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Help for Reaching the Hearts of Your Students

 

Apply your heart to instruction
and your ears to words of knowledge.
(Proverbs 23:12)

Each Truth78 curricula lesson is built upon two foundational pillars: the Large Group Lesson which emphasizes instructing the mind with God’s Word, followed by the Small Group Application which focuses on engaging the students’ hearts and wills in response to God’s Word.  Both are vitally important in nurturing faith.

I’ve found in my years of teaching that Small Group Application, a vital tool in helping children obey the command to “apply their heart” to what they’re learning in the lesson, can be the most challenging aspect of the classroom time. Trying to focus a small group of giggly 6-year-olds in responding to God’s Word can be a huge challenge. Trying to engage the hearts of sports-crazed 12-year-old boys in spiritual discussion is no less challenging. Small Group Leaders need all the help they can get.

We’ve developed a new Core Training Series document just for Small Group Leaders: Leading Small Group Application. This document will provide you with valuable insights and practical tips for preparing, leading, and engaging students’ hearts and influencing their wills with the Word of God.

Also, don’t miss this inspiring short video in which David and Sally Michael explain the connection between instructing the mind, engaging the heart, and influencing the will (time segment: 2:46 – 8:38).

 

Are You Gripped by the Truths You Teach?

I can vividly remember the incident even though it happened years ago. I had just finished preparing for Sunday’s lesson. It involved teaching just one basic truth to my first grade class: God is eternal. The visuals, props, and lesson notes were ready. The Scriptures being taught were all carefully marked in my Bible. I had rehearsed the lesson several times. I was confident – I’ve got this! And then I was completely undone as I reread the key verse for the lesson:

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God (Psalm 90:2).

I tried to get my mind around God being from “everlasting to everlasting.” I couldn’t. I was simply blown away by this reality. The one true God had no beginning and will have no end. There is no way to completely grasp this. He is utterly unique and set apart from all creation. I no longer felt like “I’ve got this!” And that was the greatest gift the Lord graciously gave to me in my lesson preparation: I was gripped by His truth. Teaching could now flow from a heart of humble worship instead of a pride-filled self-confidence.

Teaching the next generation the glorious deeds of the LORD and the wonders He has done is both an awesome privilege and a grave responsibility. These are glorious and weighty matters. The sort of teaching that effectively communicates these realities is not merely done by conveying information and facts for young minds to absorb. Effective teaching will also reflect the life-changing power of God’s Word as we, the teachers, are called to personally respond to it.

John Piper has a great word in this regard for teachers and parents,

Teachers and parents who do not exult over God in their teaching will not bring about exultation in God. Dry, unemotional, indifferent teaching about God — whether at home or at church — is a half-truth, at best. It says one thing about God and portrays another thing. It is inconsistent. It says that God is great, but teaches as if God is not great. 

Psalm 145:4 shows us another way: “One generation shall praise Your works to another.” Let praises carry the truth to the next generation, because the aim of truth is praise. The aim of education is exultation. So let education model exultation in the way it is done.[1] 

That long ago Sunday, I went into the classroom prepared with my lesson. All that tangible, nitty-gritty preparation was important and the lesson flowed smoothly. But most importantly, my heart was prepared, and that changed the atmosphere in the room — truth was communicated with a sense of awe and wonder at the matchless majesty of God. I hope and pray that by God’s grace the children were drawn up with me into that awe and wonder.


 [1] John Piper, “One Generation Shall Praise Your Works to Another,” https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/one-generation-shall-praise-your-works-to-another.

For more spiritual and practical help in preparing to teach kindergarten and elementary age children, see our new Core Training Series resource: Preparing and Teaching a Lesson. This resource will include the following topics:

  • Instructing the minds of children with the Bible
  • The role of “active” learning in the classroom
  • Teaching from a heart of praise
  • The importance of prayer in teaching
  • General classroom issues
  • How to prepare a teach a lesson

Four Reasons to Use a Printed Bible When Teaching Children and Youth

Before advocating for teaching children and youth primarily from a printed Bible, I want to fully affirm that the following are true whether we teach the Bible from a digital device or from a traditional printed book:

  • The Bible is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16)
  • The Bible is inerrant and completely trustworthy.
  • The Bible is the full canon of Scripture—all 66 books—given to us in written form.
  • The Bible is characterized by its absolute authority, clarity, sufficiency, and necessity.

The medium we use does not change or alter the above truths. However, there is something we should not lose sight of: The medium we use cannot be completely disassociated from the message. One media theorist went so far as to famously say, “The medium is the message.” This means that the vehicle – book, TV, iPhone, etc. — used to transmit a message can’t help but shape and even alter the meaning of the message it brings.

There are four reasons why I advocate primarily using a physical, printed Bible for teaching children and youth.

  1. A printed Bible helps remind our children and students that the Bible is utterly unique, “set-apart,” holy. Consider one example: By the time my grandson was five-years-old, he knew how to use his parent’s iPad and was able to use it to access educational games, videos, family pictures, and more. That same iPad can also be used to access God’s Holy Word. In his mind, the device is a smorgasbord of options. Will God’s Word stand out to him as unique and holy when it is among these other fun options? Won’t it more likely be diminished to merely one more app?
  1. Using a printed Bible reinforces the entirety of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Every time we look up an individual text, we are reminded that it is tied (and literally “bound”) to the whole of Scripture and occupies a certain historical place (i.e., Old Testament and New Testament).
  1. A printed Bible lends itself to a better understanding of the permanence and unchanging nature of Scripture. Digital devices lose power, get viruses and bugs, and are constantly being improved upon. Yet my husband still has his grandfather’s Bible from more than a century ago. Will the device your child uses to access the Bible today still be usable in even 20 years? It’s not likely.
  1. A printed Bible can assist our children and students to make a more personal connection with Scripture and, by God’s grace, embrace it. I still have the Bible my parents gave me 40 years ago. It has underlining, notes in the margins, and other personal reflections. It records the testimony of how God personally fed and nourished me with His holy Word during those early years as a Christian. Printed Bibles provide this same opportunity for our children and students.

I do believe there is a place for using a digital form of Scripture, whether it be on a device, PowerPoint, etc. There are times and situations where digital may be preferred and beneficial. But in the classroom and for our children’s personal study and devotions, I believe the printed Word is preferable. Even if you use a digital device to prepare your lesson, I would encourage you to read from a printed Bible in the classroom and encourage your students to do the same. This is invaluable modeling for impressionable children.

Finally, I would encourage you to read Matthew Barrett’s article, “Dear Pastor, Bring Your Bible to Church.” Although it is directed at pastors, all the principles are applicable to teachers. Here is his conclusion:

No doubt, my warning touches an uncomfortable and irritable nerve. To insult our use of technology is one of the seven deadly sins in the 21st century. Technology infiltrates and saturates everything we do, and therefore defines everything we are, for better or worse. But is this subtle shift changing the way we read the Scriptures? Is it ever-so-quietly removing the visual centerpiece of the local assembly? I think so.

Preparing Your Children for Sunday School: Little Things Make a Big Difference

The first few weeks of the new Sunday school year can be somewhat chaotic, especially if you’re in a church with large classes or multi-aged classes. Some children adapt very well to the new surroundings while others struggle. Thankfully, parents, a little effort can go a long way toward preparing your children for class.

Your children will be best served when you are joyfully working together with the classroom volunteers to create a calm, spiritual atmosphere. Often, it’s the “little” things that can disrupt the Sunday school hour. Toward that end, there are some very simple, practical ways parents can prepare their children:

  1. Establish a Saturday evening routine for helping your children get their clothes, Bibles, and other things ready. My daughter does this with her four young children — they choose and line-up all their clothes in one place before going to bed.
  2. Review any assigned Bible memory, take home sheets (GIFT pages), etc.
  3. Make sure your children get a good night’s sleep. When our children were young we were very careful not to schedule Saturday evening events that ran too late.
  4. Make sure your children eat a good breakfast on Sunday morning (please don’t sugar them up). A hungry child is usually inattentive and cranky — and I don’t blame him!
  5. Use the travel time to church as a means of creating a spiritual atmosphere. For example: Pray together, recite Bible memory verses, sing worship songs or listen to a worship CD, etc.
  6. Have your children leave any and all electronic devices with you or in the car. Better yet, leave them at home. (Consider doing the same with your devices — a technology Sabbath of sorts. Your actions often have more influence than your words).
  7. Bring your child to class on time. Allow enough margin to take them to the restroom, and if necessary, have a snack or drink of water between services.
  8. When dropping your children off at their classes, make sure you convey a sense of appreciation and thankfulness to the classroom volunteers. Your children are watching and listening; you are serving as a model for them as they enter the classroom.

This list seems really simplistic and, thankfully, many parents are already doing a wonderful job of preparing their children. But it is amazing how neglecting just one of these little things can cause big disruptions in the classroom: a wiggling child waving his hand to go to the bathroom in the middle of a lesson; an overly tired and cranky 10-year-old; a fidgety, defiant 6-year-old who’s had too much sugar; a child who is anxious and sad because getting ready for church put the whole family on edge, etc.  Parents, a little foresight and planning will go a long way toward serving your children’s spiritual growth in the classroom. You play a vital role in serving the church by preparing your children for Sunday school.

The Joy of Being Equipped and Trained for the Classroom

Have you ever experienced the following as a children’s ministry volunteer: a few weeks before class begins you are handed a curriculum, assigned a classroom, and then left to figure out the rest by yourself? I have; and felt completely unprepared and discouraged – it was going to be a LONG year! If you’ve had this experience, you know this approach is not conducive to either the volunteer, or the students, flourishing in the classroom. Yes, it’s possible to overcome the challenges created by a lack of training, but it doesn’t have to be this way; nor should it be the norm.

I am happy to say that for most of my years in children’s ministry, I’ve had the great privilege of being well prepared for the Sunday school year. At a minimum this included:

  • Volunteer training sessions that laid a solid foundation including: giving us a vision—the big picture for why this work is a worthy investment of our time and effort—as well as practical help for using the curriculum and understanding classroom policies and procedures.
  • All the tools necessary for a well-stocked classroom: whiteboards, easels, visuals, student workbooks, Bibles, small group supply bins, pens or pencils, optional craft supplies, etc.
  • Regular encouragement from our ministry leadership throughout the year: thank you notes, classroom visits, praying with and for our team, year-end appreciation meal, etc.

Being fully equipped, trained, and encouraged made all the difference. It helped me be a better teacher year after year and fueled a joyful camaraderie and peaceful calm in the classroom. Most of all, the students were better served as God’s Word was taught with greater clarity and heart-felt joy.

At Truth78, want to help Children’s pastors and other children’s ministry leaders go beyond recruiting, to preparing, their volunteers. Our new Core Training Series is designed to help all children’s ministry volunteers be more fully equipped, trained, and encouraged in their roles. While nothing can replace a well thought-out, hands-on training program by church leadership, the Core Training Series can provide every ministry volunteer with some basic help for flourishing in their roles. Ideally, your church can use these tools as part of a larger, ongoing intentional plan for preparing and supporting volunteers.

Children’s ministry leaders can make the most of this series by distributing these PDFs to volunteers digitally, or as hard copies. Ministry volunteers can print any applicable documents for themselves, and use the full series to make their church’s leadership aware of these new training resources.

Leading Your Classroom Team

Curriculum Scope and Sequence Explained

Guiding Values That Define the Truth78 Curriculum

Partnering With Parents

Developing a Vision Oriented Ministry

Theological and Philosophical Foundations of Truth78 Teaching Resources

Recruiting, Equipping, and Retaining Volunteers

How to Teach the Books of the Bible

Steve and I (Candice) started serving our children’s ministry eight years ago in the two-year-olds’ room when our youngest was two. Since then, we’ve followed him up through the various classrooms as he’s been promoted. This fall, we’ll be teaching he and his classmates, third and fourth graders, To Be Like Jesus. I’ve noticed as we’ve moved to higher grades that finding verses in the Bible still proves challenging for a lot of the students. I figured they’d all know the order of the books of the Bible by now, but that’s not something teachers can assume their students will get in school (espeically non-Christian schools), or even at home. I’m so glad to have the following creative solution from Jill, and look forward to using it in our classroom in the coming weeks.


Teachers, are you looking for a fun and creative activity to help your younger elementary students learn the books of the Bible? Learning this important skill will help children become more proficient in searching for, and finding, Scripture verses in their own Bibles. Try this simple activity in your classroom.

Supplies:

  • Approximately 15-20 feet of heavy twine or clothesline rope
  • 22 sheets of white (or light-colored) 11″ x 17″ paper
  • Color markers
  • Bibles

Preparation:

  1. Fold each sheet of paper in half so that it forms an 11″ x 8-1/2″ sheet.
  2. Cut each folded sheet into three equal sections (each section will now be about 3-5/8″ x 8-1/2″).
  3. Write a book of the Bible’s name on each sheet. (If students are just beginning to learn these, you could use a different colored marker for various sections: the Pentateuch, history, wisdom, major prophets, minor prophets, Gospels, epistles, etc.)
  4. Before class, hide the sheets in the classroom.
  5. Attach the ends of the rope to two sturdy objects to form a clothesline (or ask two adults to hold the ends of the rope).

Instructions:

When children arrive, instruct them to search for the strips of paper hidden in the classroom. When a child finds one, have him hang it on the clothesline in the correct place. (At first, this will be an approximate location until more and more books are found and hung in order.)

Children can continue to find and hang up additional books until all are in place. Then take the opportunity to recite the books in order as a group. (Consider using a song to do this.)

Ask a child to remove one or two books from the clothesline and then try to recite the books again, inserting the missing book name where appropriate.

Helpful Tips:

  • For younger children, begin by using only Genesis–Ezra. In the following weeks, add more books of the Bible until they can successfully complete the entire Old Testament, then move to the New Testament.
  • Encourage the children to use the table of contents in a Bible when needed. Learning to look up the books in the table of contents is another helpful skill for becoming more familiar with their Bibles.
  • Consider using a stopwatch to time the game from week to week. Encourage the children to beat their previous time as they become more familiar with the books of the Bible.

 

Go-To Help for Using Truth78 Curriculum

We are excited to introduce some new and concise resources for your ministry leaders and volunteers: Truth78’s Core Training Series. We know that establishing a God-centered, Bible-saturated, Christ-exalting, Gospel-focused, Spirit-dependent classroom environment can seem like a daunting task. Each year brings new challenges in recruiting, equipping, and training ministry volunteers. Some leaders and volunteers are fully acquainted with the Truth78 curricula, having used it for many years. But some, especially those newer to our curriculum, would definitely benefit from some basic go-to help for understanding and using our curriculum.

What is the Core Training Series?

It is a series of short documents that provide an overview of specific topics and classroom roles, as well as outline some practical tips for implementation in the classroom setting. In other words, these documents provide a “core” of essential knowledge and tools for using our curriculum. Many of these documents also point you to Truth78 resources that offer further training.

How should the Core Training Series be used?

We suggest printing all applicable documents and passing them along to your ministry teams. The following training documents are organized into categories based on whether they are applicable to everyone, or mainly to those with a specific classroom role. We’ll be highlighting and expanding these on our new website soon, and plan to add further equipping and training options there.

Which Core Training documents are available now? (Unlinked articles will be available soon)

For all children’s ministry leaders and volunteers:

Developing a Vision Orientation of Ministry to Children and Youth
The Theological and Philosophical Foundations of Truth78 Teaching Resources
Scope and Sequence Explained

For children’s ministry leaders:

Recruiting, Equipping, and Retaining Volunteers

For all children’s ministry leaders and volunteers:

Guiding Values That Define the Truth78 Curriculum
Partnering with Parents

Age-specific focus:

Tools for Using Truth78 Curricula – Infants and Toddlers
Tools for Using Truth78 Curricula – Preschool
Tools for Using Truth 78 Curricula – Kindergarten and Elementary

Specific classroom roles:

Leading Your Classroom Team (Team Leaders)
Preparing and Teaching a Lesson (Kindergarten and Elementary Teachers)
Leading Small Group Application (Kindergarten and Elementary Small Group Leaders)
Leading Children in Worship

Special topics:

Partnering with Your Church (for parents)
Adapting Truth78 Curricula to Your Specific Needs (Multi-age classes, Christian schools, homeschool)
Truth78 Backyard Bible Club/Vacation Bible School Curricula

 

Why Workbooks?

A while back I sat with my two oldest grandchildren flipping through a family photo album of one of our early family camping trips to Wyoming. As we paged through the pictures amidst a flood of wonderful memories, my grandchildren were fascinated by the adventures their mommy experienced as a young girl. I am so thankful to have that photo album.

What child doesn’t love to look at old family pictures? Now imagine your child having a “theological picture album” filled with truths about God: His faithfulness in keeping His promises; His sovereign providence over all things; His glorious deeds and the wonders He has done; a step-by-step presentation of the Gospel; a child-friendly explanation of the essential doctrines of the Christian life; and on and on.

This is exactly what the Truth78 curriculum workbooks and journals are all about — creating a lasting, “theological picture album” for your children and students. They are not merely busy-work or fun engagement for the students but are designed to reflect the core truths taught throughout each study. They invite children to interact with Bible texts, provide activities that reinforce the main ideas, ask questions for personal reflection, and most importantly, are an integral part of the classroom Small Group Application time.

Workbooks and journals are a key component of the curriculum because:

  • They enhance the application process. Students are encouraged to move from head knowledge to heart application — responding to the truths they’re being taught in each lesson. (In our Revised curricula, students need workbooks in order to complete certain portions of the application section.)
  • Workbooks for younger children provide opportunities for “hands-on” activities — coloring, pasting, stickers, etc. This helps students focus as the adult leader reviews key lesson themes and leads the discussion time.
  • Workbooks and journals for older children provide the students with a variety of opportunities for note-taking during the lesson, small group and individual activities, personal application, and further study.
  • They ensure that every student receives a summation of the entire curriculum even if they have missed weeks of class.

Churches and parents, don’t miss out on this opportunity to provide your students and children with workbooks and journals. (If you purchase the digital versions, consider having the printouts spiral bound in order to keep all the pages together in a format that will last.) Imagine years from now, sitting down with your now older children and, page by page, reflecting on the redeeming work of Jesus on their behalf. Or think of the awe and wonder of recalling God’s attributes in the ABCs of God: “God is Almighty, Bountiful, Creator, Deliverer, Eternal, Faithful, etc.”  When hardship strikes your family, consider the comfort of pulling out the workbook from Faithful to All His Promises and page by page, remembering, reflecting, and being encouraged by the unshakeable promises of God to His children.

Although the workbooks and journals add an extra classroom expense, consider:

  • They are the only consumable component of the curriculum. The curriculum itself can last for years without repurchasing.
  • They provide students and parents with a lasting resource that summarizes the precept-upon-precept study, in its entirety.
  • They provide students with a tangible, interactive resource through which the truths presented in the lesson can be reviewed and remembered.
  • One workbook or journal costs a little more than the price of one meal at a fast-food restaurant.

Parents: If your church does not purchase workbooks because of added cost, consider ways that you might help defray the cost. You could issue a challenge to fellow parents: “Let’s skip eating a meal out and contribute the money we would have spent to a classroom workbook fund.” Or something similar. It’s a small price to pay to create a lasting spiritual legacy.

If you haven’t already ordered your workbooks and journals, there’s still time. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to provide your students and children with a “theological photo album” for their lasting enjoyment.

Biblical Faithfulness in the Classroom

A new Sunday school year is upon us and ministry leaders and volunteers are busy planning, preparing, and setting classroom schedules. There are so many options for filling up classroom time: hands-on activities, crafts, and games; birthday celebrations; singing and worship; prayer; missions focus; Bible memory work, time to simply hang-out, etc. All good and compelling things. But before you finalize your classroom schedule, consider these words from John Piper in “A Compelling Reason for Rigorous Training of the Mind”:

I was reading and meditating on the book of Hebrews recently, when it hit me forcefully that a basic and compelling reason for education — the rigorous training of the mind — is so that a person can read the Bible with understanding. …

The issue of earning a living is not nearly so important as whether the next generation has direct access to the meaning of the Word of God. We need an education that puts the highest premium under God on knowing the meaning of God’s Book, and growing in the abilities that will unlock its riches for a lifetime. … Lord, let us not fail the next generation!

Taking these thoughts a step further, Albert Mohler lays out the great challenge before us in “The Glory of God in the Life of the Mind”:

Christian faithfulness requires the development of the believer’s intellectual capacities in order that we may understand the Christian faith, develop habits of Christian thought, form intuitions that are based upon biblical truth, and live in faithfulness to all that Christ teaches. This is no easy task, to be sure. Just as Christian discipleship requires growth and development, intellectual faithfulness requires a lifetime of devoted study, consecrated thinking, and analytical reflection.

The above sentiments will require both church and home to prioritize and maximize biblical instruction. The church, for its part, must set the example during the Sunday school hour by developing a schedule that prioritizes biblical teaching and spiritual discussion.

If you are using our curriculum you will note that we highlight two essential elements for the Sunday school hour: the large group Bible lesson and the small group application. These two elements should consume the vast portion of a typical Sunday school hour for elementary aged children and youth. Depending on the age of your students and time availability, you might add in one or more of the optional hands-on activities we include for each lesson. These have been developed to either reinforce lesson themes or introduce some other valuable faith-building endeavor: missions, Bible skills, Bible memory, etc.

This year, let us use our class time wisely so that we may endeavor to put “the highest premium under God on knowing the meaning of God’s Book” and help our students to grow “in the abilities that will unlock its riches for a lifetime. … Lord, let us not fail the next generation!”

On the Top of Every List

School supplies are everywhere these days. Most schools give parents lists — sometimes really long ones! — of supplies their children will need for the first day of school. As a longtime Sunday school teacher, I would like to give parents a list for their children’s Sunday school class. You’ll be very happy to know that there is only one item on that list: a Bible. Not a storybook Bible. Not a New Testament and Psalms. The full Scriptures, Old and New Testaments.

Sunday school exists because of and for the Bible. Our goal as teachers is to lead, encourage, and inspire children and youth to know, honor, and treasure the God of the Bible, through trusting in the Savior revealed in the Bible, so that they would live lives in conformance to the Bible. In Sunday school we:

  • Instruct minds with the Bible
  • Engage hearts with the Bible
  • And influence wills with the Bible

As a teacher, I can cleverly retell or dramatize stories from the Bible. I can provide interesting and fun illustrations that help students grasp truths from the Bible. But if I don’t give them the Bible — the text itself — I have withheld from them the very words that have the power to save and transform them.

Over the many years of teaching Sunday school, my most vivid and delightful memory is watching 35 first-grade children eagerly, and determinedly searching for a passage of Scripture in their Bibles. When they found it, they put their finger on the verse, and looked up at me with bright smiles on their faces. Then, like treasure hunters, we read each word, unlocking its mysteries, finding out about the greatest Treasure and Joy in the universe. Oh for a generation of children and youth who love the Word!

At Truth78, we have a vision for the next generation — a vision of children soaked full of the Word of God; children who see the Bible being read and explained in the home and in the classroom; children who are taught how to properly read, interact with, and study the Bible. We long for a generation of Bible-saturated children who come to embrace God’s Word as sweeter than honey, more precious than gold, more exciting than any game or activity, more powerful than anything in their lives, more long-lasting and life-transforming than any new electronic gadget, and more soul-satisfying than the closest friend.


Here are some practical steps for making the Bible more prominent in Sunday School classrooms:

For parents and teachers: A Vision For Teaching the Word of God (video link).

Classroom tips for teachers:

  • Encourage parents to provide their children with a Bible. If necessary, assist them in purchasing a Bible for their child.
  • Always teach with an open Bible, even if you are summarizing a story for preschoolers.
  • Whenever possible read directly from the Bible. Even preschoolers should hear the actual text read at times. Where the Bible uses simple, straightforward language, read it.
  • In kindergarten, start to teach children the books of the Bible through song.
  • Beginning in first grade, encourage each child to bring his or her own Bible to class. Make sure it is a full-text Bible and not a storybook or paraphrased version. We highly recommend the ESV Children’s Bible.
  • Offer small incentives (candy, prizes) for children who remember to bring their Bibles to class.
  • Give children of reading age opportunities to look up selected texts and read them aloud during the lesson. Do this according to their age and skill level. Most first graders can, with some help, look up and read one short and simple text per lesson. By third grade, most children can handle multiple texts of varying lengths.

Want some additional tips for specific age levels? Print out this free handout: The Importance of Biblical Literacy for the Next Generation.

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