by Julie Simpson
Youth Development Coordinator, Decatur, Ill. Corps
This is as important as it is simple. Talk to your kids. Find out what kinds of things your kids are interested in and use that information to tailor your lessons. This works for everything from character-building program to Bible study. Gaining their help with lesson plans also will give them ownership in their activities which will build enthusiasm.
2. Plan, plan, plan
I can’t stress this enough. You can tell when something you’re participating in has been thrown together. It’s frustrating and disrespectful. And, if you’re like me, you wonder why you wasted your time. Why should it be any different for our children? They are so much more perceptive than we give them credit for. Jot down ideas first, and then plan it out on paper from the welcome to the closing. Gather your supplies and talk to any additional leaders ahead of time so you’re all on the same page. This will certainly take extra time, but the end result is well worth it.
3. Make it interactive
Ask questions frequently. Don’t just stand there and lecture. Ask for your students’ points of view and then go further. Ask why he/she feels that way and let him/her know their opinion matters.
Games are another great way to make lessons interactive. For example, to teach our kids about missions we use a trivia website called freerice.com. For every question a child answers correctly a portion of rice is donated to needy people internationally. The questions range from English to math and even includes SAT prep. We split into teams and have contests. The kids are helping others and building on what they’re learning in school.
4. Be a Barnabas
Barnabas’ given name was Joses, or Joseph, but the apostles gave him the name Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). How wonderful to be so encouraging that the disciples would give you a new name! Think about the last time someone encouraged you and how good it felt even if it was just a word or a pat on the back. Encouragement has the power to completely change our attitude, and it isn’t just easy, it’s scriptural. Acts 13:15 (ESV) says “Brothers, if you have a word of encouragement for the people, say it.” Negativity surrounds our kids, but we have the amazing opportunity to be Barnabas to them, and we may be the only one they have.
5. Show your enthusiasm
If you aren’t excited about the material you are presenting, do you think the kids will be? Sing with them. Dance with them. Help them look up scripture. Participate in games with them. Pray with them. Show your youth that you want to be there, and they will want to join you.