Recently, I had the opportunity to teach a group of preschoolers. Instead of teaching them, they taught me. It was such a fun time! They humbled me. They energized me. And they reminded me to not take myself too seriously! In fact, the whole experience opened my eyes to how much pastors would benefit from teaching a preschool class.
Charles Spurgeon, known as the “Prince of Preachers,” once said, “If the Lord will help us teach the children, we will be teaching ourselves. There is no way of learning like teaching, and you do not know a thing until you can teach it to another. You do not thoroughly know any truth until you can put it before a child so that he can see it.”
As a former elementary school teacher and family pastor, I think Spurgeon hits the nail on the head. We can learn so much from teaching the little ones. With that in mind, here are eight reasons why pastors should teach a preschool class.
You better be well prepared when you teach little ones. Every moment counts. Knowing your overall aim ahead of time and how you will transition from one thing to another makes all the difference.
It’s true in sermon-planning as well. Good pastors prepare a mental map of their sermon as a way of guiding their people to an intentional target. They visualize their message, knowing where they are going and how they are going to get there.
You must connect with little kids right away or you’ll lose them. Four-year-olds won’t wait for you to slowly get into your lesson. Consequently, you need to reel them in from the start—perhaps with a fun visual, such as puppets or stuffed animals.
The same holds true for adults. Your introduction should serve as a way of getting your people’s attention and motivating them to listen. It should surface a need and make your people say, “Hey, I need to hear this.”
When teaching preschoolers, you must repeat one main point. This helps in learning the information and recalling the information at a later time. For preschoolers, it’s even better when you can connect an action to your main point. For example, when teaching a lesson on David and Goliath the main point might be that “God is powerful!” Every time you repeat this phrase, encourage the class to flex their muscles! Stating this main point several times throughout the course of your lesson will help children remember what is most important.
As pastors we too must strive to preach with one main point and repeat it throughout the sermon. In doing so, we will help our people recall what they have learned so they can apply it to their lives.
In order to capture the minds of young children, you must engage their senses by using vivid pictures and stories. Kids not only need to hear the message, they need to see it.
Once again, adults are no different. They need illustrations to make the truth stick and the story come alive. Ultimately, we can’t bridge the gap between head knowledge and heart change. That’s God’s work. But He uses means, and one of those means is engaging the various senses in the learning process. This is what made Charles Spurgeon such a great preacher. He preached images that made the truth tangible for his people. So should we.
Good teachers get their students involved in the learning process. Oftentimes, the more kids are involved, the more they learn. The old adage, “Tell me, I’ll forget; Show me, I’ll remember; Involve me, I will get it,” is so true in teaching. Thus, acting out a Bible story can be one way to get preschoolers (literally!) into the lesson. Not only will it encourage participation, it also furthers their comprehension.
Even though the classroom is a different setting than the pulpit, we pastors would do well to interact with the text and with our people in a way that draws them into the Scriptures and into each other’s lives. We are bridge-builders trying to find ways that the Bible intersects with the real world we live in.
Preschoolers have short attention spans and can only retain so much. They cannot comprehend a lot of information at once. That’s why good teachers break up their lesson into segments and vary the methods in which they teach during those segments.
Similarly, our people can only take in so much in one sitting. Consequently, pastors don’t have to say it all in one sermon. We shouldn’t force our people to drink from a fire hose every Sunday! Instead, we need to leave out the irrelevant details and structure our sermon around one main point. Less is usually more.
Like Christ, we must come down and meet little children where they are. We must speak using words they can understand. Oftentimes, this makes teaching a humiliating task. But good teachers take profound truths and make them simple and understandable. They approach their learners in a posture of humility and love. As Josh Harris says, “You can feed a child a steak, but if you love him you’ll cut it into little pieces.”
Likewise, pastors should seek to be understood by the simplest of people. If the children can understand our words, then we know the adults can as well.
Children imitate those whom they admire. They are watching us constantly and mimicking our every move from the moment we greet them to the time we dismiss them. That’s why I am convinced that the most significant way we can influence preschoolers is by our example.
The same is true for us as pastors. Our lives should speak as loud as our lips. In all that we do, we should be able to say with the Apostle Paul, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”