Most churches want to draw more families with young children. Along with the joys of ministering to preschoolers come challenges as well. From bed babies to toddlers, three biblical foundations are crucial in preschool ministry.
“Laying a foundation of love, trust and security are the most important attributes in the preschool ministry,” Beth Baldwin told a group during an Aug. 5 workshop at Pinnacle Alabama, a conference for small group and Sunday School leaders held annually at Shocco Springs Baptist Conference Center.
Baldwin, preschool minister at First Baptist Church in Tallassee, provided seven ways to build those foundations of love, trust and security with the children and their parents:
- Consistency — Have consistent teachers and volunteers so everyone knows who will be ministering.
- Play — Interact with preschoolers while they are in the classroom, whether playing with blocks or playdoh. Even with toddlers, getting on the floor and rolling a ball or reading a book helps earn their trust.
- Schedule — If there is a consistent schedule in the classroom, children will become more familiar and trust you. Preschoolers will know that snacks are after Bible study or gametime is after the video.
- Guidance — Guide preschoolers in activities through helpful tools and instructions.
- Acceptance — Accept every child God has given you. As you do so you show God’s love.
- Self-respect — Show each child that God created them specially no matter how different they might be from others.
- Bible — Preschoolers need to hear about God, know Jesus loves them and know the Bible is true. Make sure you have a Bible with you, even if you hold it in your lap.
A simple question can guide children’s ministry, Baldwin said: How do we want children to view the church?
“I always want children to associate the church with God, Jesus, the Bible and happy times,” she said, “so when they grow up, they know it is a place where they feel loved.”
Using an acrostic of B.I.B.L.E. S.T.O.R.I.E.S., Baldwin noted the following:
B — Be sure to consider your audience. Make sure you know age-appropriate vocabulary when teaching preschool Bible study. How old are they? How many minutes can they listen? Generally, how old they are will determine how long they can sit and be attentive.
I — In your lap hold the Bible.
B — Become acquainted with the Bible story.
L — Learn the point of the story. Children need a central storyline to memorize and focus on. You can have them repeat it back throughout the lesson.
E — Enthusiasm. The Bible is exciting, and you can show that while sharing its stories.
Sharing Bible stories
S — Sequence the events in your story. After sharing, remind the children what the order of the story was; pictures can help reinforce it.
T — Tell the story to yourself. Repetition is good for preschoolers and adults. Preschoolers are more likely to remember the introduction and conclusion, so you can emphasize important points there.
O — Organize. Stay organized to keep their attention.
R — Remove competitive influences that can distract. This is where a second teacher is crucial — he or she can sit by the child who is causing a distraction or remove the toy they have kept hidden.
I — In the story be aware of senses that can be utilized. All preschoolers learn in different ways. Make sure you use all the senses when possible.
E — Eliminate unnecessary events and elements. There are certain accounts in the Bible that preschoolers won’t understand yet. For example: “The Woman at the Well.” They do not need to know her life history, but you can share that she lived a life full of sin and God knew all of her sins yet still loved her.
S — Seek the Spirit. The Christian storyteller does not live alone. Make sure you rely on the Holy Spirit when teaching preschoolers. Pray that the Lord will guide preparation, teaching and influence.
“There are 168 hours in a week,” Baldwin noted, “and you as a Sunday School teacher or Bible study teacher only get one maybe, two hours a week. Use your time wisely.”