I recently posted some questions and answers about The Gospel Project For Kids Curriculum in response to the regular emails I get from children’s ministers looking for a new curriculum for their ministries. One question I have received in response to my Q&A that deserves its own post is “How does the Rotation Stations Sunday School method work with The Gospel Project For Kids curriculum?”
This is a valid question because the Rotation Station method that we created at my previous children’s ministry position (before I became a stay-at-home dad a year ago) is not at all a traditional Sunday school format. A couple years ago I explained the Rotation Station format in another post, which you can read by clicking here. Another useful post gives some detail to what our Sunday morning program looked like, which you can read by clicking here. In this post I will give a more detailed explanation of how we used the combination of Rotation Stations and The Gospel Project For Kids curriculum for 2+ hours of kids programming on Sunday mornings.
WHAT DID WE DO FOR 2+ HOURS OF KIDS PROGRAMMING?
HOUR 1: SUNDAY SCHOOL
This actually lasted 1:15 for a couple reasons. First, it started at 9:15, but the Kids Worship Services did not start till 10:45. If Sunday School only lasted 1 hour, that would mean we would have 30 minutes of empty time where all those kids were in our care with nothing productive for them to do. This is just too long to keep the kids contained with nothing to do but run wild, so we made Sunday School run till 10:30, leaving just 15 minutes between Sunday School and Kids Worship, which was the perfect amount of time for kids to use the bathroom and talk to their friends without getting restless and overly wild.
The 2nd reason we made Sunday School last 75 minutes is because it gave us more flexibility with our Rotation Station schedule. Adult Sunday School was virtually nonexistent for the parents at our church. There were a few classes, but they were almost exclusively senior citizens. While many of the parents of the kids in our children’s ministry were involved in home groups, they simply did not go to Sunday School. Many of the parents went to 1 worship service and then volunteered somewhere in the church during the other worship service, leaving their kids with the children’s ministry for the entire Sunday morning program. However, some of the parents just went to the 9:15 worship service and then left, which meant their kids did not get to participate in Kids Worship Services. For this reason, we had a short time of worship at the start of Sunday School where all kids (toddlers – 5th graders) came together to sing 3 songs, pray and take up our missions offering. That is where the extra 15 minutes went, and I am glad that every kid who came on Sundays got to participate in some form of community worship.
After the 15 minute opening worship, which we called “Celebration Station,” the kids would divide into their 3 age groups (3-year olds – Kindergarten, Grades 1-2 and Grades 3-5) and rotate to the 3 different Rotation Stations for about 20 minutes per station. Toddlers & 2s went to the Toddler Room during the rotations, and they would have the Bible story read to them and do coloring pages for the story. The 3 Rotation Stations were called Narration Station, Imagination Station and Memorization Station. I will explain later in this post how The Gospel Project For Kids curriculum was used at each of these stations.
HOUR 2: KIDS WORSHIP SERVICES
We had 2 simultaneous Kids Worship Services during the 10:30 worship hour.
Preschool worship was for ages 3-Kindergarten, and the Toddlers & 2s also partially participated in Preschool Worship. The Toddlers and 2s would go to Preschool Worship for the worship songs, memory verse, offering and Bible story video, but they would go back to the Toddler Room during the activities part of that week’s lesson. The preschoolers would also divide up into 2 separate rooms (3s & 4s, 5-Kindergarten) for the lesson activities, which were identical for both rooms. The main Preschool Worship leader was our church’s ministry assistant (a former preschool minister), who also served as the interim children’s minister for a year after I left my position there. Preschool Worship was in great hands, and she had several adults and teenagers working with her as well.
Grades 1-5 came to Elementary Kids Worship, which I led along with 4 other adults/teenagers. I typically did the main teaching lesson, but I tried to divide up as much of the other leadership responsibilities as I could. Elementary Worship was intentionally modeled after adult worship services with a similarly formatted schedule that looked something like this:
- Welcome/ Opening Prayer
- Sing 3 worship songs
- Missions Offering
- Memory Verse/Memory Verse Song
- Sing 2 worship songs
- Bible Story Video
- Bible Story Lesson
The Bible Story Lesson was typically a mixture of me speaking/teaching and doing some form of large group activities that reinforced the lesson. Once again, I will explain later how The Gospel Project For Kids curriculum fit in to all of this.
ROTATION STATIONS vs TRADITIONAL SUNDAY SCHOOL FORMAT
I created Rotation Stations a year before we started using The Gospel Project For Kids curriculum, so I had some time to work out the kinks in the system during that 1st year while we used the Jesus Storybook Bible, which required basically creating a curriculum mostly from scratch (click here to read about that experience). My reasoning behind Rotation Stations was focused on 5 key benefits.
ROTATION STATION BENEFITS
VOLUNTEER FRIENDLY: FOCUS ON DOING 1 JOB WELL
- Rotation Stations allowed teachers/volunteers to focus on their particular stations and do those jobs really well. A more traditional Sunday School format makes 1 poor teacher (or pair of teachers) do so many different things that it is difficult to do all of them well. A traditional Kids Sunday School teacher has to read scripture, teach the lesson, lead discussion questions, do crafts and hands-on activities/games, feed the kids a snack, clean up the snack, and do all of this while keeping the attention of 5-20 kids and hoping they don’t get bored. With Rotation Stations, all those different tasks are divided up among different stations. Station leaders do their particular job(s) 3 times in a row, essentially making them experts on those specific tasks without the burden/stress of trying to do all those other things I just listed. Also, if one particular age group is really rowdy that day, the volunteers at each station only have to put up with those wild kids for 20 minutes.
OPPORTUNITIES FOR NEW TYPES OF VOLUNTEERS
- Rotation Stations attract and create opportunity for volunteers who would not be Kids Sunday School teachers in the more traditional format. Many adults love working with kids, but they do not feel comfortable in a teaching role. Rotation Stations are perfect for these people! One of my absolutely best volunteers was great at organizing and preparing for crafts and other activities that used lots of supplies. She did not feel comfortable teaching kids, but she was a major asset at Imagination Station where she could help kids with their hands-on activities without having to teach a Bible lesson in the traditional sense.
ALWAYS MOVING – NO TIME FOR BOREDOM
- Rotation Stations keep kids from getting bored. By the time they get restless at one station, it is time for their group to move on to a different room with different adults and different activities. This format is fun, and that is true just as much for the adult leaders as it is for the kids.
SEVERAL MENTORING OPPORTUNITIES
- Rotation Stations allowed kids to get to know and learn from several different adults instead of just 1-2. Kids might click well with some volunteers/teachers and not with others. In traditional Sunday School if a kid doesn’t like his Sunday School teacher, or simply does not learn well from that adult’s teaching style, that kid is just stuck with that teacher for a whole year. That could drive away a kid’s interest in church. With this format, each kid has more opportunity to learn from different adults, and hopefully they will click well with at least 1 of those adult volunteers.
DIFFERENT LEARNING STYLES
- Finally, Rotation Stations allow kids to learn and reinforce the Bible stories in several different ways each week, which is awesome since different kids have different learning styles that work best for them. Hearing, discussing, visual, touch, taste, movement, singing, puzzles, memorization… all these different learning styles have a place in Rotation Stations. Basically the Bible story is taught and reinforced over and over again in so many different ways throughout a 2-2.5 hour program that something is bound to stick with the kids that day.
HOW MANY DIFFERENT WAYS DO KIDS LEARN THE BIBLE STORY WITH ROTATION STATIONS?
I was very intentional to make every aspect of Sunday morning focused on teaching that week’s Bible story. Here is a list of all the ways the story was taught and reinforced.
- Celebration Station – Worship songs were handpicked weekly to reinforce Biblical truths from that week’s story.
- Narration Station – Hear the story read aloud by adult.
- Narration Station – Discuss the story with their groups.
- Narration Station – Journal (writing or drawing depending on the age) about the story.
- Imagination Station – Usually 2-3 different games/activities/crafts/worksheets/puzzles every week that went along with the Bible story.
- Imagination Station – Taste/Eating. The kids usually had a built-in snack at Imagination Station, and the snack almost always directly correlated to something from the story.
- Memorization Station – Singing memory verse. The memory verse obviously related to the message of the story.
- Memorization Station – Group activity/contest (Grades 1-5) to learn memory verse.
- Memorization Station – Word puzzles (Grades 1-5) to learn memory verse.
- This makes at least 9 different ways the Bible story is taught and reinforced just during the Sunday School hour, and the kids who also stay for Kids Worship learn the story in several more ways.
- Kids Worship (Preschool & Elementary) – Worship songs were handpicked weekly to reinforce Biblical truths from that week’s story.
- Kids Worship – Bible story videos give kids a visual image of the story.
- Kids Worship – Memory verse song/group recitation/brief teaching lesson.
- Kids Worship – Hear lessons from the story through sermon/teaching.
- Kids Worship – Group activities reinforce story through games, team-work, creative thinking, fun, competition, etc.
- Take Home Family Journal Page – Creates discussion and further teaching from parents at home.
- Take Home Big Picture Cards – Give kids a visual cue to that Bible story that also creates further discussion at home.
On an average week, if a kid came both to Sunday School and to Kids Worship (and used the different take homes with their parents) they could potentially learn the Bible story (or key components of it) in 16 or more different ways! Yes I know that not every kid comes to both hours of programming, and many of the take-homes never make it home. But with the intentionality of Rotation Stations, hopefully at least a few of those 16 things will have an impact on each kid.
HOW DOES THE GOSPEL PROJECT WORK WITH THIS ROTATION STATION SYSTEM?
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE TO THE NEXT PAGE AND SEE HOW WE MADE THE GOSPEL PROJECT FOR KIDS CURRICULUM FIT INTO THE ROTATION STATION FORMAT.