It’s that time of year. The dog days of summer are over, and the time has come to get back into our routines and rhythms. Some churches have already had promotion Sunday, and preschoolers and kids are enjoying their new classes while others churches wait to promote until September. No matter when promotion happens, a new church year is upon us.
Just like the first days of school are critical in a traditional school classroom, so are the first few weeks in preschool and children’s classes at church. Here are some ideas to help you get started on the right foot for a rewarding year with the children you teach.
Create a climate of security
Make sure you are well prepared and set up before the session so your classroom has a sense of calm when children enter. Set out toys or activities to immediately engage children when they walk into the classroom. Play soft, age-appropriate music in the background. Wear a great big smile and greet children warmly as they enter. Don’t forget to talk to little ones at their eye-level.
Tell your kids and their families about you
Send a letter or email to children’s families introducing yourself and the other adult leaders in your classroom. Be sure to include details about your family, your profession, the number of years you have been teaching children, as well as your interests and hobbies. Include the story of how you came to Christ.
Get to know your kids and their families
Prioritize learning names quickly. Find out a child’s interests. Learn the members of her family. Take time to talk to parents at drop off and pick up. Gather information such as phone numbers, addresses, and emails so you can communicate with families. If appropriate, friend request or follow parents on social media to stay aware of your students’ exploits. I know some leaders who send parents a questionnaire to complete to help them get to know their new students. They include questions such as if/when the child has trusted in Christ or been baptized.
- Before the session: Get in the routine of looking ahead at each unit and reading through the session early in the week. Set a certain day and time each week to prep session materials. Learn songs ahead of time. Teaching from the overflow of your heart and being able to switch gears as the Holy Spirit leads is much easier when you are prepared. Make this your most prepared church year yet!
- During the session: Children thrive in routine. Knowing what to expect creates a sense of security for little ones. Always having a puzzle table or book center ready when a preschooler walks in the door helps a little one with separation anxiety ease into the classroom. Do you want your kids to really memorize their key passages this year? Plan a certain time in the session for practicing and reciting verses. Giving preteens a set time to share about their week lets them know they are valued and gives you an opportunity to help them apply the Bible story to their lives.
- At the end of the session: Point out the Family Discussion Starters and Family Activities on the activity pages when parents pick up kids. Maybe last year, you forgot to send home The Big Picture Cards for Families. This is a great time to start that habit. Be sure to tell parents something that their child enjoyed doing or did well during the session.
- After the session: Get in the habit of regularly contacting children and their families. Use the Parent Resources available online to communicate session content to parents. Send a child a card in the mail letting him know how much you enjoy having him in your class. Send a quick text to parents to let them know you missed their child that week if they were unable to attend. Email parents to let them know the insightful question their child asked or the way you see their child demonstrating the character of Christ.
What ideas or plans do you have to make this the best year yet? Let us know in the comments below.
Karen Jones is the preschool content editor for The Gospel Project for Kids. Karen came to LifeWay in 2014 with over 15 years experience in preschool and children’s ministry. Karen earned an M.A. in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Karen loves living minutes from downtown Nashville and teaching preschoolers at Immanuel Church.