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Busting the ‘No Prep’ Myth

by Sheryl Haystead

The following article is provided by our INCM/CPC PartnerGospel Light.

What are the myths you used to believe in but do not anymore?

  • The Tooth Fairy puts money under your pillow?
  • Santa Claus brings gifts to good children?
  • If you cross your eyes, your face might freeze that way?

What are the myths you WISH you could believe in, but you know they are just not true?

  • It never rains in California?
  • I can accomplish my To-Do List every day?
  • My favorite dessert has no calories?

If you are a leader, teacher, helper, small-group leader (or just about anything) in children’s ministry, you might wish that you could believe in the myth that it is possible to make a difference in kids’ lives without having to prepare. But if you have spent any time with children, you know that what we are sharing and discovering with kids cannot be done without taking time to prepare. And really, why would we expect that the most valuable information in the world can be taught without preparation? Children’s ministry is worth our best effort!

But that leads me to the question: What do we REALLY need to do to give our best effort in preparing to teach? Does preparation mean that

  • we have to spend hours gathering glue bottles, tissue paper and cellophane?
  • we rehearse our lines for a skit over and over again?
  • we letter out endless index cards to play a complicated game?

Kids do like to glue things-so glue bottles could be needed. And kids love to laugh at grown-ups acting out stories-so learning our lines is important. Of course games are fun-so it is important to play them! But I believe there are some simple, practical guidelines to keep in mind so that our preparation does not overwhelm us but instead becomes a valuable tool that helps us be the best we can be in children’s ministry.

Guideline #1: Prepare your Focus. Get a clear grasp of what you wish to accomplish with the lesson you are preparing to teach. This preparation involves prayerfully thinking about your lesson materials and the students you teach, as well as asking yourself, “If the kids will only remember one thing about this session, what should that be?” Then, everything else you prepare should be looked at in light of how it will help to maintain that focus.

Guideline #2: Prepare your Heart. When you think of preparation, is your first thought of the schedule, the supplies and the songs? Think beyond those things. Think about what this Bible story, this Bible verse means in your own life. Let God’s Word speak to you. If it i s not fresh in your own life, it i s very difficult to make it fresh and relevant in the lives of the kids you are teaching. Your students need to see the truth of God’s Word in your life as much as they need to hear it.

Guideline #3: Prepare What Kids Will Do, Not Just What You Will Do. As you are thinking ahead to the session, it is easy to focus your preparation on what YOUR actions will be (“I wi ll ask this question first” “I will tell this story next”). Instead, think about what KIDS will do and the purpose of THEIR actions.

  • “Kids can play this fun game so that they get thinking about the Bible truth for this session”
  • “Then kids can act out the story with these props so that they experience the feelings and actions of the characters in the Bible story”

Guideline #4: Prepare the Questions. Asking questions to help kids discover the meaning of Bible stories and Bible verses in their own lives is essential preparation for a lesson that makes a difference in the lives of kids. We often think of learning as a result-something that is gained. We also need to consider learning as a process in which ideas are explored, understood and applied. Your well-planned questions can be the guide that makes this learning process work. The discoveries kids make through thinking and reflecting will be remembered longer and have more impact than insights simply handed down from you. So even if you have just one question that canno t be answered with the four famous answers of “Yes,” “No,” “God” and “Jesus” the time you spend teaching will have more impact. If you highlight important things to remember in your curriculum, take a moment to highlight the questions.

Guideline #5: Prepare the Basics. No matter which curriculum you use, or even a curriculum you write yourself, there will be some basic supplies that are frequently used. Get a head start on preparation by collecting, storing and organizing these basic supplies in a way that makes them easy to use. At the beginning of the school year (or anytime!) make good use of shelves, bins, folders, cans, cubbies-whatever it takes to make the basic supplies quickly available for yourself-and your leaders and teachers.

 

Guideline #6: Prepare Through Prayer. This guideline is really the start and finish of your preparation. Pray for your students each week. Take time to think about each one. List their names and put your list where you will see it every day: in your journal, in your Bible, or on your computer. Pray for a different child each day. Ask God’s help to be an unforgettable teacher, and for God’s Word to “stick” in the lives and hearts of the children you teach.

The reason I am a fan of preparation is because I know there is very little time to impact children with the good news of God’s love and that my opportunity to nurture kids in the faith is limited to one or two hours a week. Being prepared makes all the difference in the world!

“Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful instruction. 2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)”

Sheryl Haystead has been a leader in children’s ministry for over twenty-five years. She has a solid understanding of real-life ministry because of her contact with children’s pastors throughout the United States and because she is a committed Sunday school teacher in her own church. As Senior Managing Editor at Gospel Light, Sheryl has written a wide variety of popular children’s ministry resources. Sheryl and her husband, Wes, live in California. Sheryl believes that it is never too soon (or too late!) to nurture children in the faith.

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