There are four key styles of learning: auditory, reading, visual and kinaesthetic (doing). The most popular two are visual and kinaesthetic. Children not only learn better this way, but they remember so much more. Being someone who thrives on these two styles of learning, I’m inspired to do my best to make my sessions as creative as possible.
I still remember when I was in Sunday School and our teachers just read to us. Everything they said was taken from their teaching books. I have to admit, I was bored. I remember coming out of there one day and saying to myself, “When I grow up, I’m going to lead a group and make it exciting so the children engage and enjoy hearing about God!” How we lead has an impact! This has motivated me to give 100% to all I do, enabling children to not only engage and remember, but come to know Jesus’ love for them and provide opportunities where they can meet with Him.
How can we involve these two most popular styles of learning in our teaching, especially whilst online?
1. Using pictures / photos via your screen share
Drawing pictures – These can be used to back up each key scene of the story as you tell it.
Freeze frame photos – Beforehand, ask each family group to take a photograph of them creating a specific scene from the story and email their photo across, using the photos of your group to back up your story.
2. Using everyday objects
These can either set a scene, describe or demonstrate its purpose and relate it to the relevance of the message. e.g. Take an empty 2lt bottle and explain that the bottle represents us. Lie the bottle down and stand on it. (Make sure your camera is in line with the bottle on the floor.) Standing on it represents the storms that come our way. The bottle squashes flat. That’s like us when we face storms alone. Now take a 2lt bottle that is filled with water, explain that the water represents Jesus inside of us. Repeat as above. This time the bottle stays strong.
3. Science experiments
E.g. Place a cork in a glass of water, the cork will float to the side. Add more water until the cup is overflowing then watch the cork float to the centre. Sometimes we tend to head in the wrong direction, but with Jesus love overflowing in our lives, He can lead us in the right direction.
4. Illustrations that get the children involved
E.g. Hold up a sheet of paper and try and balance a pen or a rubber on the top of the paper. Obviously the paper won’t be strong enough to hold it. Ask the children to have a go and balance something on a sheet of paper. Then say it’s not possible to do things on our own, but if we get lots of sheets of paper together, (take hold of a book with lots of pages and then balance that same object on top of the book) it works. – Ask children to do the same. Explain that things can be harder on our own, but when we come together in Christ, as a team, as a church, God can help use us in a stronger way to build His Kingdom.
5. Delivering objects to homes
When planning ahead, there could be a session where you think, it would be great if every child could have ….. (If rules are allowed at the time and your church has a budget for this.) For example, you might like every child to have a pot of bubbles, to talk about God’s blessings or a cork for them to try in the experiment above. Buy the necessary resources and deliver with a little card, stating something along the lines of “Here’s a little gift for you. Do not open until our ‘… session’ (name the session) on … (day and time), looking forward to seeing you online, from … (your name and church name).” It could be that you get a team of helpers from your church to collect some packages and deliver to those that live nearby. (sticking within GDPR guidelines)
6. Other areas of visuals including illusions and puppetry
Illusions are a great way to excite your audience and leave them hooked until the end and puzzled how it was done. As you hold their attention, you have the perfect opportunity to share your message as you perform. Puppetry is a great way for the audience to watch and enjoy as the message is reiterated. Puppets can be filmed beforehand and edited together to be shown as a video clip.
It can be difficult to think of new ideas. First, take a step back, read the passage you are focusing on and ask yourself, what is God saying? What stands out? What message is God wanting me to share with the children? Then look at how this can be demonstrated in an interactive or visual way. How does this need to be adapted for online? What comes to mind? Begin to think through items you may have at home and what the children may have access to and how they can reflect the message and go from there. The main thing is not to get so involved in the object/creativity that you lose sight of what God is saying. In everything, make sure that the key point remains clear and stays the focus of all you do. We want the children to not only remember the visuals, but to take away with them God’s word in their hearts. On a practical note, make sure to set up your screen to enable the full shot of your visual aids. Try it beforehand, testing that everything you need is in full view on the screen.
Some useful resources:
Illusions & Puppetry:
written by Fiona Stutton, Thrive’s Children’s Ministry Adviser