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Telling a story
This is perhaps the most important part of a childrens meeting. You've done the singing and possibly a quiz and now you have the undivided attention of a group of kids. Make no mistake, it can be very daunting standing up in front of kids to tell them a story. However there are some things you can do to try and keep their attention and get your point across.
Prepare, Prepare, Prepare!
There is often the mistaken impression that taking a kids meeting is where beginners start and once you have found your feet you can progress onto greater things. The reality couldn't be farther from the truth. Preparation, whether it's for a kids meeting or a ministry meeting, is crucial. Therefore it is important to know your subject matter. You might be fortunate enough to stand up in front of a group of little angels, but it is far more likely you'll get one or two at the very least whose main aim is to disrupt. If you have to stop, starting again is much easier if you know the story like the back of your hand.
- PRAY! Ask for help, ask for understanding and above all, ASK FOR MORE HELP!
- Read the story through multiple times. If it's a story that appears in more than one place, read all the accounts. If you have different versions of the Bible available, read it through in them as well. Sometimes the slightly different language that is used can clarify something that you weren't perhaps clear on.
- Make a list of the key characters in the story and write down one or two sentences giving a brief bit of background information on that person.
- Write down chronologically the events in the story and make sure you know where each character comes in.
- Think about the story and decide what points you want to bring out. Decide where in the story you want to bring them out. They don't all need to be kept till the end, but can be enumerated as the story progresses.
Keep it interesting
Gone are the days when children would sit in a Sunday School or Kids Meeting for an hour without any problems. We now live in an age when their every waking minute is taken up with some sory of entertainment. Whilst we are not solely doing this as a means of entertainment, if you fail to capture their interest, it is unlikely they'll listen to the story. Unless you are a fantastic story teller, having something for the kids to look at can make all the difference. Powerpoint is becoming the tool of choice in this matter, but don't rule out other methods just because they might seem outdated. Take the flanel graph for example, we might think that it is old and of no interest to children, but because many kids have never seen it, it can be a novelty.
The reason for providing something which the kids can look at is that some children learn by listening, others learn by seeing or doing. Providing visual as well as aural information can boost the liklihood of the children remembering what you are saying.
- Whether it's Powerpoint, flanel graph or the OHP (OverHead Projector), you must must must must must prepare. Practice beforehand and know what comes after what.
- If you are using Powerpoint, make sure that any animations you are using are coming up in the right order.
- Keep your slides interesting. Bullet points are suitable for boardrooms, but in a kids meeting...too many and you'll lose a childs attention. Make use of pictures in your slides.
- If you are using a flanel graph, have all your pieces laid out beforehand in the right order. It is then a simple case of picking up one after the other and sticking them on.
- For those using flanel graph, make sure you sit all your bits and pieces on a sturdy object and far enough away from any draughts. You'll want avoid chasing the baby Jesus half way across the room when someone decides it's too warm in a room and opens a window!
- For any other object, make sure that it works as you expect it to. For electrically operated objects, make sure the batteries work and are not likely to run out.
Keep It Relevant
Whilst it is good to keep your story interesting, making it too much fun can have the opposite effect. Remember why you are there. To tell them a story from God's Word, the Bible. If your method of keeping it interesting blocks the message from going in, then you're failing in your task.
- I love using magic tricks when I'm speaking to kids. A well performed trick can stick in a childs mind for weeks, months, if not years. However there is the danger that they remember the trick, and not what the trick was there for. A magic trick should always be used to explain a point, not to impress the kids. I often find myself thinking "I have a trick, how could I use it?". Instead, I would be better asking myself, "I have a point to explain, how do I best do that?".
After all the fun of the singing and quizzes and whatever else you do, sometimes by the time it comes to the story the kids are getting tired, fed up and just want to go home. A disruptive child not only prevents themselves from hearing the story, they prevent others from hearing the story. Whilst a certain level of disruption is to be expected, too much and you are in danger of losing everyone.
- As the kids meeting is progressing, try and be aware of what kids might cause a problem. Sometimes all it takes is to get another adult to sit with them during the story for the problem to go away. Sometimes it is better if you move the child to some other place in the room before you start (e.g. away from friends they were carrying on with).
- Unfortunately sometimes a child's restlessness is down to your own failings as well as their own. If you see everyone starting to get a bit restless, try and do something a bit different that brings their attention back again.
- Don't be afraid to stop the meeting to deal with a disruptive child, rather than trying to carry on.
- If you are not the person who is telling the story, don't just sit back and relax, observe the behaviour and intervene yourself (without causing too much of a disruption).
Above all, remember why you are there. It is a sobering thought that for the child sitting in front of you, this may be the only time in their life they will hear the Gospel message.