Deep waters can be intimidating. I used to live in Okinawa, a couple of minutes away from a beautiful beach. I’m talking the kind of beach with awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping sunrises and sunsets to go with it. Okay, I don’t really remember a sunrise because I’m not a morning person. But you get the picture. Gorgeous! Some of my fondest memories with my family are there. We experienced amazing swimming in crystal-clear waters. Shallow water is safe for most people, so we would always be warned to stay there in the safe zone. I was terrified of sharks and jellyfish, so staying in the “safe zone” was never a problem for me. One of my younger sisters didn’t even let the waves touch her and would scream comically if one even got close. It was kind of cute, but she totally missed out on the waves. And my dad, he was completely fearless, going so deep you could only see his head bobbing in the waves.
This makes me think of teaching kids God’s Word. I like to ask myself, am I just keeping kids in the safe zone? Or am I encouraging kids to go deeper and experience life transformation? Am I giving them the kind of learning experiences that stick around for a lifetime, or just a class-time? Here are seven ways to take kids beyond the safe zone—where we can either dip our toes or dive in to encourage deeper learning and life transformation in kids.
7 deeper learning zones:
- The Serving Zone. Service is addicting. When we teach kids how to serve and help them experience the joys of serving others, it brings purpose to their lives. Service helps kids understand that no matter how old they are or what their home life is like, they can make a difference. Teaching them how to look for opportunities to love others is a gift. No matter how small the act of service is, it can make a HUGE difference in the world around them. The bonus is that when they fall more in love with Jesus and serving, they are way more likely to be an active member who serves in a church as an adult. What a legacy to leave!
- The Simplicity Zone. Give kids simple Bible points they can remember. We can be tempted to give kids as much information as we can possibly fit in the time allotment we have. Most of us have probably been a part of classrooms in our schools or churches growing up where the “fire hydrant” approach was used to deliver information. Group’s brand-new Sunday school curriculum DIG IN helps streamline your teaching efforts, applying the same foundational Bible truth in every part of your lesson. Talk about maximizing each moment!
- The Relational Zone. Give kids ways to build relationships with their peers and their teachers (YOU!). Building relationships is one of the main reasons adults seek out a church home, and that is no different for kids. I love seeing the conversations kids have about different components in the lessons through pair-shares and other relational activities as they go deeper in their relationships.
- The Connection Zone. Give kids a chance to make the connections between the lesson and real-life application. Scenario: Take two students and tell one of them what you want him or her to do to apply the Bible point for the week. Next, take the other student through various activities and discussions and let him or her discover how to apply the Bible point in real life. Which way do you think is actually going to help kids remember and apply that point, dictation or discovery? DIG IN has so many ways for kids to make connections between the activities they do and the lessons they learn to real life.
- The Flexibility Zone. One of my favorite sayings is, “Blessed are the flexible for they won’t be bent out of shape.” Being flexible, focusing on the students, and being relational instead of having tunnel vision for all the details that go into the lesson is such a gift to your students. Being able to change out a lesson each week as you discover what works and doesn’t for the unique needs of your class and students is priceless. I love this component of DIG IN.
- The Responsibility Zone. Give kids the responsibility of applying the lesson and taking ownership. If you are consistent with following up with the students God has entrusted to you, they will be thinking about it more during the week. They will come back super-excited to tell you what they did, and kids will be coming into our classrooms excited to share how they applied the Bible that week. Can teaching get any more meaningful and fun than that?
- The Love Zone. Give kids your time and love. Clanging gongs, clashing cymbals, and straight-up noise…that’s what we sound like when we teach without love. However, if we don’t remember to show kids love in a tangible way, regardless of how hard our week has been or how difficult a particular student is acting, then we don’t stand a chance of getting the message across in the most effective way. So let’s take each opportunity to share the love of the ultimate Gift Giver—Jesus. This is the greatest gift of all.
So, which teacher are you going to be? Will you choose to stay in the safe zone or lead children through life-transforming experiences? Not only is DIG IN great for equipping teachers, but DIG IN was created so kids can grow deeper in their faith and relationship with Jesus.
Ephesians 1:18 says, “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.” I believe that we have the opportunity to live out that hope and help others see it, too, as we influence an entire generation. We have a glorious inheritance waiting for us! The future looks bright out in the deep! I think I want to do more than dip my toe in the shallow water. What a joy it is to help lead children to do the same.