Children’s Work Training Session
A recipe for success

Learn a new song

After our summer break we plan on introducing Fischy Music to our Sunday morning programme. We took the opportunity to learn one of the new songs as a team.

Lyrics: someone-is-with-you-lyrics

Ingredients Challenge

Depending on numbers split your team into 2 or 3 groups. Give each team a list of ingredients which they then need to decide what dish or meal they might make with them.  It may be interesting to note and reflect on which members of the your team stick to tried and tested dishes and who in your team thinks outside of the box and puts ingredients together that don’t normally go with each other.

Group 1: Smoked Haddock, Frozen Garden Peas, Bacon, Potatoes, Plums, Rice, Onions

Group 2: Chicken, Polenta, Butternut Squash, Kale, Salad, Peppers, Onions

Master Chef Video

Do we stick with the safe, the known, and the traditional? Or do we change the rules? Like us you might have stuck to a formula that works – but in the training session give permission to think outside the box and be creative when it  comes to planning and building sessions.

It’s interesting that Heston was self-taught having received no formal training. Often churches think that hiring in a professional youth worker is the answer to growing their groups which isn’t necessarily true. A little self-belief can go a long way.

Faith Development and Spiritual Development

Take the opportunity to introduce some theory to the  session by exploring faith development and spiritual development in children. These terms have different meanings but are often used interchangeably.

The Desmos website have this article which you might find helpful Childrens_Spiritual_Development

Faith Development

In his book, Stages of Faith, James Fowler describe a variety of different stages of faith development.

Undifferentiated Faith. This is usually from ages 0-2 and is the time when we form our first pre-images of God. While children don’t learn directly about God at this stage – what they learn during this period of their lives is the foundation of what comes later.

Intuitive-Projective Faith. Largely it is a reflection of parental faith and is built on impressions. Children of this age are generally not able to think abstractly, consider other people’s perspectives or think through complex ideas. Their faith is based on stories they’ve heard or things they’ve picked up around people of faith in their homes and within their faith communities.

Children in this stage – normally preschool children – are good at sensing whether the faith community is a place of warmth or a place of conflict and they begin to know whether their parents see the faith community as a place of joy or a place of obligation.

Mythic-Literal Faith. Generally between the ages of 6 to 11/12. The development of children’s language skills and vocabulary allows children to begin to articulate their faith better than before. However, their faith is still a reflection of the faith of others.

However, children at this stage don’t normally question whether the faith they’ve received works or not – they just accept it as things are.

As they start primary school the child’s world has become bigger so now people other than their parents have significant influence.

Often in my own work with children of this age and stage I hear them saying: My mum said….My teacher said….

Stories and storytelling is really important at this stage. Stories catch the children’s imagination and attention. Story gives children a sense of who they are and what it means to children of God. Because they are not good at abstract thinking yet story as opposed to lessons built around concepts is more suited to them.

In Fowler’s theory there are further stages of faith including Synthetic-Conventional, Individual-reflexive, Conjunctive, and Universalizing. But for our purposes we will concentrate on the stages up until 11/12 years old..

Spiritual Development

Spiritual growth is tied to reflective thought and concerns such as:

  • What is the meaning and purpose of my life?
  • Who am I?
  • Why am I here?
  • What defines the difference between right and wrong?
  • Why should I act rightly?
  • Why is there so much suffering in the world?

As a group reflect on the nature of your work with children up to now – does it tend towards faith development or spiritual development? Is one more important than another? Do they complement each other? Is our job with children to promote Religion/Christianity or to help children explore more generally beliefs, value, meaning and self-worth?

Q+A Session

An opportunity to ask/share/raise a question or any issue that participants have or have been thinking about.


Loesje Bible Study

Break the group into 2 or 3 different teams. Give each a familiar passage from the Bible. We used Psalm 23 and the story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19.

First, have the groups’ mind map what they see as the Themes/Keywords and concepts/questions. Once they have some have them circle what they see as their number 1.

Next have the groups’ mind map ways in which the story/reading might apply to children & young people. Similarly, have them highlight their number 1 idea.

Lastly have them mind map as many ideas of activities or craft ideas.

When we did this as a team before summer this lead to interesting conversations about how to retell stories and explain passages to children. It raised questions about the types of language we use, translations of the Bible, and how we have to wrestle and engage with the text before sharing it with the children in our groups.

Kitchen Nightmares Video

Each week Gordon visits a new Kitchen Nightmare but often each restaurant makes the same mistake as the last. No structure in the kitchen, food frozen for months on end, and food prepared with no care or passion are just some examples.

What do we serve up to the children in groups?
How do we plan and prepare our activities?
How do we deliver and present them?
Who is in charge?
Do team members know their roles and what they are responsible for?

A common mistake that groups make when they use off the shelf children’s work material is they don’t properly engage with it. They serve it up as it is – I call this fast-food children’s work.

If we want our children’s work to be nourishing we have to put in the time and energy to think through what activities might work/not work with a particular group.

  • Are there any activities we might add or take away from the session?
  • Are the children in our care able to learn in a way that is suitable to them?
  • Do children have a choice in the activities they are engaged in or are they offered a set menu?
  • Can you identify the preferred learning styles of the children in your group?

learning styles

Age Groups and What They Prefer

Younger groups generally need more:

  • Structured time
  • Active & fast paced sessions
  • Emphasis on doing and less discussion
  • Variety and shorter sessions
  • Competitive team activities
  • Events they can invite their friends to
  • On-site activities
  • Same sex activities

Older groups generally need more:

  • Unstructured time
  • Involvement in decision making
  • Discussion opportunities
  • Opportunity to ask questions & problem solve
  • On-going projects that require time and skill
  • Interaction with youth workers
  • Off-site activities
  • Mixed-sex activities

Create a Session

In the same Loesje Bible Study groups prepare a children’s work session based on the passages the groups considered earlier in the session. Use the mind maps as a starting point.

During our team day we made use of online resources and became familiar with Youtube for animations retelling Bible stories along with Pinterest that is a great resource for worksheets, activities and craft ideas. We used our mind maps to help determine our search terms for these websites. This was the first time many of our volunteers had heard of or used these sites.

If time allows each group can present their session plan – and more importantly, depending on how far you get you may have a number of session plans ready to use with your children’s group.


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