Have you ever noticed the variety of interests and abilities of the children you are teaching? Very early in life children show preferences in what they like to eat, games they enjoy, and how they like to spend their time. These early preferences can be an indication of special gifts and aptitudes. An exciting privilege of parenting is watching your children discover their unique gifts and abilities.
An alert teacher can help a child discover his gifts and give him opportunities to use them in class.
Sunday school and children's church are ideal places for children to learn to participate in ministry. Children can lead a class in prayer, lead worship songs, play musical instruments, help set up a sound system, organize a puppet show, set up craft and pre-session activities, share testimonies, take the offering, take attendance, and review the Bible story. Under the guidance of a teacher, older children can assist younger children. Junior age children enjoy helping preschoolers with crafts, interest centers, and playing games. They can serve snacks and read to children.
Children want to help--and they want to contribute something meaningful to their church and school.
We should challenge them to serve others, and give them real ministry opportunities. Children can easily identify with the little boy who offered his lunch to feed a crowd, and with the little maid in Naaman's household who shared her faith. In these examples, the adults involved were open to a child's offer to help. We can help children by channeling their enthusiasm into appropriate areas of practical service. Involving them gradually, and regularly will help them see that they really can be a part of the church's mission.
Churches that are alert to children's potential will guide them in ministry both inside and outside the church building. Missions projects and community service offer tangible ways they can be involved. Children can participate by assisting adults in outreach ministries, earning money for missions, collecting food for the homeless, helping with younger children, and visiting the elderly.
Children need to feel they are a part of the church.
Those who attend only because their parents require it--and never feel personally involved--may leave the church. They will feel a true connection if we let them know the joys of ministry while they are learning and growing. If a child is well into the teen years before he is allowed to have a meaningful part in the mission of the church, other interests will compete for his time, and he may lack the desire and confidence to try new things. This is especially true in areas that involve public ministry.
During the elementary years, however, children are excited about trying new things and seem less concerned with making mistakes in front of their peers. Most children want to help their teacher when given the opportunity. Participation is a key word to remember when teaching children.
Here are four tips to help you help them:
1. Children need adult role models to follow as they learn how to serve in the church. Children will pattern themselves after people they admire. It may come as a surprise, but children still look up to their parents, despite the influence of the media in their lives. In a recent survey of kids ages 6 to14 from 25 different cities across the U.S., 79% of the kids said they admired their parents the most, and an additional 19% named their grandparents. And, according to Jean Bailey of the Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, "Parents remain the most significant people in children's lives until age 14 or 15." Involving parents--and grandparents--who are committed Christians in your Sunday school will help provide examples for the children to follow. Parents who love kids and reach out to others can provide the role models the children in your church need. Many children who don't have Christian parents look to the adults in their church as examples.
2. Begin to look for ways to involve children regularly as helpers or assistants in your class. You can rotate responsibilities, giving all children an opportunity to assist in some way. Keep in mind that some children prefer to assist in quiet, supportive ways, while others enjoy leadership roles. The more you know your students the more effective you'll be in guiding them.
3. Express confidence in the children as you notice their individual talents and abilities. Teach them that God has given everyone gifts and abilities that need to be developed. Show them the scriptural basis for using their abilities for the glory of God (Colossians 3:23) and for the benefit of others. Challenge the children to invest time and energy in developing these gifts.
4. Teach your students to appreciate the abilities of their peers. Avoid showing favoritism or making negative comparisons with your students that can stir up feelings of jealousy and envy. Help your students learn to congratulate one another's achievements, and enjoy their successes. Romans 12:10 is a good scripture to apply here: "Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another" (KJV).
Build a team spirit in your class.
Show the children what it means to work together to achieve a goal. Demonstrate how the parts of the church body can all work together in harmony. Provide meaningful projects for children to work on together that will utilize their various abilities. You will be laying a foundation of peace and harmony in your church as you build up the younger members of the body of Christ.
Written by Verda Rubottom
Copyright Gospel Publishing House. All rights reserved. Used with permission.