Thursday, July 18, 2013

Why object lessons are awesome

Object lessons and kids, they just go together. I will even venture to say that they work well with adults too. We could go into all the mathematical and scientific reasons why, but I would need you to be in the  room with a live object lesson to make that interesting.

There are many ways to illustrate a Bible lesson to kids, many churches use felt, or puppets or even skits. While these are common illustrations that can be effective, I have personally always favored the object lesson. Here are a few reasons they work, and how and when to use them.

Why does it work: (Jesus used object lessons, but here are a few reasons anyway)

1. Kids are natural bayesian logic thinkers. This means they have the natural ability to take past events and formulate a probable outcome. For some things in life, like math and basic decision making this is a good thing.  So if you put an object lesson in front of them, they're hooked. Most kids have minds that start working over time to reason out what you are doing in front of them, and they are captured until the end of the lesson.

2. It's interactive, whether or not you call on a volunteer, most object lessons require asking questions. Personally, having a child up holding something and a couple peers actually performing the lesson with my guidance is my preference. My friend Roger Fields often says the words "can I get a volunteer" are golden in children's ministry, and I totally agree. Kids learn when they can get their hands on it.

3. It can be inexpensive. I will be honest, the first church I led children's ministry at didn't have a kidmin budget. I wrote my own lessons and had the option of a color page that could line the floor board of the car, or an object lesson. So throughout the week I thought of different ways I could illustrate the lesson using things in my house. Everything from teaching the trinity with steam, ice, and water to a lamp and an egg to illustrate faith.  It can be a very inexpensive, effective, and sometimes edible tool!

How to make sure your object lessons don't stink.
1. Practice! Don't lie there in bed on Saturday night and think through your object lesson and assume it will work. Let's face it, you're asking for disaster! Practice your object lesson a couple times, even use it on your own kids to see if it connects.

2. Prepare! There is nothing worse than showing up on Sunday with the assumption that there is oil in the church kitchen for your lesson and learning that it's gone. Make sure you have all your pieces and they are measured to your needs. This also speaks to the excitement, when kids enter the room, have it ready and they will be excited to see what is coming.

3. Use verses, make sure you start and end with the Biblical tie in. An awesome object lesson can become just a cool piece of entertainment if you don't connect it. My favorite thing to do is use them to connect Biblical principals to life application. Otherwise, kids go home and the "what did you learn" conversation becomes "I learned how to boil water" instead of "I learned all about the trinity...".

Object lessons are great, there are several sites that offer ideas including Pinterest (which is a kidmin must). Be prepared and know that it may change as you go, maybe even plan a couple alternate endings. Use new people in your ministry too, this is a great time to get those volunteers who are being mentored a chance to get comfortable in front of the kids in a more comfortable setting. Even send an outline home with the parents! Object lessons are a great tool in the home to get families talking.

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