?
How do you take the lesson printed on paper and present it to a room full of kids?
I regularly have new volunteers begin serving in children’s ministry and the top concern I hear from them is something along the lines of… I’m happy to help, but I’m not a teacher. If you have ever thought along those lines, you’re not alone. And, just because you don’t feel like a teacher today, doesn’t mean that you’ll always feel that way. Today, after 15+ years of full time children’s ministry, the highlight of my week is standing in front of a group of kids and proclaiming the truth of God’s Word. But, that hasn’t always been the case. I remember all too well feelings of fear and failure when I first started teaching, but I kept at it and these are some of the things I learned along the way.
Top 10 tips for telling a Bible story:
#1 – PRAY – Before teaching, spend time in prayer acknowledging that you are merely a vessel for His use. Ask God to prepare your heart. Ask God to prepare the hearts of your hearers. Pray for God to open ears and soften hearts. Ask God to use you to proclaim His Word. Ask that God would remove any pride from your heart and remind you that it’s not about you but about Him alone. Pray that you would be clear in your communication. After teaching, thank God for allowing you to speak His truth and pray for continued fruit from your teaching time.
#2 –Before class, immerse yourself in the Biblical text – Read and reread and reread the Bible passage that you’ll be teaching. Ask questions of the text. Listen to sermons taught on the text. Read commentaries. Be a student of the Word before you teach it. Make sure you understand the theological truths taught in the text, even if it’s not a huge part of your lesson. I once had a teacher in a 5 year old class tell me she stayed up late the night before studying a systematic theology textbook to make sure she understood the point of the passage.
# 3- Be Prepared – If you’re provided with a script or teaching outline, spend time studying it before Sunday morning. Familiarize yourself with unknown words. Practice your illustrations and make sure any props you’ll be using work and aren’t a distraction. Gather all the supplies you’ll need. If you’ll need them, think through which kids you’ll choose as helpers, etc.
# 4 – Make sure kids are ready to sit and listen– This will mean different things in different groups. With most kids, this means visiting the toilet & water fountain right before the lesson. A general rule of thumb is to make sure everyone is comfortable physically so that they won’t be a distraction to themselves.
# 5 – Remove distractions – Again, this will mean different things in different classrooms. In preschool rooms, this might mean putting away ALL of the toys. In elementary classrooms it may mean arranging students so they’re not distracting one another or making sure that the area behind you while you’re teaching isn’t cluttered. Teachers should also remove things that might distract them. This could mean assigning a helper in the room to deal with things that may come up while you’re teaching – parent at the door, new kids, kids who need to go to the toilet, etc.
#6 – Make sure kids know what’s expected of them – Often before I teach, I review the class rules. Remind kids that this is a time to sit and listen. Remind them to keep their hands to themselves. Remind them to raise their hand to ask a question, etc.
# 7 – Don’t read your notes – I always joke with my new teachers that the #1 tip is to not break eye contact… especially with 4 year olds. And, I’m only partly kidding when I say that. The more distracted you are by your notes, the more distracted the kids will tend to be.
#8 – Use voices and big gestures – Make the Scripture come to life for the kids you are teaching. When teaching toddlers you might want to do hand motions to represent different words in the story (LOVE = hug yourself, GOD = point up, etc.). With older kids, when you read from the Bible avoid monotone, but instead speak clearly and with inflection. Change out the tone of your voice for different people in the story.
# 9 – Show pictures or have someone act it out – Romans 10:17 reminds us that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. We need to remember that God’s Word is powerful and it cuts to the heart. But, it can also be helpful to use pictures, especially for things kids have no concept of – altars, the temple, sheep & shepherds, etc. Have pictures to help focus the attention of the kids in your class as you teach. Remember that younger groups generally will need more visual clues to help them understand the words they’re hearing – story Bibles and pictures can be helpful for this. It can also be helpful occasionally to have someone act out a passage (especially familiar passages) to help kids see it anew. I like to have a few kids silently act out part of the story as I read it, or have another volunteer to the side of the room acting it out, or to even act out parts of it myself. An example of acting it out myself might be to kneel and wash a child’s foot while teaching about Jesus washing the disciple’s feet.
#10 – Change it up – Try not to get stuck in a rut. One week act something out. One week tell the story in your own words. One week read straight from the Bible with some explanations. One week show lots of pictures. One week draw while you teach. Make sure that the Bible is central whatever you do, but enjoy teaching the Word!