Teaching Children About the Church

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 it could 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”.

 

My Family

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.

 

My Church

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

The earlier quote is from the International Children’s Bible (ICB)
The Holy Bible, International Children’s Bible® Copyright© 1986, 1988, 1999, 2015 by Tommy Nelson™, a division of Thomas Nelson. Used by permission.

 

Same-Same But Different

For a number of years I have been collecting songs to add to 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.

More songs here.

Understanding Ananias and Saphira’s Big Lie

A few weeks ago I taught a class of 5-11 year olds about a very important lesson learned by the early church.  The lesson was from Acts 4:32-5:11 and it was about lying.

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.

CityCouncil-300pxI 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.

Give this one a try.  I think you’ll like it!

Walking and Jumping and Praising God!

Healing Lame Man Craft (2)

The Healing of a Man Who Could Not Walk

What an amazing Bible story!  A disabled man well known for begging.   Two apostles who responded to the beggar by giving him much more that money.  A man who could now walk because of the healing power of Jesus Christ.

Children can really relate to expressing excitement in the same way that this man did.  He praised God while walking and jumping in front of everyone.  Of course we had to practice this for a while in our class this past Sunday.

We also used our feet to express praise.  First, we wrote “Praise God” on the centre of a piece of paper.  Then we used our toes to paint.

It was messy.  It was joyful. And it allowed the children to relate to the feelings the man had and to express praise with even the most humble of instruments…toes.

Oh, for this exuberance in accepting God’s power in my life!

But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold, but I do have something else I can give you: By the power of Jesus Christ from Nazareth—stand up and walk!”

Then Peter took the man’s right hand and lifted him up. Immediately the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped up, stood on his feet, and began to walk. He went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping, and praising God.

All the people recognized him. They knew he was the crippled man who always sat by the Beautiful Gate begging for money. Now they saw this same man walking and praising God. The people were amazed. They could not understand how this could happen.

Acts 3:6-10, International Children’s Bible

 

Healing Lame Man Craft (1)

Walking Down Memory Lane

Memory Lane Graphic

I so wanted to use the title “Loci Dokee” for this post but I didn’t know if anyone would read it.  I’ve also since learned that I was probably pronouncing it incorrectly.

The ancient Romans and Greeks used a mnemonic device called “loci” for memorising information.   Basically, they would mentally “walk through” buildings or streets and associate the various locations or items with something to remember.

It is sort of like tying a string around your finger to help you remember to put the rubbish by the curb.  As you leave for work and put your hands on the steering wheel you notice the string and say to yourself “oh yes, I need to put the rubbish out.”

Or remembering how many days in each month by using the the knuckles of your hand as a mnemonic device.

I’ve often used an adaptation of this same method called “Memory Lane” when helping children learn verses from the Bible.  Kids love it and it works particularly well when memorising a number of verses together.

 

How It Works

Children follow a “path” and stop along the way to say parts of the memory verse.  The words might be written out at each stop but once the children repeat the journey a number of times they learn to say the verse from memory without reading the words.

 

Supplies:

  • A Bible and chosen verse(s)
  • (outdoors) Sidewalk chalk and a surface such as sidewalk/footpath, asphalt, driveway or paved parking lot
    or
  • (indoors) Marker, pen or pencil and paper. Rope, string, masking tape to visually connect the papers and form a path
    or
  • (outdoors) A stick to “write” with and a surface such as sand or beach
  • or any combination of the above.

 

Instructions:

  1. Read over the verse(s) and divide it into phrases.
  2. Create a path using the method you have selected.
  3. Write the phrases on separate pieces of paper (or on the surface you have selected).
  4. Place them on the path in the order they will be said.
  5. Show the children how to follow the path. They will stop at each paper and read the phrase aloud before walking to the next phrase. (You might do it first to show them how it is done.)

 

Adaptations:

  • Older children can write out the phrases and set up the game for everyone else.
  • This activity can be done at a quiet and slow pace appropriate for smaller indoor spaces or fast and loud if you have a large outdoor area.
  • If you have plenty of help and space appoint helpers to stand at each stop and read the assigned phrase with the children. This personal touch aids in memorisation.  You will be amazed how quickly children learn long passages of Scripture with this method.

 

Memory Lane Example:

I’ve used the verses known as the Great Commission in the example at the top of the page.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV)