Sometimes I prepare what I think is a great class and yet my students struggle to think past the surface level of the Bible story. But sometimes, often when I least expect it, the kids run ahead of the teacher and want to go deeper.
Instead of just appreciating the facts or even the drama of the story they may ask questions about the characters or wonder why the characters did what they did. They might want to discuss motivations and causes. They may even ponder over what God was up to or discuss how he interacted with the characters.
Sometimes the Biblical truths become personal. They dig deep into a child’s heart and convict them to act upon these truths.
And them sometimes, like this past Sunday, a child takes one more step and actually makes a plan. It is at times like these that a teacher knows she has truly passed on the message.
Earlier in the week a young woman and I had prepared a lesson together on the Tower of Babel using the Lesson Template. This time I stood back and she did the teaching.
First she had the letters of the words “proud” and “humble” written on cards. She mixed the letters up and showed how to unscramble them to form the words.
Then she drew the face of a girl on a balloon and spoke as if she was the girl on the balloon. She began “bragging” about everything from her good looks to her amazing skills at sports. Every time she bragged she would blow some more hot air into the balloon. The bragging continued until the balloon finally popped.
Using a simple flip chart she then told the story of how people began building a tower thinking only of how they would make a great name for themselves. God was not pleased and mixed up their language so it must have sounded like they were just babbling to one another. Not being able to communicate led to the people going their separate ways.
After this, two towers were built in class…
One was built out of large Lego blocks. As each block was stacked the young teacher talked about how great God was.
The other tower was built from wooden Jenga blocks. As we had planned, I built this tower making a point to blatently brag about my own abilities at each level. As expected, my tower crashed and the first one held.
As we gathered back together we looked once more at the word “humble” and talked about what it meant.
One boy had taken in the facts and had been convicted that he should be humble. But now, he was ready to put it into ACTION. At his own instigation he devised a way to go deeper!
And here is a seven year old boy’s simple plan of action…
“Every time I start being too proud I think I’m going to just hum.” In answer to the perplexed expressions on our faces he went on to explain, “I’m going to hum because that will help me stop being proud and remember to be HUM-ble.”
Yes, that little boy really understood the message. He has a plan of action and now, so do I. Next time I start thinking that teachers have all the answers…I’m going to start humming.
One of my favourite parts of teaching is conversation. There are times in a normal classroom setting for children to quietly listen while I share a story, read from the Bible or give instruction. But, as far as I am concerned, I have not done my job as a teacher if I have not interspersed that lecture style with plenty of opportunities for good conversation between the students and myself. I don’t want to always be the one talking. I also want to listen. I don’t accomplish this every time but it is my goal to engage with each child that I teach.
This is one of the reasons I love simple activities like the ones below.
In these activities the teacher and students draw simple pictures and participate together in discovering the important words and ideas in a Bible story.
Years ago I taught a Bible story to a group of children and we began to discuss the concept of kindness. I wanted the children to understand what kindness really was and how they could practice kindness.
One young boy excitedly gave example after example of ways to show kindness. “We could take food to someone who was hungry.” “Carrying groceries for an elderly person at the grocery store would be kindness.” “We could say kind words.”
After he listed a few examples of kindness I asked, “And how could you show kindness to your sister?
There was a long pause and then, with a horrified expression on his face, he asked, “You mean, this counts at home, too?”
If ever there was an example of “the truth hit home” then this was one!
We must share the Bible with children. There is nothing that we could say that would have more eternal impact than the words God speaks. But we cannot be satisfied with only conveying a set of facts or teaching memory verses. God’s word is meant to be lived! Children need to learn and understand ways to live out the things they have learnt in every part of their lives.
One helpful way to help children explore ways to live out their faith is to use a simple method I call Things Matter. Simple items (things) from around your house can be used to draw out conversation about everyday applications of God’s Word.
Obey God’s message! Don’t fool yourselves by just listening to it. If you hear the message and don’t obey it, you are like people who stare at themselves in a mirror and forget what they look like as soon as they leave. But you must never stop looking at the perfect law that sets you free. God will bless you in everything you do, if you listen and obey, and don’t just hear and forget. James 1:22-25, CEV
In Egypt, Joseph became a slave to a man named Potipher. Potipher’s wife lied about Joseph so he went to prison.
While in prison Joseph interpreted the dreams of two prisoners (the former cupbearer and baker of King Pharaoh). The cupbearer was set free from prison and returned to the Pharaoh’s service.
When the Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret, the cupbearer suggested he call for Joseph. Joseph interpreted the dreams and Pharaoh was so impressed that he put Joseph in charge of all of Egypt.
Joseph was a man of integrity. He chose to live for God even though he was far from his family and living in Egypt, a land far from his home.
Children need to learn about integrity. Integrity is doing the right thing because you know it is the right thing to do. This means choosing to act or choosing not to act in a certain way even if there is no reward or recognition. Integrity is choosing to do the right thing even if no one is watching.
To help children apply integrity to their everyday life try the following idea.
Write situations on cards. Each child should draw a card and act out the situation on the card. The other children can guess what the child is acting out and explain how this relates to integrity. Here are some examples of what you might write on the cards:
Integrity is seeing rubbish/trash on the floor and picking it up and putting it in the bin without being asked.
Integrity is saying good things about someone when others are gossiping about them.
Integrity is choosing not to watch a movie that you are not allowed to watch even when you are at a friend’s house and your parents would never know.
Integrity is telling the teacher that you were playing by her desk and broke her vase while she was out of the room.
Integrity is telling the truth even if it means you will get in trouble.
Integrity is finding money on the floor at the library and reporting it to the librarian rather than putting it into your pocket.
Integrity is replacing someone else’s property that you broke.
Integrity is studying for the test and writing your own answers instead of copying someone else’s work.