The Art of Teaching to Mixed Ages
Spiritual Characteristics of a Child
It has been said that the world changes when we change our perspective. This is definitely true of ministry!
One of the most challenging things about Children’s Ministry is teaching a classroom of kids who are all different ages. But this can be the greatest opportunity for creativity and growth if we change our perspective. In this post we hope to help shift your perspective and equip you with tools to make the most of teaching a classroom of kids of various ages.
Children are unique, and each age presents unique opportunities for spiritual growth based on their developmental stages. God created all people, including children, with growing and changing features that we believe fall into four distinct categories: physical, mental, social-emotional, and spiritual. It is important to tailor teaching curriculum and teaching styles to the appropriate developmental stage in order to best reach children where they are.
What children are taught when they are young is often formative to their lifelong understanding of salvation and their personal faith. For this reason, it is especially important to direct Bible teaching that fits their developmental age in order to create a strong base for the building blocks of their faith.
As 2 Timothy 3:14–15 says, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (emphasis added)
We have broken the developmental stages into three age groups to focus on: very young children from two to five years of age; young school age children from five to nine years of age; and older school age children from nine to 12 years old.
Very Young Children (2–5 years)
Very young children can understand basic truth about God’s love for them. They are capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong when directed by an adult. They also begin to understand that the Bible is God’s Word, and can be taught to respect it appropriately. The most important characteristic of this developmental age is that children as young as two and as old as five can recognize their need for forgiveness and can respond to Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Young School Age Children (5–9 years)
Young children who are school age are in a key spiritual developmental stage. A 2004 Barna study showed that 43% of American Christians surveyed accepted Jesus Christ as their savior before the age of 13, and this seems to be the case internationally as well. Children from ages five to nine are generally more ready to understand their personal decisions for Christ. This is an age when they can begin to recognize the truth and authority of the Bible, and begin committing scriptures to memory.
Older School Age Children (9–12 years)
Older school age children often need assurance of their personal decision to receive Christ. They are at an age when they can begin praying and reading the Bible on their own, and then applying the Word of God to their lives.
Teaching to the spiritual needs of children doesn’t need to be complicated. Sharing simple, age-appropriate Bible stories and focusing on key Bible themes is a great place to start. Think through what children enjoy at each age, and how they learn in order to tailor lessons that will be effective.
The possibilities are endless — have fun!
WellConnected is an initiative of OneHope, and is a gathering place for children and youth ministers to access resources, research, and content to raise up the next generation. It’s a collaborative platform to equip leaders and influencers to effectively reach the kids in their communities. We invite churches and ministers to join one another in coming up with innovative solutions for today’s realities. We are continually learning and growing from each other — sharing knowledge, insight, and best practices.