It’s your story … it’s my story. You’re ready to start and kids mosey in one at a time. Each time another little person comes through the door, you feel the need to catch them up on what has happened in the few minutes before. You end up giving away that first 10 minutes, waiting for everyone to arrive.
Out of the 168 hours in a week, God has entrusted you with one of those hours … this one hour … to introduce the group of kids in your care to His Word. The other 167 hours is a topic for a different article. Our responsibility is to milk that 60 minutes for everything we can get out of it. So, I’m not giving any of it away!
1 Corinthians 9:16-17 reminds us:
“For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel. For if I do this voluntarily, I have a reward; but if against my will, I have a stewardship entrusted to me.”
Let me share with you some ways that we can recapture that precious 10 minutes that so easily slips by us as we wait for everyone to arrive. Think about hat first kid who shows up. He wants something to do. He doesn’t like waiting on the others any more than you do. Oh, it’s nice that you can put him to work helping you get things ready, but you should’ve already been ready, and that’s not what he’s there for.
So, create individual learning experiences that can be done one or two kids at a time. And, I’m not talking about search-and-find, hidden pictures, crossword puzzles and color pages. When I did my student teaching, my host teacher had a paper propped up on an easel at the door every single morning, ready for the kids as they arrived. It was pretty much the same paper every day. Boring! She gave them paper work that didn’t mean anything, to keep them busy “until she was ready to start.” We should be ready to start the moment that first child smiles at us, coming down the hall. There are all kinds of tech ideas that you could use, but let’s look at some simple things that don’t take a lot of money or technical knowledge—ideas that provide interaction with leaders instead of a digital device. (Check out the video that accompanies this article to see each one of the following ideas demonstrated.)
This is the perfect time to practice Bible skills. Remember the old Bible drills where everyone held their Bible in their lap? When the scripture reference was revealed, then it was a race to see who could look it up the fastest. The results of this kind of Bible drill? The same child wins every time. The other kids stop trying, because they know they’re going to lose; consequently, they’re not improving their Bible skills. This first 10 minutes is perfect for giving everyone some practice and the opportunity for everyone to improve and be successful.
Verse chart. Get a large poster attendance chart. Down the left-hand side list verses that you’d like the kids to look up. Hop all over the Bible as you list these. Then, across the top, write the names of the kids in your group. Provide some of the tiny stickers. Every 15-20 verses, draw a thick heavy line across the chart. As soon as the kids arrive, they can start looking up verses, beginning with the first verse (or starting where they left off the week before). As soon as they find the verse, they take their Bible to an adult who checks to make sure they found the correct verse and who listens to the child as they read it. It’s important to have this adult present to check (because 1 Chronicles and 1 Corinthians can look alike, as well as 1 John and John being confusing) to prevent the child from reinforcing an incorrect idea. Once they’ve had their verse checked, the child can add a sticker for that verse. Every time they cross one of the thick heavy lines, you can offer them a trip to a treasure chest for a treat. This is also a great way to get other people involved in children’s ministry who don’t necessarily want to teach. There’s no preparation for them; they can help by simply listening to kids read scripture for the first 10 minutes. Then, they’re free to go on to their group/class.
Cup Stackers. Kids love cupstackers (or Speed Stackers). These are specially-designed plastic cups that kids build a pyramid out of. They can start with a base of five cups or four, and race each other to see who can get the pyramid made and back down into one stack the fastest. Provide three sets of these on a table. Once three kids arrive, they can have a cupstacker race. As soon as a player completes the “up and down”, they are given a card with a verse written on it. They try to find the verse in their Bible and show it to someone as quickly as possible, because when they do, they can get back in line to participate in another cupstacker race.