A devotional activities is a combination between a fun game experience and the communication of truth to children. These devotional activities, which may be indoor or outdoor activities, stress the importance of active learning as opposed to passive learning. In active learning children are learning while they are doing. One of the differences between a devotional activity and an energy release activities is that they are often quieter. But, the main difference is that these activities relate to the theme of the programme or message. Their purpose is to reinforce or enhance the message being communicated to the children. They are chosen on the basis of the theme for each program, ie. if the theme is “searching” then something like a treasure hunt or a sword drill would be appropriate.
1. THE AIM OF DEVOTIONAL ACTIVITIES
Having stated in the introduction the purpose of a devotional activity as different to a energy release activity we simply need to note that their aim is threefold:
* To help reinforce the lesson to be taught during the devotional time
* To help prepare the children for the coming talk or devotional time
* To ensure that communication involves the whole child and not just their ears
2. THE SELECTION OF ACTIVITIES
While games will be chosen depending on the space available, and the need to have children interact with each other while they release energy, devotional activities are more specific in their application and demand more care in their selection.
A. DETERMINE THE PROGRAMME PURPOSE
Make sure that you know the purpose of your programme before you choose an activity. Simply choosing activities for the sake of activity is disastrous. First determine what you what to accomplish before you choose any activity, game or event and try and link the activity to the theme of the devotional time.
B. INCLUDE ALL GROUP MEMBERS
When a child is allowed to sit out others will want to join in the sitout. The sitout could be a result of your activities slipping into the personality trap. This occurs when activities are chosen for the benefit of the popular, sharp looking and athletic children. These personality children then become the litmus test for an activity’s success or failure. We need to consider the needs of all the children in the group. Select a wide variety of activities for your program to cater for the different personality types, ie. shy, outgoing, etc.
C. RELATE THE ACTIVITY TO THE TALK
Remember that this activity needs to prepare the children for the devotional time, so it is important that the activity is appropriate to the talk to be delivered.
3. GUIDELINES FOR DEVOTIONAL ACTIVITIES
Leaders must remember that the emphasis of these activities is not on winning but on how the children play the game and “hear” the message being communicated.
In Leading Devotional Discussions Remember to:
A. BE PATIENT WITH THE CHILDREN
Patience is important because many children do not know how to have fun playing a game or participating in the activity. Be willing to give the children time and play opportunities in order to lose the cool or jock image and just enjoy the activities.
B. BE AWARE OF THE EYES OF THE CHILDREN
Always remember that children learn more from watching you then from listening to you. Leaders need to be part of the activity to show that it is fun. The leaders excitement will be contagious and encourage the children to be part of it.
C. EXPLAIN THE ACTIVITY CLEARLY
Remember to explain games clearly and quickly, explaining can be done best by using some of the leaders and children who know the activity. This explaining stage will make or break your game, you must get excited and show that it is a fun game.
4. EXAMPLES OF DEVOTIONAL ACTIVITIES
There are no limits to these activities, except the particular theme of each programme.
A. MEMORY VERSE
For some groups their whole aim is to learn and memorise scripture. For others it doesn’t take such an important role. You need to decide where it fits into your priorities as a youth group. Remember that we are told to hide the Word of God in our hearts.
Reasons for Memorising Gods Word:
* It shows the unsaved the Saviour (1 Peter 1:23)
* It helps christians live for their Lord (Psalm 119:9)
* It helps us always to be ready to witness (1 Peter 3:15)
* It comforts our troubled hearts (Isaiah 26:3)
* It combats unsound doctrine (Matthew 22:29)
* It helps us praise God (Psalm 119:171)
Remember that children memorise more easily when the verses have meaning to their lives, so be sure to apply what they are learning.
How To Memorise:
STEP ONE - SEE IT!
The verse should be visualised on a poster, chalkboard, or overhead. You could also give each child the opportunity to find the verse in his or her own Bible.
STEP TWO - SPELL IT OUT!
Explain the big words to giving meaning to the verse. Appropriate pictures and illustrations can be used to explain the meanings of the words. Check their understanding of the verse: What does this verse mean to you? Why is it important that we learn this verse?
STEP THREE - SAY IT!
Repeat the verse about ten times. In this step one needs to be creative and fun. Make learning scripture exciting whenever possible. Don’t be shy to do different things as long as they enhance the learning experience.
STEP FOUR - SEAL IT!
If you do not review the truth taught it will soon be forgotten. Start the process of review the same day the verse is introduced. In the middle of the talk, or between songs repeat the verse. Discuss how this verse can be used by them during the week. If you are able to, have the verse printed out for the child to take home. As leader you need to get excited about memorising God word. You need to show this in your attitude. You need to also hide Gods word in your own heart. Your example of hiding God’s word in your heart will help change the attitude of the children. You need also to memorise the daily and weekly verses. Show by you example and attitude that you expect them to be able to learn the required verses. Expectation on the part of the leader can be a great encouragement to the child who is struggling and has no home support. Encouragement will go hand in hand with what you will expect from the children. Children cannot withdraw from their memory banks truth that has not been deposited there. We don’t want them to be spiritually bankrupt. Christian children need God’s Word to help them when they are fearful, depressed, angry, tempted, impatient, jealous and facing numerous other situations. The scripture shows that the role of the Holy Spirit involves bringing what we have learnt back into our memory: “But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26). Children can’t recall what they haven’t learned. Don’t be afraid to use music, charts and games to learn verses - as long as they learn them.
B. SWORD DRILL
Sword Drill is an activity where children hold their Bibles in the air, and after the leader calls out a verse and gives the command, “Charge!” the first to find the reference and stand and read it out is given a point for their team. Sword Drill can pin-point verses that will help reinforce or prepare the children for the coming talk. This activity could be used as an introduction or a review activity. Verses that follow the theme need to be chosen, making sure that you have enough to use for the required time period. Sword drill can be used to review the lesson by putting all the verses on cards in such a way as to represent the key word or object of the lesson. One can use sword drill in a variety of different ways by changing the way of obtaining the verse address. Creativity is the key to success. Don’t be afraid to change the method of getting the verse known in order that they may find the verse in the Bible.
Drama is a very exciting section of any program if it is well thought out. With all ages we can use drama to aid the teaching of the Bible. The leaders and the children can act out the story and through their participation the children can come to a clearer understanding of the story. No props are needed just the imagination of the child and the leaders. The story can be told then acted out by dividing it up into different acts. During the acting time allow children to really get into the actions with sound effects and express the feelings on their faces. Make your learning exciting and different. Get the children involved! Drama is just one of the many ways of teaching or reinforcing a message.
D. TREASURE HUNTS
These are many ways to do treasure hunts. One can even invent treasure hunts that take place indoors, for use on wet days. For example, begin by giving instructions to each team in an envelope that contains disguised directions to where they will find the next clue. This clue can be in the form of a verse or a phrase. Depending on the age group being used, the clues can vary in their hardness, from a riddle clue to a direct command as to where to find the next clue. You could give the children a map and from the directions given on the map the treasure has to be found. Arrouse interest and participation by requiring the different teams to collect bits and pieces along the way before they reach the final clue. Feel free to use your imagination and be creative. In this event remember that the prize needs to be something that can be shared among the whole team or group and not one large prize. The treasure hunt is meant to be a fun activity where winning is not what it is all about.
The key to remember when putting together devotional activities is that they relate to the theme or aim of the devotional message in the programme. All the activities that are chosen should in someway enhance the theme of the programme. Do not be shy to attempt new ideas and approaches to make the activities more exciting. Be outrageous, strange and different in your approach, remembering that the activity is supposed to be fun. Learning is not limited in it’s approach - if it works try it again and enjoy stretching your imagination for the work of Gods kingdom which is all important for us in todays times of testing for the children. Enjoy the activities and have fun while reinforcing the learning of the truths of Gods Word.
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