All posts by Mary Kate

Texting Your Sunday School Students Keeps It Real

Statistics show that 82 million people are texting regularly, and from what parents say, 80 million of those people are kids.  This new means of communication has taken the youth by storm. And you’ll be surprised what will happen if you text your Sunday school students a couple times during the week.

Text Sunday School students to keep lessons alive all week

Texting is the way kids communicate with each other in their own world, using their own lingo.  Most are well aware of adult intimidation, which only makes texting more attractive.  With this vast difference in attitude about texting among youngsters and adults, if you text your students, you are proving two points that will make them sit up and take notice.

1. You’re not siding against them
2. You not only text, you know their mindset

Learn texting Lingo!  It’s fun!

If you simply send a sentence “blast” to your class it will have a reverse effect and do more harm than good.  Unless you can put your sentence into their language, you will come off as a bit phony, and it would be better not to send any message at all.

How to learn the texting lingo.

Texting is mostly abbreviations and acronyms, and an Internet search will bring up dozens for you to study. Many lists are available on the Internet.  Here are some examples:
• & = And
• NE = Any
• AML = All my love
• BRB = Be Right Back
• BCNU = Be seeing you
• BC = Because
• B4 = Before
• BFF = Best friends forever
• BF = Boyfriend
• BTW = By the way

And so it goes through the entire alphabet.  If you don’t have time to do all this translating, you can also have your computer translate your sentence for you.

Your computer can find the right lingo.

By typing the following question into Google, the results will surprise you:  Can you translate this sentence from English into texting lingo?  It will bring up several sites that allow to you type the regular English into a window, and the site will produce its text-lingual equivalent!  One such site is www.lingo2word.com, which translates on one click after you type.

Sometimes it’s best to make a simple statement to students like “Do not forget to pray…like we talked about!” That way you’re not threatening to “use their brains for something else” after a long day in school.  However complicated questions can fun sometimes because they use a variety of text lingo that the students will have to translate off their heads.

For example, let’s say you sent the following message through the text translator of www.lingo2word.com: “Which character from the Old Testament do you consider someone you admire for their achievements and admirable qualities?  Students would see this:

wich char frm d Old Testament do you considA yr hero? plz B prepd 2 tel me on Sunda

To text your Sunday school students, you need to ask for their cell phone numbers.  You ought to have these handy anyway for other purposes.  Use your own cell phone’s instructions to create a blast text “list” of your students, so that you only have to hit SEND once.  Then, twice a week or so, put Jesus back in front of them.  Use what you know about your own students to dictate how often you text them and what you will say, because the most important thing is to keep it fun and entertaining!

u shd txt yr sunday skool stdnts whnvr uv somit QL 2 sA!!

Teen Bible Study Ideas

The most exciting Teen Bible study ideas come directly from the newspaper or news reports.  It’s probably best that they do, because these stories are at the top of the teenager’s list of concerns and deal with issues they are facing every day.  

Teenagers still have one foot in their childhood and one in adulthood, and since most have spent three fourths of their lives in school, they’ve had enough.  If they can find a way to avoid another class, they’ll jump at the chance and there will be no one to attend the Bible study.  Before you start looking for teen Bible study ideas, you must accomplish three things:

  • Grab the teenager’s attention.
  • Hold their attention. 
  • Make them want to come back for the next session.  

How do you grab a teenager’s attention.  

There is one crucial difference between an adult audience and a teenage one.  Adults are willing to give a speaker a chance, but if you let a teenager think for one minute that this is another lesson, you will lose him before you start.  The first rule for teenagers is to avoid, at all costs, a classroom atmosphere.

Instead of chairs in a row and the speaker at the front of the room, use a round table with a seat for the discussion leader among the students.   Have sodas available, and a snack to which they can help themselves.  If you have a portable microwave that you could bring into the room to pop popcorn, you have won one battle.  Who ever heard of a classroom that smelled like a movie theater? If you don’t have a portable microwave, a bag of popcorn from the supermarket is better than nothing.  

Open with an icebreaker

 

teen bible study
Try using an icebreaker to get your teen bible study started

An icebreaker is a trick that most public speakers use to win an audience. It consists of an antidote or a story that will make the audience laugh, and if it pokes fun at the speaker, you’ve won them, and that’s exactly what you want.  

Make them want to come back next week. 

You can’t make teenagers do anything, but you can make them want to do something, and this is where your preparation and presentation become paramount.  The secret, strange as it may seem, is not to lecture and to speak as little as possible.  The magic formula is to let the teenagers do the talking.  Ask questions.  Their answers  will reveal the facts far better than any lecture.

How do you choose topics for a teen Bible study?  

If it’s been in the news, it’s a hot topic, and bullies and bullying have certainly made the news.   There are even commercials that stress the importance of kindness and passing it on. 

Going online and google-ing the heading, News articles about bullies in schools, will bring up ten pages of examples ranging from the Fox News report on March 29, 2010: Nine Charged in Bullying of Massachusetts Teen Who Killed Herself, to the CBS news report on April 4, 2010, Bullying: Do Schools Need a New approach?

Other great teen issues include how to abstain from drugs, drinking and sex. “Just say no” and other mottos don’t really cut it.  Cite examples of kids who don’t succumb in tough situations, and details of the means with which they did it.  As with any great lesson, greatness lies in the details.  Those subjects alone could take up a couple of seasons, but there’s also modesty, the value of planning ahead (they notoriously don’t), getting to know Jesus as a Person and not a religion, the hazards of gossip.  Finally, as most teens love a great suspense tail, theirs is a great age to introduce the apocalyptic books and how they may relate to today’s events. 

How do we tie topics into a Bible Study?

This is where the teacher’s preparation is crucial.  Scriptures and parables that lead the teenagers into a discussion related to the subject will make or break your Bible Study, so have a generous supply of these tools at your fingertips. 

Bringing in scripture always sows seeds.  It also makes the Bible a relevant and powerful book as opposed to an archaic, dusty old book that their parents read.  There  are so many great web sites including Biblios.com and Bible Gateway to lead teachers to great scriptures.  If a teacher simply types “[issue] scriptures,” such as “teenage drinking scriptures,” you often come up with a host of worthy articles to scour.

If a problem in your area made the local news, but not the national, be sure to include it in your study.  Teenagers, while taking that final step to adulthood, need guidance more than ever.  They are still young, impressionable and inexperienced, so your discussions along with Biblical reinforcement can play a leading role  while they are choosing the direction of their lives.  Be sure to include such a topic in your Teen Bible Study Ideas.

6 Ways To Create Exciting Sermons For Kids

George Burns once said, “The secret of a good sermon is to have a good opening and a good ending and to have the two as close together as possible.”  Burns may have been thinking about children as well as adults.  Until recently sermons for kids were not given much thought.

These days, many churches are looking for ways to create kid-friendly sermons, either in the congregation during regular services or in Sunday school sessions so that kids get a chance to practice for longer sermons later.  These six tips will help if you want your sermons to be more appealing to children:

1.  Quality over Quantity.

Sermons for kids
Sermons for kids don’t need to be long, but they do need to be engaging

Always remember, when it comes to a sermon, measure its duration by the ancient proverb, “More is a bore, brief is a relief.”   Here’s a lesser-known fact about attention spans:  A kid’s age will generally determine the number of minutes he can listen before his mind starts to wander.  A three-year-old will listen for three minutes.  Adults themselves generally have a 22-minute attention span—that’s it!  Performers consider the saying, “Always leave them wanting more,” as sacred as the Golden Rule when it comes to a presentation. Old as that statement may be, it’s still as powerful as ever.

2.  Humor:  Make ‘em laugh!

Remember that familiar quote, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.”  It’s interesting to see how a congregation relaxes when the minister injects something to make the congregation laugh at the opening of his sermon.   Be it adults or children, you can read their body language while they laugh or sit back with a smile that says, “Okay, you got my attention, and I’m ready to listen to what you have to say.”

3.  Don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel!

Humor, however, is a gift and an art form, and unless you have had a funny experience to share, go to the experts for a source.        Fortunately, the Internet has an endless supply of humorous material from the sermon experts, and it’s yours for the taking. This is one case where stealing is not a sin.  Those experts consider it a compliment to be copied and quoted, and that’s why their jokes are for sale in books and downloads.

4. Avoid sarcasm:  Kids just don’t get it.

One pastor asked a third grader what she wanted to be when she grew up as part of the sermon introduction.  When she said an astronaut, he replied quickly, “I guess that means you’ll be a spacey adult!”  When the congregation laughed, she thought they didn’t approve of her dream and was embarrassed. Kids love a good pun (what do cows do on weekends?  Go to the Moooooo-vies!).  But they are literal in their thinking, don’t get irony, and will not understand if you say the opposite of what you mean.  Keep it clever but not ironic or sarcastic!

5. Find opportunities to make the Bible real to them.

Children find it hard to take the events that happened to people centuries ago, who wore robes and sandals instead of jeans and athletic shoes, and make them meaningful in today’s world. Each and every event as well as every scripture applies to life now as well as to life then, and sermons can bring Bible heroes to life. Unless the children understand the lasting values and basic truths of the Bible, you have wasted your time.

6. Include them!

Kids listen better when they feel a part of things.  Use sermons as a time to ask questions, take polls, and herald all answers from children.  Some of the answers will be priceless (and if you don’t laugh the congregation will stop short of it).  Minutes used involving children directly are minutes you can erase from the minute-per-year attention span statistics.

Making kids feel essential is an important part of worship.  Schools are increasing their hours.  They are also tightening up on the adults that are allowed on school property and the places therein that adults are allowed to go.  One of the downsides is that kids’ exposure to adults is greatly diminished in this generation.  Kids always learned to become adults by copying adults, admiring adults and listening to adults.  Let the church be at the forefront in helping kids mature in Christ, and a great area is kid-friendly sermons!

Bible Games from Board Games?

All kids love board games, and all teachers love Bible games.  Combining the two may be an inexpensive and fun way to enhance learning  in Sunday school.  You can take regular board games and make them into fun Bible games with a few pieces of masking tape, a marker pen, and a few creative instructions!

Let’s start with the easy ones:  Parcheesi and its American compatriot, Sorry.  Parcheesi is known as the national game of India, though it was designed during the Depression in the United Kingdom.  Parcheesi likenesses such as Sorry are often the first games of strategy that kids are introduced to.  After rolling the dice, kids’ pieces may “slide” across a number of squares at once, and the idea is to get back to the starting point.

Many popular board games, like Monopoly and Sorry, can be easily converted to Bible games!

Introducing the Bible via Sorry or Parcheesi will bring kids into a new version of fun with a game with which they are already familiar.  To combine it with the Bible, tape certain Bible verses onto the board, verses that you’ve been studying in class.  Just tape the book, chapter and number, such as John 3:16.  Have kids guess the words, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son…”  If they need help, put all the verses and their contents on a companion piece that you tape up to the wall or lay on the table.  Kids should be able to match up the verse they land on with the wording.  Suddenly Parcheesi and its likenesses can help kids memorize scripture!

Monopoly is another board game kids have loved for decades.  This time, use your masking tape to cover names like Connecticut Avenue, and put down places like Nineveh of Jonah’s ilk or Canaan, where Abraham settled.  Visit sites listing “places of the Bible.”  Instead of buying them for outright money kids must guess who lived there.  Again, wall charts can help them by providing needed clues.  Since the Community Chest and Chance cards teach charity as well as business principles, you can leave them as they are.  Free Parking can become “Free Salvation,” and “Go to Jail” and “Jail” can become “Prison of Your Own Sins.”

Scrabble is great for Biblical studies, as kids can spell out the names of places or people of the Bible.  Provide a Master List on the wall—words with 3, 4, 5 letters, all the way up to 10 letters.  You can find lists of “places in the Bible” or “people in the Bible” by surfing.

Bible Trivia is easy and relevant to any Sunday school lesson.  You can use your own games of just by putting your own questions and answers on index cards, and having kids earn points by answering correctly!  No board needed!    Apply this to any Sunday school lesson if you want to fill time and reinforce information afterward.

Barrel of Monkeys will increase dexterity while reinforcing Bible knowledge.  One way to use the monkey is to give children a verse from the Bible to memorize.  As they say each word, they then qualify themselves to pick up a monkey.  Example:  God.  So.  Loved.  The.  World.  He.  Gave.  His. Only. Begotten.  Son.  John.  3.  16.  All the children can chant the words while each takes a turn stringing monkeys.

Dominoes is also great for teaching Bible verses—given a few strips of masking tape.  Cover the dots with one word of a Bible verse such as Psalm 1:1:  “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the way of the ungodly, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit where the scornful and mockers gather.”  Throw all the taped dominoes into a basket, then spread it out on the table after repeating the verse a few times.  Have the kids connect the words in the proper order.

Games such as these have lasted the decades because they are inherently fun, and no amount of electronic games and sophisticated new additions are introduced to the world of “play.”  By using them in Sunday school classes, you are promoting an important message:  Christianity also lasts the ages and stays fun, no matter how much sophistication is added to the world.  Though he adapts to the times, Jesus is fun and relevant yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).