Planning is essential for effective children’s ministries including your Sunday school class. I will talk speciﬁcally about Sunday school since that is my area of experience, but many of these principles will apply to other children’s ministries as well (Holiday Bible clubs, Children’s Church, etc).
While it is true that some teachers can “wing it” more or less successfully, we almost always do better when we plan ahead. I say, “almost,” because on a few occasions I have been notiﬁed at the last minute that another teacher is sick or unable to make it have grabbed my trusty Bible storybook (my favorite is The Jesus Storybook Bible) and headed out the door with a prayer in my heart. I have seen the Lord work in lives on days like that! But that is not the norm.
Most Sunday school teachers spend several hours a week on their Sunday lessons, and this is as it should be. We start by prayerfully reading the Scripture passage that we plan to teach. Often we have a look over our curriculum, deciding which activities and teaching tools to use this week.
We add craft items to our grocery list or scrounge up those bean bags we know we have somewhere. Then we prepare visual aids and practice telling the story. We do a sample of the craft so that the kids can see what it’s supposed to look like. Then we pray some more and ponder the, “so what?” of the lesson. It’s important to have the main idea in your head the whole time. Here are some practical teaching tips.
Each New Year
But beyond your weekly planning and preparation, I’d like to encourage you to plan for each term (or semester) and even for each year! At the beginning of the year, look through your Sunday school book (if you are using one) and think about your goals. Map out which themes you want to cover in which months. Plan activities for your class, such as visiting an old age home, having missionaries visit your class, or putting on a Christmas play. You will probably need to coordinate with other Sunday school teachers and/or the church oﬃce for some of these activities.
One Term at a Time
At the beginning of each school term, I sit down with a calendar and write out each Sunday of the term with my intended lesson beside the date. I then add activities that have been planned for that term (see above), as well as holidays like Christmas, and Mother’s Day, that require a bit more attention. Then I think about my goals for the kids: do they need to be encouraged to bring their Bibles to church each week?
Do we need to grow in our concern for missions and missionaries? Should we work on “Sword Drills”? Based on these goals (and the ages of the kids I’m teaching), I come up with a competition for the term. It may be an individual competition (maybe the top three achievers who get the most points this term for bringing their Bibles, offerings, and saying their verses each get a bar of big chocolate). It may be a class goal (if everyone says 50 verses altogether this term, then everyone gets an ice cream party on the last day).
I also choose songs for us to learn based on the themes of the term. Our curriculum provides verses for us each week, but you might consider a special project, such as learning Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer. You can also plan posters and bulletin boards for your class that coordinate with your theme for the term.
Planning ahead for your Sunday school class does not guarantee success, and it certainly cannot ensure the Holy Spirit’s working in young lives. But I believe it is a critical piece of the overall puzzle of effective ministry. Planning ahead will quite possibly move you from being a good teacher to being a terriﬁc one. Happy planning!