David Bowman is the Author & Illustrator of the “Who’s Your Hero? Book of Mormon Stories Applied to Children” series. His latest book, “The Great Plan of Happiness,” was Cedar Fort’s best-selling children’s book in 2010. David is excited for the release of his first book geared towards pre-teens and teens, “Dude! Don’t be a Lemuel” coming out this fall.
Little Johnny just gave you the perfect Sunday School answer. You smile at him and say “yes, that’s exactly right” and you move on with your lesson.
But did Johnny really get it? Or was he just reciting the “right answer” without actually thinking about it?
That is the challenge when teaching young people the gospel, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter if they’re four years old, eight years old, or eighteen years old: How do you get past the surface “right answers” to where they are actually pondering and applying the scriptures and the gospel principles they contain.
Here are a few ideas that help kids take it to the next level. They work with any age group and teaching situation (family scripture study, family home evening, primary, Sunday school, or seminary):
1) Follow up questions
Once you’ve asked a question, listen to the young person’s response and then ask him/her a second question about their response. Then ask them a third question about that second response, maybe a fourth question. Listen to them carefully and in a way that they know you are digesting what they are saying. Your continued questioning helps them probe deeper into their own thoughts and experience. The most magic question in my experience is “What do you mean?” “What do you mean by that?” you ask with an interested expression. It’s so simple. You can use it over and over and its amazing what comes out of the child’s mouth after that question”¦ in most cases, much more profound than his/her first answer
2) Don’t be afraid of silence!
When you ask the young group a question, don’t be afraid of what follows: that dreaded, awful, awkward thing called SILENCE (cue spooky music). It’s their processing time. If you jump in and give them the answers after 5-10 seconds of silence”¦ the kids will come to expect that, and shut down mentally. Instead, say something like “I’m gonna give you thirty seconds to really think about this question, and then you can give me your thoughts.”
3) The Because Prayers
I love this one! How often do we hear prayers from our children and teenagers that are just”¦ shall we say”¦ lacking. You know what I’m talking about: The same phrases, the same lines, without putting thought into what they are saying. The next time you have family or class prayer, try this: Whoever is praying has to say “because”¦” after every sentence of his/her prayer. “Help us to take this lesson into our daily lives” becomes “Help us to take this lesson into our daily lives because”¦” and all the sudden kids are thinking about WHY they want this lesson to matter in their life, what it can do for them, why the gospel knowledge they learned that day is important, etc. A whole new world of brain activity suddenly kicks in as they start to care and think about the things they are saying in their prayers. It’s pretty neat to watch.
Hope these ideas help! They’re really simple, but can make a world of difference in helping our beloved young bucks get their brains past the “just give the right Sunday School answer” mentality. Good Luck!