Moody's 2019 commencement season concludes
At any given point during one of her Sunday School lessons, Abigail sets down her Bible and stands up. She walks several feet in one direction, then turns around and walks the opposite direction. When she returns to her seat and asks the kids what she’s demonstrated, they all know. “Repentance!”
Abigail grew up in Wheaton and expected to attend Wheaton College—but after coming to a Day One event (Moody’s informational days for high schoolers), she felt the Lord laying it on her heart to apply to Moody. Now a senior, she teaches Sunday School for K–5 grades at her church, which she’s done since her freshman year. She entered Moody in the TESOL program and changed her major junior year. “I felt like I should switch my major to Children and Family Ministry because I saw so much need for the Bible to be taught to children at their level,” Abigail says. “They aren’t just little adults.”
Her Moody classes helped Abigail see ways to improve her children’s ministry. “I realized that something needed to change,” she says. “I want to see kindergartners and fifth graders engaged in learning about Jesus. But, for example, challenging fifth graders and helping them go deeper in their faith is really hard when you’re teaching them at a kindergarten level.”
Talking through her thoughts with the children’s director at her church proved fruitful. The director trusted Abigail’s commitment to the church and her training from Moody, and allowed her to restructure the children’s Sunday School program. Instead of all elementary ages hearing the lesson together, they’re now divided into two distinct age groups: grades K–2 and 3–5. Abigail teaches the same Bible content to both age groups, but goes more in depth with the older children.
“The younger kids are listening so much better because they understand what they’re learning and the content isn’t over their heads,” Abigail says. “And the conversations I’ve had with the older kids are so cool because they’re so much more right there with the story. They’re listening, asking questions, contributing to the story, and wanting to read the Bible.”
With the new structure of the children’s program, Abigail also wanted to make sure that the volunteers were trained. This past summer, she held a training session for volunteers, something she’d practiced at Moody. “Last year I planned a mock volunteer training in one of my classes,” Abigail says. “And in the volunteer training I held for church, I got to use the material I’d prepared in class!”
Abigail helped transform her children’s ministry by teaching three principles to the ministry volunteers:
Children’s brains aren’t fully developed. This doesn’t mean they aren’t equipped to understand difficult concepts; they just learn them differently from adults.
“We do children a disservice when we underestimate what they’re capable of learning and water down the lesson, whether it’s the Bible or an aspect of theology,” Abigail says. “You need to bring it to their level in a way that they can understand without taking away from the true value and beauty of what you’re teaching.” Often, this looks like doing two specific things: stop and discuss, and give them something concrete to learn from.
One way to know if you’re teaching children at their level is to consistently pause your lesson to discuss the words and concepts that may be familiar to you but are unclear to the children, such as repentance or sanctification.
“It’s easy to speak at what seems like a simpler adult level, but children aren’t just simple adults,” Abigail says. “If we’re going through a story, I often stop. If there’s a big word, or some concept within it, we stop and talk about what it means.”
When there’s a concept that the children don’t understand, Abigail tries to show them an example of what she means by an action they do understand.
As she gives them concrete examples of concepts, Abigail not only helps the children understand things, but she keeps them engaged by doing something active like acting stories out or using hand motions to demonstrate a Bible verse.
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