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
There is something unassuming about a simple stick figure. It is not a great work of art. It does not have moving parts nor is it usually animated.
Yet, at a camp last week some student teachers used stick figures to illustrate a Bible story for kids. The kids were enthralled.
Why was that?
Kids are constantly stimulated by all sorts of colourful graphics on T.V., laptops and tablets. What was it that they found so interesting about these simple figures?
Personally, I think that the unassuming imperfection of a simple stick figure relays a certain genuineness that children can’t help but recognise. By keeping the visual aid simple the teachers communicated the following to the children:
I drew this for you.
I don’t mind if you see me trying and making mistakes. I’m willing to share the “real me” with you.
This story is more important than my inadequacies so I want to share this with you.
God uses me (and you) for good when we put our pride to the side.
Here’s an encouragement for today. Strive to give your best effort when you teach children but remember God can use even our most humble gifts to advance His kingdom.
Read over the event in the Bible and outline the story. In the example above the outline was:
Paul heals the lame man in Lystra
The people of Lystra begin to worship Paul and Barnabas like they were gods
Paul tells them that only God should be worshipped. He is the giver of all gifts. He made everything around them. But the people would not stop worshipping them.
Some angry men from another town came and started saying bad things about Paul and Barnabas. They made the crowd very angry.
The crowd became so angry that they threw stones at Paul until he fell down and they said he was dead.
After the crowd left Paul got up. He and Barnabas left Lystra and continued on to other cities to teach about Jesus.
Divide the paper into sections.
Draw the scenes of the story on each of the sections.
Before class begins cover each of the scenes with paper.
Remove the papers one at a time as you tell the story to the children. (By waiting to reveal pictures one at a time you will help the children maintain a sense of anticipation.)
Draw the pictures as you tell the story. This will require planning ahead and a little practice.
Ask another person to draw as you tell the story. Teenagers or adults could be the guest artist in your class.
Older children can read the story from the Bible together with you and outline it. They could then plan out the scenes and draw them themselves.
Instead of a number of scenes choose one scene and draw it together as a group.
Use other mediums besides paper and markers:
Paints or chalk pastels
Sidewalk chalk on the sidewalk, footpath or concrete
Sharpie pens or any number of purchased products made to write temporarily on glass. The teacher or children can write on a window pane. (You will want to test this first to make sure it cleans up well with window cleaner).
(for outside) Use a stick and draw in the sand.
Extra Help for Drawing Stick Figures:
Here are a few helpful instructional videos I have found online.
I often tell Bible stories without using pictures at all. My careful description of the event, dramatic inflections of my voice and appropriate gestures help the listener form mental pictures in their own minds that are better than any I could draw on my own.
Sometimes I let the children draw their own pictures (see Draw and Tell Visual Aids Made by Children). Besides being a great way for children to express themselves the pictures give me an insight into whether or not I have communicated the story well. The pictures also often reveal the child’s understanding and reaction to God’s word and I learn a lot from that.
But, if I find really good illustrations from other sources I like to use them. The old saying “a picture says a thousand words” is particularly true with illustrations of Bible events and I want to make sure the “words” the picture is saying are true to what God is saying. For this reason I am careful in using such illustrations. Here are some tips:
The illustration should be biblically correct. If the Bible describes people, settings and actions then the picture needs to depict them as it is written in the Bible. Occasionally I will use a picture that strays from this in a small way but I am careful to point that out to the child I am showing it to.
The illustration should be age appropriate. Children are quick to tell you that they are not “babies”. A picture that looks too childish for the age you are teaching shows a lack of respect on your part. But, on the other extreme graphic pictures can be too mature for a younger child and they could be traumatised in some way like having bad dreams. A picture that alludes to the event is more appropriate for young children.
Facial expressions should make sense. The stories of the Bible involve many different emotions and children study the facial expressions in illustrations to make judgements about the characters. (Note the angry expressions of the synagogue leaders in the picture above. I used this picture in teaching the story of the Stoning of Stephen.)
And not every story has a “happy ending” for every character. For instance, if you are telling a bible story that involves suffering or temptation it would not make sense for the characters to have smiling faces. This trivialises the Word of God and does not actually prepare children for real life situations that Christians face.
Illustrations should reflect the culture and time period of the event. Artistic license allows an artist to interpret events into modern-day settings. I personally enjoy some of this artwork but children are usually more literal in their thinking so they can be confused by this. For this reason I try to use illustrations that depict the biblical characters in clothes and settings of the time in which the event took place.
A few illustrations can be better than many. One good illustration might be enough to use while you tell the entire story. As a teacher you could cover up part of the picture and reveal it in stages or simply point to different parts as you tell the story. You might even choose to combine the visual aid with a craft or other activity. Try these ideas at New Ways to Use Simple Colouring Pictures.
No picture can replace good teaching. Finally, remember this…even if you choose perfect illustrations you must not depend on them to tell the entire story. Children need to hear God’s Word for a growing faith.
Free Illustrations from Sweet Publishing
The user can even distribute the works as long as they are attributed to Sweet Publishing according to the instructions provided. I’ve been working on lessons from the Book of Acts and have used the illustrations for slide shows and visual aids. I’ll include them below and am quite happy to attribute them to http://sweetpublishing.com.
I hope you will give the Illustration Website a try and use the illustrations as you share the Word of God with children.
Illustrations from “Free Bible Images”
Another wonderful resource for visual aids is http://www.freebibleimages.org/ If you have used the illustrations from Sweet Publishing then you will notice that Free Bible Images has made use of many of their illustrations.
Scrolls can be adapted to almost any lesson using a message or the Scripture you are studying and children love making them.
One teacher used them in this way: The children in our Bible classes recently learned about how our modern-day Bibles came about. First they talked about original languages of Hebrew and Greek. Then they talked about how the Bible has been translated into many languages so that everyone has the opportunity to learn about God.
They created “ancient” scrolls and copied scripture onto them.
Here’s how to make the scrolls:
Paper cut into a long rectangular strip. Tan or brown paper looks great but it is not necessary.
Brown paint and a wiping cloth or brown crayon with paper removed.
Two sticks of some kind (purchased dowel sticks, sticks you find on the ground outside, pencils…)
Tape or glue to attach the sticks to the paper.
Pen or crayon to write with.
You or the children write a scripture or message on the scroll (alternatively, prepare scroll first and then write).
Crunch or wad the paper up into a ball. Then smooth it out and wad it up again. Do this a number of times until the paper is soft and looks old and worn.
If using a crayon then turn it on its side and gently rub over the paper. The colour will be uneven and will make the “wrinkles” of the paper stand out better.
If using the paint then use a small amount on a cloth. Rub the cloth over the paper so the wrinkles will stand out and the paper look old.
Use the glue or tape to attach the sticks at each end.
To close the scroll just roll up the ends. Tie it off with twine or ribbon if you wish.
Or use for the memory or important verse in any lesson. Here are some examples:
The Birth of Jesus “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6-7, NIV
Wise Men and a Star “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16, NIV
Wise King Solomon “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Psalm 111:10a, NIV
The Noble Bereans “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15, NIV
Great Commission and Ascension of Christ “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 28:19-20), NIV