Sunday Afternoon Bible Story Hour is a year long Bible Story program originally designed by a group of mothers from the Ancaster Canadian Reformed church, with the lessons written by Tessa Malda. The program is designed to familiarize young children (ages 3 to preschool) with characters in the Old Testament, major lessons of the New Testament and a selection of much loved Psalms in a thematic way through stories, songs and crafts. “ Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 11:19) Our primary intention is to familiarize the children with people and events in the Bible at an age appropriate level and with the songs that we may sing regularly in church to support the teaching that takes place at home and to prepare them for full-time church attendance. To this end, we felt that many available evangelism programs for preschoolers were not appropriate for our purposes.
2. How does this program encourage family worship?
We believe that families should worship together as much as possible. Our church provides a nursery for infants so that parents are able to attend church services together (with their older children). Many people choose to use the nursery service, and some choose to stay home with their infants. Our program is meant to be an extension of the Nursery, allowing parents of restless preschoolers, who would otherwise have stayed home with them, the opportunity to attend a second service, knowing that their preschooler will be busy, happy, and learning.
3. How does this program benefit children?
All of the preschoolers in our congregation are God's little lambs, and God made them in many different ways: some quiet and calm, some restless and noisy. Preschoolers who cannot sit still in church are not “naughty” children. Parents of busy preschoolers are not “negligent” mothers and fathers who ought to “lay down the law”. Some children are capable of sitting quietly through two services each Sunday – and we do not desire to draw them out of the worship service – but many are not, and we believe that this program also will help children to transition more easily into regular church attendance with their families by teaching them to associate church with a quiet time to learn about God, as opposed to noisy play time in the Nursery.
4.What will you teach?
Our program has three main units: Unit 1: Old Testament, Unit 2: New Testament, Unit 3: Psalms.
Unit 1 is based around the theme “God works among his covenant people to prepare the world for the Savior.” using our theme text: Hebrews 12:1&2 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us… look to Jesus.” We teach lessons on: Creation (available as a single lesson or a mini-unit), Adam and Eve; Noah; Abraham; Isaac; Jacob and Esau; Joseph; Moses; Israel in the Desert; Joshua; Gideon; Samson; Ruth; Samuel; David; Solomon; Elijah; Daniel; Esther; Jonah; and Micah.
Unit 2 is based around the theme “God sends his greatest gift, Jesus Christ our Savior” using our theme text, John 1:14 “we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” We teach lessons on: Jesus is born; Jesus as a child; John the Baptist; The disciples; Miracle in Cana; Jesus the healer; Jesus the Teacher (sermon on the mount, etc); Jesus and the Storms; The Parable of the Sower; Bread and Fish for Everyone; The parable of the good neighbor; The parable of the two sons; Palm Sunday; The Last Supper; Jesus dies for our sins; Christ is Risen; Ascension; Pentecost; The work of the Apostles and John and Revelations.
Unit 3 is based on the theme “Our Joy in the Lord” using our theme text “Sing a Psalm of Joy!” We teach lessons on Psalm 1 - focusing on praising God, who loves his people; Psalm 8 - focusing on praising God, the Creator; Psalm 16 - focusing on praising God for his abundant blessings; Psalm 23 - focusing on praising the Lord, our Great Shepherd; Psalm 42 - focusing on praising the Lord for providing for our needs; Psalm 47 - focusing on praising God, our King; Psalm 50 - focusing on praising God who rules over all creation; Psalm 81 - focusing on singing our JOY to the Lord; Psalm 100 - focusing on praising God in our worship; Psalm 116 - focusing on praising God for hearing our prayers; Psalm 119 - focusing on praising God for being a light to our path; Psalm 121 - focusing on praising God for keeping our feet from danger; Psalm 136 - focusing on praising God for his steadfast love and Psalm 150 - focusing on praising the Lord with instrument.
We also have lessons available for Christmas and Easter that will be taught each year at the appropriate times of the year.
5.Who will teach the lessons?
A group of 5-7 mothers take turns teaching the lessons. This is a small enough group that we have opportunity to build good relationships with the children, and provides us with a similar rotation frequency as the Nursery List.
6.What do your lessons look like?
All of our lessons have a very similar structure. We begin each lessons with a welcoming activity that the children join in as they arrive and for a few minutes after the service starts. The point of this activity is to engage the children’s interest and establish an atmosphere of learning, and not just play. Next, we gather the children around the table or in a circle and sing our welcoming song (and possibly some additional songs appropriate to the lesson, or requests). Then, we pray with the children and talk about our theme and introduce the lesson for today. The center of every lesson is the Bible Story. We follow up the Bible story with an opportunity to ask/answer questions, and we recite the text together. We then reinforce the Bible Story with a simple craft (or two) that the children can take home to encourage them to share the story with their families. If time permits, we may retell the story once more after the craft is completed. We close the lesson by reciting the Lord's Prayer together with the children. Depending on how much time is left, we often close the lesson with a follow up activity.
7.What kinds of activities will you use to support the lesson?
Preschoolers have unique learning needs – they learn by listening, by watching, by talking/singing, but especially by doing. These little lambs need to get their hands and bodies engaged as often as possible to maximize learning. Therefore, we build our lesson around the core of the Bible Story, and support that with as many different hands on activities as we can to make the story more memorable and to bring the Bible Story deeper into the hearts and minds of the children. The craft is an essential part of the lesson because it allows preschoolers to be active in cutting, gluing, coloring, painting, etc. Some examples of welcome activities or follow-up activities:a) songs (including finger plays and songs with actions) b) musical instruments b) play dough c) building blocks d) toy animals e) puppets of animals or non-specific people f) a felt board with pictures of OT and NT characters and scenes and g) coloring pages.
This program is designed to teach the children of believers who are also being taught by their parents to love God, and to know the history of salvation as revealed in the Bible. The lessons are not designed for evangelism - and so are well suited for use at any Bible Study sessions aimed at "covenant" preschoolers.
The program includes 28 Old Testament lessons, 24 New Testament lessons, 2 Christmas lessons, 1 Easter lesson and 15 lessons on the Psalms. Each lesson is designed simply with minimal supplies and a short preparation time.
This blog is designed to provide access to the lessons for those moms who are running the program, as well as to allow us to share suggestions for what works, craft hints, photos of finished crafts and offer support to one another as we teach God's little ones.
Thanks so much for all the interest in this program!
In Ontario, our program is currently running in:
Ancaster Can Ref church Wednesday morning Women's Bible Study
Provindence Can Ref church Sunday afternoon service
Trinity Can Ref church of Glanbrook Sunday afternoon service
Flamborough Can Ref church Sunday afternoon service
Cornerstone Can Ref church in Hamilton Sunday afternoon service
Jubilee Can Ref church in Ottawa monthly women's Bible Study
Zion United Reformed church Wednesday morning Bible Study
In Canada, our program is running in:
Aldergrove, BC Can Ref church in the Sunday afternoon service
Abbotsford, BC Can Ref church in the Sunday afternoon service
and one church in Manitoba
Around the world, we are helping to teach children in:
the Baptist church of Bournemouth, England
a mission church in Outer Mongolia
the Damansara Utama Methodist church in Malaysia
Emmanuel Lutheran church in Adell, WI
Southview Baptist church in Richfield. MN
and the list is growing all the time!