I have two students in my second grade girls Sunday school class who are vastly different. Scarlett is energetic, vocal, and outgoing. She always has something to say and is very active in our classroom. Juliana is more reserved and follows directions perfectly, but she’s quiet and more introverted.
Most Sunday mornings as I welcome students to class, I am joined by Scarlett who will eagerly recount every last detail of her past seven days, down to why she opted to make herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on Friday night instead of enjoying pizza with the rest of her family. If I ask Juliana how her week was, I usually get a very simple and polite “It was great!” and then she goes right into the room, grabs her coloring page, and takes her seat.
Because Juliana is clearly more shy and introverted than Scarlett, I have noticed that she’s happy to let Scarlett’s big personality fill the room, while she sits quietly in observation. Juliana seems to enjoy coming to class, but I don’t want her to ever feel overshadowed by other children in the class. I want to be intentional about including her in our Sunday school curriculum conversations and activities in a way that is fun and engaging for her.
After all, I was Juliana when I was in second grade. All I wanted was to blend in and go unnoticed. I couldn’t even bear the thought of having to read aloud in class or participate in a way that would have all the class’ attention focused on me. But I loved going to Sunday School and I loved my teacher because she made it fun and comfortable for me as she taught us Bible stories for kids and helped build the foundation of my faith through her love and encouragement.
So, what can we do for our shy and introverted students to make sure that even those children who just want to blend in aren’t getting looked over during their time in our care?
We’ve created a list of three things you should consider for your introverted students while developing your youth ministry ideas and finding creative ways of teaching kids about Jesus.
- Quiet Doesn’t Mean Bored
Just because they aren’t noisy doesn’t mean they aren’t having fun. If the old phrase “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” is true, the extroverted children in your classroom may be getting too much of your attention or even influencing your opinion on how a certain lesson has gone for the day. I have yet to meet an extroverted kid who is afraid to tell me when he DIDN’T like something, and if he DID like an activity. But for kids like Juliana, she’s happy to complete the task quietly at her desk without a single word, even if she is having a total blast.
While the class is engaged in the activity, I try to walk around to all of the quieter students and ask them open-ended questions so that they have to say more than just a “yes” or “no” answer. Questions such as, “Juliana, I love that you chose to color Noah’s ark purple. Can you tell me what you love about the color purple?” will give her a greater opportunity to discuss the work she’s doing and offer more of herself without feeling like she’s being put on the spot in front of the whole class.
Tiny opportunities to reach out to introverted students can go a long way in building their confidence and belief that they have something valuable to add to our class. After several interactions like this, I notice many of my shy students starting to speak up more and more during our classroom discussions. It’s always a fantastic day when that happens!
- Get Feedback from Parents
Your students’ parents are going to be your greatest asset and insight into what works best for their child to help break the ice and make them feel more at home. When I notice a student leans more toward introverted tendencies, I try to pull the parents after church and just let them know how much I enjoy having their child in class. Then, I ask them if there is anything we can do with our Sunday school time that might help the child feel more comfortable. Parents will be able to offer insight into how their child engages, or simple tricks to help them break out of the box a little. For example, my daughter gets very anxious in new classrooms, so when I drop her off to a new Sunday school when we are visiting friends and family, I make it a point to tell the instructor that she warms up best with a good warm hug and a lot of encouragement to make a new friend.
- Give Them a Job to Do
Invite your introverted student to be in charge of a special task for the day that doesn’t involve speaking in front of the class. Perhaps she would be great at passing out worksheets or snacks, or helping you clean up the classroom at the end of Sunday School. Ask her to help another student with their work, or to pass out or collect the books and return them to the shelf. These are all great ways to engage shy students and help them to get involved in the classroom activities without feeling like they are being put on the spot.
Teaching kids about faith is one of the most important honors we have as believers, and finding ways to reach every child can be so very rewarding. Head over to our Instagram and Facebook page to tell us your thoughts and let us know how you’re engaging with your more introverted students each Sunday!
About the Author
currently lives and works in Nashville, TN with her family and rescue goldendoodle puppy.