I was reading a discussion over on the Kidology.org forums about how to teach to a wide age range and there were some comments suggesting different age ranges to aim for. Some were suggesting “aiming for the middle” or “targeting the older kids” so as not to bore them, whereas others thought it better to teach to the younger ones so as not to lose them.
I’d like to suggest a different approach after having taught over 1,000 children’s church services to first through sixth graders for over fifteen years. It’s a rather simple suggestion: AIM FOR EVERYONE!
The key in a large group with a large age range is to shift your focus constantly. The secret is to be highly visual and to be physically moving and animated to keep the younger ones tracking with you (don’t stand still and never sit, meaning you the teacher) and use humor constantly to keep a connection with your audience.
Think about it: Senior pastors preach to a wide audience range of age and intelligence and education and world view and learning styles and they can do it! They don’t break their audience into groups! How do they do it? It isn’t through the content or aiming for a specific part of the congregation! They don’t decide, “well, I’ll just aim for the intellectuals.” or “I’ll just target the simpletons.” No!
It is through THEM and their delivery. YOU can do the same! When you work on your delivery and becoming a vibrant communicator you can communicate effectively to young and old kids at the same time! When you speak loudly and enthusiastically and creatively you can capture the attention of a group of kids no matter what the age. I’m telling you, you CAN capture the eyes, minds and hearts of kindergarten through sixth grade all in one room! No, it isn’t the ideal educational model, but when it is all you can do, it CAN be done very well. Sometimes it is the only model available to you during the service time. So don’t fret, work on your delivery and style, and be upbeat and confident and animated and funny and sincere and visual and pacing and creative and use big gestures and props and humor and stories and jokes and LOVE what you do, and the kids will be on the edge of their seats, and learning, at any age!
All that to say – I don’t target one age – I target EVERY AGE in the room constantly! I’ll even say, “for you little guys, that means…” if I need to. And I won’t hesitate yo define a word in the original Hebrew for the big kids! But the key is YOU and your delivery – be animated, creative, visual, funny when you can, serious when it matters, walk out among the kids for emphasis and keep it moving.
And do check out DiscipleTown, you will find it packed with creative and fun ideas and a visual PowerPoint to back you up. You can do it!
Amen. I have taught that way for years. I have had up to three hundred kid’s in front of me from 4-5s up to 12-13 year olds, and all learned something from the lesson taught. Of course I believe you need to be prepared before you go in front of the kids. And be prayed up along with your helpers. We Love disciple town, you can change it around any way you feel led to. Aim for every one.
Keep up the good work Karl .
Karl, great advice. A couple of things that has helped me keep the attention of a large group of kids of various ages:
One has been to use many audience helpers up front. I try to hit every age group by choosing children of various ages – it’s one way to get those ages interested in what’s happening when they see their peers up front.
Another is to always be “shaking it up”… don’t get stuck into one format for your service or methods of teaching. I love gospel magic, and own a lot, but there are times when I never use it and find another method that keeps the kids guessing
Check out Karl’s earlier post about eye contact – this is another of my big tricks to keep an audience engaged.
Use a team of people so the kids never get bored of one personality – if that means you have to become a character… do it.
Thanks, great advice, love reading and learning from everyone’s wisdom.