Over-the-Top Preschool Worship Time

3. Surprise the senses. It will make the lesson memorable, and every preschooler will chatter about it on the ride home. Have a guest fireman or a dog puppet dressed up like a doctor to remind kids how God cares for us. Pipe in calls and cries of animals as you describe them loping, hopping, and charging into the ark. Have fans running and equip leaders with spray bottles to mist the children as you describe the rain falling and the waters rising from the deep. Adults may not understand the wonder of it, but kids LOVE it! Try waving forest scented deodorizers to indicate the land was finally dry.

4. “To be or not to be” the storyteller. There are some amazing ways to tell a story! I love to become the character and tell the story from the Bible character’s point of view. Preschoolers love to see live action, so tell the story while actors mime the action. Your actors can speak their own lines if the dialogue is simple and the meaning is clear.

5. Multi-media is essential. Vary your media and get tech savvy. Use power point, props, costumes, puppets, DVD’s, CD’s, iPods, cameras, lights, and people. I visited one church recently that used every sight and sound media known to man in one lesson. The stimulation overload scrambled my brain and wiped the message out of my head. Used wisely, however, technology can help engage the learners and reinforce the message. A great example is the use of amplification for puppets. The point of the skit may be lost if the puppets aren’t heard.

Some examples:
•  Kids love to see familiar faces on the screen. Develop a power point presentation using the faces of your kids or project a skit filmed with parents, teachers, and siblings.
•  Singing into a microphone will bring out the “ham” in every child. Record the children singing with individual voices highlighted. The next time you sing the song, play the recording and the kids will tune in like never before. Compile a series of these songs with kids’ voices, and send them home with them. (Remember to consider copyright laws. Don’t use background music from a CD.)
•  We all know music “repeats and repeats in your head,” so it provides the perfect vehicle to make the message stick. Preschoolers love music almost as much as stories, but there are a few guidelines to remember. Over the top music means “I can sing it, I like it, it’s fun, and I can move.” Think outside the adult box. Vary the volume, tempo and feel of the music. Introduce a calypso or country theme. Get the interactive instruments and streamers out of the mothballs and get jammin’. Preschoolers lift joyful, loving worship to God each time they clap, twirl, and hop to a praise song.
•  Music is the perfect way to introduce each segment of large group time. Slow and contemplative music will cue children to sit quietly and prepare for prayer time. The most effective leaders use rote prayers sparingly. They use poetry to quiet the heart but speak to God as a loving and present Father who cares and listens. It seems the act of prayer demonstrates most effectively our relationship to God. The “Jesus You Are Here with Me” song on the Touch the Sky CD (Willow Creek) is a wonderful song to prepare kids for prayer.

6. Prayer is an effective way to make the day’s message personal. Be a leader like Jesus. Demonstrate how to pray. Later, the children can participate with echo prayers, prayer songs, and personal prayers in small groups.

7. Sparkle up offering and outreach. One children’s pastor visits during the preschool large group for offering time. While the background music plays and the offering is taken, he walks around to each child, looks them in the eye, and asks about something in their life. It’s meaningful, personal and very moving.

We all know kids bring their money because they’re “supposed to,” but they wonder why. They’re curious about where the money goes. Give them concrete examples of the process. Bring in a “money counter man” that carries zip lock bags. Show how the offering is used by displaying a huge stack of books, crayons, pencils, toys, and Bibles bought with it. You can also post pictures of the missionaries you support.

Outreach events also help each child think outside his own box. An overseas offering project helps kids think globally. Every Sunday, show a power point presentation of chickens and goats. I collect these pictures online. Tell the children their offering will buy animals for children who need help feeding their families. The children will be amazed and excited to hear the number of chickens and goats their offerings provide.

Another suggestion is to help a local charity by displaying a Christmas tree where children can hang hats, mittens, and scarves. The kids see the progress of this giving and know they’re helping kids in their own community. On a cold day in January, remind them about the children who are warm today because they were kind and generous with their giving.

Key 3:  Make It Life Changing.

We want children to do more than copy Bible words. We want them to know God made them, God loves them, and Jesus wants to be their forever friend. The result of internalizing and understanding these truths is immeasurable. Preschoolers may not be able to verbalize their understanding, but they will respond in ever increasing love, trust, and joyful obedience to Jesus.

Lives change as a result of a relationship with God. Therefore we must make the main thing the main thing. God wants an intimate relationship with ME? Yes, YOU! It’s a wonderful concept, but kids need more than words. Three, four, and five year olds need people to demonstrate the concepts and relevant stories to make the ideas “kid size.”

I observed an amazing presentation of the Christmas story in the preschool department of one church. At the conclusion of the lesson, the leader said, “Now I want you to remember, ‘Wise men still seek Him.’” I wanted to shout, “What’s wrong with this picture?” Just a few additional sentences could make this conclusion personal and wrap up what was an amazing presentation. Make it personal by saying…“When I point to you kids, I want you to say your name out loud just one time. Then I’ll keep talking. Remember, say it just one time. ‘God loves ________ so much He sent His one and only Son.’”

A “kid like me” is one of the best teaching tools. Applaud good behavior in the classroom and include application stories and skits about kids who demonstrate the point of your Bible lesson. Sometimes when nothing else penetrates, the good and bad choices of a puppet drive home the point like nothing else.

Children will understand God loves them when they experience the consistent, ongoing care of adults and teens. Consistent personnel cannot be overstated. When I was a child, Mrs. Kapell was my favorite large group leader. She never failed me. She was there every week. She greeted me every time I saw her, even when I aged out of her department. This faithful servant of God used every tool available to help us understand God’s unconditional love. She inspired me to seek Jesus, to live for Him, and to serve Him. I am a Christ follower because of her words and her life.

Preschoolers WILL follow. They WILL learn. They WILL change.

Give every lesson a little extra thought, lots of prayer, and take it “over the top,” because preschoolers have incredible potential to learn.

AND never underestimate the power of God to take it “over the top” through you and your volunteers.  

This article is posted in cooperation with the INCM Insight, a monthly E-Magazine provided by the International Network of Children’s Ministry. To sign up for this FREE resource, go to INCM Insight.
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Karen Apple
Karen Apple developed an innovative church children’s ministry which included an “over the top” weekday preschool and a classroom and counseling program for children of divorce and separation. She writes and consults for publishers and churches.