#5 – Be Willing to Adapt (Tips for Large Group Teaching)
Welcome to a continuing series of tips on working with large groups of children. I hope that you will find these tips useful and be able to implement them in your dealings with large groups of kids. If you do, please leave a comment and let us know. For a complete list of posts in this series, please see the index page. So, without further introduction, here is today’s installment.
I know! I know! The very last tip was stay the course, and now we’re going to talk about being willing to adapt. But, as a large group leader, adaptation is a critical skill. You must be willing and able to adapt both in terms of long-term strategy and the immediate lesson at hand. This does not mean you have to stop for every question, comment, and idea a rowdy five year old has for you during your teaching. We talked about that last time. That’s where you need to “stay the course.” What we’re talking about here is an ability to adapt where you see the need.
It takes a certain amount of discernment to know the difference between an idea that is still developing and growing and just needs a little more time before the kids really catch on and an idea that has just plain bombed and gone up in smoke. But, let’s face it, sometimes you try things in your teaching and large group time that just don’t work. Maybe it’s the puppets that really make you smile, but even the younger kids find just a little bit too juvenile. Maybe it’s the videos that you find insightful and engaging but the kids find to be way over their heads. Maybe it’s the laser light show that you do every week that had just gotten to be a little bit too routine. Even ideas that start out with a bang can grow old after a while. You have to know when to cut your losses and go a different direction. Part of being a leader is constantly evaluating, what’s working and what isn’t working? Just because it worked last week doesn’t mean we should do it over and over and over again.
Likewise, you will also need to be able to adapt in the present. As a large group leader, you likely spend hours and hours each week planning out your lesson and envisioning exactly how you want things to go. You’ve tried to plan for the curve balls you can anticipate, but you know the road you want to go down with the lesson, and you have an good idea how to get there. As a leader though, you have to recognize when it’s time to scrap your original vision and all that hard work you did and go down a road you never planned to be on. God has a way of showing us that his ways are not our ways when we least expect it. Don’t let your schedule and your idea of how things must be done stand in the way of a God moment.
I remember a lesson I was doing last December on the Gabriel and Mary. I asked the kids a simple question, “Who is Jesus?” One child answered, “The Son of God.” Another answered, “Jesus is God.” One of the boys in the class exclaimed, “Jesus isn’t God. He can’t be the son of God and God at the same time.” I had planned and planned that week for my lesson on Gabriel and Mary, but in that moment God showed me a need and an opportunity. We got back to an abbreviated version of the story of Mary eventually, but I spent the next several minutes talking about the trinity and God’s plan to die on the cross for our sins. I hadn’t planned for it. I didn’t see it coming, but it turned into a God moment!