Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Rare Breed of Kindergarten and First Graders

Five and six year olds are so unique--they're going through huge life transitions--going from being little children who play all day to learning structure in school. They are achieving great things such as reading, new social skills and physical coordination. Yet they're still so young and excitable. Our leaders' biggest difficulties is learning how to keep their kids focused. And because our kindergarten and first graders are in the same class as second and third graders, having to follow a curriculum designed for children who can already read and write adds additional difficulties. We're blessed to have an abundance of volunteers, so each small group consists of no more than six kids. And our volunteers love their groups and desire to be the best leaders possible. They just struggle at times to know how to focus these young learners.

So this afternoon, Jared (our Elementary Director) and I met with all our kindergarten and first grade small group leaders. The goal of our time together was to give the leaders insight into how their kids think, to give them tools to handle their kids better, and for them to share and encourage one another with methods that have worked.

The leaders worry that the lessons don't click with their kids, so we shared about the biblical truths that a 5 and 6 year old can comprehend, as explained in this article. These truths are:
-Jesus loves everyone and that’s why He came to earth.
-I know who God is, what He’s like and what He’s done for me.
-I can talk to God whenever and wherever I want.
-I know people in Bible times loved God and served Him, and I know how I can love and serve Him today.

We encouraged the volunteers to focus on these truths as they teach their lessons. To recognize that there are points in the curriculum that are beyond what the students in their small groups can comprehend, so to just focus on what is at their level. And, if nothing else seems to click, to feel like they've accomplished something if their kids go home just loving church. As they get older, the lessons they continue to hear will build off of what these leaders may feel went unheard.

The best part of the meeting, though, was when the leaders were able to share difficulties they're having with specific kids and have the other leaders give advice. Volunteers who have only served for three months were able to look to those that have been around for eight years for suggestions. A leader who was struggling with a first grader was able to hear from the kindergarten leader about what worked the previous year. It was great to sit and watch iron sharpen iron.

And in the end, we were able to remember what an amazing time this phase of life is for children spiritually--they are discovering a personal relationship with Jesus and overjoyed by it. A mom was telling me a few weeks ago about how when she told her first grade son that his great uncle had died, the child's response was, "YES! That means he is in heaven with Jesus now!" In his mind, a person dying and going to heaven meant great cause for celebration. If only we could capture this innocence. But at least we can take joy in this phase of teaching--to not become wrapped up in or overwhelmed by the wiggles and giggles, but to see the great joy found in laying foundational layers of what will develop into a mature relationship with our Lord.

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