A really, really big part of leading a class successfully is getting a handle on how you want to run it. The landscape of my class has evolved quite a bit over time, but I have a system now that is definitely working. It may change again if I have another idea I want to try, or if a particular group I get warrants doing things differently. But let me show you how I currently run my class.
For reference, I have an hour and a half one evening a week. So, if you have less time than that, you’ll need to tweak my system.
Here’s the flow:
- Get there early to set up
- Challenge Verse
- Start of Class
- Memory Verses
- Homework and Break
- Question Time
I’ll take these a piece at a time. Let’s start with getting there early and the Challenge Verse.
I always get to my room early. I am incredibly fortunate to be in a church that is very supportive of my ministry, and I have a great classroom. It’s actually two classrooms with that accordion-style wall thing that pulls out to divide the room, but the first thing my son and I do when we get there is collapse it back so we have the whole space. I like that much room because: A) it gives us plenty of space so we don’t feel crowded when our numbers are bigger, and we have room for activities; B) I have an extra white board to use; and C) I know we’re not disturbing the class next to us if an energetic discussion breaks out!
I use that extra white board to post what I call the Challenge Verse. It’s a verse I’ve chosen in advance that I put on the board, minus some of the words, AND minus the citation. The kids have to find the verse on their own and come read it to me, along with the citation. For this, they get a piece of candy. I usually try to choose a verse that relates to the homework in some way, or is about studying God’s Word, or is an encouragement to them. In other words, it’s not random. It also gives me a bonus shot at teaching something that I just want to teach them that wasn’t in the homework.
[A note on candy as prizes. When I first started this class and it was small, I kept an array of prizes I picked up at Lifeway or Party City or wherever. There were books, crosses, jewelry, journals, pens, games, etc. It’s impossible to know what kids will actually want, believe me. So I’d end up with a lot of leftover items that weren’t ever going to “move.” That became an issue, and then the class got bigger. I just couldn’t keep spending several dollars or more per prize, so I made the move to candy like Tootsie Pops, Ring Pops, mini bags of M&Ms, etc. The kids love it and are motivated by it, it’s very inexpensive, and it all gets used. It may seem like I’m cheesing out by resorting to candy, but there you have it.]
The Challenge Verse is only available before class starts. It barely cuts into class time because once class starts, nobody else can do the verse. I give the answer to it and teach what I want to teach about it briefly, and then we’re on to the next thing. Often I add a Pop Quiz to the Challenge Verse. The Pop Quiz is almost always asking them if that book of the Bible is in the Old or New Testament, and whenever I can, I ask a follow-up like, “So, who was Isaiah? What was his job?” or “Okay, now do you know who wrote most of the Psalms?” Something like that. I’m always looking for ways to educate them and inform them as we go along.
The Challenge Verse accomplishes two main things. One, it gets kids there early, which means when I start the class on time, more of them are there! Some of my students aren’t into the Challenge Verse, but some of them love it. I’m fine either way. Two, I’m making sure they learn the important skill of being able to find a verse or passage in the Bible when they don’t have the citation. So, it they’re ever thinking, “Where is the passage on the fruit of the spirit?” or “Where does the Bible talk about being a new creation?” they can go find that on their own. I tell them that it doesn’t matter to me if they are using a concordance, a website, or an app, as long as they are learning the skill.
(Next up, Start of Class and Memory Verses)