Guest Post: Six Steps to Overcoming Boredom in Your Teaching, by Ron Brooks

Did you ever have that ultra boring college professor that chose to lecture for three hours every week in that same monotone voice?  When I look back through my old college notes, I may not remember the professor very well, but I can tell you how boring the course was based on the drawings and doodles all over my page.  No one likes a boring class or lecture  The younger the audience, the more difficult it is to make things interesting.  I know that first-hand from multiple years of teaching and kids ministry.

If we get bored with that monotone lecture, why do we sometimes assume that kids will love what we say and hang on our every word?  With media and technology, some kids have a much shorter attention span than I did as a kid, and gone forever are the days when Beaver Cleaver sat quietly and respectfully, paying close attention.

So knowing this, what can we do to help kids pay attention?  At the end of the day, the ultimate ‘win’ is that kids learn.  We want them to learn, but we need to be intentional about the methods we use.

While I am not an expert, I can tell you some things that work for me.  Please remember that there are several different learning styles.  We often teach the way we learn best.  The more learning styles we can use in a given lesson, the more kids you will reach.

Music:  We use a combination of CD and DVD music for our song and worship time.  We typically do three songs, but we do not do them all at the same time. The faster songs are an opportunity for the kids to sing, clap, jump or otherwise move around.  The worship time is also a time to move, but in a quieter worshipful way.

Acting:  Sometimes it is fun to get the kids involved, rather than just read a Bible story.  Why not have some kids act it out as you read?  Provide a few props and instructions and the kids will be able to watch as Jesus heals a blind man or Lazarus comes back from the dead.

Games:  The truth is the more fun kids have, the more likely they are to want to return (don’t believe me?  Just think about Chuck E Cheese or Disney World!).  Games can add an element of fun and also break up the other elements of your morning.  It takes some effort, but make the games match with the morning theme.  Play a version of Simon Says if you are talking about obedience.  Do a relay if your passage is about Paul running the good race.  Play animal charades if the animals are getting onto Noah’s Ark.  I think you get the idea.

Tell a story:  A dramatic reading of your passage will be much more effective than just normal reading.

Object lesson:  Kids of all ages love a good science experiment or magic trick.  When your visual aid matches with your topic, you just connected with all of your visual learners.

Comedy:  Sometimes you can teach kids and they do not even know they are learning.  Maybe you have a character enter your service and has a conversation about your topic with you or with the kids. Kids will pay attention because it is funny, but they will be learning as well.

I have given you several methods and teaching ideas to help keep you from being that boring professor.  I have said nothing about the material.  At the end of the day, Jesus needs to be at the center of all we do.  The method is not sacred, but the message is.  Don’t put your focus on the how, but on the what and the why.  Our focus is Jesus, and we have liberty with the method of presentation.

When Jesus is at the center, we can’t go wrong. Then we can do our best at creating a quality environment and service that helps kids see Jesus.

I am interested in finding out, what you do to keep Jesus #1 in your ministry?  What other creative ways do you teach Jesus? What do you think of the ideas I shared?  Leave a comment and continue the conversation.

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Ron has over 15 years of children’s ministry experience.  He is a co-host of The Kid’s Ministry Collective, which is a radio program dedicated to encouraging and equipping those in children’s ministry.  Ron has been out of the country 9 different times to 5 different countries doing mission work with kids, and recently published FamilyTalk: a guide to family devotions. He is a dad to the best little girl you could imagine and married to the best woman you could imagine (and the only one who could put up with him). She is definitely the better half. You can check out Ron’s blog and website or find him on Twitter and Facebook if you would like to connect with him!
  • Tim Carpenter

    Great Post of key elements of a great kids ‘ church service. My Q is how can we create an active learning experience during our large group? Can kids do more than just sit and watch or can they be involved in their seats ?

    • Thanks for the great comments, Tim. First, I would ask, how would you answer those questions yourself?

      I can’t speak for Ron, but personally I think there are ways that we can get children involved. Having activities or letting kids act out the stories through skits will definitely help the kinesthetic learners in your group. Question and answers are helpful, especially when it comes to the application of your message. A creative environment (Noah’s ark theme, 9 different rooms representing the 9 plagues in Egypt, etc) can help teach the lesson, as long as the environment does not become the lesson itself.

      Hopefully those ideas will help you in your ministry! While involvement is important, we don’t want to discount the value of teaching. Preparation for teaching is key to giving lessons which will keep the attention of the kids in your ministry. Hope that helps! Any thoughts, Tim? Ron, would you like to share some insight on this topic?

      • Thanks – These are all good ideas that we and a lot of kid’s pastors have been doing for years. They still work and make the service more interactive and fun for sure.
        I was looking to see if you had any new, innovative ways for kids to actively be involved with our teaching as a whole large group. I am a big believer in bringing kids on stage to be involved, but there are still those in the back that will just sit and watch the whole time. That’s where I’m aiming. We’ll always have the super kids who love to volunteer each time there is a call.
        For example, something we do is have the kids pair off in two’s. I’ll teach for 3 minutes using expressive motions, then I’llsay, “Ready-teach” and the partners take 1 minute to teach each other the point I just taught using the same expressive motions. We also do a lot of repeating and declaring the lesson points in first person during the lesson. We try to have a “roving mike guy” throughout the service for kids to make declarations and share in one sentence how they are going to “make it real” in their lives this week. Keep the pace fast and moving forward. One sentence is the rule or 20 seconds, so kids don’t ramble on and before you know it we are all praying for their cat Snuggles.
        A lot of these techniquesa have been inspired by Whole Brain Teaching by Chris Biffle.
        We sometimes do the G3 – I’ll say, “Get it?” the kids will say, “Got it” and we all say “Goooooood”. Then sometimes we point and say, “Go” as in Go do it!
        There are some good secular resources on corperate training techniques that can be easily applied to kidmin I have been searching out.
        Let’s think out of the box, I know the Lord has innovative ideas so kids can retain even more of the Word and clearly understand/apply the truth.
        Thanks again for your ideas and response!

        • Great ideas, Tim. I like your creativity for ways to get those quiet kids involved as well.

          Since kids have different learning styles, I would suggest using participation methods like you suggested, just not all the time. Some of the quiet kids learn best by simply listening to teaching. While this is not always true, I have found this to be a common learning style in most suburban churches. I will do some research and thinking to find some more innovative ways to teach and write a post on them in the near future (when possible), so that we can continue to become more effective in children’s ministry!

          How have you incorporated small groups into your ministry? I have found this effective in getting interaction with the “back row” kids, because there is a much less “pressure” on them. I am just curious what your thoughts on the subject.

          • Tim Carpenter

            Yes, I totally agree with you. It’s good for kids to listen and learn , but sometimes it’s good to spice things up. Too much of anything I believe is the pathway to boredom. I love this conversation and I am so interested in helping kid’s church go to the next level of effectiveness. I like video clips, spontaneous drama, wacky guests,, game show style review ect… I sure do appreciate this site and I look forward to more reading and learning!

          • Yes, I agree! Those are some more great ideas. Thanks for sharing, and I hope you continue to enjoy the site!

  • Great question. Yes–there are ways to get the kids involved, but it takes effort. You need to think as you are putting your lesson together and make the decision you want the kids involved. Like Steven says, it take preparation.

    My favorite way is involve kids is letting them help act out the story.

    Another way to get them involved and pay attention at the same time is to have them raise their hand or do an action each time they hear you say a key word or phrase. Maybe they pretend to raise their staff every time you mention Moses. Or they put a pretend crown on their head when you say King David, or they put their hand on their heart when they hear the word love. This will allow them to move around during the story, but gives them a reason to listen close as well.

    Expanding on Steven’s example of environment you can think of your lessons in terms of a theme, and create different monthly theme. Maybe you create a jungle in your room. Dress the part of a safari guide and take the entire group on a safari as you ‘search for truth’ in your lesson. Or maybe you create a TV studio and have the kids be the ‘studio audience’ as they watch a live newscast or game show.

    Under the comedy heading above we often include a character in full costume that visits our service at different times. Many times the character will sit with the kids as part of the ‘skit’ and interact with the kids as well as the other adult leader. This is an awesome way to allow the kids to participate. They love to share and talk to the character, and are very good about reiterating key parts of the lesson—actually teaching the lesson back to the character. It is a great way to see how much of the lesson they grasped–when they are able to ‘teach’ in their own words.

    Those are just a few of the ways that we have included our kids in the ‘learning’ or ‘lesson’ time of the service. It is possible, and very effective to allow the kids to actively participate in your large group lessons, however it takes planning to make it work. Hope that helps! Any other questions or comments? Any more explanation needed?