A Closer Look at Sparks Handbooks

This year I was able to return to Sparks as a leader, with six boys and girls who are new to club this year in my small group.  One boy is a chatterbox—let me re-phrase that, he is quiet at first, but once he starts talking he doesn’t stop.  The other boy often misses dinner, and if he is hungry he is grumpy!  One of my girls wants to be a butterfly when she grows up, or at least she did until another girl said she wanted to be a ballerina and then she decided she wanted to be a ballerina.  One girl sticks to me like glue from the time she arrives through Large Group and Small Group times—then runs off to game time and forgets to be shy.  There is no doubt about it—they are working their way into my heart, and my life is richer because of it.

Since we are working through the HangGlider handbook together, I am learning as much as the kids are—because I have never done it this way before.  I have learned that these kids learn best if the verses have hand motions (a real test of my creativity!) or a rhythm or melody (another test!), and they like connect the dot activity sheets.  As I get to know the parents more are starting to help their children learn the assigned handbook section of the week.  One mom had her son share his “big news” with me last week, and when I asked him what that “big news” was he immediately shared that he had asked Jesus to be his Savior that week!

As much as I enjoy working with my handbook/small group, I enjoy the time spent with Sparks leaders at conferences even more.  During the last few months at conferences they shared their stories with me, and the passion they have to serve the Lord and help young children learn is amazing.  Yet, I have been a bit surprised to learn that many of the best tools available to Sparks leaders seem to be hiding from them and I would like to take some time to point out some of those hidden tools.

In this post we will take a look at the clubber handbooks.  You may have already found all of these things, but it’s the best place to begin since you have your hands on them every week.

Introduction/Letter to Parents – located at the beginning of the book.  Leaders have you read this?  This introduction to the book, though specifically addressed to parents, addresses issues such as which sections may be completed out of order.  As leaders we need to be aware of the information the parents have received as part of the handbook.

Parent Idea Pages – located at the end of the HangGlider handbook.  These Parent Pages have ideas to help a parent work with their child, mostly connected to the biographies.  Are you directing the parents to these pages?  Since these activities are similar to the Cubbies “Under the Apple Tree” suggestions, this is a great way for parents to continue the process of experiencing Scripture truths together.  (The same type of ideas are on PDF files for WingRunner and SkyStormer—see below.

Bible Timeline – located in every biography section.  Are you taking the time to help children see how this account about Moses fits together with Creation or Noah?  Part of biblical literacy is understanding how the big picture of the Bible (God’s story) fits together.

Audio CD – the CD at the back of the handbook is a great tool, especially for your audio learners.  Are you encouraging your clubbers and parents to use these?  Most kids who use them are learning more and remembering it better.

PDF files on the handbook CD, in the WingRunner and SkyStormer handbooks.  Yes, they are really there, just not on HangGlider.  Each of the biographies is a PDF—the full version of the biography as heard on the CD.  The text in the handbook has been condensed and the print enlarged to help the first and second graders as they begin to read for themselves, but the full version of the account is on the CD.  These PDF’s also include the Parent Ideas like those in the HangGlider handbook.

Biography ID Cards as a PDF file – You may have noticed that each biography has an ID card printed in the handbook.  These tell who the person or what the event is.  All of these ID cards can be printed for use in matching games, etc., and may be printed off the WingRunner or SkyStormer CD.

Detailed Awards Page – shows every award that can be earned in that handbook, where it goes on the Sparks vest, and the awards for completing each of the three handbooks.

Extra Credit Instructions – for those who complete handbooks early, this page explains how to do the review and the expectations, and is a great way to explain it to parents.

Have you found them all?  How are you using them?  I’d love to hear from you!

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