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Developing a Theme

Want your kids to be eager, excited, and enthusiastic about attending your class?safari-linn.jpg

Consider centering your Sunday School, Children’s Church, or Mid-week class around a theme. We often receive emails asking for ideas to theme a class, or develop an identity for a class.

(Click image to enlarge)

This article will:

Ø Discuss some basic considerations for developing a theme

Ø Include tips for adapting your current curriculum to your theme

Ø Share some ideas for themesBefore starting off with a new theme, keep these tips in mind.

Ø Your theme should be age relevant.

Ø It should generic enough to incorporate a variety of lessons. Remember, you are creating an atmosphere or setting to teach the lessons, as opposed to developing a lesson topic that will only last for 3 weeks.

Ø Will the theme work well in the classroom space provided?

Ø Will the theme generate excitement among the children?

Ø Is the theme contemporary?

Ø Allow yourself time to thoroughly develop the theme.

Ø How involved do you want the theme to be? (stage sets, room murals, bulletin boards, etc.)

As an example, let’s consider developing a safari or jungle theme. This theme can easily be made age appropriate. It’s generic enough to incorporate a variety of lessons. It can easily be adapted to most any room size. It can generate much excitement. It’s an up-to-date concept. We’ll consider a large room with full stage set.Where can you find jungle ideas? Of course, there are encyclopedias. There are also a number of television programs geared toward children that you can draw ideas from. Consider the popular crocodile program. From it you can get ideas for costumes, backgrounds, sets, equipment for props, etc. There are also those book offers that come in the mail. We once received an offer for ‘Wildlife Explorer’ where you receive 10 fact cards each month covering all kinds of wildlife. You may also want to invest into some tropical plant books for lesson ideas.With a collection of resources to draw from, begin developing your theme. Let’s plan this theme around a simple campsite. This will give you the opportunity to travel to different regions for different lessons. In the picture provided, you’ll see a straw lean-to, vines, animals, plants, backdrop, etc. Examine these elements. At the local home supply store, we were able to find a 15′ x 6′ roll of bamboo fencing for only $15. We could have also used it standing on its side to create a puppet stage. By cutting off a small section, we were able to place it on the front of a small table so it fit the theme appearance. There’s a small wooden crate for carrying our equipment, Styrofoam pith helmets, a large PVC pipe palm tree with wooden palm fronds and a burlap cover for the trunk. Shoots of bamboo, wicker baskets, rope and silk plants add to the effect. Fake fruit and vegetables fill a large woven basket for added color and appeal. To the right of the lean-to is a piece of hardboard painted to look like a stack of rocks to use as a puppet stage. Large poster sized animal stand-ups add a more excitement. It’s all encircled with a tropical landscape backdrop and brown burlap floors. This set was created in a small room while we were working with a small missions church. We were very thankful for our friend, Greg Lichi, from whom we borrowed the backdrop, palm tree, and a few other items. They really added quite a bit.So, how did this all come together? Maybe it’s best explained in a list.

Ø The lean-to was a bamboo garden fence.

Ø The backdrop is sheet or canvas material painted. (You can find most any picture, copy it onto a transparency, and easily reproduce it onto a sheet or wall.)

Ø The baskets were from a discount craft store.

Ø The animal posters came from a teacher’s supply store.

Ø The palm tree is a 4′ PVC pipe with a green burlap sleeve slipped over it.

Ø The hats came from a party store.

Ø The various creatures, i.e. frogs, monkeys, parrot, etc. can be found in toy stores, craft stores, etc.

Ø The bamboo was actually cut down at a relative’s house.

Ø The houseplants were borrowed from other parts of the church.

Ø The vines were made from brown paper towel rolls and green poster paper.Now you have a theme. But how do you adapt your lessons to fit the theme? It’s really quite simple.

Ø Use characters to tell the Bible stories. You may want an animal puppet to help share the story each week. Or, you may want to develop an explorer character who is analyzing ancient scripts each week and shares his discoveries.

Ø The object lessons can also be easily adapted. Consider the surroundings. For example, let’s say the lesson asks you to use a lamp. For this theme, you may want to use a torch, camping lantern, or flashlight. If it calls for a bowl, you can use a metal bowl from a mess kit, or a wooden bowl belonging to the local residents.

Ø Change the games as well. You’ll notice that the point board for the games in the picture is the palm tree. White numbers on painted coconuts were hung from the back of the palm fronds. You’ll see another example on the left near the middle of the monkey’s back, and at the bottom of the palm tree you can see some bean bag frogs. Any game using bean bags instantly becomes a part of the theme by using the frog bean bags.

I trust this article has started the creative juices flowing. Consider using these concepts for the following themes.

Ø Warehouse

Ø Sailboat

Ø Castle

Ø Army

Ø Western

Ø Spaceship

Ø Grocery Store

Ø Bus Station

Ø Hospital

Ø Kid’s TV Show

Remember, you are made in the likeness of the Creator. All of His creativity is available for you to use in ministry.

© by Gary R. Linn
Children’s Ministry Today

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