Group time has become a learning experience for me this month. This group likes to talk. Maybe it's because we are at the beginning of the year and the children are brand-new kindergartners. Maybe this group is just a talking group. I have more girls, who tend to be more verbal, so perhaps that's a contributing factor. One thing is certain; this group likes to talk.
During a recent group time, we were talking about the Good Samaritan. I talked about the word neighbor; we discussed that the word means "someone who lives near us" and the fact that Jesus meant more people than just those who live near. The group started buzzing. I could tell we had reached a "we need to talk" moment.
Children began to tell me about people who lived near them. Someone mentioned that a neighbor had moved out and new people had moved in. As these conversations go, the comments flowed from neighbors to moving to dogs to skunks. We had several minutes of skunk discussions. Again the talk shifted to animals in the yard, ending at snakes.
Now skunks and snakes have little to do with the Good Samaritan. But, as I reviewed the day in my mind, I was still satisfied. We did talk about the Bible truths (before and after skunks and snakes). And I kept open to the needs of the group. Allowing some flowing conversation will help me keep attention when we talk about other matters. It allows children to practice talking and waiting in a group (a useful skill for later in the year and beyond). Children also learned that people at church are interested in what they have to say. If I listen to skunks and snakes now, children will be more open to talking about deeper matters. Free conversation also allows me to learn more about the children, who they are and what they are interested in.
Sometimes we get focused on the schedule or what we need to accomplish in Sunday School. Follow the child's lead. Take extra time to finish a project or to talk about skunks and snakes. Building a great learning environment is more than following a schedule or curriculum plan. It's helping children connect with others and with God.
How have you made time for the children's thoughts and interests?
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