Six tips for leading Year Six children

In the last term of the school year, we often have a Year 6 leader in tears at how terribly behaved their class are. They are not throwing furniture, just talking constantly, not listening and being hard to engage. Remember, it was ever thus in the last term, when our 11 years old are about to leave Primary School for life in BIG school.

Here are six tips from the trenches to help.

1. Remember they are a big fish in a small pond – give them some extra space.

They are outgrowing this group, soon they’ll be moving on. Expect it, make allowances and talk about it – “this is your last term with us, let’s finish well!” Do things differently, up the effort in the activities and give them more responsibility. This could be anything from “you’re in charge of Bibles” to “we all help clear up”. Or ask individuals to go and support a younger group or be interviewed by another teacher about what life as an 11 year old is like.

2. Remember they are still kids – let them still be kids.

Because they are older and “outgrowing” the group, we can make too many changes. They may not be interested in making a paper plate hand puppet, but they still want to enjoy themselves. Play games, set challenges, build a scene with Lego, animate a movie, compose a song, plan a power point. They are capable. They can use advanced resources. We want them to say “This is really cool stuff!”
Adapt your vital discussion times a little. A take home craft probably isn’t needed, but your group can make loom bands, build something, doodle on a wipe board while they talk through your questions.

3. Remember they are facing big changes – give them consistency.

Have you seen their homework or a SATS paper lately? They are under pressure! Remind them that God’s love is not based on our results – but in Christ! Starting big school is daunting, leaving a secure world of one class teacher and lots of parent support behind. Church can help; we’re still here loving and rooting for them! More than that, we can confidently remind them of the One who will never leave them, and never changes. Try and keep regular teachers, let them hear you pray for them by name. Talk to them about their fears and how to fight them with the truth – learn a “fighter verse” together like Matt 28:20.

4. Remember they can think independently – let them contribute.

They are still kids, but they do have their own ideas and are starting to “fight back”. If you give them 7 instructions telling them how to play this game, you have just given them 7 ways to defy you and wind you up. It seems to work better if you dump a load of stuff on the table – scissors, glue, string, paper, felt, tape and say “make something that will help you remember how God is with us.” Some children will need more direction, but others will revel in the freedom.
Don’t panic when they say “We know all this; we’ve done it all before.” They may have heard much of the Bible taught before – welcome to adulthood! Challenge them to find the surprise, to think of the question and to pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to their hard hearts.

5. Remember they will face big challenges – equip them lovingly.

These kids are living in a tough world. It’s hard to stand for Christ in an education system and a world that rejects the claims of the Bible. They will be told lies, they will face hardship, they will be rejected for their faith, so we need to instil in them a great sense of love and respect for God’s word. Encourage honesty, encourage prayer and use some Bible notes together as practice for their quiet times. Buy them a groovy little NIV Bible and some study notes as they leave you.

6. Remember they are leaving your group – what do you want them to leave knowing?

What is the one truth you want them to leave knowing? Tell them! Write an individual card. Pray with them, pray for them. Remind them that you are still in church – they can come chat – they will dash off into the next group without a backward glance –that’s OK, it’s a sign that you have done your job well!
Love them, show them Jesus, try and grow in them an enthusiasm for God’s word, pray for them, then stand back and let God do His stuff.

Guest Blog from Amy Smith, the Children’s Worker at GraceChurch, Halewood