Getting to know you

Now that a new school year is starting, we had our “move-up Sunday” for all the student ministries. We had several Kindergarteners move up into the elementary class, and we have a huge group of 4th graders this year going into our Hightide class. I’m excited for this year!

Because our Hightide preteen class became such a tight-knit group last year, I want to encourage that to happen again this year, so we just played a bunch of icebreakers and get-to-know you games last Sunday for our first week. But they came off pretty well, so I thought I’d share some of the games that worked with this age group!

The first game we played is kind of like the game Headbandz–each person had a character name taped to their back. They went around to different people asking yes or no questions to figure out who they were. As an added part of the game, once they figured out who they were their had to find their partner: for example, if someone was Mickey Mouse, they had to find Minnie; if someone was Cinderella, they had to find Prince Charming. Once they found their partner they had to learn three facts about that person. To encourage them to talk to each other, they could only ask each person two questions before finding someone else to talk to.
Note: Yes or no questions were a little difficult for the kids to figure out, so I eventually told them to just ask questions, and allowed kids to give hints if needed.

Next we played a variation of Charades. I had only 4 cards for them to choose from which read “favorite animal,” “favorite sport,” “favorite thing to do,” “instrument you can play or would like to play.” When each kid came up, they had to act out what the answer was for them, allowing us all to learn something about them!
Note: The kids really liked this game! They asked to keep playing it after everyone had a turn.

Then we played the M&M Icebreaker game. I’ve played this before, and it’s always creates a more interesting way to share facts about yourself. Each kid took 3 M&M’s, whatever color they wanted. Then I wrote questions on the board, and we went around the circle three times, with everyone answering one question each time. They had to answer the question that correlated with the color M&M they chose. For example: Red–something about yesterday, Orange–something you do well, Yellow–favorite subject in school, Green–what you want to be when you grow up, Blue–favorite movie this summer, Brown–something you can’t live without. This game was another hit!

We then played Get-to-know-you-BINGO! The kids really loved this one too! I made a BINGO board (see below) with various facts. They had to find someone who fit each fact, and had them initial it. Again to encourage more conversation, the kids could only get 2 squares initialed from each friend.

Finally, we played one of our Hightide favorites. We call it “the chair game” but it goes by many other names. Basically, everyone sits in a chair in a circle, with one person in the middle (without a chair). The person in the middle says something like “I like people who like baseball” or “I like people who are wearing jeans” or “I like people who like tobyMac” and whoever the statement applies to has to get up and find a new chair, while the person in the middle tries to get one of the newly-vacated chairs. Whoever is left in the middle takes a turn.

So there’s a few games that the 9 & 10 year-olds at our church enjoyed playing while getting to know each other!

 

Bingo Icebreaker

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The Fruit of the Spirit

This past week was the first Sunday of the month, which gives us a shorter time with the kids than usual at our church. Kids worship and observe communion with their parents, then come downstairs, usually after singing a song on stage. We also have our “Pier Dollar Store” where the kids get to spend the “Pier Bucks” they get for bringing their Bible, knowing the memory verse, and answering questions. Between all that, we usually have about 20 minutes with the kids to do a short lesson.

This week we picked to talk about the Fruit of the Spirit. I asked the kids what that meant, and they named all of them as we wrote them on the board. But then I asked what it meant, why it’s called “fruit of the Spirit” and none of them could give me an answer. So I asked, “how do you know a tree is an apple tree?” (“because there’s apples on it.) I briefly talked about fruit being what shows in our life, so we should show these things in our life. However, none of us are perfect, and it’s really hard to always be loving, joyful, patient, kind… and that’s where the “Spirit” part comes in. God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us make the right choices and do the right things. We also sang a Fruit of the Spirit song that we learned last year, to help solidify what the “fruits” are in their minds.

Then we played a game. It’s basically the game Fruit Basket Upset, which has many variations and names. We had all the kids sit in a circle, each with a carpet circle. One child was in the middle. Each kid picked a fruit–we just used love, joy, peace, and patience for the sake of not being too complicated. The child in the middle would call out a fruit and whoever picked that fruit had to get up and find a new seat. The middle kid also tries to find a seat, leaving a different child without a carpet circle, so they are now in the middle. Play continues. At any point, the kid in the middle can shout “Fruit of the Spirit” and everyone has to find a new seat. The kids really had fun with it, and surprisingly no one fought over a carpet or bumped heads. 😉

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The Gospels

We spent two weeks talking about The Gospels in our Hightide class–the first week we went through the story of Jesus, hitting all the major events and using all 4 gospels. I wanted the kids to just have a really good grasp on the life of Jesus. I taught them a few big “churchy” words, like Ascension and Transfiguration.
The following week, I talked (in brief) about how and why the gospels are  different. I gave a brief overview of who each author was and why that helped shape their perspective, along with who their audience was and what their main point was. Matthew, one of the disciples and a Jew, emphasizes Jesus as the Messiah, as the long awaited King of the Jews. Mark, a young follower of Jesus, talks about all the things Jesus did and how he was a servant to all. Luke, the Greek doctor and historian, emphasizes Jesus as the perfect man — yes, the Son of God, but he was fully human. And John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, explains that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, emphasizing his deity.
I also taught them the phrase “Synoptic Gospels”–that Matthew, Mark, and Luke are very similar in stories and teachings of Jesus, but John has many differences. We didn’t get too deep into the differences, just talked about having different points of view.
Finally, we played another game of Jeopardy, since the kids had so much fun with it last time. There were 4 categories (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), and like last time each question had a Scripture reference to help them find the answer. I tried to pick stories and teachings that were unique to each gospel for the questions, though I had trouble with Mark. Because the kids are generally more familiar with the Gospels than they were with the Major Prophets, there were a few questions they could answer without looking in the Bible.

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Here’s a list of my questions, if you’re interested in what I used.

Job

This past Sunday, we talked about the book of Job in our Hightide class. I found this great script online that presented the story in a brief, yet somewhat modern way, and the kids definitely had fun with it. It might just be the group of kids we have at our church, but they love acting out these skits. They are always clamoring to be the main character, we even have one kid who likes to play the bad guy.

Following the skit, we talked about why bad things happen in the world. Satan caused Job’s suffering (because God allowed him to), so does that mean Satan causes all suffering? One kid answered me with exactly where I was going with it–no, because sometimes we do something or make a choice that causes bad things to happen. But God always works everything out for good, and allows us to learn and grow in our faith in these experiences.

For the ending, I created a “code” for our memory verse for the week. They love the codes where each letter is substituted with a number, and you have to figure out what it says. We talked through Job chapters 37-41, and I had the kids find lines that stood out to them about how great and powerful God is:

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Job 38:4

Who shut up the sea behind doors? 38:8

Have you entered the storehouses of snow? 38:22

Does the rain have a father? 38:28

Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? 38:35

Esther

I decided to do a whole week on Esther in our Hightide (preteens) class because it’s another narrative book and lends itself to be acted out.

We did this book as another skit, where I read/summarized parts of the story and the kids acted out as I spoke. I decided to grab a few “costumes” this time to make it more interesting, so the king had a crown and a scepter, Haman had a pair of glasses with a big nose and mustache attached, and Esther wore a purple wig–after all, she did undergo a year of beauty treatments.

The kids really enjoyed this story with all of it’s set-ups and payoffs. Most of them weren’t familiar with it, so they laughed when Mordecai was honored when Haman thought it would be him, and cheered when Haman was hanged on his own gallows.

Because that’s just how 10-year-olds are (boys are gross and vice versa), it’s always funny when a story involves someone getting married: in this case, the king chose Esther as the most beautiful woman in the land to be his queen. The girl who was excited to volunteer as Esther immediately regretted her decision, as did the boy who played the king, because now they were “a couple.” That’s one of the things I love about this age–not only are they not interested in pursuing the opposite gender, they’re completely the opposite. Everything we do is boys vs girls, and it’s “gross” when they talk about marriage.

Welcome!

I enjoy writing and blogging, so I thought it would be fun and perhaps helpful to create a blog to record thoughts and experiences about our life as kids pastors. I’ve often spent time browsing the internet for ideas for games, crafts, object lessons and more, so I wanted to share things that we do for others to find and perhaps use!

I lead our preteen class, which is students in 4th and 5th grade, and starting in January I decided to walk through the books of the Bible with them, giving an overview of a book or two each week. That’s probably what I will write about the most, because it is not based on any sort of curriculum, unlike our other classes.

When we started through the books of the Bible, I ran the first few classes as pretty much just a lesson: I talked, wrote on the white board, and had the kids read passages to highlight parts of the book. We did this through Judges. Then when I got to Ruth, I decided to do something different. Because it’s such a short book and written as a narrative, I copy and pasted the entire 4 chapters of Ruth onto a Word document, breaking it up into speaking parts and removing a few verses here and there to chop it down, and created a “script” of sorts. In class, I had the kids read and act out the story. And they loved it. They loved getting to interact with the story and give it life. They laughed when we had more boys than girls so a boy had to play Naomi. They made fun of each other when Boaz had to “marry” Ruth. And most importantly, they remembered that story, better than they retained stories from the previous weeks. So that’s when I changed my approach and tried to get more creative each week. I’ll write posts to catch up on each of those lessons to bring this blog up to date with where we are now.

Thanks for reading!