Tips for the First-Time Teacher – Part 17
A few weekends ago, my Sunday school girls and I welcomed a visitor to our class, or at least tried to. My friend Janelle and I have worked in this class—the Kindergarten-First Grade Girls’ Bus Class—for some time so we had somewhat of an idea of how our newest member would react upon entering a room full of, essentially, strangers. She would either (1) cling to her bus worker’s hand as if all of us had sprouted a second, grumpy-looking head or (2)… no. It’s usually just the first.
Try as we might, we could not encourage the little one to unhinge herself from the doorframe, the bus worker having left to take other children to their classes. My students—bless their hearts—joined in the effort by telling the girl what we do each week.
“We learn about Jesus!” (We’re in a series about Joseph.)
“We do projects!”
From the back of the pack now assembled at the door, a small voice called, “We have Snack Time!”
At that, like someone seeing the sun for the first time, the little girl looked up and took one halting step forward.
I understand that every child, every class, every situation is different and that better methods could have prevailed; but in that specific moment, who knew that “We have Snack Time!” would see the same results? I didn’t; and although I don’t plan on winning over every anxious child with that line, it certainly helps to know how high this five-minute window of time seems to rank among the children.
Now, those older and wiser than us can tell us whether or not having snacks for small children before, during, or after class is time well spent or wasted. For this particular bus class, however, Janelle and I have heard too many little ones tell us that they have not eaten all day or ask for extra to share with their siblings to turn a deaf ear. How could we not respond when we see our girls filling their pockets with crackers for the bus ride home?
So, if you do have snacks before, during, or after class—each week or once in a great while—here are a few tips that might be a help in planning:
- Know your church’s policy. In our ministry, our teachers know that there is a general “No Food in the Building” policy. There are a few inside locations on our different properties which are approved for food-related functions, but the teachers know to get approval in advance to use them so that rooms aren’t accidentally double booked. There are outside locations, and our teachers are always mindful of the weather and safety. If you are unsure of what the policy is at your church, check with your pastor, Sunday School Director, or department superintendent.
- Remember cleanup. Our pastor teaches us that we should leave a room in better condition than when we found it. If you have snacks, try to know beforehand where you can find a vacuum or cleaning supplies. Sometimes, because people are running from one ministry to the next on Sunday mornings, you might not find someone who has access to your church’s broom/supply closet. It might save you some time (and a headache) to request access to these resources prior to Sunday.
- Steer clear of candy. Candy is the enemy of every second-hour worker. Pretend for a moment that you are a children’s church preacher. The kids are filing in—no, charging in—having been fueled not by the anticipation of the upcoming hour but by pure sugar. Some candy is also hard, posing a choking hazard.
- Snacks should be finished before the end of class. You want to discourage any litter around the house of God. Have the children finish their snacks in one area so that cleanup can be centralized, giving them time to clean up after themselves.
- Avoid stains by choosing snacks that do not need as much cleanup as others. For example, you could provide fruit snacks instead of cookies, water instead of fruit juice, granola bars instead of cupcakes, etc.
- Consider special days. Perhaps you might want to think about preparing something special during the holiday season or during annual church events.
- You do not necessarily need to have Snack Time every week. This, of course, varies with age and with the preferences of the Sunday School Director. Also, it might not be financially possible.
- Be aware of any food allergies.
- Double up the time. My students know that Snack Time is also a time for review, when we ask questions about the day’s Bible lesson or share prayer requests.
- If possible, walk your class by a restroom or drinking fountain after snacks. Help the second-hour teacher by getting these needs out of the way.
- Don’t make it a marathon. If it’s Christmas Sunday or some other special day in the church, perhaps it might go longer than a handful of minutes; but try not to let it take up too much of the class hour.