Improving Morning Devotions
Probably every elementary or high school teacher has experienced the following situation: It is 8:07 a.m. You have completed attendance procedures, made all announcements, and it is time for devotions. "I would like to read a Scripture passage this morning from ..." begins the teacher - who immediately senses the psychological "click" he or she has just received from the students. Faces that were animated and alert have just shifted into neutral for the duration. The teacher continues with the thoughts he prepared, completes the brief devotional, and continues with the morning lessons.
Morning devotions need to be more than just a repetitious exercise to begin the school day. Unfortunately, many students have been listening to devotionals for so many years that the routine has become mundane to them. Unfortunately too, busy teachers can easily slip into the habit of quickly finding a verse on which they can speak extemporaneously. The wise teacher will sense the overall spiritual needs of the class and will develop intensely practical topic ideas to present to the students. Some topic ideas include assurance of salvation, submission to authority, specific areas of sin, development of a Scriptural view of self, the tongue, and friendships. It is then up to the teacher to find practical ways to challenge the students with the truths of these topics.
Object lessons, visuals, and board illustrations are always appropriate methods of reinforcing spiritual truths and will invariably result in a quick rise of students' attention levels. Other commonly used methods of increasing student interest include giving the class praises, keeping a class prayer list, and occasionally letting various students give devotionals. Invite a member of the school's faculty, staff, or administration to give an inspirational talk. Use the news as a starter for devotionals, drawing useful spiritual truths from current events in which students are particularly interested. Capture attention with current school and community events which may have spiritual applications that you can bring out during your morning time.
Some other ideas for improving devotionals include the creative use of audio. Excerpts from a challenging sermon from SermonAudio.com or your church's website may provide several days of variety. Recorded testimonies of Christians are always interesting. Consider using dramatizations of Bible stories from time to time. These are commercially available and can be especially effective during the Christmas and Easter holiday seasons.
Use devotional periods to increase students' concern for missions. Read letters aloud, especially if they contain specific information, prayer requests, or praises. Take several weeks to read aloud a missionary biography, several pages per day. (Other good Christian books can also be used.) Get addresses and then write letters or cards to people imprisoned for their faith in Communist countries.
One teacher used an "Appreciation Page." She lettered a decorated piece of paper for each student. Then, for several days before Thanksgiving, the class daily took a new topic and listed at least twenty items about the topic for which they were grateful. One morning the students wrote, "I am grateful for these people who have influenced me." Other mornings they listed, "I am grateful for these conveniences around my house," and "I am grateful for these things my parents have done for me." The teacher found that at the end of the time period, the students had a renewed appreciation for the many good things in their lives.
Devotionals can be an integral, useful part of the school day if teachers utilize this period to the best of their abilities. The results of creative devotionals include not only more enthusiastic, interested students, but also more spiritually mature young people - who develop into more spiritually mature adults.
Reprinted from Balance, a publication of the School of Education, Bob Jones University. Used with permission of Bob Jones University. Please write BJU Press, for permission to reproduce this article.