In our discussion with Tim Elmore, he contrasted how this generation of kids learns with how schools are teaching them. He said that this is one of the major dilemmas in helping them learn:
Students Today vs. Schools today
Right-brained delivery vs. Left-brained delivery
Most kids are very in tune with their right brain: dynamic communication, language arts, and creative arts. Schools are primarily concerned with math and science and teach it in a way that kids aren’t receiving it well.
Learn by uploading and expression vs. Teach by downloaded lectures
Tweens and teens love to upload their latest pics and videos to the Interwebs. They want to express themselves. Lectures aren’t cutting it.
Experiential in nature vs. Passive in nature
Kids want to taste and touch, get their hands dirty, and interact with the world. When a teach primarily lectures the content, teaching becomes something that is done to the student not with the student. Lectures are passive education. Kids can too easily disengage when they’re being talked at.
Music and art enables retention vs. Music and art classes cut
Do I even need to comment on this one? Seriously, this is one of the major reasons we moved into our school district. My kids are thriving in an environment that appreciates and upholds the creative arts.
Desire to learn what’s relevant vs. Teach for the next test
Kids are going to have to learn information they don’t care about; that’s just part of growing up. Teachers are bound by school districts and state requirements. I’m a former teacher. I know first hand the frustration of having to teach certain material. I loved taking the rabbit trails the kids brought up because most of the time they were exponentially more engaged. But, the system itself is broken and giving many options to help kids or educators solve this problem.
Creativity drives them vs. Curriculum drives them
Again, like it or not, educators have a scope and sequence to accomplish. They can do this as creatively as they are resourced. We can’t put all of the blame on the teachers. They are bound by their requirements and their budgets. It is what it is. We’ve got to envision a better way.
How should the church respond? How can be be different? We have at our disposal the Greatest Story ever told. Are we doing our best to help kids understand they are part of that Story as well?
We have the best content in the world. How are we harnessing the power of creativity in how we help kids engage it?
Kids have questions. Take them on the fly as part of small group. Embrace the rabbit trails as part of relevant teaching. If you don’t know an answer, be honest. They want to trust you. Being vulnerable will help build that trust.
Kids like seeing themselves. Use them in videos. Bring them on stage as part of the lesson or dancing on the worship team.
Kids want to be heard. Don’t blow off them or their ideas. Create a forum where they can share their ideas in a safe place. I bet you’ll come up with a whole lot of great ideas for your next project.
Children don’t all learn the same way. Offer various activities that help all students internalize the content. Introverts are the most difficult. Make sure you have activities that help engage the quieter kids who come off as loners. Chances are they have something going on in that head of theirs; ask good questions that pull out their thoughts, too.
I think small group is where much of this can happen. Content without relationship is empty. When students engage the content with a trusted leader, chances are greater that they will experience life transformation.
Small group is safe place to ask questions and take rabbit trails. Leaders will know what their kids need and will be able to tailor the information for them. Give small group leaders that freedom. Don’t always be so concerned that they make it through the curriculum.
It’s as easy for the church to fall into the same patterns listed above. We need a scope and sequence, we need an end game, but we also need to remember the kids. Each is unique with his or her own story and perspective on the world. Help each child assimilate the content in a way they can actually apply to their life.
What’s working in your ministries to make the content relevant to your kids? I’d love to hear your ideas.