5 Moves to Extra-Ordinary Teaching, Part 4

Leadership / Teaching Techniques //

Colleen Derr, Associate Professor Wesley Seminary


“Children matter! They matter to God. They matter to the church of Jesus Christ. They matter because of who they are: children are complete human beings made in the image of God” (May, Posterski, Stonehouse & Cannell, 2005, p. 3)[1]. Children matter – and you understand that! You are a children’s pastor, director, leader, and teacher. You value children and understand the faith potential in each child – the potential to grow in their faith and to experience as children spiritual formation.


The last three blogs have helped us answer the questions: What’s in the room, where are they now, and where are we going? Now that we have identified the opportunities and challenges; the child’s location in terms of development, experiences, and needs; and the measurable head, heart, and hand goals we are ready to ask the question: How are we going to get there?


Move #4: Chart the Course


In the fourth move to extra-ordinary teaching or teaching that results in transformation, you determine what course you will follow in order to reach your destination. The goals outlined in move #3 create a map, the measurable verbs used in each goal suggest a strategy, and in this step you define the instructional methods (what you will do) based on the map and strategies.


You must take into account:

  • Who are you as the instructor (your strengths, experiences, and skills)
  • What opportunities and challenges are present in the room
  • Who the children are individually and corporately, and
  • The desired outcomes for this season of instruction


With the weekly goals in mind, we ask, what will we do this week to:


  1. Help the students know – do – feel?

What are the best instructional methods or teaching strategies to help each child with their various learning styles, personalities, past experiences, developmental milestones, and needs know, feel, and do whatever was pre-determined?

  • Consider attention span needs, understanding that the typical “rule of thumb” is one minute for each age up to 12 – and after that we are all 12 year olds!
  • Consider engaging all of the senses so that children are able to hear it, say it, see it, feel, it, taste it, smell it and touch it.
  • Consider how the brain grasps information. A great resource is Brain Rules by Medina (2009)[2]. One key rule is you must “repeat to remember”!


  1. Contextualize the curriculum to “fit” every child.

The curriculum you have been provided will suggest some great learning experiences and teaching strategies. It is important to contextualize those to fit your students, your space, and your desired goals. While the curriculum will offer its own weekly and yearly goals, yours may be different than the “typical” student for whom the curriculum was written.


Some things to consider in contextualizing: your cultural context, the socio-economic needs, family dynamics, and over-all church vision. Published curriculum is a great starting point – but even the best curriculum needs adjusted to fit your students.


  1. What experiences do you need to provide so the students don’t just hear but actualize and personalize?

We all understand that experiential learning is the goal rather than just reception of information. But how do those experiences allow the students to really grasp what it was like to be Joseph sold out by his brothers or Jonah who got caught running away? And then to move beyond relating to the biblical characters to actualizing and personalizing the information – being able to say this was true for Joseph and that’s what it means for me. Help them to see the “so what?” of the biblical stories for their own lives: God was faithful to Joseph when his family abandoned him…and God will be faithful to me. When Jonah ran away, God found him even in the belly of a fish and God cares enough to know where I am – even when I feel all alone and in a yucky place.


Goals are necessary but are worthless without a sound strategy to achieve them. You may have the best destination in mind – but if you don’t have a clue how to get there, you’ll never reach it! Where are you going? How are you going to get there?

And in the final blog…How will you know when you arrive?







[1] May, S., Posterski, B., Stonehouse, C., & Cannell, L. (2005). Children matter: Celebrating their place in the church, family, and community. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans.


[2] Medina, J. (2009). Brain rules. 12 rules for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.





About the Author

Colleen Derr serves as Professor of Christian Ministry and Congregational Formation at Wesley Seminary. She provides oversight to the M.Div. spiritual formation courses and the MA in Child, Youth and Family Ministry program. Prior to joining Wesley Seminary Dr. Derr has served as Director of Children’s Ministry for The Wesleyan Church and as Assistant Pastor of Fall Creek Wesleyan Church in Fishers, Indiana. She has been involved in local church Christian education for over 30 years. Colleen developed a children’s catechism program for The Wesleyan Church, Building Faith Kids, and a preteen discipleship tool, Explore. In addition, she developed a host of training materials for local church ministry leaders and has provided training and consultation for local churches across the country.