The best lessons are not what goes on in my Bible class. The best lessons are what the children take with them when they leave.
Years ago I was teaching children about the Fruit of the Spirit. One young child was in total agreement with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness. These were great concepts and he loved learning about them and exploring how they apply in church and in school and with his friends. But I’ll never forget his reaction when I mentioned that the Fruit of the Spirit should also be displayed to our brothers and sisters in our family.
This young man, moments before, had been enthusiastic when talking about these concepts in various other settings. Now, he looked at me in shock and horror and said, “What! This counts at HOME too?”
This child realised a truth that is for all of us. It is God’s intention that we apply what we learn to ALL parts of our lives.
Prayer Cards are one way to help children understand this important truth.
I was able to use these recently when teaching about Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery. As we explored the tense relationship between Joseph and his brothers I asked the children in my class to consider relationships with their own siblings. Even if we do not always get along we should want the best for them. One way to do this is to pray for them.
I supplied paper, scissors and pens. As we talked about our siblings we wrote their names on cards. In class we prayed for each one. Then, the children took the cards home so they could remember to pray for their siblings.
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
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?
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!”