Monday, October 26, 2009

Creative Bible Teaching

Breaking News: Minister’s wife caught leaving church carting a suitcase and clutching a teddy bear. Speculations as to her motive are running rampant in her tiny community. (You know how news flies in small communities – who needs a newspaper?) Yesterday’s event was only the last of a series of bizarre behaviors. Several Sundays ago she asked her congregation for a donation of metal coffee cans. (Is she out of touch? Doesn’t she know coffee cans are now made of plastic?) Another Sunday, she looked like Mother Goose toting to wicker baskets on her arm.
As to yesterday’s behavior, was she:

a) Running away from home?
b) Running away to join the circus?
c) Needed a suitcase to hold all her teaching supplies?
d) An example of creative bible teaching at its best?

Kids love visual images. They want lessons that are relevant to their lives. Creative bible teaching meets them where they are at and takes them where God wants them to be. It doesn’t take much to accomplish that. A simple prop like a basket or a suitcase instantly draw them in, making them wonder, “What’s with the suitcase?”

How did I use that suitcase yesterday? I told the kids I was going on a trip so I started to pack my suitcase. I put in a pair of jeans, toothpaste, a teddy bear, my Bible, made a point that I had forgotten my toothbrush but oh well, there’s always Walmart. I asked the kids what they liked to take with them on trips and where they have gone on vacation. Then I told them the man in our story went on a trip too. His name was Paul and God sent him to be a missionary.

Visual object lessons accomplish several things:
1) They grab your students’ attention.
2) They help your students connect every day life to God’s word.
3) They entice the kids to keep coming because each week, your lesson is new and different. (What is she gonna do this week??)
4) As you cart in your supplies, you send a loud message to the rest of the congregation, “Good stuff is happening in our children’s department.

Some people are critical of such aids. Our kids live in an entertainment society and we have to wow them in order to get their attention. Such critics say we’re caving to the culture. I don’t agree. Kids have always been visual. Creative lessons have always been more effective. Jesus knew this too. Look at his parables. The stories dealt with common everyday things. Why, I can just imagine him pointing to a nearby plowed field as he told the story of the sower and his four kinds of soil.

Our kids are used to the fast action special effects of modern technology. We can use this to our advantage. Our simple object lessons are different enough from the virtual reality in which today’s youth live that a simple thing like a suitcase and a teddy bear or an archaic coffee can will get their attention because it is out of the ordinary for them.

Look at your lesson for next week. Look at the introduction. How does your lesson guide encourage you to start the lesson? Don’t skip it – consider it. Will it work for you? Are you willing to give it a try? How can you adapt it to fit your situation? If the lesson doesn’t suggest a visual object lesson at the beginning of the bible story, what can you do to bridge into the story?

Yes, you might look strange. You will definitely feel uncomfortable. Get used to it! That is part of being a children’s ministry teacher. Long ago, I gave up my persona of normalcy. If I can catch the children’s attention and draw them closer to Jesus, I’m willing to look strange. It reminds me of the memory verse I taught the children yesterday: “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16).”

So, don’t be embarrassed. Just do it. You might bring a child to kneel at the foot of the cross. And that is what creative bible teaching is all about.

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