Have you ever had a song stick in your head and refuse to go away? This week a friend of mine shared a song with me that has done exactly that.
The song is not fancy. It only has six words. It is a teacher training video and not a performance for the Grammy Awards. Even so, it is stuck in my mind like glue. Listen a few times and I dare you to forget it.
“Teacher, when you tell stories, do you think sometimes you could tell me the one about the cross. I keep wondering what that cross is about.” I will never forget that question from a little boy who attended church and my Bible class for the first time.
This little boy had loved the Bible story and learning activities that day. He told his parents and me that he wanted to come back every Sunday (and he did). What he experienced that day with us was extremely important in his faith journey but it was clear that we were not the beginning of his journey. God had been planting seeds in his heart all along the way. Seeds were planted every time this young man passed a church building with a cross on it. Seeds were planted when he would see jewelry and billboards and bibles with crosses on the front.
Seeds are planted at Easter time. Children see the crosses people are putting up on signs and in decorations. The words “Christ”, “Christian”, “Jesus”,”resurrection” and phrases like “He is risen” are uttered by many people whether they understand deeper truths or not. Many children (and adults) wonder, “What does it mean?”
Any day is a good day to share the story of Jesus but Easter time creates a perfect opportunity to answer the questions children are wondering about.
And yes, I shared the story of the cross with that little boy that first day. It was a condensed version but I wanted to make sure he knew that this was one of the most important questions anyone could ever ask.
I told him that God created the whole world and he wanted everyone to be happy and love him. Sadly, people made bad choices and that has made lots of bad things happen in this world. Sometimes people even die. God was very sad that people had caused the earth to be so bad. Even though many people did not follow him he still loved them. So God sent his son, Jesus, from heaven to earth to show everyone how to obey God and make good choices.
But many people did not believe Jesus and got so angry that they made him die on a cross.
But guess what!? He was dead but after 3 days Jesus came alive again! Jesus showed that he is stronger than death and stronger than any bad thing that can ever happen.
Soon after he came back to life, the time came for Jesus to go to heaven to live with his Father again in heaven. Before Jesus left he told his followers to be sure and tell other people the good news. The good news is that “Jesus died but he came alive again!” God says that Jesus dying on the cross means that people can change from being bad to being good. People who follow Jesus do not have to be afraid of dying. If you follow Jesus then you will also come alive again to live in heaven someday!”
How important is it to teach children to love the church? Basically, the church should be as important to all of us as it it to Jesus.
In the middle of a conversation about submitting to one another in situations such as marriage the Apostle Paul writes…
Christ died for the church to make it belong to God. Christ used the word to make the church clean by washing it with water. Christ died so that he could give the church to himself like a bride in all her beauty. He died so that the church could be pure and without fault, with no evil or sin or any other wrong thing in it. Ephesians 5:25b-27 (International Children’s Bible)
Jesus loved the church completely and was willing to die for it. Not because it is perfect but so itcould be perfect.
So, how do children learn to love the church?
A good beginning is to understand that the church is personal. It is made up of living and breathing people and is not simply an organisation or a building.
To make this point I used two large white poster boards. One would represent “family” and the other “church”.
On the family poster I drew a large outline of a house. My drawing lines went right to the edge of the paper. I then set one group of children to work drawing their families inside that house. Families come in all shapes and sizes so the picture was quite an interesting collection of faces.
Knowing my intentions with this picture I encouraged the children to be careful to keep all of the drawing inside the outline of the house.
Meanwhile, on the other poster I had drawn an outline of a church building. While the first group was working on drawing family members I asked the second group to think about who is in their church and to draw those people inside the outline of the church building. I loved hearing the children name people from their own perspectives. Soon the building was filled with people of all ages and various backgrounds.
Again I encouraged the children to draw only inside the walls of the church building. This would be important later on in the next step.
What is a Family?
Now it was time for part two of the lesson. After we spent some time talking about the families drawn inside of that house I took my scissors and began to cut away the outside edges. There were gasps because this was not what the children expected. Basically, I cut away the house and left the pictures of the family inside.
Then we talked about how our family is still a family even if there is no house. When we go to the park are we still a family? Yes. When we get in a car and drive to another place are we still a family? Yes. One little girl even offered up that her family was still a family even though they had moved far far away from their home country to be missionaries.
What is the Church?
Now it was time to talk about the church. I know many adults who struggle to separate worship from formal buildings but I was a bit unprepared for the initial reaction these children had when I began to cut away the edges of the church picture. You would have thought I was committing sacrilege when I cut off the outline of the building. I even heard an accusation of “church cutter” thrown my way.
But then the children began to see that only the building was missing and that the Christians were left inside. We talked about how it is the saved people who are the church…not the building. If the church decides to meet at the park instead of a church building are they still the church? Yes. If the church travels across town to deliver food to a family in need are they still the church? Yes.
We concluded with a reminder that every person in the church is loved. Christ was willing to give up his life for the church and we all agreed that he did not die for buildings.
How to Use this Lesson
This is a great illustration when teaching about the early church in the Book of Acts. In particular use it to teach the lesson The First Church. If you would like to teach a series of lessons about the early church from the Book of Acts have a look at these lessons here:
Have limited supplies available? This lesson can easily be taught by drawing pictures in the sand or on a whiteboard. After the children fill in the inside of the picture the teacher can simply erase the buildings instead of cutting them away.
This activity can also be used in mixed age groups of children or when adults and children meet together.
For a number of years I have been collecting songs to add to http://www.missionbibleclass.org My hope has always been that Bible class teachers who would like to learn new songs can watch and listen to the videos over and over until they have mastered them.
Hearing Christian songs sung in different countries often reveals some interesting variations to what I have been singing the same way for years. In these last couple of days some wonderful Christian women allowed me to video them singing songs to upload to my website. I hope other teachers in Thailand will appreciate listening to them and learning new songs to sing with children.
I thought you might enjoy listening to the Thai version of a couple of old favourites.
The church in Jerusalem shared possessions among themselves so that no one was in need. Ananias and Saphira saw how much a man named Joseph was admired for selling property and giving all proceeds to the church. Wanting everyone to think they were equally generous this couple conspired together to keep back part of the proceeds from a sale and yet lie and publicly say that they were giving it all. They were caught in their lie and the punishment was swift and harsh. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that lying was wrong and that this would not be the way the church would conduct itself
Do not lie to one another. Colossians 3:9 (ESV)
To help the children understand these transactions I brought some money and houses from an old Monopoly game to class. This was great with a mixed-age group because one of the older children quickly volunteered to distribute all of the money equally to everyone and the youngest child asked the child next to her for help.
I then proceeded to “sell” houses and hotels to everyone at ever-changing prices. Once everyone had accumulated property I told them about how some Christians were hungry and how others sold property and brought it to the apostles to distribute. I then invited the children to do the same with their money. Immediately, a “Joseph” came forward, “sold” all of his property back to the bank and “gave” the money to the apostles (at least the little pile that we labeled as the apostle’s money).
One by the one the children sold property and laid it in front of the apostles. It was easy for some and difficult for others. Using the money and houses we re-enacted what Ananias and Saphira did. Because the children actually turned the “property” over and counted out the money they understood what it felt like to share. They also understood the lie Ananias and Saphira told.