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.
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.