Why drawing a story can make a big difference in children’s ministry

Yesterday, I got to do something that has scared me and gives me a bit of a thrill every time I do it. I told the story of David, Nabal and Abigail as I drew it. Now if you ask me to draw a cartoon, I can oblige with a quick doodle. And if you ask me to tell a story, I can be rather quick with some details and a few exaggerations for effect. But I discovered a few years ago, telling a story while I talk can make for some drama within my head.

When I draw as I tell a story, I have to make my left side of my brain and the right side play well together. As I’m drawing, I have to remind myself to say a few words about that mean Nabal, and David’s angry soldiers. It’s a bit of a stretch.

And that’s why I do it. I want the kids to engage both sides of their mind when they hear the story.  I want the logical, left brain kids to get the facts. I want the creative, right brain kids to see the story come to life with a marker and paper. It’s a little low-tech, but not quite flannel graph. It’s a sweet spot for me.

I do it because I remember when an artist came to my church when I was a teen. He drew these beautiful scenes in chalk and had lighting effects that made the water appear to be moving. He made a sunset come to life. It lit up my imagination and made me see creative through the church in a different way.

My doodles aren’t anywhere near the work of art of that guy, but if I can help a child remember the story and maybe inspire him or her to tell it in their creative way, then I’ve done my job.

Besides, It’s fun flying without a net. It brings a little adventure to one’s day!

Why who is in a classrooms matters

Cartoon of a baby, two adults and a scarecrow

Cartoon of two adults and baby with a scarecrow. A man says about the scarecrow, “He doesn’t interact with the kids much. But he’s always available and on time.”

I can usually tell when someone doesn’t feel comfortable in a classroom. They don’t look much different from the scarecrow in my cartoon. They’re stiff, standing tall among all the kids. They do dress better than a scarecrow, however. They also have a more worried look than the scarecrow in this picture. Continue reading “Why who is in a classrooms matters”

The worst advice I’ve ever heard about teaching in church

Cartoon of a boy and a teacher. The student says, "You're goofy, Mr. Schmeltzer! I like that in a teacher."Have you ever found it hard to get the attention of a room full of kids? It can be a loud place. If you have the class on a Sunday morning, it can also be a quiet place that would make a crypt sound like an ideal place for a party.

Over the years, I’ve searched for all kinds of advice on how to teach effectively. There is one piece of advice I found to be the worst of them all.

Act cool, show little emotion and take yourself seriously. Don’t be a clown! This is church, after all!

This just doesn’t work for me. And I would dare say it won’t work for anyone who is teaching elementary age kids.

I understand those who want to emphasize a church or school is a place that needs to be treated with respect. However, it also needs to be a fun place. Respect doesn’t mean everyone must be bored to death.

An effective teacher or speaker knows there is a little entertainment involved. Speaking in a monotone voice with no emotion will either send a classroom into a frenzy or cause all children without ADHD to sit there and daydream. Whether you have external evidence you’ve lost them or they are acting internally by daydreaming, you’ve still lost them.

So my advice to you is it’s okay to be a little goofy when you’re teaching.

  • Have a little fun with it. If you’re having fun, they’re having fun too.
  • Vary your speaking voice. Have some exciting, loud times, but also some quiet, somber times.
  • Don’t be afraid to crack a few jokes. Even bad ones can keep attention.
  • Don’t just lecture. Get the kids involved too. Have them read for you. Have them participate in a game. Make it a fun experience.

What are some ways you’ve made your classroom or Sunday school class a fun place to learn?

Why caring for kids can be so unpredictable

Cartoon of a boy and a crying baby
Cartoon of a boy to crying baby, “Wait! Stop! This isn’t part of the script.”

Some people shy away from kids because they just don’t follow a set script. They are so unpredictable! One minute they can be happy, the next, wailing like the world has come to an end.

It can rattle different types of people.

  • Planners can feel frustrated when a child sends their day off course
  • People who value power feel powerless, especially if they’re used to throwing that power around. Babies don’t care about your authority.
  • Manipulators can be stymied because a baby hasn’t learned to be manipulated (unfortunately, we all learn quickly how to be manipulated!)
  • Tired people just aren’t going to get much sympathy from a baby. Get help quickly!
  • Young people may not have the coping skills or maturity to handle such a situation

It can  lead to tragedy if someone doesn’t handle the unpredictability appropriately. It breaks my heart and makes me angry when you hear a story about an innocent child that has experienced shaken baby syndrome.

If you are a tired parent or caregiver, get some help. We all need our rest. If you don’t know anyone, reach out to your local church. They value you and your child.

In the end, it is worth it. Children will not always be crying. There will be good days along with the bad. The unpredictability of a crying child goes hand in hand with the thrill of rediscovering the world through innocent eyes. The spontaneous crying goes with the unpredictable hugs. You will learn as much as you teach. You will laugh as well as cry with them. In the end, it is all worth it!

Cartoon: students and prayer life

Cartoon of a teacher and boy. The teacher says, "I want to thank you. Ever since you've been in my class, my prayer life has skyrocketed."

Cartoon of a teacher and boy. The teacher says, “I want to thank you. Ever since you’ve been in my class, my prayer life has skyrocketed.”

Certain students can bring out the best in us, whether we want them to or not! Some kids know what buttons to push and can even look like an angel while doing it. But that’s okay. Many times, it’s the ones that challenge you the most, that turn out to be the leaders and influencers of the world. Besides, when they have kids, they’re bound to have one just like them!

I drew this for K! Magazine.