I came across this at Resurgence and I thought it applied really well to sports ministry:
1. I do, we do, you do.
Kids internalize concepts through gradual release: a teacher models a concept or skill while kids observe (“I do”); kids engage with the concept or skill with lots of teacher support (“we do”); kids give it a shot on their own (“you do”). Too often in children’s ministry, though, we throw a one-two punch of a story and a memory verse and think we’ve delivered a knock-out. While the Holy Spirit can certainly use a mediocre delivery of God’s story to change hearts, when we fail to gradually release big ideas to our kids, we’ve failed to teach them more deeply about Jesus.
Kids retain concepts when they are repeated. Whatever the takeaway for the day’s lesson, repeat it—this means both multiple times and in multiple ways. Explicitly hit your takeaway in each section of your lesson (I do, we do, and you do), and incorporate multiple learning styles: call and response, kinesthetics, rhythm, writing, and more. The more times and the more ways a child encounters an idea, the more that idea will stick.
3. The gospel in every at-bat.
Curriculums try to do a lot. With the best intentions, they pack in activities, songs, stories, memorization, and more. But in the real-time of executing a lesson, our gaze can too easily slip from the truth of Jesus Christ to the tasks we want to get through. In children’s ministry, Jesus is always the big idea. Never miss a chance to tell the gospel to kids who might not have heard it, or to reinforce it for those who have. Can you summarize the gospel in 30 seconds? Can you do it for a four-year-old? A fourth-grader? Can your fourth graders tell other fourth graders? If we’re missing this, what are we really teaching?