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Training in the Word

As we continue our children’s ministry basics series, we are going to think about the teaching of the word of God.


We know that God’s word is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. The Bible is the revelation of God to us and if our children are to know God they need to know the Bible.


Our purpose

Sometimes our focus is on telling our children Bible stories. While the stories of the Bible are important for our children to know it is the God of the Bible who we really want our children to know. In other words, the stories give our children an opportunity to know God for themselves. These are not fables with a life lesson, these are events that reveal the character and nature of God.


In fact, I would go one step further. As our children grow they need meat not milk: they need to learn theology. Now theology can seem like a scary word, but it simply means the study (logos) of God (Theos).


After our children have been in the children’s ministry for 11 years you would expect that they would have gone beyond an understanding of the basics of Christianity and started to dig deeper into the truth of who God is. In the words of Hebrews 5:12-14 ‘In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.’


If we don’t give them meat as they grow, not only will they be spiritual malnourished but they will be ill-equipped to live for God in this world. As the passage in Hebrews says they will be spiritually immature.


So, this is our purpose of teaching the word of God.


In perspective

It can be hard for children (and adults) to see the big picture of the Bible. Did King David live before Jesus. Was Abraham before Moses. Is Saul in the Old Testament or the New Testament (there is actually a Saul in both the Old and New Testaments)? If we jump around from one Bible story to the other our children will miss out on the big story unless we show them how it all fits together. Over the years our children will gradually get the big picture if each week we explain where todays passage fits into the other stories in the Bible. 


When teaching children from the word week by week, there are many different points and discussions that will be had. By the end of each week different children will take away different aspects from the lesson. However, alongside this individually revelation, I encourage you to have one key point for all the children to take away from every week’s lesson. I call this the take home key. When you have this in mind it helps you to teach more clearly.



Some practical thoughts on teaching the word

For all children it is important that our teaching is engaging and interactive. For this to be the case we will need to keep variety in the way that we teach. As someone once said, ‘The only wrong teaching method is the one that you use every week.’


When preparing your lesson think about the different senses: is there something for the children to see, something for them to hear and something for them to do. (Perhaps there may even be something for them to taste and smell!) This will allow children who learn in different ways to access the teaching.


I love using object lessons – visual illustrations – to demonstrate key teaching points. I also make a point of reading direct from my Bible so that children can see where I am taking the teaching from (even if the children are very young).


Teaching under 5s

When teaching under 5s we have written material that allows you to teach the same story for the whole month. Each week the story is told in a different way and a different angle on the story is brought out for the children.  This allows the young children to become familiar with the story and reflect on it from different angles.


For example, the story of Jonah might one week be used to show the importance of obeying God, another week to demonstrate the love of God and the third week to reveal the grace of God.


The first week you might show the children a video, the next you might act it out together, using a bed sheet. The week following you may read the story from a Bible story book with pictures and then the final week you may ask one of the children to tell the story, or ask the children to make sound effects when you say a certain word.


Time to process

As children are learning from the Bible they will need time to process and respond to this. We can provide the opportunities for this within our session. Sometimes it can be as simple as inviting the children to ask questions, or even asking them questions to think about what God is teaching us from the story. Thinking about the story from the perspective of the different characters in the story can help the children get under the skin of the story. Sharing our own testimonies that illustrate the faithfulness of God and the reality of him at work in our lives is a great way to connect the teaching from the Bible with our modern lives.


Craft activities can be a way to make space for children to process a story further. If that is your intention, make the most of it! Don’t just give the children a craft activity to do, but as they are doing the activity ask them questions. ‘How would you have responded if you were thrown in jail, would you have worshipped God? Is there some hard situation you are facing where you could now respond by worshipping God?’


Time to respond

For many sessions there will be a clear need to respond to the teaching. It might be to pause and reflect, or to ask God for help from his Holy Spirit. Alternatively, children may want to ask God to show them what to do about the teaching they have heard, or to repent for not obeying God. Obviously, the response will be dependent on the key message God is bringing to the children, but in your preparation take time to ask God what the response may be.


Sometimes the teaching will lead into a time of worship, or a time of repentance. Other times it will be to wait on God to hear who he wants us to share with or to prophesy over each other to encourage each other in our walk with Him.


When teaching a regular class I aim to include the Gospel message every month. The response may include an altar call (more on this in another blog).


Go and do

Hearing about God and knowing the Bible stories are not enough. We have to be those who act on what we hear. This is the difference between the wise and the foolish man in Matthew 7:24-29. Both heard the words of Jesus but only one did what he should. So as well as having a take home key, I encourage you to have an action point for every week. This is something for them to do. I’m not talking here about a craft activity, though you may do this, instead I’m talking about encouraging children to not just hear but to live out their faith and trust in God. 


The passage in Hebrews says it is by constant use that that the mature are able to distinguish good from evil. It requires training. As we give our children an action point to do in response to the word we are inviting them to be trained. This is faith in action.


It may be something as simple as loving our enemies – do 3 nice things for the person you find it hardest to get on with. Or sharing their faith with one non-Christian that week. Or praying 3 times a day like Daniel. Or pausing to listen to the Holy Spirit and allow him to lead you during the week. It is in living out these challenges that they will grow with God. Their understanding of God will lead to an action which in turn will grow their faith and trust in God.


When starting with a group of children I like to help them to develop their devotional lives at home. My action point to begin with is to pray for as many minutes a day as you are years old.


Of course, if you set a challenge for your children, you will have to do it too! This is our opportunity to grow alongside our children. After all we don’t want to be those who only hear the word of God – we want to be doers of the word.


And finally

Teaching the Bible to children is a great privilege. The Bible is counter cultural to the society our children are growing up in. If they are going to stand strong in these days, it is vital that they know and understand the Bible so that they can know and grow in understanding of God.


Let’s take this task seriously as we raise the next generation.


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