Busting the Boredom

Busting the Boredom
Keith Johnson


Here’s how you can bust kids’ boredom before it starts:

You’ve heard it before: “I’m bored! I already know all this!”

You’ve seen it before: Kids fidget, zone out, and harass others—or you.

You’ve felt it before: Glassy eyes, lackluster responses—your kids are bored, bored, bored!

Most churches today strive to engage kids. Still. kids say—and we see—that they’re bored. Why?

Think about your day. What bores you? Waiting at the doctor’s office? Sitting through a meeting that doesn’t apply to your work? Standing in line at the grocery store? What’s boring for a child? Listening to an adult correct someone else? Listening to a sermon that uses big words? Chores? Practicing the piano? Not finding any friends online?

It’s true—whenever we’re not engaged in an activity, we get bored. So what’s a teacher to do to keep kids from getting bored? How do you transform your ideas and lessons so they captivate kids? Is there a way to eliminate kids’ boredom? The answer is yes—but first we must understand why kids say they’re bored.

Engage the Disengaged

In The Dirt On Learning video training series, a teacher tells the story of Mary and baby Jesus. She reads from a picture book that’s visible to her alone and written in King James English of 1611. Viewers can discern the clear signs of boredom among the kids. One girl picks dirt from her fingernails. A boy fidgets with his coat. Another boy doodles randomly, choosing to engage in something rather than endure the monotony. The kids are passive while the teacher—though well-intentioned—is losing them.

Does time drag while you’re at Disneyland? Do you feel slighted when an entertaining movie ends sooner than you’d like? Activities that engage us and give us meaningful interaction cause the clock to speed. Grab kids’ attention and get them engaged with these tips. Help kids understand biblical events and teachings by applying them to their real lives. How?

* Know the main point yourself! Teach one thing, not several disconnected truths. Focus on practical help for kids’ lives.
* Form smaller groups than normal so you can actually listen as children process information and apply it.
* Coach through kids’ roadblocks by offering suggestions or prompting them with helpful hints. Roadblocks come from kids who’ve heard it all—and thus have built immunity to just how interesting God’s truth is to their lives today.
* Involve everyone—not just a select few who happen to be listening—in the lesson. How?
* Recognize e that kids think faster than you speak. Therefore get them to read and pray and ask their neighbor a question.
* Avoid demonstrations and show-and-tell activities. Get all kids involved in your lesson by letting them experience it—not by telling them about it. Even when a story is familiar, kids perk up if they get to be vitally involved in it.
* Listen while kids act out the key tension in the story or lesson. When the key tension comes—that place where meaning meets a child’s world—it’s critical to observe whether a child gets it. If you see blank looks, hear answers or conversation unrelated to your topic, or sense that a child is disconnected, the child may not understand. If boredom is simply bluster for lack of understanding, then adjust your delivery or accommodate the child by using some other compelling delivery method.
* Use quality, contemporary video clips or music to illustrate the lesson. Kids live in a media-driven world: it’s a language they speak. So use media and music intentionally, sparingly, and with excellence. (For media ideas go to www.childrensministry.com and click on Web Extras below the current magazine issue).
* Enhance your lessons with articles, atlases, Internet connections, or interesting people to encourage kids’ curiosity and questions.

Isolate Indifference

Children who think they’ve seen it all or who are unwilling participants can be bored by our best attempts at originality and stimulation. A child who chooses not to participate makes the choice to miss out. Over the years, I’ve seen teachers get so worked up over a child who won’t engage that they overlook the kids who are engaged. This kind of reaction by adults prevents the logical consequence to a child who willfully ignores an opportunity to have a great time and learn.

For preschool and early elementary kids, isolation is nearly unbearable, and they isolate themselves when they withdraw from participation. A young child who’s isolated by his or her behavior may make noise to regain attention, or he or she may sit and sulk for a while. Eventually, though, young children often want to engage in learning because they want to belong with peers and have a good time. So when you find yourself facing a young child’s boredom, don’t overreact. Gently invite the child to rejoin the group, and say that everyone wants him or her to have fun, too. If a child remains withdrawn, though, you can provide activities he or she can do alone or pair child with an adult volunteer.

Instead, try giving kids who say they’re bored opportunities so each from the group isn’t your best solution. But even in an atmosphere of excess, there are still things kids crave that never change and don’t become tiresome. Capitalize on these kid cravings to keep your classroom boredom-free.

Play—Play never gets old, does it? In a former ministry, we practiced a drama with kids all over the world. Wherever we were, one thing was the same: Kids got tired and bored after three hours of practice. When we gave them a 15-minute break, what did they do? sit, rest, or catch a nap? Hardly! They wanted to run and play. Five minutes earlier they complained of exhaustion, but they now had energy in abundance. Introduce play into your classroom with:

* Block activities where building becomes a creative outlet and application tool for lessons.
* Painting activities where great gobs of goo get children engaged and moving.
* Kitchen areas where kids can practice lesson applications while they pretend to make dinner or play house.
* Dress up area where costumes, mirrors, and a stage help kids make believe.
* Science area where experiments (mechanical or visual) and exploring God’s creation are the focus.
* Sort-and-count area where kids can practice the important (and fun) thrills God gave them.

Friends—Kids spend as much time with their friends as they can. When I see kids bring a friend to church, I can almost guarantee that this Sunday, they won’t be bored. We can be a wet blanket on this one when we separate children. Encourage friendships. Use activities that acquaint kids. Focus on building relationships with your group and between your group members.

Relationships—My kids would rather drive than fly to a far-away destination. Why? My kids like spending that time in the car with my wife and me, and driving means more time. My initial instinct is to think that longer time in the car equals more opportunity for boredom, but my kids see this differently. They see the chance to connect with their family. So nurture your relationships with kids, and equip them to nurture their own relationships. Kids who feel connected to you and each other are less likely to become bored in the relationship vacuum.

Keith Johnson is the author of Take-Out Training for Teachers and Teacher Training on the Go (Group Publishing, Inc.), and is a pastor to children at Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.

This article “Busting the Boredom” by Keith Johnson was excerpted from: www.childrensministrymag.com web site. October 2008. The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study and research purposes.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”