It’s time! The new school year is here. If you are a teacher for Sunday school or weekday programs, you are probably eager to gather with your class and start learning more about Jesus together.
What’s the most important part of your time together? Is it learning Bible stories, Bible truths, and how they apply to our lives? Of course! Is it creating a Christ-centered learning community where all feel welcome? Of course! Is it engaging students in prayer and in living out their faith in tangible ways? Of course! It’s all of these and more besides.
For now, let’s focus on creating a Christ-centered learning environment. The church is the only place where some children will experience such a warm, welcoming place, a place where the Savior’s love is lived and felt. Being intentional about creating it is key for us as teachers.
What makes a Christ-centered community unique? Such a community is about faith, it’s about . . .
- Acknowledging that we, like all other people, often make wrong, hurtful choices.
- Trusting in Jesus as our Savior, whose death on the cross and resurrection provides the antidote for all our sinful, hurtful choices.
- Receiving God’s unconditional love and forgiveness in Christ.
- Forgiving others, just as we have been forgiven.
- Caring for one another, because Jesus has shown his great love and care for us.
In a community like that, we are comfortable asking questions about our faith. And we invest time and energy talking and thinking about practical ways to live as Jesus’ faith-filled people.
Of course, only the Holy Spirit can create a community like that. But he invites us to create an environment where it can flourish. Here are just a few ideas to get you started. (We would love to have readers add to this list! Hit the comment button below to do that!)
The more we know each other, the more comfortable we are being in a group. It’s true for children as well as for adults. Here are some “getting to know you” activities you might consider using.
- Learn about what everyone did over the summer as you play a yes / no game. Post a yes sign and a no sign on opposite sides of your class area. Then ask yes/no questions and have the children stand near the sign that corresponds with their response. After each question, give individuals time to chat with each other about their answers. For example:
- Did you travel anywhere?
- Were you by water? Mountains?
- Did you go to a baseball game?
- Were you part of a team?
- Did you take any lessons this summer?
- A similar game is “Either/Or.” You might develop questions like these, then talk about the students’ answers:
- Would you rather get up early in the morning or stay up late?
- Would you rather study math or language arts?
- Would you rather eat at home or go out for dinner?
- Would you rather attend early service or late service at our church?
- Celebrating birthdays and/or Baptism birthdays is an excellent way to create community. Make a birthday poster with everyone’s birthdays listed. Decide how to celebrate. For instance, you could decorate for each other, bring treats, play a game the “birthday person” chooses, or . . .
Your group may meet only once a week. Still, establishing a predictable routine is worth the effort. Even young children can help with this. For example, ask volunteers to be responsible for each of these activities:
- Distributing materials and equipment needed for the lesson.
- Recording prayer requests in your class prayer journal.
- Leading an opening/closing prayer.
- Cleaning up debris before you leave.
Giving the children an opportunity to be involved with these can help promote a sense of responsibility and belonging. Consider changing up the assignments every month or quarter.
Set Clear Expectations
Children feel much more secure when they understand the behavioral expectations—and when those expectations are enforced consistently and fairly. Consider working together to establish these expectations.
For example, you might lead the group in listing behaviors necessary to help everyone learn more about Jesus. After you make the list, talk about how to frame the rules positively. For example, instead of, “Don’t hit or say mean things,” the rule could say, “We use kind words and actions.” Keep the list brief (3-5 rules is enough) and include an expectation like this: “We will forgive one another because Jesus forgives us.”
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From time to time throughout the year take time to include relationship building activities. Keep on involving students in the routines. Review expectations. Your Christ-centered community will continue to grow closer in faith and love, under the blessing of our Savior.
Editor’s note: If you’re looking for ways to recognize, connect, and celebrate volunteers in any or all of your ministries this fall, CTA can help. Check out the many resources we’ve developed, lots of them free!