Our kids' ministry team has a favorite saying. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a hundred times. “If you give them too much, they’ll walk away with nothing.” And it bears repeating one more time. “If you give them too much, they’ll walk away with nothing.” This could be said of any age group, but we have found it to be particularly true for teaching kids.
You’ve certainly heard of this experiment: Put twenty random items together on a table. Have someone examine the contents for thirty seconds. Then have him close his eyes, wait a minute, and then list the items. The average person can recall a few. But what if there was only one item on the table? With only one item to look at, is there any way the person wouldn’t recall the singular item? This method is certainly applicable to teaching Bible lessons to kids.
The problem (if you want to call it that) is that we have so much rich, transformational material to teach from God’s Word that sometimes teachers find it difficult to know when to stop. A good rule of thumb for large group Bible teachers is to teach just one main point per session, and be sure that every Scripture, story, and illustration expounds on that main point.
Resist the temptation to dissect every word or every point in a passage. You’ll have other times to teach those wonderful points. And remember that you are teaching children. We never, ever water down truth, but we do narrow the scope. Even though you may have found an amazing, insightful cross-reference to the passage you are teaching, or you uncovered a complex theological doctrine, sharing it with your young audience might just muddy the waters for them. (These insights might best be shared in an email to fellow leaders or parents.)
To keep you on track and off the rabbit trails, write out your main point and refer to it often as you prepare. Ask yourself, “Does the illustration or personal story I’m planning to tell demonstrate this point?” If not, save it for another lesson. Remember, kids (K-5th grade) can usually sit for 20-25 minutes. If you keep them longer, it’s possible that the only thing they will remember is how long your lesson was!