Kids need structure.
All kids need structure. The less they seem to want it, the more they need it.
Structure is the key to running your Children’s Church (or Sunday School or Awanas or whatever) smoothly.
What I mean by that is that you need a plan. You need to have an idea of what you want to do when, so that you can manage time well and get everything done. You need to make a plan, and then follow it.
Think about how church normally runs. At my church, the order is always songs, offering, announcements, sermon, alter call. If we have baptisms or baby dedications, they are thrown into the “announcements” category. It is not always the same, but there is a plan. There is a structure.
Your Children’s Church needs that too!
I will never forget the first time I wrote on the board what we were doing for the day. I didn’t change the order we did. I didn’t add anything new. But the kids knew what was coming, so they were better prepared.
Now we just used the same structure every week, so I don’t write it down on the board, but they know what’s coming next.
1. Think about what you want to do
Think in categories. Your activities may include (but are not limited to)
- Song or worship
- Coloring sheets
- Bathroom break
In my class we do:
- Upbeat song and dance
- 2 games
- Bathroom break
- Game/craft/time filler
2. Now give everything a time value
It may not always be the same, but give it an idea. Here’s mine:
- Upbeat song and dance (10 min)
- 2 games (25 min)
- Bathroom break (15 min)
- Worship (20 min)
- Lesson (20 min)
- Game/craft/time filler (however long until parents show up)
Now, this is not the whole story. Sometimes things take longer or shorter. Sometimes you have to stop and remind the kids about what is appropriate and not. But this is the basic idea of how I structure
I also made the decision to start my class late because a lot of people at my church come consistently late. It bugs me when I have to explain something for the fourth time because are straggling. So I give them a little bit of extra free time at the beginning and save myself the annoyance.
After you decide what you want to do, decide what is feasible. For example, I just put down my desired times, and then I added five minutes to “games”, “bathroom”, and “worship” because I realized that that was more truthful.
3. Change what you don’t like
Now is your time to change things. Prefer if one part was longer? Hate that something doesn’t’ take long enough? Always finishing early or late? Adjust the schedule!
Need some help getting students to behave? Check out my posts on classroom management here and here.
Also: The Beginner’s Guide to Teaching Children’s Church
4. Keep track
Over the next few weeks, keep track of the time. Then write down how long you actually spend in every category. You may need to adjust it. You may also have to adjust it depending on the week. Remember, this is a guideline, not a hard and fast rule. It’s not the end of the world if something is faster or shorter. Just remember, if you add five minutes to something, you also need to take it away somewhere else.
5. Set up the room to reflect the structure
Do you need separate places for different segments? If you are dancing, you will need a dancing place. For the lesson, do you want chairs? Do you want the kids to sit on the floor? If you do crafts, you will need tables for them.
These are just some things to think about. At the moment, I have chairs in the middle of the room with at least 6-8 feet from the chairs to the walls. This structure works for us, because we have de-emphasized crafts, and there is plenty of room around the chairs to play games. And if the game requires more space, we either push the chairs out of the way or we go outside.
In the past I have had three different “sections”. I had an empty space for dancing and games, two tables with chairs for crafts, and a cozy corner with a lot of pillows for the lesson time.
You may not always do the same thing, and you may not always need the same set up. But room set up is key to your structure.
6. Have a backup plan in place
This is to cover anything that goes wrong. If church suddenly runs half an hour longer than usual, what will you do? If your lesson is significantly shorter than anticipated, what do you do? If the person in charge of games doesn’t show up, what do you do? If you are supposed to go outside and it is raining, what do you do?
I suggest keeping a few extra activities handy. Good ideas include:
- Dance videos like these
- Games that require little set up
- Veggie tales movies
- Books you can read
- Coloring sheets
Having just a few ideas, even if they are not prepared, will help you in a pinch. Part of your structure is your back up plan.
Back up plans make us flexible.
So those are my steps to structuring Children’s Church (or Sunday School, or Awanas, or whatever). Having a structure or schedule in place will help the kids, but will also take a lot of the pressure off of you! If you know that you only need to come up with 20 minutes’ worth of lesson because your craft will take just as long, then you will be less stressed! And don’t forget your back up plan to really help you be less stressed!
Still not sure about your Christmas Program? Check out this post to help you decide what to do!
How do you structure your Children’s Church? Are there any points that I missed? Let me know in the comments! (Bonus: Put a picture of your Children’s Church or Sunday School room in the comments and let us know how it effects your class.)