image_pdfimage_print

Am I Willing to Sacrifice?

Some stories in the Bible lend themselves to crafts and colouring sheets.  This is not one of them.

There is no way to lightly depict a father being asked to kill and sacrifice his precious son.  The story of Abraham Preparing to Sacrifice His Son is a test of faith like no other.

Of course, even as Abraham was about to carry through with what God had told him to do, an angel intervened and stopped him.  Yes, Abraham had reasoned that God would not ask this unless he planned to bring his son, Isaac, back from the dead after the sacrifice (Hebrews 11:17-19).  But even so, there was a father and a son and a knife.

As difficult it is to comprehend the events of Genesis 22:1-18  they are only a foreshadowing of another time, later in history, when another father allows his son to be sacrificed on a cross.

I wanted the children in my Bible class to contemplate sacrifice.  I wanted them to think about what it would mean to love and trust God so much that we would be willing to give up something we hold precious.  Abraham passed the test and showed he was willing to go to any extreme God asked of him.  Would we pass that test?

The following activity meant a lot to my group of kids so I thought you might like to try it too.  Like Abraham, they will be taken to the very edge in contemplating sacrifice but then they will not actually be sacrificing.

I would suggest you speak calmly and not too fast so that you create an environment of contemplation among the children.

Supplies you will need:

  • Enough paper so that each child will have a few small sheets of paper
  • Pens or pencils
  • Some flat stones
  • Something upon which to place the stones (I used a round metal pizza pan)
  • An empty box of matches

Instructions:

After telling the story of Abraham and Isaac further discuss how God was more important to Abraham than anything or anyone.  Abraham proved that he was willing to sacrifice even the most important thing in his life, his son.  Is God that precious to us?  What would we be willing to sacrifice if we were tested?

  1. Have the children write or draw what is important or precious to them on small pieces of paper.  One item on each piece of paper.  As they write you can already begin asking them whether the thing written on their paper is as important as God.  Keep in mind that this is not about good or bad.  They will be writing down some very good things and people.  This is about whether or not God is more important than even the MOST precious things.
  2. After they have written for a little while then bring out the stones and stack them together to form an altar.  My class was sitting at a table so I placed the stones on the metal pizza pan in the centre of the table.  The children immediately recognised it was an altar.
  3. Now ask the children to think carefully about what they have written on their papers and whether or not they would be willing to give them up (sacrifice them) if God asked them to.
    If they are willing to give it up then have them scrunch up the piece of paper and place it on the altar. Don’t rush this.  Allow them to really consider. More than one child in my class was not ready to “sacrifice” what they had written but, after some thought, bravely decided to do so.  When they place something on the altar be sure and tell them you understand how difficult it is and are proud they have made that decision.  After all, sacrifice is difficult for children just like it is difficult for us adults!
  4. Once the papers are all on the “altar” then bring out the matchbox.  When you seem to be ready to burn all of these sacrifices then open the matchbox to show that it is empty.

At this point continue the conversation to relate the activity back to Abraham.  Here is what I said, “Of course we are not going to burn all of these things.  God wants us to enjoy all of these blessings in our lives.  After all, many of these people and things are very good for us and he does not want us to give them up.

But God DOES want us to understand that HE is more important than even the best things in our lives.  Isaac was the best thing in Abraham’s life but Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice him showed that God was even more important than his beloved son.

In today’s bible lesson we learn that God tested Abraham to see if he was willing to give up Isaac if it was for God.  Abraham passed the test.

And guess what?  Today we have had a kind of test.  YOU were willing to give up your precious things if it was for God.  You showed that God is more important than all of these things.  You passed the test. I am so proud of you.”

At the conclusion of the activity I prayed out loud for each child individually.

 

 

Let’s Dance!

Dancing.sm

After crossing the Red Sea and being delivered from your enemies, what would YOU want to do?  A seven year old in my Bible class answered, “I would do this!” and then proceeded to dance around our classroom clearly demonstrating pure joy.

Sometimes the illustrations I’ve selected and the scripts from which I read simply pale in comparison to the spontaneous responses of children who hear about what God has done.

Over a span of about a month we had journeyed along with Moses and the Hebrews and felt the pain of their suffering in Egyptian bondage.  We had seen God at work through the ten plagues.  We  worked our way through the emotional experience of the night when the angel of death passed over.  We trembled as we crossed through the Red sea on dry land with great walls of water on either side of us and the enemy right on our heels.

Now, after reviewing these events one more time, I asked the children in our Bible class to imagine being a Hebrew that day and looking back over the water of the Red Sea.  I asked them to imagine the feeling of knowing that God was so strong and loved us so much that he had conquered our enemies and gotten us out of Egypt.  My question “What would you feel like doing?” was a rhetorical question so I was simply floored when this seven year old spontaneously responded in exactly the way the Hebrews did!

Then Miriam the prophet, Aaron’s sister, took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women followed her, with timbrels and dancing. Miriam sang to them:  ‘Sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted.  Both horse and driver he has hurled into the sea.’”  Exodus 15:20-21, NIV

At that point I put other activities aside and we all did just what the Hebrews had done.  We danced in praise to God for what he had done. Never mind that we were in an upstairs room and the adults in the Bible class below us thought I had possibly lost control of my class.  (Never mind that I probably DID lose control over them for just a few moments).  Never mind that the kids danced much better than the teacher.

The fact is that we participated together in some of the most “Biblical moments” I had experienced in quite some time.

The children went on the demonstrate dance moves depicting the plagues and the Passover and the crossing through the sea.  Then, after what turned out to be a rather morbid rendition of the annihilation of Pharaoh and his army, I drew the children back in together and we participated in some quieter activities.

Once again, I thank God that I have the honour of sharing His Word with children and that so often the children become my teachers.

More ideas for teaching using movement and dance

Movement and Dance

Pick a Card, Any Card

2017 4 SPBC Students1

I had a lot of fun this week working with students at the South Pacific Bible College here, in New Zealand.  It was their “Outreach Week” so I got to share with them the importance of reaching out to the children around us.

After talking about that we launched right into some hands-on participation in the behind-the-scenes work of Mission Bible Class.  Among other things, the students prepared a demonstration video for the website.  In the future teachers around the world will be able to access this free resource when they share God’s Word with children.

Click here or on the picture below to link to the “Pick a Card” Memory Verse Game demonstration video.  I can tell you first-hand that children really enjoy playing this game.

Thanks for your help, Students!

Pick a Card (Memory Verse Game)

Wading Lambs and Swimming Elephants

2016-2-elephant-and-lamb-1

 

As a Scripture was being publicly read in the church of my childhood I would sometimes watch my grandmother’s finger slide across the page of her Bible.  As a small child I would light up when I could occasionally read a word or two.

 

There is no other book like the Bible in its importance for people of all ages.  It has always amazed me how God’s Word can seem so simple and yet so complex.  Even when I am reading Scripture as I prepare lessons for infants and toddlers I am often astounded at a new concept that I had never noticed before.

I think Gregory the Great said it best many many years ago when he wrote the following (emphasis is mine),

“Divine speech sometimes stirs up the clever with mysteries, but more often provides consolation for the simple with the obvious. It has out in the open food for children but keeps hidden away the things that fill the minds of the eminent with awe. Scripture is like a river again, broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim”.

Saint Gregory the Great: Moralia on the Book of Blessed Job, Section 4.  Click here for full text.

 

What a blessing to help lambs wade in God’s Word!  As I teach children I want to be attentive to their stage of development and help them experience God fully.  I usually have my own Bible open on the table when I am teaching so that children can see that I refer to it and respect what God says.

In addition to my own Bible I want children to be very familiar with handling a Bible on their own.  If at all possible I try to have bibles available for the children.  Over the years I’ve developed a few measures for what children of various ages are able to do so I’m sharing them with you here in case you might find them useful in your teaching and at home.

 

Infants and Toddlers

  • 0-2 Rectangle3Allow the infants and toddlers to hold small Bibles.  These should be inexpensive because they will inevitably, at one time or another, be chewed and pulled apart and the pages torn.
  • Show them how to hold the Bible carefully and how to turn pages.
  • Place a sticker of Jesus inside the front cover so the children can “find Jesus” when they hold their bibles.
  • Hold the Bible in front of each child, in turn, and slide your finger along as you “read” from it.  I usually read, “God Loves Suzy.” (inserting the child’s name)  Or “God loves Mummy.” “God loves Daddy.”

 

Pre-School (ages 3-5 years)

  • 3-5 Rectangle3Pre-Schoolers can look at pictures in a children’s Bible.  If you do not have picture Bibles then tuck pictures between the pages of a Bible before class.
  • Guide the children in pretending to read along with you as you tell a story or read a verse.
  • Children of this age can learn to spell and write a few basic Bible words.  I use magnetic letters or puzzles to do this.  And of course they are learning to write letters at this age so they really enjoy just writing the letters.  We practice one word over a few weeks until the children have it down.  They are so proud of themselves!
    • G-O-D
    • J-E-S-U-S
    • B-I-B-L-E (song)

 

Younger Primary School Age (ages 6-7 years)

  • 6-7 Rectangle3Children of this age can learn to recite the names of the 66 books of the Bible. I think it really helps to learn them by singing the songs.
  • With help, children can find a book, chapter and verse in the Bible when given a Scripture reference.  This is much easier to accomplish with a few children than a big group.
  • Depending on their reading ability they can usually read a Bible verse that you have chosen (short and simple).
  • They can use their finger to follow along in their own Bible as the teacher reads

 

Older Primary School Age (ages 8-10 years)

  • 8-10 Rectangle3Depending on reading level children of this age might be able to read a few verses in a row or even a very short Bible story.  You will have to plan this carefully if children are reading out loud in class.  This can be embarassing for some children and it does take time.
  • Children in this age group can copy verses onto paper.  These can be used in the classroom or taken home as reminders.
  • Children aged 8-10 years are often able to confidently find a verse from a book, chapter, verse reference.  A fun game is for the teacher to call out a reference (like Ephesians 6:1).  The children then “race” to find the verse in their Bible and begin reading.

 

Pre-Teen (ages 11-12)

  • 11-12 Teaching AgesBy the pre-teen years children can usually read a set of verses or a Bible story of reasonable length from the Bible.
  • A teacher can challenge them to read a verse or set of verses and then:
    • Outline what they have read
    • Point out the most important words and/or
    • Name the characters and describe them based on what they have read.
  • Also guide them to read a verse, group of verses or a Bible story and then describe:
    • What this reading reveals about God
    • How the pre-teen’s thoughts and feelings are affected by what they have read, and/or
    • What actions they might take based on what they have just read.

 

 

The Puzzling Attraction of Puzzles

Puzzling_Mitch_5294339220_687c49b375_b

Disorder and exposed edges cause us to be tense and unsettled.  We fervently scan for those straight edges to establish a boundary and begin to sort things out.  We aren’t satisfied until everything is in its proper place and the picture is complete.

It is no wonder we say we “work” puzzles.  The process doesn’t seem like “play” at all.

It is work.  Yet, even when there is no outside competition involved, we find pleasure in that work.  It is a quest for the solution.  A desire to find the answer to the problem.  Figuring out how the pieces fit together.  Consciously or not, all of us are looking for answers.  God, in his wisdom has created us curious and hungry to ‘know’.  It sometimes feels like very hard work and yet we still seek.

As teachers we can walk alongside children and guide them in the important Christian-life-skill of looking for answers and seeking truth.  Throughout their lives truth will always be found in God.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.  Psalm 63:1, NIV

A good lesson plan for Bible Class should include challenging and pleasurable learning  activities that motivate children to think.

Challenges don’t have to be complicated.  One simple activity is an adaptation of jig-saw puzzles.  Click here for written instructions and links to good online teaching pictures you can use.

Or watch this 2 minute training video below.

May God bless you as you help children seek answers.

.

Photo Credit (top of page): “Puzzling” by Mitch used through Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/