10 Ways to Keep Kid’s (Boy’s) Attention During Sunday School

We all want to be interesting teachers. We all want the kids in our class to be glued to our every word.

But being an interesting teacher is difficult.

So here are a few ideas for taking your lesson from a snooze fest to something even the adults in the room will enjoy.

1. Start with something interesting or fun

Instead of beginning with “the story” start with a couple related jokes, a funny story, an activity, a video, or maybe even a quick game.

No one wants a teacher to walk to the front and just start blabbering on and on.

I’m pretty much willing to start my lesson with anything. (Not sure if that is good or bad!) I’ve started with lame jokes, videos, and even the occasional sword drill. If nothing else I can say this with confidence: I have their attention for the next few minutes. And that’s the goal!

When it comes down to it, it’s probably a pride thing. You have to put yourself ‘out there’ to tell a joke you aren’t sure is going to work. You have to be willing to just ‘go for broke’ with a game you aren’t sure they are going to like.

I want to encourage you to set aside the pride we all have and go for it. (As embarrassing as that may be.)

I truly believe this…Great teachers aren’t the ones that are the most confident in front of their class. No, great teachers are more focused on helping their students learn than they are on making sure they come across as cool, calm, and collected.

You just gotta put yourself out there.

2. Get physical

Your natural way of talking isn’t likely to keep everyone’s attention.

As an example, think about a radio DJ. Do you think they talk like they do on the radio, all time? I guarantee they don’t! No one wants to listen to someone talk like a radio announcer at the dinner table. That would get SUPER annoying.

DJs animate their voice and change their inflection specifically for radio. They over exaggerate the tone and volume of their voice to make it more interesting to listen to.

You should do the same.

BE LOUD….and then be really quiet.

Talk really fast, and then talk really slow.

What seems to you like ‘overdoing it’…is actually interesting for your audience to listen to.

When you’re voice is dynamic you become easier to listen to. And when you are easier to listen to, more people will actually listen.

The next time you teach, pretend you are on the radio talking about this amazing story that happened in the news the past week. Teach your lesson like THAT. Even if the kids know EXACTLY what is going to happen do it anyway. I promise you that more people will pay attention. They won’t be able to help it.

3. Ask Questions Right in the Middle of the Lesson

Being predictably unpredictable is great for keeping an audience’s attention.

Think about yourself for a second…if you know what is coming next are you more likely or less likely to pay attention?

You are MUCH less likely to pay attention when you know what’s next.

The same goes for your Sunday School lesson. So instead of being predictable, get a little crazy. Abruptly stop your story right in the middle and ask a few questions.

They can be review questions about what has happened so far. Or, perhaps they can be questions that put kids in the story…like “what would you do in this situation?” 

Breaking the ‘rhythm’ of your lesson with some questions will ‘restart’ everyone’s attention span and bring back the kids who are counting ceiling tiles.

4. Don’t rely on rhythm

We’ve all discovered teaching ‘routines’ that work for us. These are the ‘formulas’ we use that help shape how our lesson goes.

An example would be something like:

1. Joke

2. Short Story

3. Verse Review

4. Prayer

5. Object Lesson

A formula like this works well because it’s ‘plug and play’. You can neatly fill in each of the spots in the formula and have a good lesson.

So I’m not arguing against using a formula. What I’m suggesting is that you change up the formula.  Don’t get stuck using the same tried and true ‘routine’ every week. Your kids will know what to expect, and you’ll totally lose their attention.

One week start with the object lesson.

One week start with a video.

One week start with the lights off.

You can still use a ‘formula’. Just don’t use the same one every week.

5. Role Play

Let kids participate in a little role playing. Let someone be David and someone be Goliath. Give David a pretend slingshot and something harmless as a ‘stone’ and let him ‘hit’ Goliath.

There are learners in your class that are kinesthetic – they learn best by doing. These kids aren’t going to learn sitting still…they are going to learn by doing an action or by participating in an object lesson.

So engage them by acting out portions of a story.

For instance, one week I needed to briefly tell a little bit about Israel’s history. But I know that no one wants to sit in church and get a history lesson. So I gave a couple kids pool noodles and had them ‘defeat’ each other as different armies in the history lesson defeated each other.

It worked out pretty well.

Lastly, I’m not talking about professional costumes and makeup here. 1 or 2 simple props is all that I’m really talking about for acting out a story.

Give a kid a fake sword (pool noodle works well) and you’d be surprised how good of a prop that will be for him.

6. But don’t rely on props

Having just talked about props…don’t allow yourself to use props for every lesson.

I can be guilty of this.

I want a prop for every lesson! I want visuals every time I talk! I want sound effects for every lesson!

But it goes back to #4 on this list, after a while the kids will come to expect these things and they will lose their impact. So don’t rely on props, just use them as a little ‘spice’ for those lessons that are particularly boring or that lack much of a story.

I most often resort to props or object lessons when there isn’t much of a ‘story’ in the lesson. Some lessons are designed to communicate a principle or truth more than to tell a story. So props work REALLY well in these scenarios to keep kids focused!

7. Tell a personal story

This might sound odd in a list like this, but some of the greatest attention I’ve ever gotten from my class is when I’ve told a personal story.

One time I told a story about picking out a dog from a new litter of puppies. At this moment, I don’t exactly remember why I told that story…but the point is the same. The kids were all glued as I told my story.

You see, there is something very engaging and interesting about someone telling a personal story. Perhaps it has to do with being vulnerable in that moment with your audience. You are truly giving them a piece of yourself.

Unless you drag on forever telling it, I can almost guarantee your story will have everyone paying attention to you.

8. Change Where You Are

Who says you always have to be standing in the center at the front of the room to teach? Teach from the middle of the room and have all the kids circle around you. Have the kids form two lines and walk between them during the story.

Not only does this help the interest factor, but it also gets the kids out of the ‘rut’ of sitting where they always sit during church. When you force kids to move and pay attention to you in a way they aren’t used to you will automatically have more of their attention.

Perhaps there are 2 or 3 different places in your story…. So why not go to 2 or 3 places in your room and tell the correlating part of the story from each of those places in the room?

Change where you stand, or where you sit, in the room. By just doing that, you engage the little brains you are teaching in a whole new way.

9. Use Relevant References

Want to grab kids’ attention?

Talk about something they know and love. Think: Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, Video Games, Movies, and the like.

Nothing taxes someone’s ability to pay attention more than topics that don’t interest them.

Think of a topic that isn’t particularly interesting to you…baseball? (I happen to love Baseball)

So what if I talked about the current baseball season and how well the Mets have started out and how the Klubber hasn’t been off to a hot start, but hopefully with his most recent one he’s now on the right foot.

Did I catch you napping during that last sentence?

You are always more interested in the conversation when the topic is something that interests you.

It’s the same with kids. Talk about stuff that interests them! (Hint: It might not be what interests you) When you talk about topics that kids care about kids will listen!

So catch up on a little Disney Channel. Find out what Jessie is up to. You just might find some great topics of conversation that your kids will find….fascinating.

10. Use a puppet!

I haven’t done this yet with the older kids, but why not try it?!!

If we are all honest with ourselves we love us some puppets. (don’t hate on the grammar in that last sentence)

So why not set aside the pride, and break out a puppet. You don’t have to do a 15-minute monologue. Even just a few moments of laughter and ridiculousness with a puppet will have everyone in your class paying attention.

I used to teach Awana, and one of my favorite parts of the lesson were the puppets. Sometimes I would literally be making it up as I went, but it was really fun. I think some of the adults even enjoyed my high-pitched puppet voice.

Eat a slice of humble-pie and put that puppet on your hand. You never know who in your class just might pay attention!

Hopefully this list has inspired you to try some new stuff. If you do try any of it let me know how it works. I’m always interested to see what’s working!

You can write me at: nathan -at- betterbibleteachers -dotcom-

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