In a Christ-centered, gospel-driven children’s ministry, teaching is the fundamental activity. Unfortunately, the educational element of ministry to children has gradually receded into the background over the past decades, as more entertainment-styled programming has been thrust into the foreground. Correspondingly, teachers in the local church aren’t typically trained to be effective and productive, since knowledge and wisdom aren’t valued as in days past. For this trend to change, we need adults who understand the need for children to learn God’s Word, as well as ones who embrace their responsibility to teach and train the next generation. They will need this next lesson in our Children’s Ministry 101 series…
Lesson Nine: Teach with Passion
Almost thirty years ago, I heard an Australian evangelist say something that changed the way I thought about teaching God’s Word to children. Here’s my paraphrase of his quote:
Do you want to know the greatest invention of the twentieth century? No, it’s not sliced bread, indoor plumbing, or television. It’s that Christians have found a way to make the Bible BORING!
Think about that for a moment. How can the most powerful, transforming book, with the greatest story ever told, be perceived as boring by so many children and youth today? The fault doesn’t lie with the Word that never returns void, but with sinners like us who don’t teach it with PASSION. So, here are five elements required to teach with maximum spiritual passion:
1. Be passionate about the Word of God. How can you teach anything in a passionate manner if you aren’t passionate about the subject matter in the first place? I know it seems as though it should be automatic that Christians have a passion for the Bible, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Our own sin and weakness can make us passionless towards the stories of Scripture. But, when our minds are renewed and we truly gaze into God’s Word, we won’t be able to cap our excitement! The stories and the words and the teaching should give us goosebumps every time we read them! They should thrill our souls! So if your teaching is passionless, check your heart first!
2. Engage mind and emotions. Teaching the Bible is certainly a cognitive process; our children must use their minds to think about what is being said. But since much of teaching children is storytelling, the Bible must also be taught in a heart-felt way. Children need their passions excited! They must hear and learn the facts in a way that drives them to LOVE the truth. So seek to engage both heart and mind as you present the stories of Scripture. Don’t settle for children who know the truth but aren’t excited about it.
3. Don’t entertain them; excite them! In some sectors of children’s ministry, the logic goes like this: Children are so entertainment-saturated that the church has to become even MORE entertaining to keep their attention. While this view is understandable, it puts children’s ministry in an untenable position. There is just no way to compete with Disney, Nickelodeon, PlayStation, and the never-ending entertainment technologies. Teachers don’t need to do a song and dance, or stand on their heads to keep children interested! What children need is to be excited, not entertained. The stories of Scripture themselves are exciting enough, if taught with passion. Attempting to entertain just enables our children to be passive recipients. When their hearts and minds are engaged, they will get excited!
4. Check your voice patterns. Maybe your teachers have the passion for Scripture, but just have “mechanical” problems. Since teaching is rooted in oral communication, it’s essential to have a voice that is pleasant to hear! What that means is that we have to be careful not to tell stories or teach truths in a monotone sort of way. Our voice patterns should vary, from high to low and from loud to soft. It’s even helpful to employ different character voices to tell stories. Certainly, there are some teachers who are naturally gifted in dramatic reading. Yet, ALL of us can grow in ways to use our voices to make others want to listen to us. Just try a British accent one Sunday morning and see what happens (if you are teaching in America)!
5. Work on your non-verbals. Again, your teachers may be having difficulty with the other type of teaching mechanics: non-verbals. The best communicators are highly skilled at using non-verbals that teach rather than distract. We use our eyes to engage hearts and minds. We use our arms and hands to illustrate size, importance, and meaning. Don’t stay in one place behind a podium: move around in a way that follows the progress of the story. Bend to the eye level of your children at times; stand above them at other times. We help keep their attention by being “physical” in our presentation!
What an amazing combination it is when you have the Spirit-filled power of the Word of God, teachers who are passionate about the Word of God, and a passion-filled presentation of the Word of God! This is what our children need to become passionate lovers of God and His Word!