I Have Skeletons in My Closet

flickr CC cookiejan_2939715465I have to be honest, Halloween is not exactly my favourite holiday.  But one thing I really like about it is what happens afterwards.  After the big rush (and sometimes even before) there are all sorts of skeletons on sale!

Why is this a good thing, you might ask?  Why would I need to stock up on skeletons and stow them away in my closet?

It’s simple…I’m a Bible teacher!

Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones

Bones and skeletons are great visual aids and conversation starters for the story of Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones from Ezekiel 37:1-14.

I love to tell this story of hope.  This vision has the vital elements needed for a dramatic story.  The kids love the “creepy” image of dry bones lying all over a valley.  They can relate to how Ezekiel must have felt when the bones began rattling and coming together.  Tendons and flesh formed on them and finally God breathed his spirit into them.  If Ezekiel was hopeless because his people were in captivity he could finally understand how God had the power to bring a nation back to life.

Teaching Items in Post-Holiday Sales Bins

As a teacher I am always on the lookout for items that will help me share God’s Word in ways children can best relate to.  No one has to spend a lot of money or buy new things to teach children about God.  But if you live in a place where after-holiday sales provide extremely cheap items then this may be a great opportunity.  What are the holidays where you live?

After Christmas

  • Creche and manger scenes (angels, wise men, animals, Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the manger itself), pictures of Jesus as a baby, stars and spices like the wise men brought.  The obvious uses are for stories such as The Birth of Jesus and Wise Men and a Star.
  • Gaudy plastic strings of gold and silver garland can make great “treasure” when you later tell the Parable of a Treasure & a Pearl.
  • Greenery, artificial trees, candles and even twinkling lights bought in after-Christmas clearance sales really come in handy for costumes and acting out Bible stories later on.
  • You’re going to enjoy pulling twinkling lights out of storage when you tell the story of  Jesus Teaches about Salt and Light.

After Valentines Day

After Easter

  • This is the obvious time to find things like books and figurines to help you later tell the story of the Burial and the Resurrection of Jesus.
  • Since I teach infants and toddlers I sometimes use the little wind-up bunnies when I teach about Day 6-God Created Animals & People.
  • And I like to have a few plastic eggs on hand throughout the year so I can put verses or pictures inside and let the children hunt for them.  They are also great for telling the story of death, burial and resurrection of Jesus with Resurrection Eggs.

 After Halloween

After Thanksgiving

  • We can give thanks throughout the year so I’ve sometimes used items on sale after this holiday to teach stories such as Jesus Heals Ten Lepers.
  • And all of plastic fruit comes in handy for teaching about The Fruit of the Spirit.

Happy Teaching!

Who Took My Jesus?

Burial and Resurrection Craft

In two Wednesday evening bible classes I taught a group of children about the Burial and Resurrection of Jesus.

The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most important story a child will ever hear because it is the core of the Gospel.  If it was not for the sacrificial death of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead none of us could receive forgiveness of sins and a relationship with God.  (see I Corinthians 15:1-5)

To help the children experience this story I chose a craft as an activity.  If a teacher chooses an appropriate and meaningful craft then the time spent making it can be used the time to “chat” or talk about what the bible says happened.

The children were given paper plates, paper and toilet tissue to make their own tomb, body and stone to re-enact the story.

The Tomb:

We cut a paper plate in half and cut out a “door” on one of the halves.  We painted one side of the plate black and the other grey to resemble the stone tomb.  Then we used staples to attach the edges together (see photo above).
As we made the tombs we talked about how Joseph of Arimathea arranged for the burial (John 19:38-42)

The Body:

We cut a simple outline of a body from cardboard.  Then we wrapped the body with a couple of layers of toilet paper.  After this first layer of toilet paper we then sprayed it lightly with water to dampen it.  (I supplied a spray bottle filled with water to make this easy)  Then we added a second layer of toilet paper and sprayed it. To add a scent like the spices we dapped on a little perfume.  We repeated this with a few layers until the damp (but not soggy) shape resembled a linen-wrapped body.  When this dried all of toilet paper remained stuck together.
Again, we continued the discussion (from the Scripture above) about burial customs and how they wrapped bodies in linen and placed spices in between the cloths.

The Stone:

This was simple to make by crumpling up paper into a ball.
As we made the stones we talked about how this big stone was put in place and guards placed over it (see Matthew 27:57-66)

At this point each child placed their tomb on a table and put the body inside.  Each carefully rolled the stone in place.  Because everything was still a bit damp we decided to leave them in the classroom until the next week.

The Resurrection!

Just before class the next week I went into the room and removed the “body” from each tomb and put it away.  Then I waited.  Just as I predicted, one by one the children arrived and went straight to the tomb they had created and moved the stone to look inside.  Each one found the tomb empty.  One child said, “Oh, no!  Who took my Jesus?”

Of course I told returned the bodies I had hidden but their reaction to an empty tomb was the perfect way to begin the class and talk about the resurrection.  The children got to experience the same emotions as the soldiers, the women and the apostles as they each found the tomb empty.  Mary Magdelene used almost the same words (verse 13) as the children when she said, “They have taken my Lord away…and I don’t know where they have put him.” (John 20:1-18).

This was a great class!

Note: You could teach this story in one lesson but you will need to distract the children while a helper removes the bodies from the tombs.

Teaching Alongside the Creator

Teaching with the Creator

In the rush to find scissors and glue we should not neglect the natural supplies God has provided as teaching resources.

We do not teach alone.  We join the Master Teacher, the Creator, who is already using his creation to draw people to Himself:

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4, NIV)

and…

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20, NIV)
 

A student I supervise, Cristy, recently encouraged a group of teachers to bring God’s teaching resources into our classrooms.  Cristy sent a group of teachers outside the building to find and bring back items that teach about God.  (She only allowed them 3 minutes!).

Here are the types items these teachers found:

We thought this might be more of a challenge when we taught the same workshop in Metro Manila (Philippines).  The church building we were in was surrounded by a parking lot devoid of plants and next to a busy street.  Still, when Cristy sent the teachers out they quickly adapted and came back with a wonderful collection of both natural and other teaching items including items such as:

Pointing out God’s creation when we teach brings a profound richness into what we are sharing.  In the years to come children may forget a picture used for illustration or a worksheet.  But, for the rest of their lives they will continue to see leaves and stones and soil.  Connecting these things with spiritual lessons now will mean that the lessons will be reinforced over and over.

I can just imagine the future when one of my students, as an elderly person, picking up a stone and telling his or her grandchild about how the stone was rolled away from the tomb.

I want to teach with the Creator!

The Story of the Cross

Final

A great way to give meaning to the story Jesus is Crucified and to explain the story of the  Burial and Resurrection is to tell them using a single sheet of paper.

Notebook paper or typing paper is fine.  You will be tearing layers of paper so I would suggest light or thin paper instead of something thick.  It won’t matter if the paper is already written on so you could even use a page out of a magazine or newspaper.

Note: I can’t claim this idea as an original.  I have seen it used in many ways and sourced from many different places so I’m not sure what the original source is.  I’ve written my own story words and took my own photos but I used some of the ideas for folding instructions from http://maryricehopkins.com.

Photo Instructions:

Printable Instructions in PDF

Words you could use to tell The Story of the Cross

Do you know about Jesus and the story of the cross?  A cross has special meaning for Christians because it reminds of something very sad and something amazing all at the same time.  And the story of the cross is about you and me and every single person in the world.

First for the SAD part:  (Say this part as you fold the paper)

Jesus always did good.  He taught people how to love God.  He made sick people well.  He even did miracles like changing water to wine and turning a small amount of fish and bread into enough food to feed over 5,000 people.

Jesus never sinned (did bad things).  It doesn’t make sense that a good person like Jesus would be punished as if he was a bad person.  But that is exactly what happened.  Even though he had never done anything wrong he was punished.  His punishment was to be put on a cross and to stay there until he died.  It was a very sad day when Jesus died.

After he died Jesus was taken down off the cross.  His body was wrapped in cloths and buried in a tomb.

“Death” is the sad part of the story of the cross.  (Unfold the cross as you say this)

Now for the AMAZING part:

On the third day after Jesus died some women went to go visit the tomb where he had been buried.  But Jesus’ body was not inside the tomb.  The cloths were there but Jesus’ body was gone.

There were an angel nearby and he told the women that Jesus was not in the tomb because he was now ALIVE!  The women could hardly believe it.  But then, Jesus appeared to them and even talked to them.  Jesus died and then came back to life again.

“Life” is the amazing part of the story of the cross. (Form the word “life” as you say this)

Now for the part about YOU and ME: (Just say this last part)

After Jesus rose from the dead he spent forty days with many of his friends and others.  Then, he did not die but went straight up to heaven instead.

The good news is that Jesus died on the cross for you and for me and everyone in the world.  He loves us and does not want us to have to be punished for our sins.  Dying on the cross and coming back to life showed that Jesus has power over death.  He has the power to save us from death, too.

Jesus will live forever and he wants everyone to live forever with him.  Anyone who follows Jesus will live forever with him.  Do you want to follow Jesus?

The story of the cross reminds us that “Jesus loves you and me”.

Scriptures for the Teacher to Study:

After Easter: Empty Eggs and the Empty Tomb

Sometimes it seems like the resurrection of Jesus is just mixed in with the Easter bunny and Easter eggs and that makes me uncomfortable.

I remember, as a young mother, what the “after Easter slump” felt like.  The children were grumpy after their sugar high.  Little bits of fractured egg shell were in the carpet.  I would find candy wrappers and Easter basket grass in all sorts of secret hiding places for weeks to come.

I don’t want to put away the story of Jesus along with the Easter decorations!  It has occurred to me that the days following Easter are a great time to review the story of the resurrection and talk about the impact this event has on our lives every day of the year.

You might notice how shops tend to put all of their Easter decorations on sale after Easter.  How about buying a dozen of those plastic Easter eggs (the kind you open and put things inside)?  You can use them to review the story of the resurrection.  Of course you don’t have to use plastic eggs at all if they are not available.  You can just show the items to the children one after the other.  The eggs are just easy to use and store away.

Here’s what you do:
(click here for printable instructions)

  1. Collect 12 plastic eggs and a used egg carton to store them in.
  2. Use a permanent marker to number the eggs from one to twelve.
  3. Collect representative items (listed below) and put them inside the eggs.  Place the eggs inside the egg carton.
  4. Introduce the story by asking the children how they would feel if they went on an Easter egg hunt and every egg they found was empty.  Lead into the lesson by saying sometimes it is GOOD if an egg is empty.  Sometimes an empty egg is the best egg of all.
  5. Open the egg carton and begin the lesson by opening egg number one.
  6. As you open the eggs one at a time you re-tell the story to the children.  You might let them guess what each of the items might represent.
  7. After you tell the story distribute the eggs to the children and let them take turns re-telling the story.
  8. If you are able and have fewer children then you might help the children make one of these sets each to take home.

Here’s a list of items for inside the eggs:

This idea is not new with me.  I’ve listed some sites below that explain some other variations.