Monday, July 16, 2012

Sing-Along Songs for Preschoolers

Here are some fun sing-along songs that are easy for twos and threes and preschoolers to learn, and are sung to familiar tunes. (Music is also included.) Best of all, they teach Christian concepts in ways tiny tots can remember! Feel free to also make up new words and verses to the tunes to create songs your class enjoys.

Jesus Gives Me Joy


Joy, joy, joy, joy
I give Jesus joy.
Just because I love Him so,
I give Jesus joy.

Joy, joy, joy, joy
Jesus gives me joy.
Every day along my way,
Jesus gives me joy.

 I Can Use My Hands and Feet


I can use my hands and feet (move both hands and feet),
hands and feet, hands and feet.
I can use my hands and feet
to help with all the work.

I can use my arms and legs (move arms and legs),
arms and legs, arms and legs.
I can use my arms and legs
to run and play each day.

Oh, We Can Praise Jesus


Oh, we can praise Jesus, praise Jesus, praise Jesus (skip in a circle).
Oh, we can praise Jesus (stop)
This way and that (sway to the left, then to the right).
By clapping, by clapping, by clapping, by clapping (clap).
Oh, we can praise Jesus this way and that (sway left, then right).

For more verses, substitute different actions and words for the clapping. Try singing, praying, ringing (pretend bells), or other actions the children think of.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Relating Successfully to Elementary Children

The time you invest as a children’s leader falls into two main categories: (1) time spent alone in prayer, preparation, and planning and (2) time spent with kids during your actual weekly meetings. Of necessity, some of the time spent during the meeting will be in large group activities or with smaller groups. It is possible to interact on a one-to-one basis in groups, however, and to make a moment here and there important to a child.

As you endeavor to know each child as an individual, remember that children learn in many different ways and at decidedly different rates of progress. The activities in your VBS curriculum are written with this in mind. A variety of methods are often used to present concepts or teach Bible truths. Materials are written on each child’s level of interest and understanding. Children who do not read confidently can participate through non-reading parts provided in many activities.

Involve your youngsters in planning and implementation of activities. Make taking part a really positive thing so they’ll be motivated to seek involvement and put the necessary effort into preparing.

Take a good look at yourself

The teacher is a critical factor in making kids want to learn. One of the most outstanding characteristics any teacher/leader should have is enthusiasm. If he’s enthusiastic about his teaching and training, he’ll put his best into it. And anyone who is attempting to give his best to a task will be sensitive to weaknesses and thus try to improve them. Enthusiasm is contagious! Nothing is more therapeutic for a sagging program than an enthusiastic leader!

A leader’s personal appearance is important, too. Wear the right clothes for the activities in which you’re involved. Don’t overdress — or underdress! A neat, clean appearance is another way of saying you care. Remember, your kids watch you carefully and many will want to imitate you. Be an example, even in this area.

Are you aware of any annoying habits that may divert the attention of some in your group? Do you have too many “you knows” and “and uhs” in your speech, or do you twist your jewelry unconsciously while you’re talking? Check yourself, or ask a friend to observe your teaching and speaking (at home or in your leadership position) to help you avoid distracting habits and improve your public speaking technique.
Are you on time consistently? Being “on the job” at least 15 minutes early can sometimes mean the difference between chaos and a smooth running program. If you come late, you usually get flustered because the kids have had time to become unruly, and valuable time can be wasted just getting the group settled down. It’s far better for you to have been the first one there, with everything in order, ready to begin on time.

A good leader is always thoroughly prepared. A concert pianist wouldn’t dream of going into a recital without hours and hours of practice and preparation. Why should a teacher or leader feel that his performance demands less practice? Remember — in teaching from God’s Word, we’re dealing with the souls of children! This should challenge us to be more diligent in our preparation of every Bible lesson, craft, project, or game time! Don’t minimize the importance of your calling as a leader by a slothful attitude toward preparation for the task of teaching and training children.

A leader should be fun. Do you have a good sense of humor? Are you fun to be with? Do kids like you? Are you “human”? This means being a “warm body” — someone kids feel drawn to and want to be around — someone with whom they’re free to be themselves. Don’t be so sensitive that you can’t laugh at yourself. Try to see yourself as kids do. Relax! Have a good time with your group. They’ll respond more positively to you, feel more comfortable and secure in your presence, and be open to what you have to share with them.

A leader should be a good listener. And that means being a patient listener. If you give the impression of always being in a hurry, always too busy to hear the end of their stories, they’ll feel they’re unimportant to you. Being a good listener shows that you sincerely care about those you listen to. Remember, kids can read adults like a book and can pick out of any crowd those who are genuinely interested in them. Talk to your kids — listen to them — give yourself to them!

A good leader is NOT afraid of change. The beginning of the downfall of any group is the statement, “But we’ve never done it that way before.” How do you know it won’t work unless you’ve tried it? Remember — change or variety is the spice of life — and the spice of any program. Be flexible! Willing to change! New! Different!

Do the youngsters you lead see Christ in you? This should be the main purpose of your ministry with children — that boys and girls might find Christ as their Savior and have their lives changed. Kids need to have an example, a guide to follow. You could be that adult they look to for spiritual leadership. Are they finding it in you? This fact alone should motivate you to be the most effective leader you can be — for Christ’s sake.

Take a good look at the kids

Knowing as much as possible about the kids can be a big help in improving your teaching effectiveness.
First of all, it’s of utmost importance that you know the physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual characteristics of the age group with which you work. Knowing these facts — why kids act the way they do — can affect how, why, and what you teach. Meet with your coworkers to study these age-level characteristics. Read books that can help you gain important insights.

Then accept kids where they are. Accept them because of who they are — respect them! There’s no room for “favorites” if you want to reach all the kids in your group. Every child has something special about himself and something unique to offer. Find out what it is, and get busy helping that youngster feel special and wanted.

Challenge your boys and girls to participate. Use them. All-Stars for Jesus Bible club programs are designed to involve kids — to let them learn by doing. So don’t always “do” for them.
Elementary Resources

The teacher/leader should always be available and ready to help if needed, but should sometimes be in the background. Instead of finding the answer for your students, show them where they can find it for themselves.

When kids get restless, the leader always needs to ask “why?” Usually it’s because (1) the activity is too long for the attention span of the group, or (2) the activity itself is boring. If this is the case, it’s the responsibility of the leader to correct the situation. Change the activity and always have a variety of activities up your sleeve in case one doesn’t work out or is over faster than you anticipated. Again, be prepared. Youngsters seldom grow bored or restless if there’s a fast-moving, variety-filled program in which they are actively involved.

Give kids responsibility

Give your students plenty of responsibility — not just by participating in programs, but in maintaining the appearance of the room, distributing and collecting materials, and in general, being a contributing member of the group. Give them meaningful tasks, even if it would be easier to do them yourself. Always thank them and show your appreciation.

You are a model!

You may be the only really positive, warm factor in an otherwise unhappy young life. Be sensitive about the things you say and do. Avoid broken promises, sarcasm, favoritism, or an impatient attitude. Youngsters won’t easily forget such behavior by adults. But neither will they forget the smiles, the hugs, the encouragement, and the love given to them by adults they can really trust.

Youngsters, even children in elementary grades, are looking for models. You have a unique opportunity and responsibility as a children’s leader to be the kind of positive, godly example they need.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

8 Tips for Leading Discussions: Part 2

This is the second part in a two-part series on leading discussions for older elementary children. If you missed part one from last week, you can find it here >

What if it doesn’t work?

In spite of the best plans, the most carefully planned questions, and the ideal seating arrangement, some discussions may still not work. The leader may feel the discussion is getting away from him, questions may be raised for which the leader has no answers, or there is no general agreement on the topic. Rather than allowing confusion, it is best to reorganize and evaluate the situation.

Refer back to the opening comments and to the goals and objectives of the discussion. (This is one of the reasons it is crucial the leader use good questions and comments to start the discussion, and that the children clearly understand the goals and objectives — what conclusions you want to reach — for the discussion. The opening statements set the tone for what is to come and indicate there is something worthwhile to discuss.) Summarizing will automatically discount any discussion that wandered from the subject. As you summarize, try to get the group to agree on the major points you have discussed and their conclusions.

If difficult questions arise, don’t panic. Assure your group you will check and get the answer for them by your next meeting. Or, have a member do the research, either during the discussion (if research tools are available) or by the next meeting. Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know an answer; students will recognize a bluff or vague answer, but they will respect you more if you are honest in admitting you don’t know.

The same approach can be used if a question comes up that has no bearing on the discussion. Simply say, “That’s a good question, Eric. Let’s talk about it after the meeting. Right now, let’s continue talking about …” then get right back to the subject of your discussion.

If you are well prepared before your meeting begins, if you are interested in the subject, and if you treat the students in the discussion group with respect and consideration, you should be able to handle most any situation that might arise out of the discussion.

What about tools?

Some discussions may benefit from tools to enhance them and keep them going. A chalkboard, whiteboard, overhead projector, computer projector, or flip chart will allow you (or one of the children) to write down key points as you work toward a general summary and conclusion. (Don’t stay at the board too much; try to stay seated with the group as much as possible.)

For some discussions, guide sheets are helpful. Guide sheets are often in your VBS curriculum and can include basic questions, Scripture references, and space to write key points or answers to the questions.

The most important tool for any discussion is the Bible. In addition to the Bible version you normally use, you may wish to have additional versions of the Bible available, as well as a Bible dictionary, concordance, and other reference materials.

Types of discussions

If your group is quite large (more than 15 to 20 children), a discussion with the entire group may sometimes be unsatisfactory. Try breaking into several small discussion groups, each with a leader, and applying the same basic principles of successful discussion. Or, move into “buzz” groups of 3 to 10 people. One person is chosen as leader and another is picked to write down the group’s ideas and report on them when all the buzz groups reassemble for a large-group sharing time.

Brainstorming is another small-group discussion variation. Each small group is given a problem and asked to come up with as many different solutions as possible. Most any idea is valid to enter into the discussion; brainstorming allows the kids to think freely about the problem and its solution. Everyone is encouraged to use each other's ideas as a springboard for their own. Record all the ideas; don’t reject any. Set a definite time limit, then get back together in the larger group and share the ideas from all the groups.

Another discussion method is the forum, an informal or formal discussion made up of a panel of speakers who have prepared reports, then interact among themselves on what they have researched. The panel discussion is a less formal variation of the forum; it allows for interaction from the floor, or from the group at large. Good research coupled with preparation by several members of your group, provides the stimulation for good discussion.

Don’t forget to evaluate

It’s not enough just to have a discussion, make some conclusions, and go home. Always evaluate each discussion, decide whether your discussion accomplished your goals and objectives, and learn ways you can do better next time.

This checklist will help you evaluate your discussions:
  •  How did the discussion contribute to understanding the topic?
  • Did the children in the group learn anything from the discussion?
  • Did the discussion help the children apply what they learned to their own lives?
  • Was each child involved in the discussion, and if not, how can this be corrected in the future?
  • What follow up should be done on what was included in this discussion?
Discussion—in various forms—is used often with older children in VBS curriculum. While it is only one method for effective learning and application, discussion can bring new excitement and involvement to your meetings. And, as the result of good discussions, you will observe new incentive, increased maturity, and new leadership skills among your students.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Programming Resources for Fall (or Anytime)

With VBS season coming to a close, that means fall is right around the corner! We've gathered several helpful resources to help you plan a great fall for your kids.

You'll find large group/small group options, preschool, children's church, VBS follow-up ideas, and more.

As always, we offer free shipping on orders of $99 or more, and the lowest prices every day.

Summit Seekers is one of Gospel Light's many 13-week lesson program books designed for VBS follow-up, but also perfect for any time you need a fun children's program for your kids. With Vacation Bible School-like themes and fun activity center rotations, you can harness the energy and impact of VBS every Sunday. KidsTime 13-Lesson Courses are great for use midweek, Sunday mornings or as a change of pace during the summer. Browse more themes.


 101 Bible Games & Activities for Preschool
Each game includes a memory verse in KJV or NIV. Many games contain reproducible patterns in color and black-and-white. Also available in Toddler and Elementary. View sample game. Browse games, activities & crafts >

Train—and retrain—volunteers. A year’s worth of reproducible training handouts helps volunteers be their best. Their skills and effectiveness in children’s ministry will grow. Includes an audio CD, reproducible handouts for a year, a CD-ROM with e-mail blasts & clip art, "Meeting format," appendix, and topic index. Browse teacher helps >

Grades 1-6, Ages 6-12
Don't let limited volunteers be an obstacle to life-changing ministry! Designed for limited staff and broad age ranges, KidsTime is a versatile solution for any size church or any size group. KidsTime is fully reproducible and jammed with creative ways to present Bible Stories including crafts, games, activities, discussion questions, Scripture memory verses, time-line posters, music CD and music videos. Little KidsTime for Preschool also available! Browse all Children's Ministry >

Involve your kids and families in a Halloween alternative or fall festival! This complete program book will help you plan and organize a Christ-centered fall outreach event for your church and community. This easy-to-use instruction guide tells you all you need to know—whether you've been planning church events for 25 years or this is your first time! Includes promotion and programming ideas, recipes for refreshments, games, craft instruction sheets, CD-ROM, and lots more. View sample devotion. (Christmas Celebration also available.)

A wealth of information and no-fuss training for anyone who is involved with a church nursery ministry. You’ll find answers to most any question raised in the operation of the church nursery, from the latest information on safety questions to ages and stages information, as well as new ideas to communicate and play with babies. This is reproducible manual includes a DVD, making it easy to share with your staff. (Preschool, Children's Ministry, Preteen, & Special Needs Smart Pages also available.) Browse all nursery helps >

Gospel Light's Jr. K.I.D.S. Church allows you to take your preschoolers on an amazing life journey as they discover that God made them for a specific purpose and plan. Elementary and Disciplemakers digital curriculum also available.  Browse all K.I.D.S. Church >

Monday, July 2, 2012

8 Tips for Leading Discussions: Part 1

One of the most valuable methods of teaching and training older children is discussion. This is because discussions — which include panels, forums, interviews, brainstorming, and variations of these — give your students the ideal opportunity to talk about what they are learning and discover how to apply those concepts to their lives.

A carefully planned and directed discussion session, in whatever form, can turn a dull, lifeless group of children into an excited, enthusiastic bunch of students. But perhaps you, like many leaders, are afraid you do not have the expertise or experience to lead an exciting discussion or to teach your students to do so. Or maybe you have tried, with less than outstanding results. Either way, don’t be discouraged. The hints and suggestions here are just for you.

The setting helps

Discussion implies questioning and answering between two or more people. It is difficult to have this kind of group interaction when the seating arrangement discourages it. Therefore, the best setting for discussion is an informal circle or semi-circle, or any arrangement where the children can easily see each other’s faces and expressions. This helps create a close, friendly atmosphere in which all the students, plus the adult leaders and the discussion leader become members of the group instead of the leaders taking a dominant position. Formal rows of seats or pews may remind children of school or church and may unconsciously inhibit the students’ willingness to participate.

Sometimes, however, well-planned programs with ideal seating arrangements still fizzle. What else could be wrong?

The leader is the key

As an adult leader or helper, you have a very important role in making any discussion (and any meeting) a success. Here is a brief checklist of attitudes a discussion group leader should have:

• Do you like other people?
• Do you try to understand them?
• Do you listen attentively?
• Do you appear to be fair and impartial?
• Do you make everyone feel that he or she is valued?
• Do you listen to every point of view?
• Do you express differing opinions with tact?
• Do you have a sense of humor?
• Do you have a friendly, inquiring attitude?
• Do you show poise and self-control as you guide the discussion?
• Do you show enthusiasm and interest in the subject being discussed?
• Do you use insightful questions, re-statements, transitions, and clarifications to help apply and reinforce the conclusions of the discussion?

In this 2-part series, we'll help you effectively lead group discussions. This article is designed for those of you teaching older elementary students, but if you lead other ages you will probably also benefit.

In VBS or any group discussion, you will have a variety of students. Some may be loud or talkative, others will be quiet; some children may be highly intelligent, others may have learning difficulties. Your job is to involve all of them in the discussion. Although some may be Christians and some may not be, everyone’s contribution must be acknowledged and appreciated.

One way to do this is to use the word “we” frequently in your discussion. After all it is “we” who are talking in the discussion. Also, use the children’s names frequently; everybody likes to hear theirs.

As the leader, make your speeches short. Don’t make the mistake of launching into a sermon in the middle of a good discussion; there is no quicker way to kill group interaction.

Try to be impartial and listen to everyone’s point of view. That doesn’t mean you must condone or accept an opinion that goes against the Bible. After the speaker has finished, you could say, “Thank you, (Brad), for your thoughts, but that is not what God says in His Word. The Bible says, …”

With little or no guidance or direction in a discussion, students will sometimes pool their ignorance. Don’t let that continue for long. Interject some relevant information that will help to focus the discussion. It is also important not to take sides until you sense that the group has reached the point where a conclusion needs to be drawn or an application made.

As a group discussion leader, you have several roles:
1. To open the discussion and introduce the topic and its importance.
2. To develop the progress of that discussion toward the stated objectives.
3. To stimulate interest throughout the discussion.
4. To provoke thinking and interchange between the children in the group.
5. To gather information and encourage participation.
6. To determine the group’s knowledge on the subject.
7. To be in control of the discussion at all times.
8. To change the direction of the discussion if it is necessary, and
9. To bring the discussion to a logical conclusion and include a practical biblical application in line with the purposes and goals of your discussion.

It’s all in the questions

As the leader of the discussion, you must rely heavily on questions. In addition, you will need to do much restating and condensing of comments and ideas given in the discussion, and you will need to summarize what has been said. But the use of questions will be predominant in guiding the progress of your discussion.
“I keep six honest serving men,
They taught me all I know.
Their names are what, and why, and when,
and how, and where and who.”
— Rudyard Kipling

Kipling’s six questions — what, why, when, how, where, and who — can form the basis for many different kinds of discussion questions. Here are some forms of questions you will do well to try:
• Fact-finding questions help children learn information and data.
• Ambiguous questions have several meanings to help keep the discussion moving.
• Leading questions seek or suggest answers; can be used when no one knows what to say next.
• Provocative questions are designed to incite an argument and wake up your group.
• Direct questions are aimed at a specific person.
• Relayed questions are used when someone asks you a question and you refer it back to another person or the entire group.
• Reverse questions are used when someone asks you a question and you refer it back to the questioner.
• Either/or questions force the group to make a choice.
• Multiple-choice questions help to ascertain priorities.

Learn to prime the pump

A good discussion depends on the students in your group — children who will get involved in the topic and want to talk about it. Sometimes the hardest part of a discussion is getting it started. If that is the case with your group, sometimes it is helpful to treat your group like an old-fashioned water pump. You’ll have to prime it.

Very few groups have students who will jump right in at the beginning and keep the discussion going. One way of getting started is to tell answers to some early questions to children in the group prior to the discussion. Then if things are getting off to a slow start, the children with the answers can respond.

Whether you do this or not, always have the beginning questions written out in front of you. (That means sticking pretty close to the questions and thoughts in the All-Stars for Jesus Leader’s Guide until the discussion gets going.) To begin, simple questions—some with obvious answers—are usually best. Try to use a variety of questions that do not have simple yes or no answers.

Especially as you get started (and always), give the children time to think. Respect each answer, even if it is not exactly the answer you were seeking. Soon your questions and answers will develop into real discussion, and you are on your way!

There may be times when your discussions drag and slow down. Anticipate these times and have several key questions planned to drop in when this happens. Caution: If response to your questions is slow, be careful not to answer the questions yourself. If you begin to do this, soon the children in your group will learn to just sit back and wait for you to give them all the right answers.

Remember, carefully planned questions are the key to a good discussion. In addition, be open. Be unshockable. Be willing to hear every response. Keep the goals of your discussion in mind at all times and use your carefully planned questions to work toward achieving those goals.

Involve as many children as possible in the discussion; don’t allow the discussion to be monopolized by one person or a few. Whenever possible, try to call on every child in your group. At other times, involve everyone by asking a “do you agree or disagree?” question.

Stay tuned next week for 4 more tips!