Best Practices for Beginner Sabbath School Leaders
By “Teacher” Jane Morrison
• Love the children and tell them so! And “throw kisses” as they leave.
• Know your families. Call each child by name. As they come in, greet them by name even if the program has begun. Touch and hug them as appropriate.
• Be prepared—don’t read. You’re going to use the program for several months, so learn it. You may need some help to remember the order. Place cards or the program sheet where you will pick up your “tools”—the props.
• Be super-organized, but at the same time adaptable. Some Sabbaths you may have such full attendance that you’ll need to skip the more involved activities. Or maybe you just sense things are too busy and choose to use certain activities to calm the children.
• Watch the pitch of your voice. Try to keep an even, normal tone. Sometimes whisper and you’ll be amazed at the calming effect it has on the little ones.
• If necessary, ask parents to be quiet. They don’t mean to distract—they’re usually so happy to see another adult or friend beside them that they begin to visit. Ask them to participate with their child in the program.
• Be accepting. If a child comes up front, pick them up or use them to help. Then help them back to their seat when appropriate. Assure the parents it’s OK.
• I like to have coleaders up front. It helps to alternate speaking—giving each other a break, collecting the next item, and providing another voice. If it works, include a man and a woman. I’ve had some great coleaders in my time.
• Use as many 3-D items as possible—stuffed animals, mitts, little wooden hammers and wood, etc. You may also want to use at least one of those “good old felt” activities in each program and let them “pat-pound” away. They love it!
• Be creative. Always keep your eyes and ears open for new activities and items. Recently I heard some laughing as we were leaving a Cracker Barrel restaurant. I looked and found the laughing coming from a “peekaboo” bear. I just had to have two for Sabbath school as beginner-age children love playing peekaboo. It’s an excellent prop to use at the beginning of our program to get their attention and welcome them.
• And one more! When you have a nature or other type of program instead of a Bible story program such as Noah’s ark, heaven, Little Boy Jesus, etc., make sure you are always conscious to say, “Jesus made the animals. Jesus takes care of the animals. Jesus lets us help take care of the animals. Jesus sees us. Jesus loves us.”
Jane Morrison teaches beginners Sabbath school at Spencerville Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. This article was published March 14, 2013.