I was recently entertaining some children at a church in Texas while their parents were in a meeting. We were playing a game where picture cards were passed out. Some of the children began to complain that the cards they had been dealt were not as good as the ones the other children had received. One child even reached out and took what he considered a “better” card away from a smaller child.
Just as I was about to sit everyone down for a little lecture about fair play and kindness one of the younger children stopped everyone in their tracks by piping up with the perfect reminder in a very thick Texas accent, “You ‘git’ what you ‘git’ so don’t throw a fit.”
Oh, how we all need to be reminded to be content with what we have! I later learned about a children’s book with the title “You Get What You Get” but an even earlier source might be something Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11-12…
…for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
This is certainly not just a lesson for children. How often do we say things like:
If only I had a classroom I could be a good teacher.
I wish those other people would start teaching.
Why don’t my church leaders ever thank me?
What! Only one child came today? Why can’t I have a big class like that other church?
It is a lesson for me. “I ‘git’ what I ‘git’ so I won’t throw a fit!”
Helping Children Understand Contentment
Contentment has long been something that has eluded mankind. The Israelites certainly dealt with this after they left the “comforts” of Egypt and followed Moses into the wilderness.
In teaching the story of the Bronze Snake on a Pole I love to help the children role-play various situations where they must be content with what they have. My favourite scenario is a birthday party. We pretend that we are at a birthday party opening presents. I take the first turn and act out being “discontent” by pretending to open a gift from my grandmother and saying “Oh, no! I didn’t want the doll with the PINK dress. I wanted the one with the PURPLE dress.” (I lose all pride when I teach so I add a lot of drama. The children love it.)
We then discuss how the grandmother might feel. I carry on the discussion talking about how some little girls might not even have a birthday gift. After discussing this I act out the scene again modelling contentment and thanking my grandmother for the gift. Usually all of the children want to take a turn at being the one opening a gift.
It is my prayer that the children I teach will learn to apply this lesson of contentment to other life situations just as the little boy I told you about. This is such an important life lesson. No matter where they go and what they do in life the children will “git what they git”.
Some people treat the bible like a book of fairy tales where each story always ends with the villain being punished and the good person being declared a hero. But the bible is not a fairy tale. There will eventually be a great day of eternal reckoning but, meanwhile, choosing to follow God comes at a cost and good people suffer along the way.
As much as I would like to protect children from this harsh reality of life I know it is my responsibility as a teacher to begin preparing them for the weapons Satan will relentlessly use against them.
Situation Cards are a simple way teachers can help prepare children in a way they can easily relate to. It extends a bible lesson beyond facts and memorization to application to everyday life.
Non-threatening, age appropriate conversations in the safe environment of a children’s bible class is a great way to help form the faith of a child. This formation of faith begins in childhood as the Apostle Paul instructed the young man, Timothy:
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it,and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:12-17, NIV
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.
During a planning meeting for a holiday program I challenged the group to define the word “respect”. At first it seemed like it would be a simple thing to do. We seemed to have no problem coming up with scenarios where respect was shown but we found it hard to actually put a meaning into words. Here’s what we came up with:
Respect is feeling that something or someone is valuable and worthy of honour while at the same time showing this feeling by actions.
Both feeling and acting are required for respect. Actions without feeling are not respect. The statement “I respect you” is not respect when it is not lived out.
Respect God. God is worthy of our words and actions.
Respect others. God created other people so we respect God by respecting others.
Respect yourself as one who has been created and loved by God.
While studying the bible character, Daniel, we explored the idea of respect. In the story of the Writing on the Wall in Daniel chapter 5 King Belshazzer hosted a drunken party. Instead of normal dishes he served food and wine in the special temple dishes used in worship to God. His disrespect for God ended badly for the king.
During the party a mysterious hand appeared and wrote “Mene, Mene, Tekal, Parsin”. The king was afraid and eventually Daniel was called in to interpret the words. Daniel told Belshazzar that the king was arrogant and had insulted God. The words meant that Belshazzar’s time was finished. He died that very night.
Here are some of the ideas we used for teaching this lesson:
Attributes of God Boxes:
Talk about some of the attributes of God with the children. Each child should choose 2-4 attributes they feel are important to them and write (or draw) them on small white cards. (Below is a list of attributes I found at http://www.josh.org/video-2/attributes-of-god/)
Because God is a personal Spirit…I will seek intimate fellowship with Him.
Because God is all-powerful…He can help me with anything.
Because God is ever-present…He is always with me.
Because God knows everything…I will go to Him with all my questions and concerns.
Because God is sovereign…I will joyfully submit to His will.
Because God is holy…I will devote myself to Him in purity, worship, and service.
Because God is absolute truth…I will believe what He says and live accordingly.
Because God is righteous…I will live by His standards.
Because God is just…He will always treat me fairly.
Because God is love…He is unconditionally committed to my well-being.
Because God is merciful…He forgives me of my sins when I sincerely confess them.
Because God is faithful…I will trust Him to always keep His promises.
Because God never changes…My future is secure and eternal.
Decorate small boxes and place the cards inside. We used Chinese Take-out boxes but you could use any kind of box or bag.
Guided Conversation: As the children are decorating the boxes the teacher can continue conversation about the various attributes of God and how these attributes lead to our respect for him.
We assigned different letters to children and had them put them together to form the words “MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIN”. No one knew beforehand what the letters were going to spell so the children had to put them together like a puzzle.
Application and Prayer Time:
Continue the earlier discussion and talk about how we should try to reflect the attributes of God in our personal lives. Guide children in writing their name down the left side of the paper. Beside each letter they should write something about God that starts with that letter (example below).
A- Artistic in His beautiful creation
Y- Yes is yes and No is No (truthful)
Encourage the children to circle one attribute that they would like to be better at. Teacher should pray for the children one by one for the item circled.
Group Memory Verse:
The children will learn this verse together through repetition. The challenge is to say the verse again and again even though an increasing number of words are covered up.
“Show proper respect to everyone. Love the community of believers. Have respect for God. Honor the king.” 1 Peter 2:17 New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)
Print the verse on a paper before class.
Provide the children with scraps of paper and glue.
Place the printed verse on the table top and guide children in reading the verse together with you.
Child glues one of the small bits of paper over a word and then everyone says verse again.
The paper then passes to the next person so they cover another word. Everyone recites the verse again.
One at a time cover word(s) and repeat until all words are covered and verse is memorised.
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)
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:
A leaf to illustrate the waving of the palm leaves when Jesus entered Jerusalem in his Triumphal Entry.
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.