At first glance, many people might question how hard it can be to relate to children. After all, everyone was a child at one point in their life. This type of mentality is one that plagues many of our children’s ministries today. In reality, children are complex human beings with very specific needs.
Here are just a few things I have found helpful as I have studied how to teach children:
Get on their level. Literally. If you are working with preschoolers, this will look a lot different than working with elementary students, but the premise is the same. If this means sitting in the floor, do so. If this means joining in a game you are playing to emphasize a Biblical point, do so. If this means listening to what types of music your older elementary students are listening to, do so. You will gain much credibility when your students of any age see you taking an interest in what they are doing – and when you can physically look them in the eye when you talk to them rather than looking down on them, their comfort levels will increase.
Utilize a child’s imagination. The imagination of a child is huge. Children need outlets for their creativity. This should be a part of your curriculum planning. Not all children can sit still long enough to listen to a story. Not all children can read at the same level. Not all children comprehend in the same manner. Children learn in different ways – make sure to include various avenues of learning as you plan. This will aid in children grasping the truth you are trying to teach.
Technology can be beneficial. We live in a technological age. Don’t be afraid to utilize technology as you plan. After all, children are learning how to use computers, the Internet and electronic devices in school and at home. Many of the children in your classes have iPads, laptops and smartphones. By implementing something as simple as a video clip or website in your lesson, you can help your children see ways technology can be used even in a spiritual setting.
Don’t underestimate a child. Children have a great capacity to learn. This is the time for them to build their spiritual foundation with the basics – the stories and verses they will carry with them throughout their life.
It’s okay to be silly. Children love to laugh. They love to see adults having fun. Don’t let your own ego get in the way. Sing fun songs with crazy motions. Dress up in funny outfits if it fits in with your lesson. Realize the time to be serious, but don’t forget to let your children see you out of character.
Children are a precious gift. It is important for us as parents, teachers and those helping them grow to understand their complexities and embrace these as we seek to provide a spiritual foundation that will hopefully carry throughout their entire life.