Our church has mix of kids who know the stories of the Bible well and those who are hearing the stories for the first time. How do we effectively teach when children have different levels of Bible knowledge?
Teaching children with different degrees of Bible knowledge is a challenge for teachers in church education and in day schools. But while schools care about more than just achievement, their primary purpose is academic. Faith is not an academic achievement, however. It is a gift from God.
Knowing what the Bible says is important, both for those who have been in church for most of their lives and for those who are new to church. In class, leaders can acknowledge that some are hearing the story for the first time and others may already have heard the story. As followers of Christ, we listen to the Bible story more than once because each time we hear something new, and we get better at listening for how God is at work in the story. Come with questions about the story that aren’t fact-based but help kids explore and make connections by retelling the story in pictures, drama, writing, or song. Invite conversation by talking about how people in the stories felt. What would you do, for example, if you were with Gideon facing an army with just a torch, a jug, and a trumpet?
While knowledge is part of our faith, there is more. Programs like church school serve the church by providing a space, time, and place for learning God’s story but also for building relationships. Intergenerational relationships are an important aspect of helping kids feel they belong in a congregation. Use the opening and closing parts of your class time to demonstrate that everyone belongs to your group. Ask each person in your class for a good thing thing that happened today or a place where they saw God in the past week. A child or teen will remember you and how you treated them much longer than they remember the name of Moses’ wife or who caused the ax head to float.
About the Authors
Laura Keeley is a regional catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in the CRCNA and director of childrens ministries at 14th St. CRC in Holland, Mich.
Robert Keeley is professor of education at Calvin College and director of distance education at Calvin Seminary.