“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!”
Recently I taught a set of classes about the time of the Judges. The background to this time in history is one of a repeating cycle. To illustrate the idea of a cycle that goes round and round I decided to use a hoola hoop.
Each week, as we studied our way through the Judges I used part of the class time to review this cycle. Soon the children were able to explain this to the others in the class. The rattle sound the hoola hoop made as it turned added to the fun.
How to Make a Wheel for Your Class
If a hoola hoop is not available then use any circular object that can be rotated and used in the same way. A bicycle wheel, hubcap, pizza pan or a round piece of cardboard would work just as well.
Write each of the stages of the cycle on thick card and tape them to the hoola hoop to form something like a wheel that can be rotated round and round.
Now it is time to review the cycle with the children in your class. Turn the wheel as you tell about each stage. (To remind you of what to say write the following notes on the back side of the papers.)
SAFE WITH GOD:
God protected his people as they obeyed him.
Then the people strayed from God and even started worshipping false Gods.
Because they left God they also left his protection. When the enemies began to hurt them they had no protection from God. This was a terrible time.
Finally, after so many bad things were happening, the people realised their mistake and cried out to God for help.
Even though the people forget God, God never forgot his people. When his people cried out for help he would send a hero (called a Judge) to save the day and turn them back to him. Sometimes these heroes were soldiers, sometimes they were very clever. At least once they were a bit wild and crazy (Samson). God knew what kind of judge they needed.And the cycle continues…The judge would bring the people back to a time of safety with God (repeat number one again). Sometimes many years would pass but then, the people began to forget again…(and this is where you continue to number two and so on).
Stories that Took Place During the Time of the Judges
Sometimes I prepare what I think is a great class and yet my students struggle to think past the surface level of the Bible story. But sometimes, often when I least expect it, the kids run ahead of the teacher and want to go deeper.
Instead of just appreciating the facts or even the drama of the story they may ask questions about the characters or wonder why the characters did what they did. They might want to discuss motivations and causes. They may even ponder over what God was up to or discuss how he interacted with the characters.
Sometimes the Biblical truths become personal. They dig deep into a child’s heart and convict them to act upon these truths.
And them sometimes, like this past Sunday, a child takes one more step and actually makes a plan. It is at times like these that a teacher knows she has truly passed on the message.
Earlier in the week a young woman and I had prepared a lesson together on the Tower of Babel using the Lesson Template. This time I stood back and she did the teaching.
First she had the letters of the words “proud” and “humble” written on cards. She mixed the letters up and showed how to unscramble them to form the words.
Then she drew the face of a girl on a balloon and spoke as if she was the girl on the balloon. She began “bragging” about everything from her good looks to her amazing skills at sports. Every time she bragged she would blow some more hot air into the balloon. The bragging continued until the balloon finally popped.
Using a simple flip chart she then told the story of how people began building a tower thinking only of how they would make a great name for themselves. God was not pleased and mixed up their language so it must have sounded like they were just babbling to one another. Not being able to communicate led to the people going their separate ways.
After this, two towers were built in class…
One was built out of large Lego blocks. As each block was stacked the young teacher talked about how great God was.
The other tower was built from wooden Jenga blocks. As we had planned, I built this tower making a point to blatently brag about my own abilities at each level. As expected, my tower crashed and the first one held.
As we gathered back together we looked once more at the word “humble” and talked about what it meant.
One boy had taken in the facts and had been convicted that he should be humble. But now, he was ready to put it into ACTION. At his own instigation he devised a way to go deeper!
And here is a seven year old boy’s simple plan of action…
“Every time I start being too proud I think I’m going to just hum.” In answer to the perplexed expressions on our faces he went on to explain, “I’m going to hum because that will help me stop being proud and remember to be HUM-ble.”
Yes, that little boy really understood the message. He has a plan of action and now, so do I. Next time I start thinking that teachers have all the answers…I’m going to start humming.
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.
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”.
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.
Allow 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-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!
Depending 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.