What Should We Teach The Children?
Several years ago, the congregation we were worshiping with was making an effort to improve their Bible classes. It was exciting to see the enthusiasm the current teachers had as well as those who had not previously taught a class. It was also exciting to see the enthusiasm of those who did not intend to teach a Bible class but were very willing to get involved behind the scenes.
During a planning meeting, there was discussion about what supplies were needed for each class. Among the list of supplies were things like glue, scissors, crayons, etc. Then the comment was made, “We must teach the children how to cut, color and glue.” Having been a pre-school teacher in the past, my heart beat quickened. I knew this to be true…pre-schoolers needed to learn these important skills. My mind briefly went to visions of children using their creative skills in Bible class. I said briefly, because almost as soon as that vision popped into my head I heard someone kindly suggest that the Bible class was not the place to teach these skills.
This was a subject I had never thought about before but have thought about it frequently since. The question that must be asked is, “What should we teach the children?”
In most congregations I am familiar with, the Bible classes are organized roughly the same way. There are usually 2 Bible classes per week, each lasting about 45 minutes. The classes are generally grouped by age. Some larger congregations have all the 1st graders in one class, the 4 year olds in another, etc. Smaller congregations may have a wider age range in each class. Some children have fully developed fine motor skills, able to do any task asked of them. Some have trouble with the most basic fine motor activities. Some children are very verbal with strong reading/comprehension skills while others struggle. Some children in the class will have parents who diligently teach their children God’s word and see to it they are prepared to fully participate in class. Some children will only hear God’s word during the Bible class itself.
Given the wide range of skills and knowledge in the typical Bible class, and given the short amount of time each class has, and given how important teaching the Bible to these children is, we should take a good look at what we are actually teaching the children. Should we spend time in class teaching the ABCs or the 123s? Should we spend time in class giving the children time to practice their fine motor skllls?
No! We need to teach the children about God. Everything in the room should be focused on God. Every song that is sung, every picture on the wall, every visual aid, every activity should be focused on God. We need to use the skills the children come to class with to teach them about God.
Do the children struggle with reading? Use pictures. Do the children struggle with using scissors? Do all the cutting necessary before class. Do the children struggle with staying focused? Keep the lessons short. Keep the class moving along. When should the children learn their ABCs? How to read? How to color? These activities should be taught at home or at school. Not in the Bible class. Our time is too short. Our subject is too important.
Can any of these activities ever be appropriate in a Bible class? Yes! If the children in your class are good readers, let them read the lesson from the Bible. If the children in your class can use scissors with ease or glue without making a mess, activities that involve these skills are fine. If the children in your class can write, spend some time copying scripture or doing the workbook activities. These skills should be used to help teach the children about God, not the other way around.
Here’s a challenge for you. Walk into a Bible class and take a look around. Does everything in the room focus on God? Look at the activities the children are working on. Are these activities something the children can do with ease or will they be so focused on the process that the lesson is lost to them? If it is your classroom, clear out everything that could possibly distract the students from the wonderful lessons of God — every puzzle, every toy, every picture, etc. Everything in the room should be there for one purpose and one purpose only — to teach God’s word.