Editors Note: As a general rule I don’t share pictures displaying the faces of chldren in my blog posts. However because this post is about a Bible club that these children attend and it celebrates their maturity, I’ve included the unedited photos. I apologize to anyone who may be offended by my doing this.
Yesterday afternoon one of my missionary co-workers came by for a visit and since it was almost time for my Bible club, decided to stay and watch. I began these clubs at the Church in January after school so kids could meet there before going home, but wasn’t able to start them again till last week since I wasn’t living in town. The Lord blessed yesterday with a decent group (10-12 I believe) and they worked very hard for me.
My co-worker later told me he was impressed with how hard I was on them (was tougher than he expected me to be) and their obedience. I’m grateful for the compliment but couldn’t help but smile because in the earlier days Bible Club was much more chaotic.
The truth is in the beginning my ministry with the children was far less structured…it started with glasses of water on the porch, and soon became glasses of juice (koolaid) with Bible stories
Now I’ve worked with children long enough to know if you offer something they want for free lots of them would come, but to be honest I was surprised at how quickly as many as seventeen children started coming to the house after school. Editors note: Let me clarify only four to six glasses of juice were given to the best behaved children, I wasn’t giving out seventeen glasses.
As you can imagine having this many children in a small space meant things didn’t go as well as yesterday in the early days, in fact often it could be described as “chaotic.” In order to combat this I made some big changes to the children’s ministry after returning from a two-week break in the States during Christmas 2015. The biggest change was moving everything to the Church, but there were smaller ones that I honestly believe did more to help keep things under control, and hold chaotic days to a minimum.
- Let them be silly
One of the biggest challenges for children’s ministries (particularly those right after school) is the kids have way too much energy stored up. Most of them have been asked to sit down and be quiet all day long during school, so asking them to do the same thing in a Bible club is almost impossible if you don’t give them an outlet for energy. I do this by allowing the kids to have five-minutes of “silly time” which just allows them to be active and loud children.
After this we always have a game…their favorite is “good morning mr. frog” where one sits in a chair with their back to us, then children sneak up and say “good morning mr. frog” in a disguised voice. If the person guesses correctly then they get to stay in the chair, if they’re wrong the person who tricked them sits in the chair. On days when they are particularly rowdy we also play simon-says, or red light-green light but I’ve learned from experience taking 10 to 15 minutes for fun and games makes them a much calmer bunch.
- CONSTANTLY recognize and reward the right behavior
I’ll admit it took me a while to figure out a system for positive reinforcement for the right behavior, but finally started using the back of a cereal box for a “tick sheet”. The idea was after someone got twenty good ticks they got to play with my tablet for 30 minutes, since returning we have turned into a monthly contest with extra ticks for people who come to Church.
The tick sheet has really helped in a number of ways
- I don’t have to raise my voice in order to get kids to calm down, instead I just get the sheet and start giving ticks for those who are doing the right thing
- It allows me to personally call out children who are working especially hard (Samuel you are being really good today, I’m giving you two ticks!”)
- It adds a positive competitiveness since they all want to get the most ticks (so they listen and answer questions)
- This kind of reinforcement is done constantly and every time the children are reminded about their responsibility to listen and obey
The best part about the tick sheet is it makes the end absolutely painless. Getting the kids to leave can be incredibly difficult because their having lots of fun. In the past this may turn out into a game as they tried to get me to chase them around the building, now I just say “okay if you leave right now you get a tick.”
- You must have a lesson/story that keeps their attention
One of the worst things that can possibly happen during a Bible club is for a child to get bored during the Bible lesson. All it takes is one person to say “this is boring” and suddenly you’ve lost everybody! This is why a lesson needs to be short (10 minutes max) and have pictures that capture attention.
I absolutely love using the “Jesus Storybook Bible” for clubs and the kids really enjoy it because of the pictures. Unfortunately holding the book up so the kids can see the pictures means I have to read upside down (harder than it looks) but its worth the effort because not only the words but the pictures capture their attention. This also helps because I’m able to constantly move the book and no children can say they didn’t see the pictures.
Todays the last day of school in Barrouallie so tomorrow we are starting on a totally new adventure in Summer Bible club!!! With the summer days I’m sure we will experience new challenges, problems, and forms of chaos but that’s okay. Because with a bit of work that chaos can be controlled for the Glory of God.