To build excitement for next week I left them at a cliffhanger. Right in the middle of the "Big God Story" where the books says:"something strange happened...God was silent...But even though God was quiet, He wasn't Gone. His promise was still alive; it was just hidden." Then I asked them all to be silent and listen for God's voice as we heard the song "Silent Night" played on the piano. It was one of those beautiful moments, where kids are quiet, not because they have to, but because there was a sense of wonder at God's big and amazing story.
Cliffhangers are starting to become one of my favorite storytelling tools. Is that cruel? I feel like it is cruel, because I despise cliffhangers. In books, on TV, I just can't stand them! Maybe that is why I have so much fun using them. I can empathize with the emotion the kids experience. I understand the excitement that builds until finally it is resolved.
The funny thing is that I told the kids before starting the story that today I would tell the story, behind the story of Jesus being born. Then next week I am going to tell them the story about when Jesus was born. So if they really thought about it, they knew what was coming next. But the emotion of the cliffhanger stuck anyway. By the way some of the little girls talked to me afterwards, you would think they had absolutely no idea what was coming, and couldn't stand to wait a whole week to hear the rest.
I also used the cliffhanger technique a few weeks ago when I was teaching about the 10 plagues in Egypt. I left them hanging at the 9th plague, telling them they would have to wait until next week to hear about the biggest one yet.
I'm sure at least half of the kids (who have been hearing these stories since they were toddlers), if they thought about it, knew which plague came next. But I had kids come up to me begging me to tell them. One group of siblings insisted I HAD to tell them, because they wouldn't be there next week. I stood my ground, and didn't give in. Then when they finally made it back they didn't forget either, even though that story was way past in my mind.
So last night I found joy in kids, a picture book and a cliffhanger.