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Chapter 5

PROGRAMMING WITH CHILDREN



Programming should never take place in a vacumn. Often as leaders we want the programmes given to us, to save hard work. But we have to understand children in general, understand the unique pressures and needs they have, before we can effectively programme to meet their needs. Chapter 1 is of utmost importance before we consult this chapter. Only as we understand children’s needs will our programmes be effective.

1. THE PRINCIPLES OF PROGRAMMING

A. RELATION CENTRED
Programming should arise out of relationships with children. The ministry will be most effective if we seek to relate to the children and not speak at them. In our society where home relationships are failing we need groups where children can find warm relationships to help them develop in a healthy way.

B. NEED RELATED
As we develop relationships with children we will begin to understand their needs. The question, “What are the needs of the children we are targeting, and of children in general?” forms the basis of programming, which tries to meet the needs of children. The aim of a programme is to bring children to Christ and to build them up, according to their needs, as God’s children. The balance of salvation and affirmation should be seen in programmes.

C. GOAL DIRECTED
If we aim at nothing we will probably hit nothing. To evaluate our ministry to children, we must know what we are trying to achieve. While most leaders have good intentions, this is not the same as good goals. In deciding on particular goals we should ask questions like:
* What are we hoping to achieve?
* What are the needs of the children who are attending?
* Are there other children we would like to reach?
* What type of home do the children come out of?
* Do we help children to become Christians or just know about Christianity?

When the leaders have set the goals they should set out clearly what they are trying to achieve, and the steps they will take to meet the goals. Each programme could have its goals spelt out as follows:
(1) What we want the children to Know - to capture their minds
(2) What we want the children to Feel - to capture their emotions
(3) What we want the children to Do - to capture their wills

D. THEME CONTROLLED
To turn the aim and goals into actions programmes need to be produced. Having a theme for each programme will ensure that each meeting communicates one central point, that the meeting has unity and progression and that children will go away having “got the message.” Give the theme a catchy phrase that will arouse the interest of the children and get them talking about it. The theme should be reflected, as far as possible, in the elements used, ie. the quizzes are based on the theme, the games highlight some aspect of the message, and the songs relate to the theme, etc.

E. HOLISTIC APPROACH
Children need to be treated seriously. They are not either spiritual or physical beings. They are a combination of spiritual, physical, emotional and intellectual dimensions. Programming must show signs that we are meeting the child as an individual who needs to be, think and do in order to develop as a healthy person. The “straight jacket,” “Holy Joe,” or “just fun” approaches are not sufficient. Each programme should help the child to release energy, stimulate them intellectually, and touch them emotionally and spiritually.

F. CREATIVE VARIETY
The system of learning that the children are used to at school is an experiential approach. The “sit-and-listen-to-my-programme” approach will not bring children back the following week. The task of the leader is to discover creative ways to teach children while they are having fun. The use of games, role-play, story telling and visual aids will encourage the children to learn through discovery. An active audience will learn more than a passive one! While children need some form of order and tradition in each meeting, the form of the meeting should contain variety and great surprise.

2. THE ELEMENTS OF PROGRAMMES

A. WORSHIP
Give children an opportunity to sing songs that express their gratitude to Jesus for being their friend and Saviour and an opportunity for them to speak to Him in prayer even if it is just a word or two. They are able to have a meaningful relationship with the Lord and this should be encouraged to take on a corporate dimension. The songs chosen should centre on the programme theme. (See Chapter 8 for a fuller discussion of worship for children)

B. GAMES
Games can be used to help children relax, to feel a part of the group, to release excess energy, but also to teach abstract concepts and truths, ie. (1) Teach a child to “follow Jesus” by playing the game, “Follow the leader.” After the game sit the children down and discuss how they copied the actions of a leader. Discuss how they must copy the actions of Jesus if they are one of His followers. (2) Teach a child about “counting the cost” by reading the parable of the tower builder in Luke 14:28-30. Set a time limit for children to run, relay-style, and fetch bricks one at a time. When they have gathered what they consider to be the right number, they stop collecting and build the tower. If they have spent too much time collecting they will run out of time for building and, conversely, if they have spent too little time collecting they will run out of bricks. This will help to teach them about counting the cost of following Jesus. When children have experienced truth in a game they are able to understand it much easier than just a spoken message. (See Chapter 9 for a fuller discussion of games for children)

C. QUIZZES
The use of quizzes can be an exciting way to teach Bible knowledge. The method of Sword-drill where children hold the Bible up and at the command pull it down and find a verse is stimulating and teaches children their way around the Bible. The use of relay quizzes will get the team involved in the excitement of answering questions. Hangman is a game that reminds children of personalities and places in the Bible. When using quizzes, always select questions, passages, or verses that relate to the theme of the meeting.

D. ROLE PLAYS
This involves children putting themselves in the position of characters in the Bible, or recreations of modern, real life situations. They act and move as if they are the character they are portraying. They need strong direction as to what they are to do, but within those limits they should be free to improvise movements or words and express their emotions. To introduce the role play, read a passage or tell a story. Explain some of the important aspects or truths being communicated. Divide the children up into small groups instructing them to act out what they have heard. After this experience children will understand the story or message on a deeper level as they have “felt” it from the inside.

E. TEAM COMPETITIONS
Make use of team competitions to encourage children to attend, bring bibles and their friends, learn memory verses, etc. But be careful that the competition does not cause children to start fighting as individuals or teams. Be on the guard against the destructive side of competition that can creep in. Do not run the competition over the whole year as children will loose interest.

F. DISCUSSION GROUPS
Split children into small groups to help them explore truth. Assign a leader to each group with a set of questions about a bible story, passage or topic. Make use of discussions after the main talk to allow children to discuss how they can apply the story to their own lives. The discussion should be on the same theme as the programme or message. (See Chapter 6 for further discussion on group work with children)

G. SCRIPTURE MEMORY
Teaching children scripture will have life long benefits for the child. The words needs to be repeated many times for the children, and a system of continual review introduced. Teach the reference as well. Memory verses should be taught in a way that is exciting and fun, ie. make a game of it...
* Verse written on a blackboard. Erase key words as they learn the verse
* Write the verse on a banner and unroll/role it up slowly
* Make cards with words on and children must unscramble the verse
* Peg words onto a line and take them down as the verse is learnt
* Teach scripture by setting verses to song or rhymes

H. DEVOTIONS
One of the vital areas of the programme is the talk which presents a spiritual truth on a level that the children can understand and implement in their lives. The talk or story must be told and not read to the children, otherwise attention will be lost. (See Chapter 6 for a fuller discussion of teaching truth to children)

I. CLOSING
There is nothing worse than a programme that just fizzles out without a clear ending. Kids need to leave with a song in their hearts, so sing a lively song that relates to the central message of the programme. Send the children out to refreshments, if they are served, after a word of thanks to God for the time together and a prayer for his help to bring them back safely next time.

3. THEMES FOR PROGRAMMES

A. GETTING BACK TO BASICS
Get In - The Bible
Get Down - Prayer/Worship
Get Together - Fellowship
Get Out - Witnessing

B. MAKING AN IMPACT FOR JESUS
At Home
At School
At Church
At Play

C. JESUS, OUR SAVIOUR
The Birth of Jesus
The Childhood of Jesus
The Man Jesus
The Death of Jesus
The Resurrection of Jesus

D. LIVING FOR JESUS: THE DISCIPLES
Matthew - Leaving all to follow
John - Being a faithful disciple
Thomas - Overcoming doubts
Philip - Obeying the voice of God
Peter - A brand new creature
James (Zebedee) - Suffering for Jesus
James (The Less) - Even a nobody is a somebody
Simon (The Zealot) - On fire for Jesus
Bartholomew (Nathanael) - Living a clean life
Judas - Sheep in wolves clothes (Fancy dress)
Andrew - Telling others about Jesus

E. HEROES OF THE FAITH - HEBREWS 11
The Hero is a Worshipper - Awesome Abel
The Hero is a Walker - Energetic Enoch
The Hero is a Witnesser - Nautical Noah
The Hero is a Winner - Amazing Abraham
The Hero is a Warrior - Mighty Moses

F. DOCTRINE COMES ALIVE!
God creates
God loves
We sin
Jesus saves
The Spirit lives inside
Choose: Heaven or Hell

G. THE KINGS IN THE BIBLE
Day 1: Saul - The King who Lost it (Sin)
Day 2: David - The King who Blew it (Sorry)
Day 3: Solomon - The King who Sought it (Search)
Day 4: Josiah - The King who Found it (Solution)
Day 5: Jesus - The King who Solved it (Saviour)

4. EXAMPLE PROGRAMMES

A. HEAVEN AND HELL
Aim: To teach children about heaven and hell and how people end up at each place.
Song: Soon and very soon
Read: 1 Thess 4:16,17. Play trumpet music - lead the children into a big room with a white throne.
Scene: Explain setting: Great White Throne Judgement. Sing songs to God on the Throne.
Read: Matthew 25:31-46. Have the children role play the separation of sheep and goats.
Scene: Lead children into the first room (Hell). Prepare the room by placing a few heaters in it before hand. Make it really hot and sweaty. Put some red lights in the place so that it is dark and eerie. There are no chairs to sit on and they are spoken to in a harsh tone of voice by a man dressed up as the devil. He says to the children: “Welcome to Hell! You won’t enjoy your stay here! There is no love here. We do not allow friends, smiling, laughing, games - only screaming, crying and suffering. You are here forever and ever. You will hate every moment of your stay here.” Once the children have got the idea lead them out into the heaven room., which is well lit and ventilated with a really pleasant character who says to them: “Welcome to heaven! The place of laughter, smiles, happiness and love. You will enjoy bright sunshine all the time and be able to speak to Jesus every day. You will enjoy time with all your friends. You will stay here forever and ever, and love every minute of your stay.” Serve drinks and eats to the children in the Heaven Room. Return to the Great White Throne Room and say, “It will be too late to make decisions about where to to spend eternity when you’re at the Great White Throne.
Wrap: Who will be there? John 14:2,3 (Heaven) Rev 21:8 (Hell). What will people do there? Rev 21:1-4 (Heaven) Mt 8:12; 13:42; 25:46 (Hell). People get to Hell when they refuse the invitation to Heaven! People get to heaven when they: Ask Jesus to take over their lives; Believe that Jesus died to pay for their sins; Confess that they have sinned and hurt God; Decide to live for Jesus and not for themselves; and Enjoy living for Jesus. Give an invitation for children to receive Jesus as their Saviour.

B. THE BEAUTY CONTEST
Aim: To teach children that man looks on the outward but God looks at the heart.
Event: Mr Universe Contest. Get 4 guys on stage and have them parade their muscles for the audience. The audience must vote for the child with the biggest muscles.
Game: Fruit Beauty Contest. Place on display an orange, banana, apple and a dirty potato. The group are asked to vote on the most beautiful fruit. No one will vote for the potatoe, but tell the children that although the potato looks bad on the outside it makes a great meal. Even though fruit looks good on the outside it may be rotten inside or even have a big worm or two in it. Don’t be put off by the outside!
Verse: 1 Samuel 16:7. Introduce the memory verse by telling the story about Samuel choosing a new king, 1 Samuel 16:1-13. God was looking for the person with the right heart, but Samuel wanted the right body. Samuel could not find the right person among the 7 sons until David, the shepherd boy, was called in from the fields.
Game: Worms in my life. The group must call out all the bad worms that are in their lives. Write them down on an overhead. ie. Lies, hate, etc.
Wrap: Tell the story about Fred the Apple. “Fred has a problem, he’s got a hole in his head where a maggot came out. It got into Fred before he was born (an egg was laid in the blossom, hatched and a maggot ate it’s way out). If we saw Fred when he was small we’d have thought he was a perfect apple. What can we do about Fred? Here are a few options! (1) Give fred a lecture - “Don’t be rotten, turn over a new leaf.” But no amount of lecturing will make the big hole go away! (2) Put a patch over the hole - People try to cover up their sins. The patch may hide, but it won’t cure the damage. (3) Put a big hat on Fred and send him to church - But even going to church won’t solve Fred’s problem. So, Fred just left it, and he soon forgot about the hole. One day he was picked and he thought that he was going on holiday. But he was soon informed that he was on the way to the town dump while all his friends were going to the storehouse. Fred put in a formal complaint - He had a better colour than the other apples, he was bigger than the other apples, and anyway all his family had gone to the storehouse. But the Farmer said, “I cannot let you go there because the rot will spread to the other apples.” Jesus spoke of a time when God would separate people into two places. His storehouse (Heaven) and the Dump (Hell). It is our sin that will keep us out of heaven - Rev 21:27. What can we do to get Fred into Heaven? We must take away the rottenness and replace it with something new. Read: John 1:29 and 2 Cor 5:17.A Christian is not someone who (1) Tries his best, (2) Covers up his sin or (3) Dresses up and sits in church, but he is someone who believes that Jesus died to take away their sin, and who takes Jesus into their life.

C. MASKS
Aim: To help children to become real. As children struggle to define their identity they learn to act differently with their friends, parents, teachers and members of the youth group.
Prep: Announce the programme the week before, telling the children to come dressed up as a character of their choice. The programme will teach how that in real life we dress up in fancy dress, disguise or we wear masks.
Game: The Mask Game. If possible, collect brown paper bags from a bakery and write names on them, such as Polite Pam; Smelly Sid; Lying Lynn; etc. Tell the children to mingle and treat the other person according to the name they have on their mask. (Cut holes in the paper bags for eyes.
Discuss: Why do we give people names? Are the masks we wear our real selves? Why do we wear masks?
Event: Fancy Dress Judging. Choose the best dressed, most original, etc. Speak about how we live in a fancy dress costume. We hide the real self by putting on a mask. Read: Matthew 6:1-7
Plays: Have the children act out the following situations: (1) At school you are gossiping about Sally in a group. Sally appears... (2) You are telling you friend how mean Mom is because she won’t let you watch Loving. Suddenly she walks into the room, and... (3) After Youth you are speaking about the boring talk the leader gave. He joins the group all of a sudden, and...
Wrap: Examples of masks or hypocrisy: Jesus Disciples: John 4:27; The Pharisees: Luke 18:11,12. God hates hypocrites - Psalm 101:7; Jesus wants us to be: Ephesians 4:25 - Transparent - not using masks, or hiding away; Honest - about ourselves and to others; Open - like an open book. Jesus tells us: Colossians 3:22,23.

D. 80 DAYS AROUND THE WORLD
Aim: To expose children to different cultures and challenge them to be missionaries
Event: Make use of different rooms that are decorated with pictures and other objects that speak of the the culture or place being represented. Serve food characteristic to each land. The entrance of the hall can be the aeroplane that takes the children to each destination. At each destination tell the children something about the people who live there and whether they are open to the Gospel (stress that we have been sent to each country on the basis of Acts 1:8). Serve food that is symbolic of each country: For example...India - Curry; Italy - Pizza; America - Hotdogs and Coke.
Wrap: Share about Jesus love for all people regardless of their colour, race or background. He died for everyone (John 3:16).

E. FRUIT SALAD
Aim: To explore the idea of fruit: fruit of the spirit.
Prep: Instruct each child to bring a fruit to Junior youth. The committee members should bring along, between them, orange juice, a few paw-paws, knives and bowls.
Games: Peach. Each person, seated in a circle is given a name of a different fruit. The person who is on goes to the middle armed with a long sock that has a tightly rolled up sock inside it. He calls out the name of a fruit and the person with that name must call out another name before the person who is “on” clobbers them with the long sock. This continues until someone is struck and they change places. Fruit Salad. Name the children with 3 to 5 fruit names like in musical chairs. When a fruit is called, all those with that name must change places with another person with the same name. One chair is removed each time. When the leader calls fruit salad everyone must change their seats with someone else. The winner is the last person with a chair. Have the children make the fruit salad and enjoy the feast.
Wrap: Give a talk on the fruit of the Spirit - Galatians 5:22,23

F. MINI-OLYMPICS
Aim: To encourage competition and teach truths about the Christian life
Game: There are a great deal of the olympic games that can be adapted and played indoors. Try the following with the children competing against each other. Javelin - Straw replace the javelin; Discus - Paper plates are used instead; Long Jump - From a standing position, using chalk to mark the jump; High Jump - From a standing position, using string as the bar; Shot-Put - Use a balloon or a rolled up sock; Ball-relay - Pass a ball up and down a line with variations; Etc.
Read: Hebrews 12:1,2
Wrap: The Christian life is like an endurance race. The picture in Heb 12 is of an olympic stadium where the crowds cheer the runners on to the winning line. (1) The Christian Life Takes Preparation - Discipline and self-denial are needed to get rid of sin which is like a weight that holds us back. Imagine running in heavy boots and a big jacket instead of light clothes and takkies. (2) The Christian Life Takes Perseverance - As a race that is to be run it requires that we persevere, keep looking ahead and not at other runners next to us, but at Jesus on the cross. (3) The Christian Life has Place for You to Join - If you are not in the race there is sill time to climb over the fence and enter it. All you need to do is to ask Jesus to take away your sin and start you on the race. (4) The Christian Life has Prizes at the End - There is joy in heaven and rewards waiting for the runners.

5. IDEAS FOR PROGRAMMES

A. PANCAKE EVENING
Advertise the evening getting some youth to bring batter, others to bring fancy fillings. Part of the programme include various competitions, ie. the best pancake, the highest toss.

B. PIZZA EVENING
Similar to the pancake, children bring toppings and create their pizza which is then cooked in the church stove. The leaders should bring the pastry in large baking trays.

C. CRAZY MEAL
Serve a meal from a cryptic menu that makes it impossible to know what is being ordered. Put the knife, fork and spoon on the menu as well. The children may end up ordering their pudding first, then coffee and only at the end the main course or starter.

D. GALA
Hire out the local pool or use a school pool and hold a youth gala. Speak about Jesus the life Saviour who dies to save people drowning in their sin.

E. PROGRESSIVE DINNER
Go from house to house where each course is served, ie starter, main course, pudding and coffee. The children can walk between houses or be transported.

F. TALENT EVENING
Advertise for any music, song or drama’s to be prepared and presented on a friday night. Have a few judges with prizes for the best in each category.

G. OUTINGS
Make use of saturdays, or public holidays to take children to places of interest to them, ie. Ice-skating; Zoo; Picnic in the Park; Put-Put; etc.

H. RECORD BREAKING EVENING
Try to set a new record as a youth group, ie. the largest milkshake; the biggest banana-split; etc.

I. JELLY BEAN EVENING
To teach children that Jesus loves all people design a programme around Jelly Beans, ie. Guess the number of Jelly beans; Exchange the bean (children swap beans to collect one colour); Bean hunt (hide beans and have a treasure hunt). Teach that Jesus is “colour blind” as he saves all men, irrespective of their colour.

J. BACK TO FRONT EVENING
Have the children dress back to front for the evening and have a programme that is back to front, close in prayer to begin, etc. Then teach children about the danger of backsliding, with the stories of King Saul; David and Judas as examples.





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