When Circle Time Just Isn't Working, Part One

Several weeks ago a friend from church approached me and asked, "How long is your Circle Time? My kids really don't like it and I'm wondering if I'm just expecting too much."

It was a timely question as I was beginning to see interest in Circle Time wane in our home, too. The oldest child who regularly participates in our Circle Time will be 13 this month, and I could see his eyes glaze over with sheer boredom as I called everyone together.

So first things first. Let's talk about ages. My friend from church has three under five, which means her Circle Time needs to be brief. Ten minutes is a good goal, but I think content is the more important aspect for the under-six crowd. I'd recommend starting with prayer that involves each one having the opportunity to pray, a little memory work, a time of silly singing, a serious song, and a short story. Any of these things can be omitted as necessary. Here are some ideas to get you started:

- We regularly do a "Popcorn Prayer". Using the acronym ACTS (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication), each person takes turns saying something to fit ACTS. For example, I start by telling God something I adore Him for, such as "You are Holy". The next person might say, "You are faithful", etc., until we come back around to me. Then I confess something, "I confess I haven't been trusting You lately", then on to the next person until it reaches me again and I say something I'm thankful for. Thankfulness is expressed all the way around the circle until it returns to me and I ask for something in supplication ("Please help Daddy to have a restful day").

-A little memory work means a little memory work. Yes, young ones can learn a lot of Scripture, but Circle Time is the place to take little bites. We are currently learning a passage of five verses, but we tackle one verse at a time. A great resource for this is the My ABC Bible Verses.

- Silly songs include "Father Abraham", "Rise and Shine", "All-la-la-la-la-la-la-le-lu-ia", etc.

-Serious songs might either be songs you sing in church that you'd like your little ones to become more familiar with or old hymns that you know your kids won't learn unless you teach them. A lifelong grounding in solid theology can be had by learning the great hymns of the faith. There are children's hymn CDs available if you feel you need a reminder or aren't familiar with the good ones yourself. If I were to choose a "top five" of classic hymns, my choices would be It is Well With My Soul,Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, Holy, Holy, Holy, and A Mighty Fortress.

- Our little ones have consistently loved Storytime With the Millersand the Wee Lambsseries, even though we're not Anabaptists.

"Brief" is the operative word. Babies can sit on mom's lap successfully for ten minutes without it becoming too long for baby and a struggle for mom. The idea is to make Circle Time entirely pleasurable for everyone, and 10 to 15 minutes seems about right.

In part two, I'll write about how we've revitalized our Circle Time, and how even the almost-13-year-old is once again enjoying our time.