Thanks to bro. Dan O. for today’s post.
This is Part 2 of a series on how to develop a dynamic Sunday School. You can read Developing a Dynamic Sunday School Program Part 1 here.
Now that schedules are made, teachers are organized and materials ordered here are a few more ideas of how to make your Sunday School more effectual.
Once per month a brother is assigned to give an object lesson. Brethren are encouraged to keep the lesson brief and very clear – as object lessons can often become muddled and gimmicky to the point that nobody’s sure of what the lesson was by the end! The little ones are called up to the front to get the ‘best seats in the house’ and usually a lucky boy or girl gets to participate in the interactive lesson! And the older members often learn valuable lessons from these simple demonstrations as well. Object Lessons are also a great way for young brethren to get experience public speaking and interacting with the children.
Games and Other Activities
In our Sunday School calendar we have ‘Review’ weeks scheduled throughout the year, typically after every 5 lessons or so. Because students won’t be assigned a memory verse for the following week, I’ve found it necessary to have alternate activities planned for weeks following reviews. Some ideas are listed below:
‘Name that Hymn’
This can be done several ways. We’ve used both the Sunday School hymnbook as well as the Green book. I’ll provide the pianist with a list of hymns, and we’ll progress through them one at a time. The catch is, the pianist will (eg) only play one note at a time. For example, she’ll play the first note (or chord) and I’ll ask for guesses. Usually nobody has a clue. Then she’ll play the first two notes/chords – again, I’ll ask for guesses, following this pattern until the correct hymn is guessed. We’ve been shocked many times when some attentive kid (probably with perfect pitch!) is able to identify the hymn after the first two notes, sometimes just the first one!
Another way to play this game is to have the pianist play only the last line of the hymn. It’s great fun as the superintendent watching people scratching their heads as they try to work backward from the last line, up through the verses, to find the first line and identify the hymn name/number!
If you find that you can’t name many of the hymns, it might be a prompt to add more ‘Hymnbook Appreciation’ and ‘Hymnsing’ nights into your ecclesial schedule!
Famous Last Verse
In random order, read out the final verse of a book or epistle. The congregation must then identify the name of that book.
Bible Jeopardy and Other Quiz games
When in a pinch, or when we have a few minutes to kill, I’ll take out my trusty ‘Bible Jeopardy’ book and run through a few categories orally with the Sunday School. This is a great resource, but it’s designed more for teens/adults, so it’s typically a bit above the younger members. I’ll have them snuggle up beside the nearest adult who can help them with the tricky answers.
Often for these games I’ll divide the congregation into 2-3 groups for some friendly competition.
Bible ‘Who/What Am I’?
Over the years I’ve created a series of PowerPoint presentations called ‘Name That Bible (Something)’, which can be played with the entire Sunday School, all ages included. Each presentation is a series of slides on a given theme. We’ve done Bible Animals, Bible Food and Drink, Bible Clothing, Bible Symbols, Bible Geography, Bible People, Bible Cities, etc.
Each slide will progress through 3-4 images, starting with a very obscure picture, and ending with a clear image of the object you’re trying to guess. Students are encouraged to figure out the secret object in their head, but NOT tell anyone or say it out loud. After the last image is shown, I’ll allow the very youngest to identify it (‘raise your hands quietly’, of course. I’m a teacher 🙂 . After that, scholars and adults are invited to add a verse or story involving that object. I’ll then reveal my own list, and we’ll move on to the next slide. We typically get through 4-5 in a given Sunday School 5-10 minute introduction period.
Sunday School Store
I believe that modelling and rewarding exemplary work or behaviour helps others aim for excellence themselves. Like adults, children are motivated both intrinsically and extrinsically. We’ve been given the model to follow out of love (Jesus Christ) and also the reward to strive for (the Kingdom).
In our Sunday School we have a points program which rewards students for completing their homework and memory verse each week, and demonstrating positive conduct in class – as assessed by their respective teachers. Students can accrue up to 5 points each week – 2 for fully completed Homework, 2 for a Memory Verse, and 1 for Class Conduct. Bonus points may be awarded for exemplary work, effort, or behaviour. At given points throughout the year (typically twice), and usually during a ‘Review’ week, students can redeem their points at the Sunday School Points Store.
We have tried to include a range of prizes, including both scripturally-related prizes and Bible verse paraphernalia, as well as trinkets and other goods. We try to ensure everything without a Bible verse on it has a Biblical-connection. Ie, plastic toy animals are easy enough to link to (eg) Creation. Star Wars figures and Hot Wheels not so much!
The store does require a budget, particularly as Christian/Biblical material can be extremely expensive. We have found that purchasing inexpensive transparent Bible verse stickers and attaching them to (eg) plastic candles, nightlights, notepads, etc., has allowed us to bulk out the ‘Bible-Verse’ component of our store; and garage sales are, sadly, a great place to find people throwing out their old Bible verse plaques and pictures.
We always have one section with a points total that is impossible to reach throughout the year without extra credit/bonus points. Which leads us to…
Good Ground Journals
We adapted the ‘Good Ground Journal’ idea several years ago from Sis Michelle Fearn, as a way to teach children how to take notes and stay engaged in Memorial meeting, Bible Class and Lecture. These have been featured elsewhere on this site, and I can vouch for the fact that they have greatly enhanced the active listening skills and engagement of the Sunday School scholars throughout the various weekly ecclesial functions.
Students of all ages, including those of a pre-Sunday School age (we start Sunday School at 3 years old) regularly grab a ‘Good Ground Journal’ to fill out for any given class. Students hand them in to me at the end of class, and twice a year they are organized and counted, and each completed Journal page earns a bonus point. At times I am bombarded – there were over 250 completed during the spring term! These journals are completely optional, but they has developed such positive listening habits and note-taking skills, that children regularly fill them out during the summer months when Sunday School is in recess. Last term (Spring 2019) one student completed over 40 journals, and we had a 4 year-old fill out 27 with her mum’s help!
Effort for Energy
Many students look forward to the annual Sunday School Play/Entertainment as the creative and dynamic component of the Sunday School year. But with a little planning, creativity, and thinking outside the box, Sunday School can become a vibrant part of the ecclesial week. Sunday School should not be a place of entertaining or entertainment – it’s not about gimmicks or toys. But it can be a place where the Word of God is presented in a myriad of engaging formats which keep kids focused and involved.
With a bit of enthusiasm and forethought, the few minutes at the beginning of each week can be transformed from an obligatory introductory assembly into an exciting and interactive session that builds Sunday School community and culture. Kids love it, and so do I!
For more ideas on organizing or teaching Sunday School please read this post on bro. Jim Harper’s JOYSS e-book.