Written By Karen Bransgrove, Children’s Minister, Riverside Church
Making the Gospel Fun
Is it wrong to make church fun? The obvious answer to this should be “Of course not!” However, there are those who may hold to the thought that teaching the Bible is serious work. While that is most certainly true, I want to propose that solid gospel teaching must also be fun to reach the kids of today.
Does this mean that the “tried and true” ways of teaching are obsolete? Perhaps the use of that word might be a bit harsh. However, certain things in their environment today have shaped most children’s ways of grasping information. Therefore the altering of teaching methods to use greater imagination than in years past is more necessary than ever. I believe the key to teaching the gospel to children today calls for a careful balance.
Studies show that learning occurs and children retain more information when more senses are used and fun is being had. Allowing kids the freedom to use their imaginations to capture and hold their interest through play will actually accelerate learning for elementary-age children.*
So how can you present solid gospel teaching while providing fun and making learning attractive today? Here are some tips you can use with your teachers who are responsible for sharing Jesus on a weekly basis in your churches and in your small group gatherings.
Make the Content Age Appropriate –
No matter how you teach it, if the content you are sharing is too old for your audience, children will resist engaging during your time with them. While you want all your children to know their way around the Bible and understand the depth of the gospel, if you are presenting information beyond their abilities, learning will not take place. In the same manner, not challenging learners with enough new material will cause them to lose interest in the incredible life-giving message you have to share. Know your kids and their capabilities for learning.
John 4 talks about the Samaritan woman at the well who meets Jesus. The scripture touches on some details of this woman that may not be necessary to share with very young children. She had been married several times and was currently living with someone not her husband. This is not the time to preach to preschoolers and young children the need to avoid pre-marital sex. Instead, it is a great opportunity to show that Jesus loves us, values everyone, and seeks us out no matter where we are in life. Only through Him can we have eternal life.
Engage your children –
If there is anything a child can do to promote their own learning, let them do so. In other words, don’t do the work for them. Instead of talking at them and lecturing points of a Bible story or certain gospel concepts, let them experience learning for themselves. We would all agree that reading through the scripture is absolutely vital for several reasons:
The information is true and from God’s Word.
Children learn to navigate the Bible for themselves
However, take that learning a step further. Instead of just allowing the kids to listen to the passage being read and perhaps seeing it for themselves as they follow along:
Ask the kids to act out what they have just heard. By doing so you can see how much they understood from the reading. As they reenact the story, kids can see the gospel come to life.
Let them use their imaginations and make a visual to accompany their learning for that day. Perhaps they will use play-doh or modeling clay to create the people in the lesson. Maybe allowing them to create a song of the week reviewing points they learned is more to their liking.
Making them responsible for their own learning allows them to own what takes place not only in their classroom, but encourages them to invest in their own spiritual growth. This is a learned skill that will help them not just now, but also as they mature and become young adults.
Don’t be afraid to try new things –
We already talked about the pitfalls of boring our children. How do you keep the child who has “grown up in church” interested and not bored from redundancy? How often have you heard, “Not that story again!” Is it possible to make the old stories become fresh and new? Absolutely!! In fact, I think you as an educator must branch out and try new things in order to capture the interest of those whom the enemy would want to steal away. Here are a few things you might try:
Enlist the help of adult classes asking them to adopt your kids for a special project.
Bring in new materials to play games with and use as props during your class. Many fun ideas can be launched and created by using pool noodles, bouncing balls, buckets, a stopwatch, and more. Keeping your kids moving and on the go will prevent them from checking out during your time together.
Change things up once a quarter by doing a “Block Party” atmosphere. Make each room a different part of the lesson, have parents or teachers bring in breakfast food (be sure to check for allergies), and let all the elementary kids move from room to room throughout their morning. One room can allow kids to act out the story, while the next can be an applicable craft to take home. Another room allows for an innovative review game, while the final area might be full of music and movement. Whatever you do, make it fun and enticing so children want to come back for more.
What does this mean for me? –
Perhaps one of the most important parts of teaching the gospel message is to make room for application. What does a particular lesson have to do with the child today? What difference does the Bible make in the life of people in 2017? Showing your children that the Bible is alive and applies to their life is vital to helping them remember the message brought before them. When they believe there is a reason for their lives, they will learn to live with a purpose.
Application does not just mean re-teach the lesson or try to add more meaning to the scripture. It does mean asking the kids what they can learn from the lesson. Take the story of the fish and the loaves in Matthew 14. This is not a story about the boy sharing. Instead it is a lesson of God’s provision in our lives. So encourage the kids to see ways that God provides for them today.
Making the Bible fun and full of life is not selling the gospel message short. Instead, it does just the opposite! It extends the learning and allows for more knowledge to stick to children as they walk out your door. As they venture into their schools and neighborhoods, they will then be able to shake out and pour forth their newfound knowledge to a world in great need of a great Savior.
*(Let Kids Learn Through Play – The NY Times – https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/opinion/sunday/let-the-kids-learn-through-play.html?_r=0 )
Karen Bransgrove is the Children’s Minster at Riverside Church of Denver, Colorado, in charge of the preschool and elementary children’s ministry. She has served the families of Riverside for over sixteen years now and enjoys networking and sharing ideas with others in order to share God’s gospel message in new and innovative ways.