#12 – Get Fired Up! (Tips For Large Group Teaching)

Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.

I really ought to start this out this installment with a disclaimer – today’s post is in reaction to a pet peeve of mine.  That pet peeve is that I can stand to listen to monotone, uninspired, unemotional presentations of God’s Word.  Now, don’t get me wrong – every second of every teaching does not need to be over the top gut wrenching emotion (we’ll save that for the televangelists).  But, we’re teaching about God.  We are talking about the creator of everything in the universe.  We imparting the knowledge of him he came to earth to save us from our sins.  We are proclaiming the good news of our God who died for us and rose on the third day to conquer death and save of from our sins – not because we deserve it, but because he loves.  In the face of that kind of love, how can you help but be excited?  Furthermore, how will kids ever get excited about God if we are not excited when we teach them?  So, get fired up about GOD and then impart that fire in the kids you are teaching!

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#11 – Build On What They Already Like (Tips For Large Group Teaching)

Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.

I read an article recently from an older gentleman who was told that he was now too old to be involved in Children’s Ministry.  The consensus in the comments to that article was that the ability to serve in Children’s Ministry has nothing to do with age and everything to do with staying relevant.  By relevant, it just means that you must put yourself in a position to talk to the kids in your classroom about the things they do and the things they like.

For me, this is easy because of my circumstances.  I teach 5-6 year olds and I have both a six year old girl and an eight year old boy at home.  Hardly a week goes by where I have not watched an episode of Zach & Cody on Deck or listened to Hannah Montana.  I know who Phineas and Ferb are.  I know what video games they like because I buy them.  Truth be told, I like to play them as well.  I know what the new game systems are.  We have several of them at our house.  I’ve seen the latest movies.  I know what the kids see on television and in the movies.  I know what kind of foods they like and the newest gimmicks in the grocery stores.  I follow the same sports.  I know the difference between a Bakugan and a Pokeman.  I use facebook and twitter.  In my case, I don’t have to make a concerted effort to go out and learn these things because they are part of my everyday life.  Even given my circumstance, I still have to make a concerted effort to take note of what I see and observe.  Being immersed in kid culture does me no good in conversation if I can’t remember any of it.

If you are in a different circumstance, you might have to do a little more work to keep up.  Subscribe to a kids’ magazine.  Watch the occasional kids program on TV.  Go to a kids’ movie.  Anymore, most of the kids’ movies that are made include enough stuff for adults to at least entertain you a little bit while you’re learning.  If you don’t know where to start, ask the kids.  Years ago when my kids were much younger and I was working with a class of 2nd graders, I asked them all what their favorite television shows were.  They loved telling me about them, and I made a point to find and watch each show they mentioned that week.  Over the course of the next year, it gave me a launching point for conversations that enabled me to really connect with them.

In terms of large group teaching, it’s great to be able to engage the kids in things that they are already interested in.  Play off of the things they already know to teach them the truths of the Bible.  You never know when you might see a relevant story you can use as a parable on the Disney channel or Nickelodeon.  And, if you don’t know what Nickelodeon is or that Disney even has a television station – you have a lot of work to do!  You better get crackin’!

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#10 – The Dreaded Discipline System (Tips For Large Group Teaching)

Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.

Large groups all have some sort of discipline system.  Whether it is spoken or reduced to writing, any large group of people has its own discipline system or it devolves into chaos and anarchy.  We set up a system in our classroom when we were having problems with the kids interrupting and talking too much during the large group lesson.  I will not go into the details the system, but suffice to say that there are four key components to any good discipline system:

  1. First, set up your system as a reward system.  Don’t punish the kids for not doing something they should – reward them for doing what you do ask.
  2. Two, keep it simple.  If the system gets so complex that you can’t administer it and the kids can’t remember it, then it doesn’t do anyone any good.
  3. Three, communicate the system clearly to the kids.  They need to understand exactly how the system works, what they can and can’t do, and what the rewards are.
  4. Finally, don’t enforce it yourself during the large group teaching time unless you have no other option.  This may seem a bit counterintuitive, but if you have to interrupt your large group teaching every time a kid can’t keep his hands to himself, it will destroy the flow of your teaching and reduce its effectiveness.  Rely on other leaders and volunteers to enforce the discipline system.  Make the system clear to them as well, and ask for their help!

Remember, discipline is about discipling a child, and having a system in place is as much about the other kids in the room as the child who is receiving the discipline.  Many people don’t want to implement a discipline system because they want the kids to “have fun” in their classrooms.  This view ignores two important considerations:

  1. It ignores the other kids in the room who are not acting out and deserve a secure and controlled learning environment in which they can learn about Jesus and God’s word.
  2. It ignores that fact that most kids who act out actually desire rules and a controlled environment – no matter what they tell you!

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#9 – You Are Not Alone (Tips For Large Group Teaching)

Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.

In his letter to the church in Corinth, Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” [1 Corinthians 11:1].  Rather than exalting himself, Paul was simply saying that others should learn from what Christ had taught him.  Likewise, in any ministry, we are conceited when we are not willing to look to, and learn from, others both in their successes and their failures.  No matter what position you fill in Children’s Ministry from monthly volunteer to multi-site/megachurch Children’s Pastor, there are people who you can look to for advice and guidance.

One thing that has continues to amaze me more and more as I meet more and more people involved in Children’s Ministry is how willing they are, as a profession, to share information and ideas.  Take advantage of that.  Reach out to others in your area who are in your same position.  In many cities there are groups of Children’s Ministry professionals who gather periodically to exchange ideas and sharpen one another.  Find books from people you trust and respect in Children’s Ministry and devour them.  People like Jim Wideman, Sue Miller, Reggie Joiner, Dale Hudson, Scott Werner and Aaron Reynolds all have great resources out there.  I remember when our Children’s Ministry Director told me that something I had written reminded her a lot of something else she had read from Jim Wideman.  I went and read everything I could find of his, and I learned a lot.  And, in this technological age, you don’t even have to go to the bookstore to learn from these mentors.  Many of them have blogs online where you can catch up with what they are thinking on an almost daily basis.  I featured a bunch of them in a series of posts I did several months back:

In addition to these blogs, there are a number of additional internet resources that you can use to learn and grow for your work in Children’s Ministry.  From online sites full of resources to sites where you can connect with other Children’s Ministry workers, the internet is full of invaluable resources.  I highlighted some of these resources in a post called: Best of the Best – Children’s Ministry Internet Resources.

Whether you are just getting started in Children’s Ministry or are a seasoned professional, there is always someone you can learn from.  We must never stop challenging ourselves to get better when the souls of God’s children are at stake.

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#8 – Keep It Fresh (Tips For Large Group Teaching)

Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.

Always be on the lookout for the next “thing” to use in your lesson.  Any method, trick, gizmo or other thing done over and over and over again will eventually get old.  Even a laser light show with live music and a smoke machine will be boring after a few weeks.  I think a child (or adult) who lived at Disney World for a while would eventually find even that boring!

Constantly be on the lookout for, and thinking of, new ways to present your lessons to the kids.  Teach them in a normal large group.  Show them a video.  Video yourself from a “remote location.”  Use characters.  Use puppets.  Incorporate music into the teaching rather than just using it during worship.  Ask the lead pastor to come in for a day.  Play a game.  Put on a show.  Have a question and answer time.  Let the kids act out the lesson.  Let the kids teach the lesson.  Play a round of “stump your leaders.”  Involve small group leaders in the teaching.  Interview people during your lesson.  Go for a walk.  Invite guest speakers.  Hire a magician.  Have older kids come in and teach.  Whatever you can think of to keep things fresh and new will go a long way towards keeping the kids involved.  That is really the point of this whole series – finding exciting and innovative ways to teach kids about Jesus.

If you can get kids to the point where they sincerely don’t want to miss church on Sunday because they’re afraid they might miss whatever it is you’re going to do next, you’ve succeeded.  The good news in this area is that most kids don’t have the long memory.  Just because you’ve done something once doesn’t mean that you can’t use it again.  Just make sure that you aren’t doing the exact same thing every week!  Finally, remember that everything you do in the limited time you have kids at church should be relevant and serve the purpose of teaching them about Jesus!

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#7 – If You Can’t Remember Names, Be Creative! (Tips for Large Group Teaching)

Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.

There will be times when you just can’t remember every child’s name.  It happens.  On Wednesday nights, we usually have roughly 150-200 kids for our Awana program.  I handle game time which is split into three groups.  I try my best to remember names, but no matter how much I try, I know I will never get them all down (especially the quiet ones).  I tell people that my memory is inversely proportionate to the number of kids I have and that it’s pretty much gone at this point with four kids of my own.

I am a rare specimen in that I am not at all good with either names or faces.  So, God has helped me to cope.  I always refer more generically to some kids each week (even when I know their names).  It could be “bouncy boy” in the second row, or “pink girl” in the back, or the “oh oh oh oh” kid to my right.  Or, I’ll pretend not to remember names of kids who are sure that I do know their names (my daughter, for example).  That way, if I don’t know a kid’s name, and I can’t see their name tag, I can still improvise and they don’t feel singled out or forgotten.  I also find that it adds some fun to the teaching.  The more creative you are with “names” the more the kids will laugh.  I will offer one word of warning though – some kids do not take well to it and might feel like you are making fun of them.  Never pick a name that will make a kid feel like you’re picking on them.  Your goal is to have all the kids in the class having fun WITH one another not laughing AT one another!

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#6 – Where Everybody Knows Your Name (Tips for Large Group Teaching)

Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.

This was a line from the popular show Cheers in the 1980’s and early 1990’s.  It extols the comfort that comes from knowing that there is somewhere in this world where everyone knows who you are.  In the real world, that’s what our Children’s Ministries should be like!  There’s just something a lot more personal about calling a child by his/her name rather than just “you.”  Even in a large group setting, using a child’s name helps to build personal rapport.

Knowing every kid’s name is a lot easier in a small group setting where you only have 8-10 names to remember.  It’s a whole lot harder when you have 20 or 30 or 50 or more kids to try to remember all their names.

I use our check in list each week to keep track of who is and isn’t there.  I also make a conscious effort to study it every week to try to memorize the kids’ names.  I make notes about any distinctive characteristic a child might have, who is related to who, and anything else I can think of that will help me to remember their names.  I try to either great the kids every week as they get dropped off or be the one to wish them well and say goodbye as their parents pick them up.  This helps to further reinforce memorizing their names.  When all else fails, name tags are great!  I’m getting better and better every week at seeing a 1 inch by 4 four inch name tag from twenty feet away!

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