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Member Cheri posted this question in the Teachers Lounge were a number of people responded to it. You are welcome to add your thoughts.

I'm interested in hearing about others handle the gathering or opening each week (if you have one).

We gather all our kids in our "Courtyard Square" right at the beginning. Shepherds are there to greet, take attendance, give out nametags. We have someone playing music CD's and sing with early arrivals. I usually do a brief overview of the current story, but sometimes by the end of our four-week cycle I'm really stretching to find a way to fill the 15 minutes at the beginning before the kids go off to workshops!

We are using PowerXpress off and on. They do provide openings...but often they are not too great or just plain silly.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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Our opening time is really simple. I figure it's main purpose is to accommodate latecomers so that everyone arrives to class around the same time -- not to be a lesson in itself.

We don't have a music workshop, so we are using the time to sing a song that goes with the lesson. Since such songs are difficult to come by, sometimes that means finding or writing a poem and adding our own simple guitar chords and tune. For instance, for Daniel we took the poem "The Lions Weren't Hungry Last Night" on this website, made a few changes and added key of G chord progression. Or it can mean writing new words to a familiar hymn or tune. (It's really not hard to do) We sing the same song over the whole rotation.

General format is this:
1 - Greet, ask for joys and concerns
2 - Memory verse on overhead projector
3 - Song on overhead projector
4 - Offering & Prayer
5 - Dismiss to classes

Our opening time is pretty simple as well. However, we did find that all the kids congregating in the same room at the same time was a little overwhelming for our 1st graders and for visitors. This is what we do: Each grade gathers in a different workshop room and is greeted by their shepherd. The shepherd uses this time for relationship building. Once most of the kids have arrived, the shepherd bring their grade to the gathering room. The kids sing 2-3 songs, have a prayer and collect offering. Then they are dismissed by grade to their workshop. This has made things much smoother for us. Hope this helps! Smile
In addition to our Sunday school songs, we use our gathering time to preview hymns we will sing in worship. This way especially the very young will at least have those in their ears and will begin to be able to participate -- even if they can't yet read. We also have a list of child-friendly hymns which we try to keep in front of our pastor. These usually have simpler language and repetitive refrains.
We do a 15 min. opening with all the kids together. This is our time to learn new songs, work on memory verses, or work on anything we may be presenting as a group during worship on a future Sunday. We also collect offering for the year's mission project, celebrate birthdays and cover any other announcements. We might intoduce the topic if it's the beginning of a rotation and will sometimes ask follow up questions on subsequent Sundays, but it's always very brief. Sometimes 15 min isn't enough time!
We keep our opening very simple also. The first Sunday of the month we introduce the theme for that month and the following Sundays we will mention the theme and ask a couple questions related to the theme. Every Sunday we go over that months memory verse and we sing a couple of songs that go along with our theme for the month and take a missions collection.
This is our first Sunday so we are not sure if it will work yet, but we intend to open with prayer and maybe some praise songs while we take an offering. Then have a different story teller each week to tell the story. The first week we want to concentrate on finding the story and reading it from the Bible. The next week we want one of our members, who has a wonderful flannel board with peices from the whole bible in it to tell the story. The next week we may let the older kids do a skit or puppets or our clowns (we have a clown ministry) may tell the story, or we may have someone dress in character and tell the story. The last week (our rotations are 4 weeks long) we want the kids to tell us the story. While this is happening we will also take role- since we are a very small church we can do this while the kids are busy listening to the story. We'll see if this works well. If not we will make adjustments.

I know what you mean, We have a scheduled gathering time that goes like this:


We do several different things, a quick skit (involving older youth) pertaining to the lesson or giving a modern perspective on the lesson. Read a quick story, either written by us or a good book from the library. We have had the older children come up and do charades (out of a specified selections) or if possible an adult Show and Tell.

One Sunday we did Bibles, we got a 150-year-old Bible, the Pastor's first Bible, a Norwegen with a translation to English 85-year-old Bible from an immigrant grandfather, You could have hear a pin drop when we did this one. We make a request in our newsletter/bulletin and pray, this Sunday I am trying a 5-minute experiment.
I really like the Gathering Time. It sets the children in the mode to learn, gives the Area Disciples (leaders) a chance to get in the right frame of mind, offers opportunities to show a way to incorporate a lesson into real life and gets them use to sitting in a large group. Some Sundays over 100 children in one session, and yes, the latecomers don't mind joining the group when they are still in Fellowship Hall.

P. S. If they get too noises we do a rhythm clap so they know to quiet down.
1 - 2,1 2 3 We have the children repeat this clap as a sign to quiet down.

Hope you find this useful
In God's Service,

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
We don't do regular gathering times during the school year, but in the summer we do. One thing we tried this year that really went over well was to do Gathering Time Games. It really encouraged the kids to get there on time, because as soon as the first kids arrived, we started. I made some simple games to review the memory verse, or downloaded images to make matching card games (what was really fun was to make two sets of these and hide them around the room -- kids had to find them and then find the match -- then we talked about how the pictures fit into the story). We played review the story with our game wheel spinner, did sculpt the story with clay and just something a bit different each week. You might want to try some games, especially toward the end of the rotation when you are coming up dry....

The opening. Our children meet with shepherds in the station they will spend that sunday. The shepherd has 10 minutes to met and greet the children, Either read the scriptures or tell what they will be studying that week. Prayer, prayer needs, pass out name tags, then it is turned over to the Station Leader. So far this is working out.

Our children attend a few minutes of the adult worship service and have a "Children's Moments" time with our pastor. Following this, they go next door to our "chapel" (which was our main church until we built a new sanctuary two years ago). Because the age range of the kids is 2 to 12, we keep the gathering short and more worshipful.

Here's what we do:

1) Sing a song (either related to our current rotation or one from our camp songbook). The kids(usually 50-60)have just run over from the sanctuary, so they are energetic and need to sing before they can listen.

2) Acknowledge birthdays by bringing birthday girls/boys up to the front of the chapel and singing "Happy Birthday". They are given a birthday bookmark.

3) BRIEF review of the story from the current rotation (sometimes as short as one sentence since the little ones make a lot of noise and it's difficult to talk for long).

4) 6th graders read the Bible verse, which is printed on banner paper (and laminated to last the whole rotation) and held up for all to see and read along.

5) 6th graders take offering (we sing an additional song while the plates are being passed to reduce noise).

6) Prayer

7) Dismissal, youngest to oldest leave with their respective shepherds.

Also: One time each rotation we do something special. We like to start each rotation with a very short (1-2 minute) drama presentation in which a youth or adult volunteer dresses up like a Bible character and gives a brief blurb about his/her life with a first person narrative. The kids love to see these people surprise them and walk through the door!

We have also had people from our choirs come to do special music or to accompany the children on piano or guitar.

Managing the chaos: We use a sign language "L" for our "Listen" signal and it works (sometimes). We also focus on moving swiftly between activities.

Staffing: There is a Children's Worship Service Coordinator who manages the schedule. There is a group of volunteers who rotate through, most leading the CWS one Sunday a month.

Future Plans: We will have our 6th graders lead the Children's Worship Service once or twice a rotation in order to boost their leadership skills and give this age-group a special activity to call their own. They will have an adult back-up for support.

Our chapel is a historic landmark with beautiful stained glass windows. The children love this space and I can't imagine starting off our Sundays any other way.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

We gather all the grades (K-5) in one room for 15 minutes.

We don't have a music workshop, so the 15 minutes is the only "Sunday School" music they get. We do "campfire" type songs - with movements.  

BTW: This is a great opportunity to incorporate creative ideas from other workshops we are not using for the story this month. We'll often select from Music, or a creative drama idea that's not being used.

The children are dismissed to their shepherds, who take them to the workshop they are in that day. The workshop lasts for a full hour; the 15 minutes gets tacked on at the end. This gives the parents time for coffee fellowship, visiting with others or whatever before they pick up the kids. (It also solves the problem of what to do with the kids when the service runs overtime).

The 4th Sunday of each month, the children attend the worship service for the first 15 minutes, then we have a children's sermon, then the children are dismissed to their shepherds and go to their workshops. It has worked well, but we need to make some adjustments. Most parents respect the extra 15 minutes at the end, but some just want to grab their kids and go, which disrupts the workshop if they aren't quite finished.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

We begin our Gathering Time with lighting a candle and our leader stating "Jesus is the light of the world .... let us worship him."

We have a really nice table as the focus of our gathering time. We sing one song (the same one each week so the kids really get to know it).

We have offering (2 different kids each week get to pass the plates), prayer, Lord's Prayer, then off to their workshops. It lasts 10 minutes ... it's very enjoyable and short (so as not to bore anyone).

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

We have a rather small group still (8 to 15 kids), but are starting to grow.

We start our gathering time with "The Triple F Cafe"...Food, Fellowship, and Fun! We have our morning snack (first child there gets to go to the snack closet and choose the snack for the day).

We sing, we tell each other what has happened during our week, let the kids put their offerings in our coin spinner, do a Bible check (hand one out if they forgot theirs) and the older kids assist with the younger children and TALK!

We usually discuss a current event that is going on in our world or community that has something to do with our current rotation, or if led, reinforce one of our main when we were doing the ten commandments and our snack was a "manna gathering."

We put a large sheet on the ground in one of our classrooms and let the children go in and gather cornflakes off the sheet into small cups. (It actually took three weeks for someone to finally say "Cornflakes again??!!")

Then our music leader leads us in a couple of songs and then we pray together as a group. The shepherds lead them to their respective classes after the prayer.

It is very informal, most of their parents join in, and it is just a warm and exciting place to be on Sunday morning. Our kids DRAG their parents in early on Sunday mornings so they won't miss snack time. Even the most casual Sunday School attenders know where children are supposed to go in the mornings, so all visitors are easily directed to the cafe. (Which is just a couple of children sized tables in a corner of our fellowship hall. We have it decorated with posters and a memory verse treasure chest and other stuff for the kids.)

Most of all, it is a time to let the children to know we love them, and for us to get to know them better. And also to get them pumped up and excited about learning about God. May God bless you and your children He has sent for you to love and teach.

Last edited by Neil MacQueen
At our church, the kids in grade 1 - 4 meet in the Fellowship Hall for open/close. We spend the first 15 or so minutes with an opening. We have someone at the registration table and gets new kids signed in and with a group. Parents are instructed to sign in/out their children. We spend some time introducing the story (depending on the week), saying the memory verse, and singing a couple of songs. We also take offering which supports a child in Africa. Sometimes I will do a game with them or a little experiment, other times I have read the story from the bible and had images on the screen that match it. At the end of the workshop the kids return to the Fellowship Hall. Depending on if the pastor is done speaking we may sing another song, but usually say a prayer, and then are dismissed.
The beginning 15 minutes, one finds all the K-5th grade children at "Sunday Morning Live". we begin with Steven Curtis Chapman's the Great Adventure Song, since that this the name of our Sunday School Program. This song and others are lead by a very energetic Dance instructor who creates actions. The words are on a power-point so anyone can join in singing and the music is played through an audio system that fills the entire room. We are in a large community room, that duals for adult Sunday School, we have an area set up like a campsite for the children & their adventure guides to join around. In using this room, the adults can also observe and join with the children. We use this time for saying our memory verse and taking our offering for our Mission project. At the beginning of each rotation, a skit is performed by pastor,some adults and older youth, which is also enjoyed by the adult Sunday School Class that begins after our opening. After the opening the children are led by their adventure guides to their morning workshop. We even have a few parents that join with their children during the opening time, which is a great opportunity for them to show their children that what they are doing is important. [The skits give Pastor a chance to connect & relate to the children which he loves doing, but finds minimal time on Sunday morning, and he even fills in when our leader needs to be gone.]
Our kids start in the service with the adults, after a couple of songs, the kids and teachers are prayed for and dismissed. The kids meet at
"The Crossroads" (our SS is Bible TREK). We pray, go over the memory verse - I will ask questions about the verse, go over words they might not understand, ask what it means for them etc. We sing one song that goes with our Rotation topic and then the kids are dismissed with their guides to the workshops. We have a small group, 20 - 25, so we use on of the classrooms (they are large rooms so we can be set up for a workshop too). Since we meet in a rented space we have to have simple and portable decor - for Crossroads in addition to the Screen and overhead we have a large bulletin board for our verse, Logo design and Rotation Schedule. A really cool fake plant with big leaves hold a sign post that has signs for the different workshops just like at a crossroad (they have velcro so we can change them) .
We use the 15 minutes for opening to practice the memory verse. The first Sunday or two we talk about what it means and define any words that may be confusing or hard to understand. We play a variety of games each Sunday to help learn the memory verse because there often isn't much time during the lesson to practice the memory verse. Children arrive all throughout this opening time and they are usually all there to start the class on time when I dismiss them to go with their shepherds. The first Sunday of the month I'll also go over a little bit of what they will do in their classes and a brief intro to the Bible story.
This was posted 2003 (5 years ago) but I'll still put in my 2 cents. Our gathering time has become a time of leader and children interacting. We call our time by opening with prayer and an upbeat song. Leader then asks all to be seated and asks what great a wonderful thing has God done in your week? The responses are plentiful from I got a new Webkin to my Grandma isn't sick anymore. Children need to hear from other children what God is doing in others lives so they can identify Him in their own. We continue with another song, offering (done by a different group each week) with a thanksgiving prayer, and a Birthday Bank (Wooden church bank). children that celebrated a Birthday will bring a penny for each year and all are recognized with the Birthday song. the money collected goes to our missions ministry., and a closing song and prayer.
Originally posted by Cheri:
I'm interested in seeing some discussion about how others handle the gathering or opening each week. We gather all our kids in our "Courtyard Square" right at the beginning. Shephards are there to greet, take attendance, give out nametags. We have someone playing music CD's and sing with early arrivals. I usually do a brief overview of the current story, but sometimes by the end of our four-week cycle, I'm really stretching to find a way to fill the 15 minutes we allow at the beginning before the kids go off to workshops!
We are using PowerXpress off and on. They do provide openings...but often they are not too great or just plain silly.
Morning Smile

My church doesn't do rotation, but I love and adapt the ideas on this board Big Grin Do you think simple word searches are too advanced for new kindergartners?

My coteacher, Frank, and I definitely need some ideas for openers. There are only two of us, with varying morning schedules, and we have two boys, from different families, who invariably come before or around 9. Occasionally they get fostered into another class until one of us can get there. Sunday School is supposed to start at 9:30.

The kids and parents come down to the room, but we have to do the checking in, getting the security bracelet to the parents, the name tags and the kids' tag (which matches the parent's bracelet), etc., lots of interruptions. Our kids are in various stages of being reading ready, I think a couple can read a bit, so crosswords are out. I haven't tried simple word searches yet. No puzzles, that's reserved for transition time between hours (towel, a book or a puzzle).

We've been doing coloring pages about the story and free playtime, but the church frowns on the coloring pages, and I'm not thrilled with them either.

We are starting to get more well known stories. The past few weeks have been chaotic - he's been gone a couple of times, the lessons have been difficult to find things for, the ideas given in our material are not what we can do. It's hard to find a time when we can get together - he prefers face to face meetings instead of over the phone.

I was really disappointed on how yesterday's (Sunday morning) lesson went. What I had planned for a "take home/in case we need it" idea ended up being the main activity. It didn't make sense because the kids had not had story yet. I lost track of time and we started the together activity way late, and that led off a downward spiral. Not what I wanted at all.

I like Lisa's agenda for opening. I would love to incorporate that into our class, haven't figured out exactly how yet. I would also love to have ideas that aren't coloring pages, but that they can do mostly unsupervised, due to interruptions.


Originally posted by Lisa M.:
Our opening time is really simple. I figure it's main purpose is to accommodate latecomers so that everyone arrives to class around the same time -- not to be a lesson in itself.


General format is this:
1 - Greet, ask for joys and concerns
2 - Memory verse on overhead projector
3 - Song on overhead projector
4 - Offering & Prayer
5 - Dismiss to classes

Do you have a Shepherd who could work with the early arrivals?

Also, check out some of the Writing Team lesson sets that are posted in various areas of the exchange. Many of them have opening time suggestions.

You could also search the board by "opening suggestions."
It sounds as though you and your co-teacher might benefit by asking the pastor or coordinator for some training support!
In the meantime however, if the two of you can sit down and decide on a lesson format that will be the same every week, and establish a time range for each part of your lesson, I think you will find it much easier going.

In terms of opening time, I am assuming you are meaning arrival time, as opposed to a "formal" opening time when all the kids are present?

Kindergarten children like routine, and knowing what to expect, so perhaps this arrival time can be used to help the children transition to the class room setting.

Word finds are beyond most kindergarten children, at least in the very beginning of the school year, but you could have some music playing as children arrive, and have tables set up with various activities that are more or less self-directed.

Puzzles are good, play-doh is good, and perhaps a bunch of scrap paper and materials for creating a collage of some sort.

You could ask the children to use the play doh or scrap materials to create something that God made that they saw when they came to church that day.

If you have someone available who could gather the children for a simple story, greeting, and a little conversation about how they are and how their week was, that is a really nice way to welcome children as they are arriving at different times.

This may be something that you could ask parents to do on a once a month basis, or once every two months, depending on how many children you have in your class.

This might be an especially nice option if you and your co-teacher are really needing that time to prepare and make sure you are ready for the lesson of the day.

Singing is a wonderful option, and you might want to see if there is a middle school or high school student who could come to the room and lead some singing time. Singing could be once or twice per month, and then have stories once or twice per month.

The other thing you did not mention was whether the children arriving up to 30 minutes early was really acceptable? Is the expectation that teachers/volunteers are in charge of supervising children for 30 minutes before and/or after the actual Sunday School time?

If that is not the expectation, then perhaps you can get some help in establishing clear arrival and pick up times.

I hope that helps, and that you and your co-teacher will soon have a great routine in place!

The beginning of the program year is always stressful~ hang in there!

Jan S

We have a check-in station as the children and parents enter our children's building.  Kids get a name tag and parents get a pick up tag that has a code that matches.  


Next kids and parents do a 3 question Bible Trivia card (size of a postcard.)  We make these questions multiple choice so that even the Kindergarteners can do them.  The questions are based on the story we are using for the rotation, which helps the kids get into the Bible as they arrive. Parents leave at this point. As they are moving into the great room students do offering. We use envelopes so that children who don't bring offering can draw a picture of a gift they will give God that coming week - something like being kind to others, helping parents, etc.


In the great room kids, shepherds and teachers sing - we mostly use the Uncle Charlie DVD's but also pick Youtube video's and other DVD's that fit with the theme.   The shepherds and teachers spend this time casually talking with the students between songs.  When it appears most students have arrived we do an opening prayer with prayer requests from the students and then work on the Bible memory verse. 


The Bible Trivia has really helped the kids internalize the story better than I ever anticipated!  We don't do pencil and paper busywork in our workshops but this little bit of time is well spent.

We have a large age range (3 - 16), a small number of students (6 - 8) and a short Sunday school time (usually 45 min max), so we have changed our opening structure to a simple candle-lighting, song and prayer. 

We save discussion for the individual lessons, which allows the leader to tailor it to the appropriate age range and maximize their time (e.g. discussion while things are cooking instead of at the beginning) but kept the common opening so that all of our kids get to know each other and feel comfortable with each other. 

We keep the song and prayer the same for the entire rotation, so that the kids know the song fairly well by the end. 

Our minister tries to incorporate as many of the Sunday school songs in her worship as she can, allowing even the non-readers to have some songs that they know during worship. 

Last edited by Neil MacQueen

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