Curriculum Challenges 7:

Time Fillers, Time Killers, and Time Redeemers

Christian workers need to examine our use of the time and resources God gives us to use while working with Him in His kingdom. As a Bible teacher, I faced some challenges with curriculum and time, and I want to share these situations to illustrate my points. As you read through the stories, you will see why I call them “Time Fillers,” “Time Killers,” and “Time Redeemers.” Hopefully these illustrations will help you make better use of the time God has given you.

“Time Fillers” are activities, whether Bible-oriented or not, that are not remotely related to the lesson being taught in class. These activities simply provide students with activities and/or entertainment, and do not add a jot or tittle to the lesson. For example, if a Christian worker shares the story of Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, then has a coloring page about Joseph and his coat of many colors, what good is it? Though the topic of the coloring page is Biblical and good, it only adds confusion and causes the student to wonder, “What is this about?” The student forgets the story about Moses, and is distracted off on another tangent. This is especially true if the student has never heard the story about Joseph before.

Sadly, Bible curriculum will occasionally include activities with no scripture-based content at all. Games such as marbles or coloring pages without Biblical ties are only a couple of examples. Remember the clothes for dress-up and the shopping cart, food, and toy dishes in other examples? These were also activities that didn’t add anything to the lesson. This type of activity is simply a waste of our precious time. These are what I call “Time Fillers.”

“Time Fillers” can turn into “Time Killers.” These activities distract students away from the lesson, and drag them down some worldly avenue. It’s even possible for our students to leave class remembering more about a worldly activity than the Bible lesson we just presented. At this point, our time fillers become time killers, robbing our students of nearly everything we tried to plant in them. Thank God He covers us, and He promises His word will not return void.

An example of a “Time Killer” could be as follows:  Pretend we are teaching a lesson on the birth of Jesus to preschool-aged children. (6 years old or less) After presenting our lesson, we bring a clown into the classroom to occupy the children. The clown doesn’t add anything to support the lesson, but rather entertains the children. These preschoolers will probably get extremely excited about the clown, and forget what they were just taught about Jesus. Consequently, the clown activity just robbed our students of the lesson they were taught.

However, a teacher can bring a clown into class and plan a way that encourages the students to learn the Bible and lesson concepts. The clown could ask the students questions about what they learned or have the students tell him or her the story about Jesus’ birth. Or the clown could ask the students to recite the memory verse, and give a small prize to those who do it correctly. These activities would help support the lesson learned and give the children a memory to take home.

As Christian workers, we need to fill our students with God’s Word. With God’s power coming from Christ in us, we can encourage and excite our students about the Bible and its principles. We can inspire them to dig deeply into the mysteries of God. One way of doing this is by providing lesson activities that create “memorable moments” for the students. Activities that plant memories or give students reminders of the lessons are what I call “Time Redeemers.” They help us make the most of our time with the students. The students leave the classroom with something stored in their memory or a craft project or item to remind them of what they learned.

To create “Time Redeemers” a Christian worker can come up with an activity, experience, or object lesson to demonstrate or illustrate a fact, principle, story, or scripture from the Bible lesson. These activities can also help illustrate complicated ideas to the students, and those students will probably remember the lesson better. Visuals are also great tools for this kind of activity, and the students enjoy them.

One example of a “Time Redeemer” was given to me by a young pastor’s wife. She mentioned that her and her husband taught a lesson about creation to a children’s class. For the activity, she brought in a bowl of cookie dough she had made at home, and the children made little man-shaped cookies. This activity demonstrates the concept of creating something, enhances a Bible lesson on creation, and provides a snack afterwards. Several concepts of the creation of man can be demonstrated while making these cookies and/or decorating them.

Among the concepts that can be demonstrated by making man-shaped cookies from dough are:  (1) God’s size in comparison with man’s (2) how carefully planned and detail-oriented God was (3) how each one is special and different from all of the rest and (4) how much God loves each one He created. What a wonderful idea for implanting a Bible concept into the minds of children. This was definitely a “Time Redeemer.” Many of the children who attended the class will probably remember the cookie-making experience for a long time after the class session.

In Galatians 3:15 Paul begins the verse by saying, “Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life…” This, along with many examples of Jesus’ teaching, shows me God uses examples from our daily lives to teach us Bible lessons. This is a great idea because nearly every student can relate to everyday objects and situations.

Scripture tells us, “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time because the days are evil. Wherefore, be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17 KJV)

We need to carefully consider the material in the Bible lessons we teach. We need to fill our class time with God’s word, not worldly entertainment. Scripture also says, “The man who wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.” (Proverbs 21:16 KJV) We don’t want our Bible lessons to be dead or to lead our students down the road to spiritual death. So consider each part of each Bible lesson and be wise, redeeming the time.

Praise God for Bible Activity Books

As previously mentioned, Bible curriculum usually offers a variety of activities for teachers to do with their classes. This is a great thing because having choices gives the teacher some flexibility when planning their lessons. However, sometimes challenges arise with the provided activities and they won’t work for special situations. For example, sometimes the activities take too long for the allotted time period. Also, a lack of supplies can render an activity useless for that day. Room size and the number of students in class can also affect the activity plans. When the provided activities won’t work, the teacher must find something else to fill class time.

Also, there are days when the planned lesson gets completed earlier than expected. When this happens, the teacher must scramble to find something for the students to do to fill their time. It would be great if activity books were available so this extra time could be used for another Bible-teaching activity. Activity books, coloring books, puzzle books and similar materials can go a long way toward helping a teacher when he or she finds extra time in class that needs to be filled.

Searching for additional materials that go with the students’ Bible lessons, age group and abilities can be a real challenge. Over years of teaching in various children’s ministries, I spent quite a bit of time looking for activities and resources to go with our church’s Bible curriculum packages. Finding appropriate materials can be a burdensome chore.

To meet the challenges with activities and time slots, I learned to keep a selection of Bible activity books (of various kinds) on hand—just in case. These relatively inexpensive resources came in handy on several occasions. I even suggested keeping these books on hand to other Bible teachers.

Bible activity and coloring books could be even more useful if they contained a small basic lesson outline and scripture reference for each activity (like a themed book). By doing this, publishers could make these books useful to Christian schools, homeschooling families, youth groups, and even churches. These would also be great tools for people who cannot afford to purchase expensive textbooks or curriculum packages. With an activity book and a Bible, parents could more readily have a Bible activity time with their children at home. Older children could even look up the scripture references on their own or just do the activity for fun. Parents with students in public school could even schedule a short Bible time to teach their children, training them up in the ways of God.

Spending time with fun Bible activities could be a great alternative for our youth who now spend hours each day in front of the computer, electronic game machine or television watching deceptive, questionable or even evil games or programs. Many of our young people could use an alternative or even a break from all of the electronic gadgetry. Even cell phones can be addictive and can contain games and internet access to a whole world of evil.

Praise God for the fun activities included in Bible activity books. They can make learning the Bible challenging, yet fun and they can be a big help to parents and teachers alike. So why not take these Bible activity books and make them more available, cost effective and productive by including mini lesson plans that cover a wide range of timely (about Jesus and Christian living) topics from the Bible? This wouldn’t take much more of an investment of time and money but it could reap a vast eternal reward. What a wonderful reward it would be if people came to know and receive Jesus Christ through the pages of a Bible activity, coloring, or even a puzzle book!

To Wiggle or Not to Wiggle

One primary age curriculum I used revealed a challenge that is common in classes, especially those with children. The challenge of “wiggles” is a never-ending battle because children were made to wiggle, and keeping them from doing it is impossible!

This class consisted of eight to twelve primary-age students and two kindergartners who came to class with their older siblings because they were fearful of going to class by themselves. The older brothers helped their younger siblings with the lessons. It seemed to make them happy, and it made me smile to see them helping each other and learning about Jesus.

When I first began using the curriculum, the challenge appeared. Each lesson began with a memory verse and a Bible story. Then it continued with a fictional story to present the application of the material learned in the lesson. By the time my students got through the memory work, the first story, and discussion about the Bible Story, they were extremely restless in their seats. I knew they would not be happy if they had to sit through another story! Therefore, I decided to do an activity with them instead.

From that day on, I always planned a Bible-learning activity that reinforced the lesson. By adding activity time, the students learned through “doing” rather than just sitting and listening. Though the children knew they had to work through the Bible story time, they knew they would be able to do a fun activity afterwards. The children were excited about coming to class because they always wondered what activity I had planned for the day. Also, by having activity time it gave the students time and opportunity to quietly visit and get to know one another.

The problem with the curriculum was that it did not fit the attention span of the students. As a result, the students were getting bored instead of enjoying learning God’s word. This boredom inspired talking, poking each other, leaning back on their chairs, and other forms of misbehavior.

One great way to overcome this “wiggle” problem is to include Bible-teaching activities and student participation as a regular part of your weekly lesson. These activities provide active learning experiences instead of only sitting and listening to someone else speak.

Bible-learning activities can include a variety of things as long as they apply to the lesson being taught. Through the activity, the power of the Holy Spirit will implant something from the lesson in the student’s mind. If the activity plants a “memory” in the student, they are going to remember the lesson better.

Some examples of Bible-teaching activities can include object lessons, educational games, scripture-memory activities, art activities, puzzles, hidden pictures, mazes, coloring activities, paper crafts such as making greeting cards, origami, food crafts, nature crafts and walks, field trips, and any other activity that reinforces the Bible lesson.

Some valuable sources of activities can be found on the internet, in Christian bookstores, and even in the activity books found in supermarkets. These are wonderful tools for enhancing the lesson so long as they add to the lesson and are not “time fillers” or “time killers.” (See the previous article entitled ‘Time Fillers, Time Killers, and Time Redeemers.’)