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The greatest challenge in working with children is to teach simply enough for them to understand. Many adults teach far above what children can really understand. Therefore, understanding how children of various ages learn is helpful information in the organization of your children's ministry.

It is important to keep these facts in mind: People learn with their five senses of hearing, seeing, touching, tasting and smelling. They learn and remember 10 percent of what they hear; 20 percent of what they read; 50 percent of what they see and hear; and 90 percent of what they do. Therefore, children of all ages need not only to hear, but to see and touch things related to relating to what they are learning about the Bible.

Nursery-Age Children
Nursery-age children should continually be learning what it means to feel loved and secure. If loving care is not provided, they will instead learn to feel rejected and insecure.

Children should be receiving love and a sense of security at home and in church. But if they are not receiving the love they need at home, how much more vital it is that we in the church flood them with love and make them feel secure while they are in our care!

Jesus laid His hands on the children and blessed them. As believers, we can also lay hands on the young children we are teaching and pray God's blessing on them.

Children's workers should also spend time singing to nursery-age children, hugging them, and telling them that they are wonderful! They should frequently remind the children, "Jesus loves _____ [call each child by name]."

Nursery-age children learn about human communication as adults interact with them. If adults do not interact with them, they learn to feel isolated.

It's hard for a person to be a balanced adult Christian if he grew up being ignored. So if a child seems quiet and withdrawn and you notice that his parents don't seem to interact much with him, then you should take initiative and spend extra time interacting with that child during class.

For instance, when a young child holds up a toy dog and says, "Uh!" he is trying to tell you something, so respond to the child with love. Give him a big smile and say something like, "The puppy goes, 'Ruff, Ruff!'"

Nursery-age children are busy finding out what it is to be a human being. They will watch you and imitate your actions.

Therefore, when children's workers praise and worship God with the nursery-age children, they are demonstrating to the children what it means to worship the Lord. The children will not be able to enter into worship like adults, but they will form their initial impressions about "what we do at church" as they watch their teachers worship.

So raise your hands! Smile! Sing joyfully! Most of the nursery-age children will sit there and just watch you, but don't feel as though you are wasting your time. They are forming good impressions, and besides, the praise and worship will do you good!

Another fact to remember when teaching nursery-age children is that they thrive on consistency and repetition. It is best to keep their classes as consistent as possible. Use the same check-in procedure, maintain the same schedule, and keep the learning centers the same for at least a month at a time. This consistence helps a child feel secure.

Preschoolers (ages three through kindergarten) are explores who are always moving. It is impossible to get them to sit still for a long period of time because they have seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy.

They also have a knack for being interested in all kinds of things you never even though about! For instance, they want to find out, "What happens when you pull on the box that's sitting on the shelf?" Answer: It falls off the shelf, and everything falls out! Or they want to find out, "Will this crayon write on that wall?" Answer: It sure does!

Although it sometimes seems difficult to keep up with a preschooler's energetic curiosity, take heart in the knowledge that God is the one who made young children that way. That's how they learn about the world around them.

Preschoolers have learned how to talk, but most cannot read, and you will find that they love repetition. For instance, they want to sing the same song you sang five times last week; the want to play "Duck, Duck, Goose" for the 20th straight week; and they want to hear the story about the little donkey in the stable right after you finished telling it!

Don't be bothered by this desire for repetition. Just recognize that this stage in their lives is a great time to start teaching them the books of the Bible or the basic facts about some well-loved Bible stories.

Preschoolers also love action. Keep them moving from activity to activity. During each activity, talk to the children. Your conversation with them will keep them interested and make them feel loved. Listen to what they say to you and respond to their questions and thoughts.

For instance, don't be afraid to digress from your story about David and Goliath to respond to the child who just told you that he lost his dog. Talk with him and then continue with your story. At this stage, children will assimilate in little pieces the truths you teach. Then as they grow older, they will understand more as they "glue" those bits of truth together.

First- and Second-Graders
First and second-graders are at a prime age for accepting Jesus as Savior. Although children can comprehend and accept Jesus as Savior at an earlier age, you will find that six- and seven-year old children are very open and interested in spiritual matters. They are able to comprehend the need for receiving Jesus as Savior, and they sense the Holy Spirit's tug on their hearts to do so. Children of this age can also learn how to truly enter into the Presence of God to worship Jesus.

When ministering to this age group, it is best to just present the gospel in a simple way and then ask if anyone would like to recieve Jesus as Savior. First- and second-graders will often eagerly respond to an alter call.

At RHEMA Bible Church, we do not encourage alter calls for children younger than first grade because many younger children will come forward just to please the teachers. First- and second-graders are better able to make a true decision.

This is also an age when the concepts of kindness, sharing, and fairness are of great importance. They want to help the poor people, pray for the sick people, and make cards for family members. By all means, let them!

Because first- and second-graders are very proud of growing reading skills, you can concentrate more on words when teaching them. They have reached the age where they can take little pieces of knowledge and hook them together themselves for better understanding. As they grow older, they still need sense-learning, but because of their growing experience, you can begin to rely more upon words for clear understanding.

Third grade (eight-year-olds) is a pivital year for children. This is the year many children solidify decisions regarding what type of person they are going to be (e.g., teachable or rebellious, considerate or self-centered). Once they make these decisions, they tend to live by them all through their teen-age years. Therefore, third grade is an excellent year to teach children about choices and consequences.

Third-graders are making the transition from the cuddly-child stage to the independent "I-can-do-it-myself" stage. During this transition time, strong, healthy family relationships are extremely important to a child.

If a child lacks strong family relationships at home, it is crucial that he feels as though he belongs to and is loved by his church family. Perhaps your church can offer some type of special programs to provide children coming from troubled homes with activities that can help them develop loving relationships with others in the church.

Fourth-graders will begin to manifest the decisions they made in third grade. They will gravitate toward other children who are the type they have decided to be. Also, peer pressure has begun to be a greater influence in a child's life by the fourth grade.

Fourth grade is the year children often decide they are smarter than their parents or teachers. This is also the age when they are first able to make value judgments for themselves. For the first time they become aware that some issues are gray instead of black and white (e.g. "What kind of relationships should I have with an unsaved friend?"). These issues are interesting to fourth-graders, so when you teach them, not only should you talk to them, you also need to let them tell you what they think.

Fifth-graders often don't want to listen. They want to talk - so let them talk! This is a good year to have times of discussion and active group participation.

Fifth grade is the transition year when a child is on his way to becoming a youth. At what point that transition is actually made depends on whose perspective is in the question. Fifth-graders tend to think they are youth, and children's workers tend to think they are children!

In order to be effective in teaching this age group, you must challenge them by allowing them positions of service and responsibility. Fifth-graders don't want to sit and listen, so make them you're ushers, greeters, puppet team, soundmen, and assistant teachers.

Let them share the gospel with the young children. Or assign a few of them to read that week's "script" (for example, the story of the Good Samaritan). Then you could ask them to make up an impromptu drama out of that particular passage of Scripture using improvised props.

Source: The Ministry of Helps by Kenneth E. Hagin, Jr.
Excerpt permission granted by Faith Library Publications

Author Biography

Kenneth W. Hagin
Web site: Kenneth Hagin Ministries
Kenneth W. Hagin, President of Kenneth Hagin Ministries and pastor of RHEMA Bible Church, ministers around the world. Known for calling the Body of Christ to steadfast faith, he seizes every ministry opportunity to impart an attitude of “I cannot be defeated, and I will not quit.”

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