Rotation Stations Kids Sunday School Format

Rotation-Stations-Diagram-watermarked

As I explained in my post “Creating a 1-Year Curriculum With the  Jesus Storybook Bible“, our team had the opportunity to totally transform the look of our Sunday morning FCC Kids program last year.  We abolished the “traditional” Sunday School format that had existed since who-knows-when, and we implemented a Rotation Station system. As we  considered creating this new Sunday school format I thought about what the kids would do at each station, and we came up with the following stations…

START AT CELEBRATION STATION

  • Everyone from toddlers to 5th grade starts here together to sing 3 songs and collect missions offering.
  • This takes about 12 minutes, and then the age groups divide up and go to their 1st stations. *Toddlers go back to the toddler room, and they do not participate in the 3 stations.
  • This allows a few things to happen:
    • Families who are running late have a few extra minutes to drop their kids off before the 1st Rotation Station.
    • Station Leaders have a few extra minutes to make sure their rooms are in order before kids arrive.
    • Kids who do not stay for Kids Worship still get a chance to worship God together with the other kids.

3 ROTATION STATIONS

  1. Narration Station – “Hear the Word of God”

    • The kids hear the Bible story read to them, followed by small group discussion.
    • Originally I let the leaders use the questions from the Jesus Storybook Bible curriculum, but after they became comfortable with their roles, I allowed them to make up their own questions and discussions topics. This allowed them to be more creative and passionate, and it was an opportunity for these leaders to grow.
  2. Imagination Station – “Experience the Word of God”

    • Crafts, science experiments, hands on activities…
  3. Memorization Station – “Remember the Word of God”

    • Learn the weekly memory verse and the Books of the Bible. This involves music, games, puzzles, etc.

I also thought about the positives and negatives. Looking back after a year of this teaching model, I can say that the positives far outweigh the negatives.

The positives of Rotation Stations:

  • Teachers can master one area of teaching instead of being expected to perform 5-6 different roles over the course of an hour. This means that they can perform their given tasks extremely well.
  • Kids do not get bored. They don’t have time. They stay at each station for 18 minutes, with 3 minutes between each station to potty, get water or finish up a craft that took a little too long. Just when they get restless or bored, it is time to get up and move to the next station.
  • We hit several different learning styles. Kids who stay for Preschool or Kids Worship services learn the Bible story in even more ways. Those who stay for both hours probably learn the story in at least 7 different ways.
  • Different kids connect better with different adult leaders (and vice versa), so this allows kids to learn from several different adults.

The negatives of Rotation Stations:

  • Because they rotate among different stations with different adult leaders, kids do not get to develop super close relationships with the teachers. While this is an unfortunate side effect of this teaching model, we also teach and encourage parents to be the main spiritual leaders or disciple-makers of their own kids.
  • Sometimes there is a cool activity or idea that goes with the story, but it just does not fit the format of the rotation stations. However, these ideas can often be carried over to large group worship the next hour.
  • Because of the exact timing of this system, there are certain messy crafts or experiments that would be amazing and fun, but they would simply take longer than 18 minutes at Imagination Station.
  • Somewhere in the New Testament, the craft ideas started to run dry. During the popular Old Testament stories, it was easy to find plenty of ideas for Imagination Station just using Bible craft books, but during the ministry of Jesus, the craft books just were not cutting it anymore. Pinterest helped quite a bit, but eventually I had to start making up crafts on my own. This was fun and rewarding, but it was much too time consuming during the busy week.

ROTATION STATIONS WERE A HIT

My volunteers loved the rotation stations. The kids seem to love them, and they never really seem bored. When I was looking at a new curriculum to start this year, I asked the teachers if they wanted to keep the rotation stations or switch back to the more traditional Sunday School format, and they overwhelmingly agreed to keep the rotation stations.

DO ROTATION STATIONS WORK WITH EVERY CURRICULUM?

I have not used them long enough or with a variety of curriculums to know whether this Sunday School format would work with “every” curriculum. Since we created our own 1-year curriculum centered around the Jesus Storybook Bible, we were able to create the curriculum based upon the Sunday School format we were using. Just last week we started our new curriculum, The Gospel Project For Kids from Lifeway, and I have been working hard the last few weeks adapting the curriculum to fit our rotation station model. Because this curriculum is so vast, it had plenty of options that we could use at our different stations (I will write another post soon that shows how we are adapting The Gospel Project For Kids curriculum to fit our rotation station format. I cannot say that other curriculums would fit as well with our format, however, I did factor this into my research when I was selecting our new curriculum. I would never base what we do on Sunday mornings completely off any curriculum, and ultimately, you and your team need to decide the purpose and goals of your Sunday School program. Then whatever curriculum and other resources you use can be looked at from the angle of “which parts fit with our setup and help us to reach our goals.”

Click here to read my post detailing how we used Rotation Stations with The Gospel Project For Kids curriculum.

  • Andrew Weiseth

    This is a great format -we had considered something similar at our locations. What structures helped you account for tracking kids with all the movement plus late arrivals, early departures. restroom breaks, etc? Also, did you see a shift in how you needed to staff your kid-to-volunteer ratios? Thanks Stephen, I am enjoying your posts. -Andrew Weiseth, Director for KiDS at Mars Hill Church

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  • I have written a detailed post explaining how we used the Gospel Project For Kids with the Rotation Stations method. Here is the link for that post: http://storiesbystephen.com/2016/07/19/rotation-stations-gospel-project-kids/

  • jenna

    How did transitions go? We are highly considering this technique at our church, but my volunteers are concerned the transitions will be too difficult and end up eating too much time away from the activities. Do you have any tips?