Sunday, September 15, 2013

ADVENT: Follow that Star!

German Christmas Stars of Folded Paper - LoveToKnow: Advice you
German Paper Christmas Stars
I've always wanted to spend an Advent focused on the star and the journey of the Magi. We don't talk much about them but really they are pretty cool guys. First, they were studying for years about this phenomena and all they could do was wait. Second, they had to have faith to even consider a journey the breadth of which they were going to undertake, and third, once they were there looking at the holy child, they knew the world had changed. They knew and returned home a different way. They knew. What a life changing journey because of their interest in the stars.

Why not break the 3 Wednesdays of Advent into 3 nights of stars and The Journey of the Magi.

It doesn't have to be a big deal but you could include a time of Prayer and Prepare, make and take a star ornament, and then supper and worship. There are a variety of ways this can be done:

  • Include it or a variation of it in your midweek program.
  • Add it to your Advent supper by having it start a little early so people can participate.
  • Start a new tradition for Advent!

I considered breaking down the story or idea into these themes:  
  • Preparing for the Star - The Magi studied and prepared before they started their journey. Are we wrapped up in the glitz and glamour of the season or are we preparing?
  • Faith in the Promise of the Star - Anticipation and building excitement. Do we trust in the promise outside of the feelings of excitement?
  • Journey to the Star - We all are on a journey to the star. We prepare, we trust, and we go. Are we going?
You might even want to take it all the way through Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as the star did not stop shining when Jesus was born.  The Magi weren't there yet. They didn't arrive until later. 

Star ornaments can be found everywhere online but if you want to see my little collection check my Christmas Craft Pinterest Board. You can also find paper mache stars to decorate at Hobby Lobby or wooden stars to decorate at Factory Direct Craft.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Thanking God for 10,000+ Page Views!!!

It all started when....

... a Director of Christian Education/licensed teacher working full-time at a public school suddenly decided to write her graduate capstone paper on confirmation instead of math. (Yes, I know what you're thinking.) The paper became somewhat of a handbook to help pastors understand the kids they teach and the process of educating; something inexplicably missing in the seminary curriculum. Then it grew to education within the church as a whole and I just kept saying to myself, "We can and should do this better! With everything we know about education and learning these days somebody needs to do something about it." Somehow that somebody became me. Be careful when you ask God to use the gifts He's give you. He'll do so in ways you never expected!

I am so thankful to God for giving me both the gifts that He has and the ability and desire to share them. When I started this little blog I thought maybe 5 of my close friends might stumble upon it once in a while but here we are a little over a year later and it's over 10,000 page views!?!? THANKS BE TO GOD and may we all be better educators of the most important information we can possibly share!  

Thursday, September 5, 2013

EDUCATION: Sunday School in a Multi-age Classroom

You would be quite surprised at how many churches have multi-age Sunday School classrooms. I once visited one where there were two first graders, two third graders, and a fifth grader. Wow!  When asked to help them out I did a little research and put my thinking cap on and came up with some tips for teaching multi-age Sunday School classes.

  • Ensure that the lesson plan is interactive: Use varied instructional strategies:  lots of visuals, movement, hands–on activities, videos, role playing, listening cues for Bible passages, picture books, music, etc. 
  • Factor in attention spans: Studies indicate that a child’s attention span is generally one minute longer than their age.  A six year old might be able to focus for seven minutes.  Plan accordingly.  Provide a teacher directed activity then a child-directed activity and repeat. 
  • Provide structure they can count on: Younger children especially thrive on routines.  Build them in to every lesson.  Utilize activities such as an opening prayer, an ice breaker, a Bible lesson, game, art project, and prayer.  Be consistent, but allow for creativity within the structure. 
  • Utilize the older child in a leadership role: Allowing the older students to help builds responsibility, character, and maturity.  Invite them to distribute supplies.  Use their specific individual gifts to help teach.  Have students read passages or picture books if they are confident readers.  Have older students provide music accompaniment in worship or create artwork as a visual for your lesson. 
  • Pair up different age students for craft projects.  Many times we do not attempt complex crafts with younger children because there are not enough adult helpers.  In a multi-level classroom you have an advantage, which age-separated children’s ministries do not; you can utilize the “big buddy” to assist their “little buddy” in completing the craft.  They can work on the craft together! 
  • Be sure to ask questions for the kids at every age level. Asking questions is crucial to deepening understanding. Make sure you hit the appropriate level for students at each age. Students will become very bored if you don't challenge them at their own level. 
  • Be sure to have them all pray out loud together. The younger kids will have a great influence on the older ones and their confidence in praying out loud. I know... you thought I'd state that the other way around but as kids get older they become less and less comfortable praying out loud. Use the opportunity to keep them young in that way!

Enjoy your multi-age classroom and watch them as they interact and teach each other about both the Bible and the love God has instilled in their beautiful hearts.