This blog post is written by Emma Swinden, one of Scripture Prompt contributers.
During Scripture Prompts this week we explore the meaning of Matthew 14.2-4 and how we can apply it to our day to day life.
Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
How does the view of a child change things?
Is there something Jesus wants us to learn through the humble eyes of a child?
Imagine how a child might put on their wellies on a rainy day and approach a puddle? How might a child see that puddle? As something exciting to jump in and make splashes with perhaps?
My 6 year old son has a love/hate relationship with water. I am reminded of the ear-to-ear grin on my son’s faces as he charges with utter joy into puddles on rainy days. I am also reminded of how he can thrash around in the bath, resisting the hair wash.
My role as his Mum is to speak encouraging words to him, try my best to be calm when his emotions rage and even sometimes lift him out of the bath to keep him safe until he calms down. And he does calm down. We talk about how I’m trying to help him so that he doesn’t get a yucky itchy head and that his part is to surrender so it can be over with quickly. So he can return to playing with his rubber duck. It’s a team effort! Then he wraps his wet arms around, saying, “I’m sorry”, in acceptance and love.
There’s something very humble going on when a child needs help with something or when they delight in a puddle.
The childlike faith of Jesus.
Relate these two scenarios to the child-like faith Jesus asks of us when approaching Him and we may ask, how can I be more humble in God’s eyes?
Now I’m not saying that submitting to something you don’t want to do (even though it’s good for you) or getting soaked in puddles is everyone’s idea of fun. But perhaps there’s an area of your life where you can experience this kind of childlike humility. Where you let God be in charge of things and take care of you, or where you can choose to see the delightful, perhaps less obvious, adventure He has placed before you. Where you can humble yourself and relinquish control and find love, acceptance, understanding and delight? God wants us in a position where we can be His child and become the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Putting into action the meaning of Matthew 14.2-4
Thinking about some of these themes why not step out and begin to explore that in movement and prayer. You can try some of the following:
Create a movement or shape with your body which acknowledges a desire to humble yourself, in child-like trust, to God. This might include thinking about levels, the focus of your eyes and the size that your body is.
You can also consider whether there is anything you need to lay at Jesus’ feet and say sorry for today. Talk to God about this and receive His forgiveness, using words, movements or during a time of quiet.
One thing I am passionate about is passing on the joy of moving and dancing with flags and ribbons to children. However, I am keen that they understand scriptural references and know that they are choosing to pick up a vehicle that can be used to talk to God, to communicate, worship and share their heart. In this blog post you’ll find 5 top tips for teaching flags and ribbons as part of Children’s worship.
How does using dance and movement with children encourage them on their walk with God?
From a wide-angle perspective dance encourages growth of self-esteem, beliefs, accomplishments and other skills. It also releases children to live their life in a way that they want too and will be of value to them. However, if you zoom in, dance and movement provide a safe space for children to learn to channel their emotions and communicate to God when words maybe difficult. Additionally, it also provides opportunity for children to learn the Bible, resulting in the ability to put movement and actions to words, helping with memory verse remembrance and themes and topics in the Bible.
Please recognise that you will have your own unique way of teaching – because God made you that way! So, what I put forward are simply suggestions, they are things that I have learnt along the way and have found helpful when teaching children’s worship in particular.
Here are my top 5 tips for teaching flags and ribbons for children’s worship specifically:
1. Have clear intentions and boundaries
Boundaries – However
well you know the children you will need clear boundaries in place. These
include things like, the flag stays rolled whilst you’re teaching or talking. You
put your hand up and count back from 5 when you want the children to be still. They
sit down or put their flag down when you’re talking. You make it clear what
happens if they continually don’t listen. They understand their dance space and
where they can go when they move.
Intentions – This is about letting parents and children know what they are going to be doing during the session. Depending on the context of your workshop or class, this is important. Although it might seem obvious, you will need to say they will be worshipping, praying, reading the Bible and dancing for Jesus. If it’s not a ‘normal’ event i.e. church, Sunday school etc. But more like a youth club, holiday club, you may have some unchurched children there (awesome), we just need to still be respectful of their back ground.
2. The more help you have the better
No brainer with children! When ever you think you have enough you don’t! Regardless of how well behaved you think your children are, they will use a flag as a sword or poke someone on purpose. It’s new and exciting. So it’s best to accept it will happen rather than consider it won’t!
Due to this, extra hands are your best friend as they can help police what the children are doing with the resources. Helpers are also useful when you are teaching, they can dot them selves amongst the children. So, even if the children can’t see you, they can watch a helper (provided you’ve primed the helpers with what you are doing!). Should you split into group work, helpers can assist those groups and children that might be finding the task hard.
3. Restrict numbers for some children’s worship workshops
It sounds quite harsh doesn’t it? But honestly, when you are teaching flags and ribbons you don’t want a packed hall. Not only will you have to fight above the noise to capture attention and teach safely. But the children won’t be able to enjoy the full effect of moving and dancing with a flag or ribbon if they don’t have the space within which to do it.
If you do have to do a big group, my suggestion would be to split the group in two when ever it comes to actively moving as a smaller group can access the space more effectively.
Therefore, when planning your numbers think in realistic terms about how many bodies you can get in your space to effectively delivery an excellent children’s worship workshop.
4. Demonstrate, teach, practise, repeat in chunks
Chunking is something that I will talk about in another
post. But essentially break down what ever you want to teach them into small
sections and then do this:
Demonstrate – the
children WATCH you do the movements
Teach – you TALK
through and DO the movements with them
Practise – you go
over what you have just done – with a partner or another helper
constantly go back and re do what you have just done.
All children learn differently, all children learn at different paces. Doing it as above, will allow children who learn differently to still be able to access what you are doing.
5. Pick one song and memory verse they know.
With children, less is more. Don’t over plan. Pick something simple, that will allow them to be TAUGHT something and then allow them to CREATE something. That’s primarily why children love to dance and move with flags and ribbons. There is a freedom they don’t get in other activities.
Children also love to realise that they know the answers already. So, whatever song or scripture you pick try to ensure that it’s already used as part of the children’s worship in the groups or at school. Familiarity encourages children to bloom and will help breed confidence. If you’re asking questions about topics or themes they may already know this will do just that.
Let me know how you get on with any children’s worship workshops.
There will be more hints and tips on teaching children and why we should invest in them. So, make sure you check back regularly.
If you’ve got a heart to teach children but don’t feel you have the skills and confidence to move with flags and ribbons yourself, why not get in touch about running a training day at your church. You can get in touch with me here.
Toddle Tales is the re-telling of Bible Stories for children, particularly the under 5s. Although, since lockdown ages up to 10 years old have also been enjoying it! All stories are made up of narrative and songs. This helps reinforce the story and these songs are written to the tunes of nursery rhymes. Before lockdown I did live sessions which were very interactive. The children got a chance to join in with the songs with either dressing up, performing actions or holding puppets. Since lockdown I have ventured into producing videos. Which have been reaching lots of different ages groups and I know have been very useful for parents when they want their children to engage with something Biblical on a Sunday.
How important is the Christian faith with Toddle Tales?
The Christian faith is important to Toddle Tales, because that is what drove me to create it in the first place. It was when I was working for a company called Molly Moo Cow, going into nurseries and singing and telling stories. God gave me the idea to do this for Bible stories.
Using the skills that God has given me, I have created another way of telling the Bible to children, in a way that is accessible. It is early days for Toddle Tales, and I have no idea what the future holds…but that is what faith is, trusting without knowing what will happen.
Why is it so invested is it so invested in teaching Bible stories for children?
Toddle Tales is invested in children because as Whitney Houston put it “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way” (Yes, I love a bit of Whitney). But of course, before Whitney sung this, the Bible teaches us to
“Train them up, in the way they should go.” Proverbs 22.6
Toddle Tales is just another way of teaching the Bible to young children, in the hope to engage them from a young age and plant seeds in their heart.
Can you share 3 tips to encourage parents in their conversation or teaching with their children about God?
OK so I sometimes struggle with this one myself(!) What I do try to do is best described with three words – pray, dance, and joy!
Actively choose to pray with them before they go to bed. Currently its just me who leads prayers as my eldest son struggles a bit. We thank God for the day and ask for a good night’s sleep with no bad dreams and that we would have a good day tomorrow. I feel it’s important to identify the things we are thankful for as well as look ahead to what is to come. Often, it’s very short to keep their concentration. But it’s still demonstrating to them how we can have a conversation with God regularly.
We do a lot of dancing, so I put on worship music and let the words of the song permeate into their souls. Waymaker is a firm favourite at the moment, but often we will find a compilation on Spotify and see what comes up. Adding in songs that they want to as they go. I try to give them a sense that all music works with movement and talk about them having a dancing spirit and how God loves it when they dance!
Finding the joy!
My older son gets very cross and his personality gets him stuck in the “it’s not fair” thoughts and attitudes. So, I have recently tried a new tactic of singing “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart song” Yeah, you know the one I mean, it gets stuck in your head!! But I have found that cuts through his mood. He tries not to smile, but I can see it helps him to break free. He even started singing it the other day in CO-OP (really loudly haha). I suppose what I try to do is rather than drum into them about God. I bring God into our every day, through creative means, as we all know that children learn best through creativity.
Finally, Lauren, what is the thing you love most about Toddle Tales?
The thing I most love about Toddle Tales is creating the stories and performing them. Since lockdown I have also ventured into producing videos, which I have also loved doing and the feedback I have got from them, has also been worth it too.
So great to hear about Toddle Tales and some of Lauren’s heart. If you want to know more about Toddle tales you can follow them on Facebook here and check out some of their videos on YouTube here.
Kids love to tell their own story don’t they? There’s elaborations, rabbit holes and excitement, because what they draw from stories and teaching is different to other individuals. I find teaching kids, is often like changing lanes all the time. You don’t know whether that new lane will serve it’s purpose, so you just slip to another lane. Teaching kids worship dance allows scope for you develop your relationship with Jesus as well as theirs. It’s taking a step outside your normal ordered box and throwing things in the air.
God made each of us unique. That means how we learn, grow and live life is different for each of us. Kids have the innate ability to be one step ahead with their excitement and drive to try something different. For example, last night my children wanted to play in the garden, with their torches, in the dark. I started to set up the music player and speaker, and with awe and wonder they asked whether we were “going to dance in the garden… IN THE DARK”. To which I naturally said “yes, and I’ll do it with you!”. What followed was a crazy 20 minutes of dancing in the garden, in the dark. They copied me, I copied them, we each did our thing and we had a lot of fun! If you want to check out the dance you can do so here.
I wanted to share that short story first as within it, you can identify the 4 ways I mention that are important about teaching kids worship dance.
Share the Fun
Kids LOVE fun, they jump at the chance at something that will make them giggle and smile. Teaching kids worship dance requires you (I really do mean requires you) to be that teacher that sparks fun into the session. That doesn’t mean it’s always about laughing! It does mean you give the kids the time to build friendships and relationships. Making then feel safe in the space you’re in and providing chances for them to see the fun, in the faith that you share.
As a dance teacher I am super picky about how I see others deliver and share things which are active. Perhaps, that’s because I am passionate, that if you choose to teach children, you do it because you want them to be engaged in the session. Or, whether it’s because I wouldn’t be teaching and sharing today if it hadn’t been for the dedication of various teachers. These teachers were passionate about engaging me in the content they were delivering. It could however be both these things. Children become influenced not just by what the see, but what they think, feel and do. They all play a part when you take them on a journey.
Delivering a kids worship dance session which is engaging is totally about stepping out of your comfort box. Although they like big and loud, and you might think that’s what engaging means. The reality is, your task is to grab their attention and hold it! These are some key ways I try to engage throughout a sessions with kids –
Short, small exercises that change between active and reflective.
You create, they create. Recap. Repeat
Read scripture or quotes, ask them to also read if they can
Share something, ask a question about what you shared. Say it back to them.
This is how I engage. Remember YOU ARE YOU, what ways could you engage with kids?
Being a model in kids worship dance
This is more than being a role model. It’s stepping out and dancing with the kids the whole time and going all out when you do! That might seem overkill, but after 15 years of teaching, the classes I went all out and partook fully, you saw the biggest results. Why?
Kids saw what the movement was meant to be. They saw passion in what God was speaking, and then connected to Gods word as they saw it come alive before them. Kids worship dance, is all about do, do, do. Model your passion for Jesus. Model your energy in the movement. Model your excitement when others join in with it. Take on the children’s uninhibited attitude to just do it!
Creativity weaves through all of the above suggestions, it allows a way to connect Gods word, movement, passion, and kids hearts. I draw upon more than dance in my kids worship dance sessions. I bring in drawing, material, games, speaking, crafting and more. That’s because I feel they offer a way to deepen the theme or scripture that’s being explored that session. Don’t limit yourselves to purely dance. To keep that fun, the engagement and modelling throughout the session, challenge yourself how you could share God’s word deeper with the kids.
I am sure you all have different traditions of things that you do at Easter, I love to make little gardens and chat to the children about what we are doing and why.
In this season as we are spending more time at home, I’d thought I’d share an activity for the whole family to take part in if you wanted. Here are some tips on how to make your own Easter Garden. You’ll need the following items –
Large shallow tray/ dish/ pot
Small cup or pot
Sticks – 3 long and 3 shorter
String or elastic bands
Larger stone go across the ‘tomb’
Place some soil in the base of the dish, then place your small pot or cup on its side two thirds of the way back. Fill the space and cover to make a hill.
Take your three longer sticks and 3 shorter sticks. Using elastic bands or string secure them together to make a cross.
Place stones or something decorative on the soil in front of the tomb. Then cover the mound with moss or grass, you could even plant some small plants there is you wanted.
Finally, place the crosses on the hill and the stone across the tomb and place some where as a reminder. Don’t forget on Easter Sunday to roll the stone away and have a party! If you make one, why not share with others what you have done and why.
What a fantastic day we had learning from each other. The
day was split up into 3/4 sections, in each section there was a talk and
discussion, an exercise in pairs to put into action what was discussed and then
a time of delivery – so practising what they had just planned. Everyone had
such different ideas, it was great to spark off each other and encourage those
that felt a little shy.
Section 1 – warm up
and ice breakers
This is a really important part of the workshop which I chatted about in the blog post 6 Essentials when planning a dance worship workshop. The challenge here was introducing a theme and working out how to devise a warm up based around a theme. The topic of water came up as a common one, but some participants soon realised that they weren’t sure which bit of water to focus on.
Water is a good example of a topic that has so much
possibility for a workshop. It’s a key feature in the Bible, creation and our
journey of faith. Ideas for inclusion in a warm up included –
Ice – freeze/ still movements leading to melting
and then adding travelling motion in.
River – how the water flows in and around rocks,
some of the children being rocks and others being the water that passed around
Waves – the crashing sound, being tall and
small. Rolling on the ground and stretching wide. Spinning a partner out and
then having them roll back in along their partners arm.
All the above areas of water can be expanded and padded out
loads after the initial warm up. Remember the warm up is an opportunity to have
fun, get everyone moving and introduce a small part of the theme.
Section 2 – Planning an
under 5s workshop. We looked at Psalm 18.28-33 for this section.
“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer; he causes me to stand on the heights.”
The sets of verses above provide some awesome imagery with
which to design workshops and themes. We used this passage as a starting point
thinking about a workshop for under 5s. Just a few things that came out of our initial
Section 3 – Choreographing a dance for 5 – 11 year olds
How many of you have the song ‘My Lighthouse’ in your
church? There are several different actions that have been put to the words of
this song – your church might already use some. So, I thought it offered an
opportunity for participants to choreograph something that they could use
within a workshop or group of children.
Working in groups we looked at the different verses and put
together some movement. You can check out what we did below.
We begun the day by looking at why we want to invest in children, what the Bible says and the reasons that brought the participants to the dance day. As we finished the day we spoke about how we can encourage a conversation of prayer during the workshops by having some creative prayer exercises. That by demonstrating how to dance and make it a conversation with God, you can encourage each child to have ownership of their journey of faith and conversation with God.
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Planning is essential in all forms of delivery, whether that
is for dance or something different. Throughout nearly 20 years of teaching, I
have tried many ways to layout a dance workshop or session, today you get to
hear the layout I find most useful!
It might be that you want to create a whole session or just
one exercise or series of movements, whatever it is, it is still the same
process. We’ll talk in terms of a ‘session’ but the same applies to an
exercise/ series of movements.
This post is all with reference to leading a Christian based
dance worship workshop of some form. However, all that is shared can be applied
in a normal secular context without faith.
Before we get going though, there are a few things that you need to have decided in order to plan the workshop most effectively –
Who will be your age or population focus?
What is your theme – including the main focus and intended outcome
How long is your session and how will you divide elements within the session
What is the number of participants that will be at the workshop, or what are your maximum numbers?
Each one of the above can impact the workshop in different ways, so take the time to make it specific to what you are wanting to achieve.
So what 6 essential things should I include?
1. Ice breaker
Whether you know the participants well, or they are completely
new faces, you can never start a session cold. An ice breaker allows participants
the opportunity to begin the session recognising that they are in safe space, that
their ‘ability’ won’t be questioned, and that they feel welcomed to see where
the workshop will take them.
This initial opening/ ice breaker will set the tone for the
rest of the workshop, participants will either be hooked and want to go further
or may feel unsure about continuing. Therefore this ‘hook in’ needs to grab
their focus, allow participants to tune in with others and get ready to learn
what is coming.
Here’s a few ideas that are tried and tested, they are all
adaptable for all ages and abilities –
What’s your name and where are you from?
How has your week been? Can you use one word to describe your week?
What brought you to this workshop? What’s one thing that you’d love to learn in this workshop?
Say your name and do an action, everyone else copy, work your way round the group.
Make a freeze shape of how you are feeling about the workshop at the beginning.
Imagine these 5 minutes (because that’s all it usually is) are your welcome speech, the chance to win the vote of everyone and have them wanting more. Have energy, be friendly, encourage discussion.
2. Warm up
This is so important and should NEVER be by-passed. Not only does it prepare our body, but it also ensures we are safe with our movement, our listening and helps us be our best in the session. So, what do I need to do in a warm up?
Raise the heart rate
– it’s important to gradually raise our heart rate and body temperature. This
will decrease injuries and increase the body’s ability to move more
Create a sense of fun
and involvement – look at it as a great opportunity to let them see who you
are, how you teach and to get moving with you.
stretches – these are stretches that move and encourage the body to go
beyond its normal range of motion, therefore stretching and molding the muscles
to work effectively.
Introduce the theme
– the warm up is fab place to subtly (or not) introduce your theme. Be creative
and be literal, with children a game can be a great place to start.
Before you rush head long into a sequence or main part of
the workshop, it’s good to lay the foundation of what the session will explore
and provide the chance for participants to learn specific moves which may aid
them later in the workshop.
You may prefer to call this section exercises, as it allows
set themes or movements to be explored that provide focus. For example, if your
theme was God’s Breath, here’s one
thing you could do –
In a space focus on taking 3 deep breaths, filling and emptying your lungs as much as you can. On the next set of 3 breaths, take yourself up on a rise as you breathe in, and lower as you breathe out. On the next set take a step forward as you breathe in and step back as you breathe out.
This very simple exercise can be developed in whatever way you
want to fit in with the participants, and challenge them more if needed. To lengthen
and imprint the impact breath can have on initiating movement, ask them to
close their eyes as they do the movement. This will do several things –
Increase their awareness of their breath and the
size of their movement
Encourage them to work on their balance and
Help them to feel the weight in their movement,
therefore adding another dynamic to how it can be developed.
Don’t overthink the exploration that you want to do.
Provided you know what you want as your intended outcome, this section can be a
real fun section to develop.
Whilst I have called this section ‘sequence’ I recognise
that not all workshops will have a sequence as such to learn. So, consider this
also the ‘main bit’, the chunk that you really want everyone to
grasp from the workshop.
This could involve learning part of a set sequence, group
work expanding a Bible verse, song verse, the theme, working with a resource,
and so much more!
But what you need to remember, is that whatever you did in
the previous section needs to flow with ease into this one, a seamless transition,
rather than a stilted connection.
5. Development/ free movement
Up until this point, you will have mostly guided, taught or
impressed on participants the best way forward with their movement. This
section allows the participant to start to take some ownership over their
movement style and how they want to develop.
More often than not, this is where I give my participants a very loose task. I do this because I believe by this point in the workshop, they are capable of simulating movements together themselves and working with a partner or bigger group to create something that flows with the theme from the exploration section, to sequence section to this one. It’s also a great chance for me to sit back and see Gods work in progress, which is the most exciting bit of course!
6. Cool down/ reflection
Just like it’s important to begin with a warm up, it’s also
essential to finish with a cool down. This section has two purposes.
The first, to lower heart rates and bring our bodies back to
a place they are normally at, using stretches and breathing to do this.
The second, to reflect on the impact of the session, to pray
together or with someone individually, or take a moment of quiet. You can never
underestimate the impact that a workshop will have on someone. It may not be obvious
on the day, but God always moves, even when it’s not visible.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this outline is a process that I have found works well for me. Each of us are individual and all work differently. Take your time to find out what works for you, practise it and let God lead!
Let me know what are your essentials when you’re planning a worship workshop.
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