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7 Creative Ways to Teach Scripture to Kids

We all know scripture memorization is important.  If only it were also easy!!   🙂  If memorizing Bible verses proves difficult for adults, then imagine how much more difficult it can be for our young children to learn scripture.  Over my years of mothering our four kiddos and working with children at church, I’ve learned that teachers of  preschoolers in particular need to be really creative.  Sometimes that’s a real struggle for me!  What works for adults doesn’t always work for kids, and even more, what works for one child may not work for another.

So, for all of the purposeful parents, the homeschooling mamas, the Sunday School teachers, the toddler nursery workers, the Children’s Church volunteers, the daycare providers, the AWANA teachers, for any person who desires to teach children scripture but aren’t sure where to begin, here’s what I’ve learned thus far that works:

7 Creative Ways to Teach Scripture to Kids

1. Check it – Be sure the verse is short enough.

For very young students even a single sentence might be too long.  If the verse you have chosen is lengthy even in a children’s bible version, condense it further.  For example, if “Be kind and compassionate to each other” is too much, shorten it to “Be kind to others” or for very young children: “Be kind.”

Equally important, be sure that that your children or students understand the words in the verse.  What good is memorizing a verse that holds no meaning for them? 🙂

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2. Act it – create motions to go along with the verse.

In general preschoolers tend to learn more when they are being active rather than passive. Even many elementary-age children prefer to learn through movement rather than seatwork.  So, especially for those little learners who always seem to have ants in their pants, this technique can work wonders.

 For example, in our Cubbies class (preschool class for AWANA at church) we recently learned the verse “Children obey your parents in the Lord.”  The word “children” was portrayed by holding a hand out flat, palm down, and stair-stepping down, as in “stair-step children” (that’s the best I could think of, unfortunately – anyone have a better idea for children??).  Then for the phrase “obey your parents,” we pointed our finger straight out like a mommy telling a child what to do (picture Uncle Sam’s we-want-you pose – the kids really understood that gesture well, haha).   Finally, For “in the Lord” we simply pointed straight up into the air as if we were pointing to God in Heaven.

If you happen to know sign language, the easiest gestures would be actual signs, especially for words or phrases that will be repeated often, like God, Jesus, or Bible.   Sometimes my Cubbies are able to help me think of appropriate gestures, too.

Youtube example:

*One important note: do not try to attach a gesture to every single word in the verse.  Doing so will frustrate some children and will interrupt the natural flow of the verse.  You only need a gesture for each concept or phrase in the verse.  A second note: if the children look confused, then your chosen hand gesture or motion is not computing. Let it go and try something else.  🙂

3.  Play with it!

We usually repeat our memory verse a few times together before we get a little silly with it.  When the boys’ eyes begin to glaze over, I know we’ve repeated one too many times. 🙂   Once we can mostly say it together, I usually ask the children to stand up and push in their chairs so we can be more active.  We might crouch down and say the verse very, very quietly (gestures included) and then hop up and say it as loud as we can.  Sometimes we march around our table and say it, or we chant it to a rhythm, or we sing it, or clap it out, or use silly voices, and so on.  Songs in particular work very well at this age (Tip: you can use familiar tunes such as Farmer in the Dell, Old MacDonald, Three Blind Mice, etc. to put the words to if you don’t already know a song for the verse you are trying to teach).

Youtube example:

Once we used the suggested game for that week from our Cubbies book – let’s call it, “Lights on, lights off.”  When the lights were off, the kids were free to move around in whatever manner they desired: walking, creeping, running, hopping, crawling, etc.  When the lights came on, everyone had to freeze in place.  Once they understood the concept of the game, I used the “freeze” time to repeat our verse.  The same concept could be used with music rather than lights.

4. Repeat it – give each child to a chance to say it alone.

Once we have played around with the memory verse a little bit, most children will have at least part of the verse, if not the whole, in their minds.  At this point, I usually test my Cubbies a little while still trying to keep it fun.

For instance, if we’re chanting our verse to a beat, then in between each repetition, I’ll give a single student a chance to say it on his or her own.  Then the whole class says it together, followed by another individual, and so on.  Be sure to support those who need it so they don’t become embarrassed.

And we always, always celebrate, even if we are only partially successful at saying the verse!

5.  Draw it!

Some students prefer putting crayon to paper over reciting verses aloud.  Since my preschool Cubbies cannot read yet, I might ask them to draw a picture of their verse.  Of course, at their age I always have a few who choose to draw something totally unrelated, but for those who process information visually or spatially, drawing can really help to cement the concept of the verse in their minds.

6. Forget about references…for now.

Not that we shouldn’t attempt to teach the reference at all – I still do.  However, I just don’t stress about it anymore. At this age remembering a reference that doesn’t hold much meaning and is difficult to even pronounce can be really challenging and frustrating, especially for kids who might not be familiar with the books of the Bible. How many three-year-olds can actually pronounce books like Deuteronomy, Ecclesiastes, or Thessalonians?  Even if they can pronounce them, do they understand what those words followed by numbers mean?  If not, then they are learning words that make no sense to them, hold no meaning.

Very rarely will my own young children remember a reference beyond a week or two unless it is a verse that we hear or review frequently, such as John 3:16, or a verse put to song that includes the reference, like the “Be ye kind” song.  In Cubbies we have a new verse every week and limited time for teaching, so the likelihood of children retaining references decreases even further.

Thus, in my humble opinion, the priority should be the conceptual learning taking place: truths about God making us, God loving us, loving others, etc.  I still teach the references, but I don’t emphasize them as much as the body of the verse itself.  For young children, as long as a child remembers the main idea of the verse, I count it a win!

 However, if you are going to be working on a verse for an extended time, then by all means, include the reference.  Additionally, if your children or students are older and can understand the purpose of a reference, then the reference should most definitely be included! 🙂

7. Remember variety, different methods work with different children, so use a variety when possible.

Our preschool daughter loves to say her verses carefully along with hand gestures as if she is performing on stage.  On the other hand, her twin brother resists the hand gestures, but he love, love, LOVES anything repeated in a weird or sing-song voice. (True story – I once entertained him through an entire grocery shopping trip simply by repeating the same phrase over and over again in a robot voice.  Whatever works, right?!)

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 Of course, sometimes during AWANA, or even at home, the kids are so crazy and energetic that we fail to accomplish much in the way of scripture memorization.  And we don’t always make time for memory verses either, but when we do, I want to make sure that it’s time well-spent.

Whether you teach at church or in your own home, I hope you find these tips helpful!  I have yet to find any ways to address tactile (touch-based/sensory) learners who cannot read yet, so if any of you have ideas for me, I’d really love to hear them.

Blessings to you brave mamas and teachers of little ones,

Jen 🙂

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Answer the Door!

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Rev. 3:20

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock;

if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him

and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

He’s knocking today.  Will you answer?

Jen 🙂

I’m trying something new today over at The Sunday Community.

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Fast-food Spirituality

If you had the choice and neither time nor money were factors, which would you choose:  fine dining or fast food?  A professionally cooked steak or a microwaved burger?  While I crave the occasional french fry or milkshake like any other person, given the choice between the two, I would rather eat a meal of real food than the more convenient alternative.

However, I can’t always say the same about my spiritual meals.

Too often I let fast-food nuggets pass for quiet time with the Lord.  A quick prayer offered here and there.  A verse I saw on facebook.  Even a well-written, Christ-honoring blog post.

Don’t get me wrong, all of these convenient options are good; we should be continually praying and consistently abiding in Him.   Finding Mary moments in our Martha world is difficult, especially with little ones in the home! Those brief snacks help us to do just that!

But which of us mamas would feed our little blessings a steady diet of fast-food only?

We wouldn’t!  In fact, we often work hard to make sure they get what they need nutritionally.  We do things like sneak in veggies, plead with picky eaters, and sometimes even resort to the bribery of dessert because we know they need to eat those green beans! 🙂

bread of life

 

 

In the same way, our heavenly Father does not wish to see us settle for a spiritual diet that lacks substance.

“Come and dine,” the Master calleth, “Come and dine!”  He desires us to drink deeply of the Living Water,  not to live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.  He wants to see real growth so that we might experience that abundant life that He planned for us from the beginning.

And don’t we feel the difference, sisters?  When I snack on spiritual fast food, I might feel good for a little while.  I can check “quiet time” right off of my list.  I might even maintain a patient and loving demeanor for a time.  

But the truth is, those little snacks are not enough to carry me through a long day and the next…and the next…and the next.  The temptation to substitute the quick, convenient alternative for a real meal leaves me running on empty later on.  And if I carry that pattern out for a few days, that outward exterior is sure to be slipping.  I become grouchy, impatient, unloving, and down-right selfish. I’m dissatisfied with life.  My blessings become burdens.

On the other hand,  when I take the time to really dine with the Lord, I feel so alive, don’t you?  His presence provides me with a jolt of energy and grace that lasts a good while longer, and the benefits only multiply if I dine consistently!

 

spiritual fast food flower

 

 

What would happen if we quit substituting spiritual snacks for the real deal? Might we experience a deeper walk?  Would the fruits of the Spirit come more easily?  Would grace reign in our hearts and homes?

My goal for the week is to choose the feast and to be consistent in doing so.  I want to be satisfied in Him, not empty or dissatisfied. Will you join me, friends?

As a mama of four, I know what I’m asking is far from easy!  I’ve spent those long days unshowered and unfed.  I’ve trudged through those sleep-deprived trenches, just desperate to survive, never-mind thriving.  And some days a fast-food option really is the best spiritual diet we can manage. 🙂

But I also know the strength and endurance I need to be the wife and mother the Lord wants me to be cannot be gained from spiritual fast-food alone.

Hebrews 5: 12-14

  In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you

the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant,

is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.

 But solid food is for the mature,

who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

My sisters in Christ, let’s not be spiritual babes, content to feed on what is easy or convenient. Let’s accept the challenge to dig deeper, to run to the banquet He prepares before us.  

What arrangements will you make to truly dine with the Father this week?

Jen 🙂

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Power to Produce

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If you are anything like me, then cleaning out the fridge is low on the totem pole. You might occasionally reach in for some sustenance and pull out rotten food instead. Instead of giving life and energy, the food is wasted, worthless, and sometimes even downright disgusting.

Our spiritual fruits can be that way, too!  Have you ever tested your fruit?  Held it up to the Lamp, the faithful Word of the Lord?

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love,

joy, peace, patience,

kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,self-control;

against such things there is no law.

 

In my bible, beside this passage I have written two small words: the test.  Do you want to know how closely you are walking with the Lord? Examine your fruit of the Spirit!  Do they pass the test?  Are you overflowing with patience, joy, peace, kindness, love, goodness and so on?

All too often I find myself trying to produce these fruit all on my own. I wake up in the morning thinking, I’m going to be patient with my children today.  I’m going to be kind and loving to my husband.  And later in the day, when strength runs low, I feel frustrated and out of control. I wonder, “Why am I acting this way?  What is the matter with me today?”  as if some sort of spell has come over me, and I’ve been rendered incapable of obedience.

In truth, my fruits show that I’m not out of control, I’m off of the vine.  I’m not abiding, not remaining.  Instead, I’ve chosen my own path, my own methods.  I’ve chosen doing rather than being, resisting rather than submitting, striving rather than resting.

I’ve somehow forgotten that most basic truth of Christianity, that we cannot produce fruit on our own, for there is nothing good in me.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh;
for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.
Romans 7:18
When I lift my fruit up to the Lamp, I see it – that bruise there when I chose to be selfish rather than selfless.  The wormhole caused by putting off time alone with God.  The blackened area of sin left hidden and unconfessed.  Surprisingly, some of my fruit appears to be pretty and polished, but on the inside the core rots, the result of a valiant effort to do things in my own strength.
It’s ugly fruit.
It’s rotten and worthless.
It reeks of self.
I have to toss the bad fruit out and start anew: reconnect to the Vine, drink the Living Water, break the Bread of Life.

2Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,

for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

so that the man of God may be adequate,

equipped for every good work.

Only then, in the hands of the Master, can I produce beautiful and bountiful  fruit, sweet-smelling fruit. No matter how often I fail the fruit test, He is faithful to forgive, faithful to redeem.  His grace is sufficient for my weakness!
Today are you feeling weary, impatient, overwhelmed, dissatisfied, or out of control?  Test your fruit.  Hold them up to the Lamp of Truth and see what they reveal.
come to me all who are weary
Matthew 11:28-30
 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
We have no power to produce good fruit on our own!  Instead of trying and toiling, why not take His yoke and find rest? Turn to your Maker and Sustainer for the power to produce!
Which fruit is most difficult for you to produce?  What verses help you to rely on the Spirit rather than self?  Please share with us in the comments!
Jen 🙂
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Be a Transformer

Have you ever put off saying (or posting) something because you feared the repercussions, how it might be received?  If so, then this post is for you.  Even as I wrote it, and re-wrote it, I felt that same fear because being bold in my witness does not come naturally to me, rather it usually results from conviction of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, I have put off posting this message for too long now, and God has  convicted me that I’m not trusting in the Him, the God “who goes before me.” I have spent hours crafting the message so that it will hopefully ring true without causing a permanent loss of hearing. 🙂

So I hope that when you read it, you will consider my heart (even though some of you might hardly know me).  My heart beats for God’s people and for His truth, it yearns for us all to strive toward Christ-likeness not for the sake of personal pride or satisfaction with self, but for the sake of His glory, that His name and His Truth should be known around the world!  My heart aches for the lost, those who are searching for His Truth without even knowing it.  You can blame my parents for this since I spent a great deal of my growing up years as a missionary kid. But that’s another story for another time.   Today I want to ask you some tough questions in relation to the following verse:

do not conform

Recent conversations on Facebook and other media outlets have opened my eyes to a developing trend in Christianity today.  Being a Bible-believing, truth-defending, Christ-follower is no longer popular even in many Christian circles!

Somewhere along the line, some of us Christ-followers have become so conformed to this world that we are afraid and/or unwilling to take a stand on issues that the Bible clearly addresses.  I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve found myself in this camp before, keeping quiet because it’s just easier.  Some believers even go so far as to throw their total support behind worldly ideology, political correctness, tolerance  – whatever you want to call it – and then condemn their fellow believers for being “judgmental,” “close-minded,” or “intolerant.”

While criticism from the world is to be expected, criticism from fellow believers often surprises us!  We are not accustomed to being labeled (or  dare I say “judged”?) by those who should be our support.  How warped is it that Satan has convinced some of us that simply standing on God’s Truth is being judgmental, and is therefore wrong?

Allow me to clarify: the Bible DOES speak strongly against judging others and becoming self-righteous. We are all familiar with the words of Luke 6:41-42.

speck or plank

Only God can see, and therefore judge, the motives of the heart.  Therefore, we should not pre-occupy ourselves with the sin of others; rather we should be too busy dealing with our own sin.  However, God also calls us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and to be bold in our witness as transformers.

Unfortunately, well-publicized, so-called “Christians” have recently taken a stand for their so-called “truth” in ways that ARE harsh and hateful, tarnishing our witness.  Furthermore, we have Christian brothers and sisters actively ridiculing others on forums such as Twitter and Facebook, adding to the world’s negative perception of us Christ-followers. While I fully support upholding God’s Truth, when we haughtily shove our beliefs in someone’s face with a sarcastic turn of phrase, a witty cartoon, or a picture that belittles others, we end up conforming to the world and looking just like it!  How can we then be salt or light to a world that is in dire need of God’s truth?

I believe Satan has seized hold of this shame over others’ behavior and used it to confuse believers (as well as the world!) and convince many of us that upholding God’s truth is wrong in and of itself, when the reality is that the fault lies in the method of delivery. We have only to study Christ’s example to see how he gently revealed truth to people, often with a single phrase or sentence, and always while caring for their needs, whether physical or spiritual.  He did not skirt sin issues, neither did he humiliate the lost.

We must follow Christ’s example in our efforts to live as transformers.  When the Bible speaks clearly on issues of right and wrong, we are called to uphold God’s Truth with – and this is the key – LOVE and RESPECT.

prepared to give an answer

The key lies in our delivery – a delivery which requires a balance between Truth and Grace, not the absence of either or both.  A total-grace perspective can lead to conformity, while a total-truth perspective can lead to self-righteous bullying .  Is it wrong to bully others into sharing our beliefs?  Yes!  Is it also wrong to be silent on issues that the Bible clearly addresses?  Yes!  Why then have we allowed the world, the Great Deceiver, and even fellow Christians to tell us that it is un-Christian-like to be a Christian? Ironic, isn’t it? 🙂

My purpose is this: consider carefully how your life and your actions or statements appear to others (especially in regards to social media).  Do they see a difference?  Are you being transformed by Christ, or are you choosing to conform to the world?  There is no middle ground!

power of risen savior

I know it is risky voicing the unpopular Biblical perspective on many current issues, but then Christ wasn’t all that popular with the worldly and falsely religious leaders of his day, either.  You may lose friends.  You may lose popularity.  You may even be judged by the very people who accuse you of “ being too judgmental!” Have the courage that Paul had when he wrote in Philippians 3:7-11:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

Amen??

If at the moment you find that you’ve been conforming (and haven’t we ALL at some point or another??), remember that God’s grace is immediate and His power to provoke change in us is immeasurable.  On the other hand, if you are already actively trying to live out a transformed life, take heart. You are not alone!

I encourage you to look to God’s Word and the Word alone to form your opinions, and allow the Holy Spirit to transform your thinking.

Questions to ask  before posting or sharing a “truth” statement via social media:

  1. Is your audience one you love and one who loves you in return?  In other words, will your message be received in the manner in which it was intended?
  2. Is your message one of God’s truth rather than man’s truth?  In other words, do you have contextual biblical support  for your message?
  3. Is God leading you to share this truth at this particular time in this particular fashion?  In other words, has the prompting come from Him or do you just love your soap box? 🙂
  4. Have you achieved a balance between truth and grace?  In other words, how is your method of delivery – gentle or smug?

overcome evil for good

Telling the truth in grace and love is such a delicate balance to achieve, but as Christ’s image-bearers, we must work toward that balance!  We have amazing technology and a unique opportunity to show the world what Christ-like love truly is, so let’s allow Christ’s love to shine through us without diminishing the light of His message.  Don’t conform.  Be a transformer.

Because of His love,

Jen 🙂

You might also enjoy this post:

http://www.godspotting.net/2013/06/god-is-not-republican.html

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