By Sarah A. Keith
“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Some people believe Proverbs 22:6 is a promise from God that if we do our jobs well, as parents or educators, our children will eventually follow Him. Others interpret it as recognizing the God-given abilities of our children, and then fostering those skills and gifts so that when they are old they will not depart from them. Ted Hildebrandt*, of Grace Theological Seminary, suggests it has to do with initiating a late adolescent into his official capacity and responsibilities of society. “According to his way – or in the way he should go – meant according to the standard and status of what would be demanded of him in that culture.”
We all learn in different ways; visual, auditory and verbal or kinesthetic (touching, feeling, moving), solitary and social. Active Participation Experience (A.P.E.) provides children with a method of learning Biblical truths according to their learning style. To the extent that we are prone to different learning styles, I believe the A.P.E. Method is in keeping with the intent of Proverbs 22:6.
I have often been asked, “How do you think of such creative teaching ideas?” Most times, I shrug my shoulders and wonder the same thing. However, I’ve been thinking about this now for some time, and I believe there are fundamental strategies people can do to spark their own creativity to enhance their Bible lessons.
We are made in the image of a creative God.
“…He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts-to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship …and the ability to teach others…He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers-all of them master craftsmen and designers.” Exodus 35:31ff
1) Pray for wisdom and creativity to determine your lesson and the ability to implement it. “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.” Psalm 119:18
2) Discover the needs of your children. (Salvation? Christian growth? Character development?) Knowing this will help to develop your topic, theme and method.
3) Be willing to discover new ideas. Spend time learning new art, craft, and game techniques.
4) When preparing a lesson, ask yourself, “How can I associate this Bible truth with an activity or game?” Sometimes it works backwards too. You may see a game or an activity that reminds you of a portion of Scripture. You can then use it or modify it to teach the Bible point. Seeing God in Everything is a game that encourages this skill-available athttp://sundayschoolnetwork.com/game_seeing_God.html
5) Study the Scripture and historical background of your theme. Successfully using the A.P.E. Method requires equipping yourself with knowledge of your subject in order to connect it with an activity that children will understand. For example, a word study of “sin” reveals the meaning to encompass missing the mark of God’s perfection. Thus, a logical connection to a game would be one involving a target.
6) When developing your lesson, allow your thoughts to “stew”; this requires advanced planning and prayer.
7) Come prepared. Make the most of class time. Every activity-whether it be a game, craft or skit-should reinforce the lesson. If you don’t have time to prepare in advance, you probably shouldn’t be teaching.
8) Allow the child in you to come out and play. Be enthusiastic! The word enthusiasm is from the Greek meaning en (in) and theÃ³s, “in God”, to be filled with the divine.
9) Love the children in your charge. Be sensitive to their attitudes and feedback. If an activity isn’t working, change it up or try another approach.
10) Brainstorm ideas with other teachers and teach what you’ve been taught.
The A.P.E. Method (By including the following learning styles in your Bible lessons: visual, auditory or verbal, kinesthetic, solitary or social, you will address the natural, God-given bent of the children you teach.)
1) Act it – (visual, auditory/verbal, kinesthetic, social) use prepared scripts, write your own or narrate Scripture for children to pantomime while you read. (For example, if you were to read Exodus 3:1-6, the passage pertaining to “Moses and the Burning Bush,” you could choose one child to pantomime Moses’ part and a few more children, or the rest of the class, to pantomime the burning bush. Begin with “the bush” kneeling in a tight circle. Then, when you read the word “bush”, the children acting that part must jump up and wave their hands above their heads to represent the flames.) Video taping your skits provides visual and auditory reinforcement of the lesson, and kids love watching their performance. You’ll also provide a “Living Bible” memory-maker for your church! For more skits ideas, visit the following page: http://www.sundayschoolnetwork.com/skits.html
2) Draw it / Build it – (visual, kinesthetic, social or solitary) design a paper quilt, banner, wall hangings, storyboards, picture booklets, woodcarving, clay, block printing, etc.
3) Memorize it – (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, social or solitary) create your own hand motions, use American Sign Language or play memorization games. If God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path, then Scripture memorization should be at the forefront of children’s ministry. After all, we are instructed to hide God’s Word in our hearts so that we don’t sin against him. The following link provides creative memorization techniques: http://www.sundayschoolnetwork.com/lesson_memory.html
4) Write it – (verbal, solitary) have older-aged children translate a passage of Scripture in their own words or have them write scripts to be acted out during class time.
5) Play it – (visual, auditory/verbal, kinesthetic, social) the use of active or low energy games to express a Bible point, whether they be original or a modified version of an existing game, is one of the most effective ways to engage children in lesson time. For more Bible game ideas, visit the following page:http://www.sundayschoolnetwork.com/page10.html
6) Make n’ Eat it – (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, social) Children love to “cook”. Involving them in food devotions is a wonderful way to get their attention and keep them coming back for seconds! The picture on the right is from a food devotion based on the story of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den.” Using round crackers, cheese in a can, thin pretzel sticks, raisins and round oat cereal, children “cooked up” lions they could devour.
7) Sing it – (auditory, verbal, kinesthetic, social or solitary) no other method of learning engraves God’s Word into our hearts than a song!
Class activities should never be used just to fill time. Make every minute count!
Sarah Keith is the president and founder of SundaySchoolNetwork.com. The site made its dÃ©but in 1997 and has grown to become one of the premier Christian education resource outlets, providing over 1400 pages of free and pay-for-use Christian crafts, games, skits, object talks, and Bible curriculum. In January 2000, the Sunday School Teacher’s Network newsletter was launched. It is a forum for professional and non-professional Christian educators to share ideas and questions, as well as trials and triumphs with one another. Currently there are over 27,000 opt-in subscribers.
Ms. Keith has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Religion from Palm Beach Atlantic University. She brings over twenty-five years of teaching experience to children’s ministry. She writes and illustrates faith-building, hands-on Bible curricula for teachers of children, kindergarten through fifth grade-distributed to and used by ministry professionals worldwide.