Children’s ministry is such a rewarding experience. When you ask any adult who grew up in the church how they learned the Bible stories and passages, they will probably give the same answer: Sunday school. Sunday school can be a place of lasting memories for children. Whether you are working with kids of the same age or multi-age ranges, all children can learn and grow in the Lord. However, teaching a multi-age range class can be difficult with its own challenges. Students can seem disengaged if the lesson is only geared toward one age range. Older children may not like being in the same class and learning with the younger children. They may appear unmotivated and even become disruptive. If this is the case, then they will not have any ownership over their own learning. While it is challenging, a children’s ministry that appeals to all ages can provide spiritual guidance through lessons fit for all children.
You can use the same theme or story for all children but modify the activities. The stories in the Bible are meant for all ages and groups of children. No matter the story, the lesson is still the same: Jesus Christ saves and redeems. The entire Bible leads to this principle. It is a love story from God to man, and as a children’s ministry, we are meant to help children understand this great letter. So, while children of all ages learn differently, the message is still the same. Think of it like a movie. When children’s movies are written, the goal is to appeal to all ages. This is why even adults walk away thinking about how they enjoyed the movie. The authors had that goal in mind all along. This must also be the goal of Sunday school as well when you have different ages in the same class. Through these guidelines, you can make sure that the children are engaged and motivated to learn about the Lord.
- Since children learn differently, it is important to modify the activities within the lesson to meet the needs of all children. For example, if you are teaching a lesson on creation, you could have young children draw pictures about each day and what God created on those days. For older children, you could have them act out what they read or practice retelling it to each other. You could even have them retell or reteach the story to the younger children. This will keep them engaged and help you check to see if they are making the stories personal and understanding the Bible.
- Pair students up by matching older students with younger students so that they can help. Do partner activities and games so that they have to work together and help each other understand. This can create lasting relationships that can have several benefits. Younger children look up to older children and adults. They will be excited to see their older buddy and learn together. This could also motivate older children to be an example for their younger friends. If they know their buddy is watching, they may behave better and be anxious to teach their younger partner.
- Find ways to motivate all of the students. This can be accomplished in a couple of different ways. You can use intrinsic motivation, which just means using tactics that appeal to their emotions and help them create a lasting internal motivation, like encouraging feelings of accomplishment when memorizing scripture or learning life lessons through the Bible. This can also be accomplished through external motivation, which just means motivating them through the use of outside motivators like a rewards system set up for all students when they attend Sunday school, memorize Bible verses, or retell a Bible story. Either way can help motivate and engage students. They will want to continue attending and participating. Even if it seems as though they are just coming for the rewards, you are building relationships with them which makes it easier to teach them.
- Another way to partner students up for activities or discussions is to break them up according to similar age ranges. If you are able, one of the ways you can check for understanding during your lessons is to split the children into partners and ask important questions related to application and understanding. You can ask questions like, “How does this lesson (or story) relate to you? How can you trust in the Lord after learning about _______?” If you are worried that you don’t have enough children at similar ages, pair up the ones you can. For instance, if you only have a 5-year-old, 9-year-old, 13-year-old, and 16-year-old in Sunday school, you could pair the 5 and 9-year-old and the 13 and 16-year-old up to discuss the questions. They do not need to be the exact same age. Students can always learn from each other, no matter their age.
- Give each child or age group an important task throughout the lesson. Assign children jobs. Research shows that when students have responsibilities, they will take more ownership of their own learning. Your older children could be in charge of coming up with questions for the group. Your younger children could help pass out materials to the group. By giving children jobs or tasks, they will be more engaged and motivated to learn. Every child can do something. Every child can have a role. This is something that many classrooms in schools across the country do already, so children are used to this technique.
Children’s ministry can be beneficial to children of all ages when they are engaged and motivated. Our entire goal in children’s ministry is to grow children in the Lord and help them understand the Bible. While this can be difficult for children of different ages in the same class, these tips can help make it worthwhile and can help children grow in their relationships with the Lord. After all, we are helping children understand the greatest letter ever written!Liquid error (sections/article-template line 93): Could not find asset snippets/relatedblogs.liquid