Teaching preschoolers is THE BEST! No, seriously. It really is! There’s something incredibly rewarding about rooting spiritual truths in the minds and hearts of young children and then watching the ways they so naturally apply them to their every day lives. If you’re gearing up to teach babies, 1s, 2s, 3s, Pre-K, or kindergartners this summer in VBS, here are 6 things you need to know about teaching preschoolers.
- If you don’t have a plan, THEY will! Preschoolers are hands-on, experiential learners. In other words, they LEARN as they DO. Every preschool (Babies–Kindergarten) leader guide is filled with ideas and activities you can use to teach preschoolers in the ways God made them to learn. Get together with the other teachers in your room before VBS, go through the leader guide, and divvy up responsibilities. This will keep any one teacher from bearing the full weight AND will help create an environment where both learning and fun can take place!
- Teaching begins when the first child arrives. Preschoolers need routine, boundaries, and clearly defined expectations. If they walk into a room where teachers are waiting with fun things planned for them to do the moment they walk into the room, they will be less inclined to run wild. You’ll be able to head off a lot of behavioral challenges simply by being ready to go as soon as kids are in the room.
- Attention spans are SHORT! A child’s attention span is roughly equal to one minute for every year of age. Be prepared for kids to tire quickly and be ready to move on to something else. The good news is that preschoolers also love repetition… so even if they move to another activity before you feel like they’re done, they’ll likely be back before too long to finish up or take another turn. This is the reason many preschool teachers like to set up activities in “learning spots” around the room and let kids move freely from activity to activity.
- The teacher is “the lesson.” As a teacher, you use a variety of tools (music, games, play, activities, even Bible stories) to teach preschoolers Bible truths. Children are ALWAYS watching and listening… even when you think they are not. They will learn more from your actions than your words. Remember that everything you do (or don’t do) and everything you say (or don’t say) is teaching something.
- The process is often more important than the end result. Preschoolers are still developing their motor skills and are still in the discovery phase for many things. It may be more important to them to simply enjoying the experience of cutting or coloring or painting or stacking blocks than actually “making” something. Don’t stress if a craft project ends up less than Pinterest worthy. If kids enjoyed doing it, then it was a success!
- YOU are their example of what God is like. As you talk with and listen to them, play alongside them, hug them, protect them, help them work through challenges, and meet their basic needs, you are demonstrating God’s love in practical, tangible ways. So pour everything you’ve got into your kids during VBS!
“We put them in treat bags at our church’s Fall Festival!” she said brightly. “We invite lots of folks from the community. Many don’t attend church, so it’s a great way to introduce kids and their parents to the Word of God!”
She went on to explain how excited she was about the activity pages and 30 days of devotionals included in the NTs. “They’re so fun and colorful, too!” she added.
Another church drops a New Testament into food bags that they put together for folks in their community. “Its a great way to ‘spread the Word’ to folks who may not even own a Bible!”
Let us know how you and your church use the VBS New Testaments during VBS – and after! We’d love to hear!
The following post is written by Dr. Shane Garrison. Dr. Garrison has served as assistant professor of Educational Ministries in the Campbellsville University School of Theology for the past five years. He additionally serves as president and lead consultant of Maple Trail Ministry Consultants.
I can’t wait for LifeWay’s VBS Agency D3 – Discover Decide Defend. This year is going to be unlike any previous year in that we encourage our kids to take a hard look at the truths of the Bible and then learn how to defend what they believe in an ever-changing world.
The pattern and sequence is intentional. We start by helping kids DISCOVER the truths of Scripture. Then we ask them to DECIDE if they really believe what the Bible says about God, Jesus, and the way to be saved. If so, then we help them DEFEND these truths in a world that is hostile, even angry, at such beliefs. Discover Decide Defend makes perfect sense to me.
I can assure you as a parent of two elementary-age kids, the Christian worldview is under intense attack in our schools, communities, and country as our culture becomes far more religiously pluralistic and secular. Anybody, including our kids, who takes a stand for biblical convictions and truth are seen as intolerant and out of line. Our culture has determined we Christians can hold to our faith privately, but should never proclaim that faith publicly.
This is the world our kids live in and will continue to live in as they grow older. So giving our children the tools to discover, decide, and defend their beliefs is vitally important.
It might be asked, however, “How is this VBS evangelistic? How does Agency D3 share the Gospel of Jesus with unbelieving children and students?”
The answer lies in the power of apologetics. Apologetics is simply defending the faith. It is being able to stand for what you believe in and clearly explain how your faith is not built upon shifting sand, but on the rock solid Word of God. We must be able to defend the reality of Jesus and his death on the cross as the only means of salvation. “Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.”
Apologetics is being able to say, “I believe this truth because…” It is simply always being “ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) And our kids desperately need this – both believing children and unbelieving children.
For believing children, being able to discover decide defend will help them shore up any questions or doubts they might be facing. It will provide for them a stronger foundation to stand upon.
For unbelieving children, we get the opportunity to teach them the essential truths of the Bible that will hopefully lead them to believe, not in some fairy tale, myth, or legend, but in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are showing (and hopefully proving) to these children that Jesus is real and He really died for their sin and if they really trust in Him, He will really save them. Discover DECIDE Defend.
I believe apologetics is a powerful evangelistic tool. One that has been in use by Christian pastors, teachers and leaders for more than 1000 years.
Have you ever flipped the switch on a lamp several times and nothing happened? Do you remember the frustration of, “Why isn’t this thing coming on?” during your fruitless flips up and down. What about that sheepish, “oh,” realization when you see the disconnected plug?
This is a pretty good picture of our efforts to spread the gospel without prayer. Prayer is the power source that enlightens and charges our efforts. We are less than a month away from what are typically the two biggest weeks of VBS. Even if your VBS is later in the summer, the time to begin praying is NOW!
The VBS 2013 Administrative Guide has great prayer resources from prayer calendars to prayer walk brochures. And, this Sunday, May 19, 2013, is the National Day of Prayer for VBS.
I started thinking about praying for VBS and it occurred to me that V. B. S. is a great acronym for praying for VBS everywhere.
V – Volunteers! Recently on our Facebook we asked people to share their prayer requests. (Our team prays for you!) One of the most requested prayer concerns was for volunteers to help. Jesus told His disciples to pray for workers (Matthew 9:36-38). It is still an urgent prayer. The harvest is ready!
B – Bible! God’s Word changes lives. God promised that His Spirit would be our Teacher (John 14:25-26). We need His power and guidance as we teach Bible truths to others.
S – Salvations! VBS is still one of the strongest evangelistic efforts made by many churches. Prayer, concentrated Bible teaching, and the forging of relationships set the stage to share the gospel in a powerful way. Pray that hearts are prepared to respond to the gospel of Jesus.
I hope you’ll join me this Sunday, as we pray together for VBS!
If you’ve taught in VBS even once you probably have several funny stories about things kids did or said. My friend, Scott Wiley, over at “Brick by Brick” often shares funny things he overhears in his Sunday School class and inspired me to do the same. So to kick off the new year, here are my top 10 all-time favorite kid quotes from kindergartners at church…
10. “I am going to rinse this off with my tongue.”
9. “Why do people use blue and yellow [paint] to make green? Why don’t they just use green paint?”
8. “If I was a shepherd I would use a sheep as a pillow.”
7. “We’re having a wedding. Sam, you can be the ring master.”
6. “Thank You, God, for polar bears. The Coca-Cola kind.”
5. “He’s my best friend. I’ve known him for years.” (5-year-old speaking)
4. “I’m going to be a rock star astronaut when I grow up!”
3. “Don’t press down the [paint] brush too hard or you’ll give it a bad hair day.”
2. Teacher: “Is it hard to get along and be kind to your brother and sisters all the time?”
Kid: “Yeah, because sometimes my brother is evil.”
1. “Dear God, thank You for all the animals that are boys, have horns, and that are dangerous! Amen.”
These are 100% true… and completely hilarious. What’s the funniest thing you’ve overheard a child say at church?
It’s never too early to start planning, right? If you’re itching to get a jump on VBS 2013, check out our Colossal Coaster World board on the LifeWay Kids Pinterest site. There are already lots of great ideas. Here are some of my favorites…
A perfect roller coaster experience for younger preschoolers!
What ideas have you come up with? If you’re on Pinterest, leave us a link to your VBS 2013 board in the comment section!
What an exciting week we had experiencing Amazing Wonders Aviation at my church— Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, TN! When we entered the sanctuary, it looked like an airplane had come straight through the ceiling and was just hanging there! Great way to kick off the aviation feel each day. Our average daily attendance was 1,846 (1,380 kids plus 466 volunteers)!
I taught in one of nine kindergarten classes. We usually had 22 kids and six workers in our “Kindergarten G” group! (“Go G-fliers!”) Three of our helpers were teenagers who did not take on leadership roles, but assisted the three adult teachers. That was a great help! For many of the senior high students this VBS is “training” for those who will travel to Chicago to conduct VBS there.
Our church provided a training event called “VBS University” where all volunteers had an opportunity to receive age-group or rotation group training prior to VBS. Our leadership also provided enrichment sessions such as “Leading a Child to Christ,” “Using Teens Effectively as Volunteers” or “Guiding Behavior.” It was a great time to get folks excited and prepared for VBS.
This is not the only VBS that happens—it’s just the first. The materials are reused to conduct six other VBS events in downtown Nashville, Chicago, Georgia, Hong Kong, South Africa, and Israel. The missions offering taken during VBS goes to help support the ministry of these other mission VBS events.
Most importantly, 52 children made professions of faith this week. We expect that many other lives were influenced and changed, and that we will continue to see children ADMIT, BELIEVE, and CONFESS.
Last week, I asked you to send in pictures to be featured on our blog, and boy did you ever! Thanks so much for sharing, and please continue to share all your creative and wonderful VBS decorations with me! As your church completes VBS, won’t you continue to share your stories and photos? I love seeing all the different takes on VBS sets!
To share your VBS photos, email them to email@example.com or post them to our Facebook page! Make sure to include the name of your church with your post!