Thank you for the extra info. This has given me more to think about.
I am one of the teachers for our Kidz Church program. I’ve worked with most of the grades now, but currently I am working with the grades 1-3 and expect that I’ll sign up for the same group for the next school year. Our church is using 252 Basics (key verse Luke 2;52), and I have to say I really like it. Yes, there is a whole media component — but I really like how the program is organized and how well thought out it is. The whole idea of the program is that faith is taught at home, not by the church. It’s up to parents to teach their children to love and serve the Lord, but that the church is there to support us. The Sunday School program is divided into three levels — nursery/preschool, elementary (broken into grades 1-3, then 4-6 girls and 4-6 boys) with specific goals at each level. The idea is that in the nursery/preschool classes the children are taught that God made me, God loves me and Jesus is my forever friend. The traditional stories are taught with a focus on one of these three truths. In the elementary grades the children learn that we can trust God to keep His promises and that we need to make wise choices based on biblical truth. The Youth program (Friday nights, there is no youth sunday school — the grade 7’s and up are in the service — infact most of them are active in the service either in the worship band, opening the service with a welcome and prayer, presenting announcements, ushering or active with the audio/visual team.
Each month’s lessons are focused on a virtue with a “bottom line” connecting to one of the goals. For example, May’s virtue is responsibility. Our bottom lines connected with making wise choices with our talents, words, actions and time, etc. Each week children take home God-time cards which give the child and parents verses to look up and talk about through the week. These aren’t cheesy stories and fill in the blanks, they are more of a study/discussion guide to give the parent direction. This is what we are using for character study though our homeschool week.
On the first Saturday of each month we have a large group event called Family Experience where the new virtue is “launched” through music, skits, the introduction of a “widget” a fun object that can be used through out the month to spark and encourage discussion, and parents are given other tools to confidnetly work with their children on that virtue throughout the month.
We think it’s great. I sometimes don’t find the activities listed in the teacher’s lesson plan work for our group of 12-14 six – nine year olds, but that’s ok — I can pick my own activities/methods to reinforce the lesson, and it works really well for me!
Can I join the alone club? :-) Today my kids helped me teach Chapel Kids at our church, a program for younger kids held during the sermon/prayer time (they stay in service for the praise and worship and some prayer first). We did the k-2 group. I’ve taught once every few months for years, and have been frustrated during that time by the hyped up material suggested in the curriculum that’s provided – lots of really wild games involving things like balloons and bubbles and running around and fun silliness that’s really hard in a small room and leaves them completely off the wall before you even start the lesson. It has you bring props like fans and flashlights, and suggests skits that are just silly: things like Abraham and Sarah’s visit from the angels, we were supposed to act out Sarah putting a pizza in the oven for the angels. I just feel like this is very insulting to the children’s intelligence, and what’s more, I suspect it gives a “Disney” sort of mentality where the kids expect to be entertained the whole time.
So, I’ve finally decided to start doing the class the same way we’d do it at home when it’s our turn, much like was suggested in the great CM-style worship article posted here not long ago. Some of my boys helped out today, and our experience, sadly, was much like the last time we tried this. I first want to say, I have been a substitute teacher in a preschool, studied childhood education, taught homeschool co-op classes, and have spent most of the past 22 years with kids – so I don’t think I’m off in my expectations or what we presented.
We prepared some fun songs to sing along to the guitar, with hand motions, we read a bit of a story, with time for narration/discussion, then had another song, then the main story with time planned for narration and discussion. The problem? It was a small class due to the holiday, and two of the 5 kids there were from one of the few other homeschooling families in our large church. They got the narration thing – I did ask questions, like tell me your favorite part, what do you remember, etc. But they had to leave class early, and once they’d left, the other three (adorable) little girls whispered to each other and stared at me blankly – and they are not unfamiliar with me, we’ve had fun together before doing it the hyper way. I know at least one of them is a REALLY smart cookie from teaching her in preschool, so I wonder, where did they learn that it’s ok not to participate at all?
I finally ended up giving them the coloring pages I’d brought, forgoing the other music we’d prepared, and they were content to color for the last few minutes. While they colored, I asked, “do the other chapel kids teachers ask questions?” They all said, “no.” What happens then, I wondered, “do they just entertain you?” And the girls said yes, they entertain us.
My 14-year-old, who’s led VBS at a small church where he attends youthgroup (mostly homeschoolers), was pretty surprised, and said he couldn’t imagine this happening there. We realized that all of our church’s kids’ programs (aside from Sunday school) are glitzy, high activity, media-linked, to me way overstimulating produductions – our VBS and chapel kids, especially. And I wondered, is there a link between this and the fact that the middle school Sunday school classes are said to be a bit wild, and kids don’t participate much in discussion? Are we teaching them that they are there to be entertained, and not to think and contribute?
I know I’m not going to be able to fix this, but in any case, I thought folks here would “get” it.
Unfortunately we proabably will never be able to “fix it” in the sense that you mean. Yes, our Kidz Church has an entertaining media componant — I don’t think we will ever be able to get rid of that. Many of the older people complained when the church did away with most of the traditional hymns in favour of more current, relevent worship music. But, as our leadership explained, so many churches are failing today, entire generations falling away and not returning, largely because they refused to change the media, so they changed the message instead. They go for the no-offensive, feel good, message that gives people a false sense of security.
For us, we use the media component for the large group session — an up beat song relating to our monthly virtue is followed by a student led prayer, offering (the kidz offering usually goes to Gospel for Asia. They have just finished purchasing two water buffalos and are now working towards providing mosquito nets for families in India), and a video with a skit that relates to the day’s story in some way that makes the story relevent to the children. The kidz then divide into their 3 classes — grades 1-3, grades 4-6 girls and 4-6 boys.
We do read the day’s story from the actual Bible and the guide offers a few suggestions (and that’s all they are, we can come up with a method, activity of our own to go with the story and virtue) for activities and dicsussion questions to help the students relate the message to their own lives. The silly game or activity is often there for a break for those children who have difficulty sitting for the whole hour. They always have a purpose, though, usually having something to do with the memory verse.
We are fortunate that our church is a very active, Bible believing church. We are also quite large for our area of the country, and especially because we are a rural church. We have a sizeable Kidz program (kidz Church doesn’t include the preschool-Kindergarten classes) of about 60 regular kids not counting the infants in the nursery. Our kids are part of the regular service through worship and some prayer. They are dismissed right before corporate prayer and the message.
While I can sympathize with all of you in feeling that many programs today do set out to simply entertaina dn make it as easy on the volunteer teacher as possible, I also encourage you to consider what your church’s real goal is in ministy, including Kids programs. It may help you to understand and accept or, it might give you a better reason to object to what they are doing now.
As I’ve already stated previously, our church’s goal is to equip the parents to be the primary spiritual teachers in their children’s lives. I feel our church is doing a great job of this. I do not feel as if my children are some how missing out on some great important lesson if the teacher that week decides the kids are too restless on a particular day and takes them to the field to play soccer after the main lesson has been accomplished. Those lessons are the responsibility of my husband and I.
The major goal of our church family is to get people in the door so that we can develope personal relationships with them in order to introduce them to our Lord and saviour. We will use the flashy media to accomplish that if neccessary, but our message is the very message that Christ gave us, the great commission, the gospel of salvation, no sugar coating, no glossing over the truth.
4myboys, I do hope you didn’t think any of my comments were directed at you and your earlier post. I do think there are many different ways people prefer to worship, and many do prefer media. Perhaps it is a personal preference – we are very low media here at home, and I get sensory overload from too much media and noise. Perhaps it’s our personal experience; we have raised two children into adulthood so far, and haven’t necessarily seen the media and entertaining programs at church being a strong influence in their lives. I know every child and family is different – this was our experience.
Perhaps it’s that I’m getting older and have walked through some very difficult times, and just want a plain and simple message and suddenly, those hymns seem more relevant to me, because they codify doctrine and praise God, without making me think more about self and problems the way many modern praise and worship songs do. Don’t get me wrong – I love modern Christian music and play it often, but for worship, I don’t want to see or hear “I” or “me” as subjects in the songs – I want to sing praises to God. This is neither here nor there in the original discussion, forgive me, but as someone starting to long for hymns, I thought I’d share my reasoning.
Perhaps it’s that I’ve seen a generation of kids who don’t have long attention spans because they really do expect to be entertained all the time. Perhaps it’s just me. I’m so glad you have found something that’s working in a powerful way to develop relationships and introduce Jesus. Bless you in your work.
Aimee, I appreciate your comments and I hope I didn’t offend you, or anyone else, by mine. I simply wanted to present another way of looking at things. The fact is, sad as it is, that we will never be able to undo the high-tech direction our world has gone. I agree that today’s kids tend to expect to be entertained more. That doesn’t mean we have to allow our own families to buy into all of that, but we can’t expect the rest of the world to follow our rules or standards, though I can certainly relate to your desire for simplicity and purity, especially in worship.
On a bit of a side note, of the five families we connect with most often (ours being the 6th) we are the only one with cable, and that is because my dh is a technical producer with the cable company. If he didn’t work for them, we wouldn’t have it either.
Evergreen, I’d swear we go to the same church. We don’t go on Wed. nights anymore b/c of the media.
Today, 9YO DS comes home with a “Commitment Card” he has been given to “minister” in the Children’s Worship Service for 1st-4th graders. He will be going into 5th grade. We said No; you will be in worship with us.
4myboys, I think you are totally right about all of the high-tech presentations. I don’t like it, but I think all of your points are exactly what has happened in the churches.
Our pastor was peddling (sorry but that is how it felt) for a mere $150,000 today to “build out” the youth area.
All I could think of was the people and children around the world who are worried about their dying child or their next meal, and “oh, our youth are getting too crowded.”
Mind you, they have been put in foozball, pool tables, a snack bar, etc. in the youth area. Hey, maybe they could take that stuff out??? A novel idea.
Evergreen, I ditto everything you’ve shared. I will try to write more tomorrow if my brain fog lifts a bit. I feel this is an important issue.
Sara, you are not alone. We quit children’s church programs 1 1/2 years ago. Now they sit in church service with us the whole time. I think they get more out of it, and they are able to sit still. They had that training, as Christie mentioned. But, it is annoying when someone gives them candy or a pencil and paper to keep them occupied, when I would like for them to grow more attentive to the service.
Evergreen – what is the article you were referring to? I must have missed that post.
I love all of your CM teaching ideas for SS. I especially like the idea of the wall timeline, or you might even be able to do some type of BOC that they can take home with them at the end of the year. I wish I could send my kids to your classes. This is a great discussion.
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