by Kathie Phillips
As leaders invested in the spiritual formation and discipleship of kids, we desire to see kids grow in their relationship with Jesus. We pray that all of the time and energy that we pour into preparing lessons for them and building relationships with them bring them closer to Christ, not just in head knowledge, but in heart change.
One of the ways we accomplish this is by inviting children to dig deeper into God’s Word. Sure, our weekend and midweek programming should make God’s Word front and center, but limited time and irregular attendance can make the study of God’s Word a challenge.
Designing space for kids to study the Bible can seem a daunting task. We adults tend to view Bible study as an “adult thing.” But what if viewed it and approached it differently? What if we viewed Bible study as a discipleship tool instead of an obligatory thing to do as a Christ-follower? What if we approached Bible study from a learner’s perspective, instead of an instructor’s perspective?
Here are eight innovative ways to help you make Bible study engaging for the kids you serve.
- Consider calling it something other than Bible “study.” Do you know what most kids equate with “study”? School and homework. Children already spend most if their week at school and doing homework, so draw kids in with an exciting name for your group. When doing this, keep in mind the ages of your target audience. Preschool-age children would be drawn to a cute name—preteens, not so much.
- Explore fun themes/topics when you are choosing your curriculum. The sky is really the limit when creating a study group. Get inspired through popular movies, toys, video games, seasons, gadgets, etc. Talk with the kids about what they love right now and use that as your inspiration.
- Host your group in a fun location. You know that Bible study doesn’t have to be confined to a church or a living room, right? You can host your group at a park, in a backyard, at the pool or in a room transformed with fun props and lighting.
- Choose an age-appropriate Bible. There are many options when it comes to Bibles for kids. From story Bibles to study Bibles in a variety of translations, take time to explore options to see what might be the best fit for your kids and your curriculum. For the youngest kids, illustrated story Bibles engage kids with colorful art and easy to understand language. For older elementary kids, consider which Bible translation might be easiest for them to read and engage with in Sunday school and on their own.
- Teach as creatively as you can. This probably goes without saying because in my opinion, children’s ministry leaders are some of the most creative folks on the planet, but I don’t want to overlook this critical piece. Remember, kids are not little adults. They are kids. Kids have short attention spans. Kids like to move. Kids fidget. Knowing these things about kids (who are our target audience) is imperative in keeping them engaged. Here are a few tips:
Be aware of learning styles, and include some of each style into your study.
- Visual learners learn best through visuals. Bring in pictures, graphs, maps, slideshows, videos, etc.
- Auditory learners learn best through what they hear. Use audio recordings of Bible passages, play worship music, etc.
- Kinesthetic learners learn best through hands-on experiences. Allow kids to mold play dough or modeling clay as you teach. Allow them to bend pipe cleaners or do science projects to supplement the lesson. Oftentimes, kids who learn best this way can use their hands to create and listen at the same time.
Bring in fun props to allow kids to act out a skit. Use puppets to engage preschool-age children. Use familiar objects to lead an object lesson.
Utilize online tools/applications. Our culture is technology-driven, and you can use technology to help kids go deeper as they study God’s Word. Have them quickly search the passage you’re studying in another translation. Help them take a virtual tour of the location where your lesson passage takes place. Used well, technology can open the eyes of your kids in brand new ways.
- Craft great discussion and application questions. Some people really enjoy lecture-style presentations, but most kids I know do not. Alternate between your voice and theirs by periodically pausing and asking questions such as:
- What do you think [name of person] was feeling in this passage? Do you think you would have felt the same way? Why or why not?
- What was confusing about that story? What was surprising?
- What does this scripture passage show/tell you about God?
The best way to get talking is to ask open-ended questions, questions that cannot be answered “yes” or “no” and questions that encourage them to think.
If you have a large group (10 or more children), encourage discussion by having them split up into smaller groups.
- Allow time for reflection. So often we rush to absorb Bible knowledge that we don’t take time to reflect on what we’ve studied. Provide space for your kids to sit quietly for a moment and think about what they’ve read and studied means to them. You can do this in a variety of ways, including, sitting quietly, journaling and/or drawing, offering a worship response or prayer station, or playing a worship song.
- Offer an element of surprise. Kids tend to love surprises, so throw in an unexpected surprise! This could include a field trip, a Bible-times snack or a visit by your pastor or another leader or church volunteer who can lead a question-and-answer session around what you’re studying.
Hebrews 4:12 reminds us that God’s Word is alive and active. Let’s help our kids see this up close and personal every time they study the scriptures.
Kathie Phillips serves as Director of Children’s Ministry at Central Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a blogger, conference speaker, freelance writer and published author. She and her husband, Lance, have been married for 23 years and have two adult children.