Sunday School teachers are creatively engaging their students by using their Strong Kids curriculum digitally, meeting at home instead of church.
David Gunn, director of Regular Baptist Press, points out the importance of continuing to engage students Biblically during the current crisis:
Lots of businesses and commercial pursuits all across the country are currently in a state of hiatus, but the church’s Great Commission mandate to make disciples continues apace. It’s very important during this time for Christians to continue raising up our children and grandchildren in the faith. Most of the nation’s children are stuck at home in lock-down, but their brains and souls are still being shaped and molded by a panoply of factors. The church can’t afford to take a ‘time out’ from influencing our kids’ development during this time. If we do, someone or something else will fill that vacuum. In some ways, the need to instill a Biblical worldview in our children has never been greater.
Here is what teachers from two GARBC churches have done to continue engaging their students Biblically.
Engaging Strong Kids at Calvary Baptist Church, Sandusky, Ohio
Faith Hixson is engaging her 2s & 3s students on Sunday School videos posted on Facebook. For Palm Sunday, students made paper palm leaves ahead of time; then Faith led them in a virtual parade, in addition to retelling the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry.
She sang to her students, naming them individually in a couple of the songs. Jon Norris, marketing manager at RBP, commented, “I was amazed at the number of Pre-K students that Mrs. Hixon has in her class. The welcome song never seems to end with names, and I love it!” Faith confides that she is teaching the online Sunday School lessons to pre-primaries (not her usual students) as well as her twos and threes, and that she includes her grandkids’ names, because they get to watch her Sunday School lessons too. Faith teaches at Calvary Baptist Church, Sandusky, Ohio, where her husband, David, is senior pastor.
Faith says there are “plenty of professional lessons being prepared out there that our children can watch—no doubt my lessons look amateurish, but my lessons are exactly what our Calvary Baptist children know. They know me and know I love and miss them.” Her online Sunday School lessons bring routine and familiarity to the children.
However, many more than Faith’s students and grandchildren are watching her videos. She has heard from families that are friends of her children and from her and David’s friends in other places who are watching. Then there are the adults at Calvary who, she says, have no idea what children’s ministry is like. Now they are watching “and expressing that they enjoy it.” Faith says maybe this will inspire some volunteers. The videos have hundreds of views, so she is ministering to more than the 27 preschoolers her church normally reaches each week.
Engaging Strong Kids at First Baptist Church, Arlington Heights, Illinois
Pam Lechner, who teaches primaries at First Baptist Church, Arlington Heights, Illinois, is providing PowerPoint slideshows of the Sunday School lessons she’s teaching. For the first lesson, on Nicodemus, Pam was out of town and didn’t have access to the free RBP downloads. So she asked the kids to draw pictures of Nicodemus and send them to her, then she incorporated their artwork into the Sunday School lesson. On Easter, Pam used Resurrection Eggs, available from RBP.
To provide familiarity and continuity, Pam and her co-teacher, Dawn Niedermayer, follow their class time routine, with Dawn opening in prayer before Pam teaches the lesson, just like on a normal Sunday. Then for fun, Pam sends her students about three videos a week, using “goofy ‘national’ days or holidays and including a verse that goes with the holiday.” For example, April 14 was Look Up in the Sky Day, so she used 1 Thessalonians 4:17.
Middler teacher Carla Mungons adopted Pam’s idea. “Of course,” she says, “the face-to-face participation cannot be replaced. There is no opportunity for questions or comments. But I have loved preparing the lessons and putting the PowerPoint slideshows together, knowing my kids are hearing another true story from God’s Word. And since they are only middlers, I know the parents are likely listening too, and sometimes other siblings.”
Both Pam and Carla added their voices to their slideshows, so the students are hearing their teachers’ familiar voices. Carla has received good feedback from parents, who have welcomed the Sunday School lessons.
For Carla the process has been easy, especially since she can now download the curriculum free from RBP. She says “downloading the flannelgraph figures, pictures, and posters from RBP was easy. Accessing them from my laptop and attaching them to the PowerPoint is simple as well.”
While Pam and Carla have created and mailed PowerPoint slideshows of their lessons, youth teacher Ben Burnet created a video using RBP’s Real Faith and Loom. Students can see him as he teaches the lessons and displays slides. This fall churches will be able to engage their youth with Strong Students curriculum, available for order this summer.
Keys to Success
Consider these five keys to success garnered from these two churches’ experiences.
Don’t worry about creating “professional” lessons. Online Sunday School lessons or PowerPoint slideshows featuring the teacher’s voice or face provide continuity for students even when they cannot be together in person. Teachers who are uncomfortable posting “inexpert” Sunday School lessons on social media should not let their concern stop them but can find ways to ensure the video only goes to their students.
Don’t be intimidated about the technology. Faith Hixson says making a video “is something that anyone can do—you don’t need fancy cameras or mad computer graphic engineering skills. If a teacher is willing, then their children will benefit from the personal connection.”
Communicate with parents. Faith says, “I have heard from almost every parent of our church family with excitement and gratitude (and pictures of their children). I use this an opportunity to contact these families with texts or Facebook messages.” Before Easter Sunday she sent out a heads-up that Sunday’s lesson would involve making a tomb replica with a doughnut and doughnut hole. “If this will cause an issue in your house if you do not have these items,” she told parents, “please plan a ‘drive thru the Dunkin Donut’ trip before Sunday.”
Send students free digital take-home papers. Whether or not you send parents a video or slideshow presentation of the lesson, it’s important to get the take-home papers into the hands of parents each week so they continue to have in-home discipleship resources to help build strong kids! You can email the take-home paper PDFs to students, deliver paper copies you have on hand (while still practicing social distancing, of course), or send paper copies in the mail.
Regular Baptist Press has provided PDFs of take-home papers for Pre-Primary through Junior and the student book pages for 2s & 3s. Even if you didn’t purchase take-home papers, these downloads are available to any customers who have purchased the Teacher Kit. The PDFs are connected to your unique download code and have already been placed on the Strong Curriculum Resource Downloads site. Please download the PDFs and, each week, send them individually to the parents of your students.
Thank God for the connections you’re making above and beyond your normal contacts. Engaging strong kids, especially younger students, requires connecting with parents. And if, like Faith Hixson, you’re posting online, who knows how many people outside your church you will have an opportunity to influence.