Whether online or in-person, if you want to engage elementary-age kids, you have to think like a scientist. I don’t mean using beakers and lab coats in your teaching (although that can be fun), but by thinking and teaching concretely.

It’s Just a Phase (a book you need to have in your kidmin library if you don’t already) goes into detail about how elementary-age kids “understand the world through concrete evidence” and learn “through repetition and clear application.” They internalize new information best when they can see it happen in their every-day environment, so the more often you can connect a Biblical lesson to an elementary schooler’s everyday life, the better.

Elementary-age kids think concretely and literally, and they tend to see the world in black and white. Research shows that elementary kids have a strong sense of justice and right and wrong (which is why kids get so frustrated when a game seems unfair), and they look for order in the world. As leaders, we can help them ground their faith in God even when the world feels chaotic and unjust.

One Easter, we were talking about how Jesus died on the cross for our sins even though he didn’t do anything wrong – ever. When I asked my elementary kids what they thought of that and how it made them feel, one of my 3rd-grade boys said…

“Well that’s not fair. If Jesus didn’t do anything wrong, he shouldn’t have died for what we did wrong… God must love us a whole lot.”

His strong sense of justice (a concrete way of thinking) helped him understand God’s unconditional love for him (an abstract concept even we as adults have a hard time understanding sometimes). When we teach elementary kids at their level and developmental stage, we can help them build a faith foundation as they grow into their preteen years.

That means:

  • use concrete (not abstract) language when teaching elementary schoolers
  • help them see how God provides order and stability in the Bible and in our world
  • show them how Jesus changes lives, through Biblical and personal examples
  • connect your lessons to kids’ life experiences at home, school, on the soccer field, etc.
  • provide obvious ways for kids to practice what they are learning
  • repeat, repeat, repeat

Want an overview of developmental stages for kids birth-preteen? Check out this free printable and share it with your team!

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