It is a good habit to start each of our meetings with prayer. It is preferable that this introductory prayer be made by a monitor. Indeed, it is at this time that he affirms aloud his position of faith and occupies the field spiritually. This prayer can change the heavy or restless atmosphere of some encounters. This spiritual work is unique to the instructor and children, even if they are the beneficiaries, should not be involved. Let us not forget that they are “spiritual milk”.
It’s a prayer:
short (let’s not start the children’s listening capital too much)
simple (let’s avoid emphasis)
(on the tone of conversation, but respectful)
What is a true prayer?
It is a genuine request to God and not to the listeners, it is not a backdoor way of getting a message across (for example, so that a child understands that he must not heckle), or a “prayer-preaching” (for example, recalling the last lesson or starting the news).
Before praying, we can discuss briefly with the children what we wish to ask the Lord for this meeting, guiding them to the essential: that God speak and that one receives his teaching.
This is another great opportunity to teach by example! This brief moment of prayer becomes an apprenticeship that will instill good attitudes in children: it is to the Lord that I address; I know that He hears me and answers me.
Discipline means controlling and leading to obedience and good order. “God is not for disorder, but for peace.” (1 Corinthians14.33). The child who comes to Sunday School must know that he enters the house of God, and that he must have a respectful attitude towards God, towards this place, and towards those who attend it. To help him with this, discipline is essential.
Let’s not be afraid to discipline. If we do so with love and wisdom, as the Lord does for us, children will feel reassured and respected.
Let’s not let the mess set in. It can become a habit. If this is the case for our class, it is possible to restore order with patience, but firmness. Some principles:
The very first piece of advice: don’t leave any time out. Busy and interested children do not normally pose discipline issues.
Leading the group
We must expect the children to obey us. So let’s have no qualms about actually running things.
Threatening and blackmail is not a good method, as it demonstrates our weakness in the eyes of children and does not assert our authority.
You get more by compliments rather than criticism, by rewards than by punishments. Take the right things, to encourage others to do the same. Plan rewards (gum, image, candy…) to distribute at the end of the session to those who have respected the discipline.
The child needs to know what we expect from him. When the “regulation” of the class is not well defined, the instructor is constantly obliged to take back the children; they may even have fun. Consequences: dissipated children and overworked, distracted, angry… You can draw up a list of rules (3 or 4 at most, such as sitting during the lesson, only one speaks at a time …) by involving the children and then displaying them. It is important to stay there because children have a strong sense of justice.
A special interview with a particularly unruly child can help identify the problem. When the child knows that you have understood the reason for his difficulties, his attitude can change radically.
With firmness, wisdom and love
Do not use the Word of God or adult meetings to punish. How, when they grow older, will children be able to love what has been a punishment for them? Instead, use a system of deprivation of reward, participation in an activity that he likes, isolation of the group. Plan in advance what you can use to react, not with the blow, but wisely.
Because today’s children are immersed in a media bath (television, music, games. This constant “background noise” leads to difficulties in listening to the spoken message. Let us help children overcome these difficulties (for which they are not responsible) and do our best to ensure that they receive God’s message in all means at our disposal.
Jesus made sure to make himself well understood by his listeners by using the images within his reach at that time: parables, examples of everyday life, situations (he places a child in the midst of his disciples, he observes the people who give their offering at the entrance of the temple…). If a parable was not enough, he would adjust his teaching with a second or even a third parable.
Large printed image to be placed on a desk or projected
If these illustrations were necessary at the time when Jesus himself taught, they are all the more so today. Advertisers have understood this for a long time and use the image even towards adults to challenge, to pass notions, to engrave certain things in their minds.
Drawing on the board. Easy to do with a little training
The images help children focus on the biblical narrative. Their imagination immediately sets off (you can see it on their faces) and they “enter history”.
Images help children understand abstract notions.
Images make it easier to memorize.
Cliparts fixed on heart drawn on board
It is obvious that the preparation of visual aids requires some work. But the impact produced is worth it. If we prepare a “great lesson” and the children can’t keep up, focus on teaching, we lose the benefit of our work. If children are not captivated by our teaching, they will tire, week after week, of long speeches, and after a few years they will not want to hear them.
Above all, you have to believe in it, to be in history, to live it!
Dressed: be dressed soberly, so as not to divert attention, or put an outfit in the theme.
Voice: put his voice, in the middle register, the tone of the conversation, to maintain a reserve in order to be able to express things more violent or softer, to spare its effects. Change the register to avoid weariness. Don’t talk too loud, not too fast. Well articulate.
Look: watch the audience, look at it, hold the whole audience under their gaze. Having a smile in your eyes must be a pleasure for listeners.
Standing or sitting, to be able to spare its effects by getting up.
Camping the characters
It’s about bringing out the main characteristics of the characters and holding them to the end:
use different voices (soft voice, low, fluted, energetic, authoritarian, friendly, conciliatory, cheerful, mocking, hypocritical, angry, disgruntled, fearful, secret, echo…)
express feelings with face feelings (joy, sadness, panic…)
miming with his body (bulging torso, majestic walk, stupid servant, humility…)
image with your hands (the flying bird, money, tenderness, joy, hope, violence, hospitality, healing, work, flight, music…)
Consider toddlers. The context must explain the difficult words (e.g., publicans: people who took the money and stole it).
The language must be varied and lively, with twists and turns, it must arouse interest.
The child can learn that he must not ignore him when God, who is a living and present person, has spoken to him. He can say yes, no, or later, it is his freedom. If the child has learned the lesson, he or she will have no difficulty answering it. The other subjects of prayer may be brought in a second time.
2. Help formulate
The child can learn to formulate a coherent prayer, for God listens to him, and just as the child is intelligent, God is, and the child must know it. But it is also a sincere and honest prayer. We don’t tell God anything to soften him, to please the monitor, or to impress the friends. Some children have difficulty speaking out, or saying in a few words what is going on in their hearts. We can then ask the group: “What are we going to answer to the Lord?” Children can be allowed to express themselves and then help them formulate. This wording can be written on the board. During the prayer, the children will be able to take a look at it if necessary. Above all, make it clear to the children that this is a help you offer them. They are not obliged to pray in the direction indicated.
3. Help pray
The monitor may suggest that some children repeat a prayer after sentence after sentence. This method can unlock children who do not know how to pray, but it must remain occasional and not become a habit. When he is more comfortable, he will be able to express himself in his own words.
4. Teaching respect
The session with the children takes place in a good mood and relaxation. However, let us not tolerate mockery or heckling during prayer. The child must be aware that God is present, that He is not to be mocked and that He must be respected at this moment when we address Him directly.. If necessary, let us not hesitate to interrupt the moment of collective prayer to bring the children back to more seriousness.