God created people to grow developmentally. At each age you will face a different set of issues that will affect how you teach.
Here are some frequently asked questions. More questions will follow in the next post. You can subscribe to receive e-mail notice of new posts.
Issues Related to Teaching the Bible to the Various Age Levels
Why is it important to understand age level characteristics of the students you are teaching?
People have different needs at the various stages of life. Understanding their developmental needs will help you make teaching more relevant for them. People have different abilities at varying age levels. While you want to challenge and stretch students, you don’t want to frustrate them. And, you don’t want to bore them with content and methods below their abilities. Reaching people where they are is biblical. The Apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).
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How does spiritual growth correspond with age level development?
The younger the age, the more concrete they think. Consequently, certain concepts cannot be fully understood at younger ages. Spiritual growth, however, goes beyond head knowledge to what’s in the heart. All ages can learn to love and trust the Lord where they are in that stage. The words of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 3 could relate. He wrote of not having arrived yet but pressing on and that some people were at a different point of view than he was. Then he goes on to say, “Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (v. 16). Developmentally, people may not be able to fully grasp what it means to be a follower of Jesus. What’s important in God’s eyes, is that they live up to what they have already attained and keep pressing on. That is true spiritual growth.
An adult might seem to know a lot about the Bible but a young child could actually love and trust the Lord more than some adults. An adult might outwardly obey and serve the Lord in ways a child cannot but not have the right heart attitude and motivation. A child who does not appear to be “doing” as much as an adult, could actually have a better heart attitude and motivation in doing what they can and thus be further along spiritually than the adult. Until a person accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and has the Holy Spirit living within them, their growth will remain more on the cognitive level which can be deceiving.
How do you teach multiple ages in one group?
Rather than focus on the negatives of combining multiple ages, zero in on the opportunities and structure accordingly. When you have older students in with younger ones, you have opportunity to develop and mentor leaders among them. You are able provide opportunities for serving right there in the classroom. You can do this by utilizing older children as your assistant or placing them in leadership roles. You can also do this by pairing an older child with a younger child as their “buddy” to not only help them but mentor them. You have opportunity to teach older children responsibility and cooperation as they supervise and guide the younger children.
Also think through how you can maximize participation and learning for all. That could include additional projects for older children while you help the younger ages with the initial one. Just make sure the supplemental activities are meaningful, not just busywork. You could have children work on different aspects of the same project based on their age level (i.e., older children might do the cutting out of items while the younger children paste them on). You could provide total group teaching and then have students work independently on something related to it that fits their age. Or, you could teach the Bible story or content in a large group setting followed by small groups or partners divided by age to work on the implications of that content to their age.