Tuesday, April 06, 2010

God's Part in Lesson Planning

Easter and Christmas Sundays are exciting times in children's ministry. Of all times, that's the Sunday to have a children's program and to make it your best. Your lesson is predictable - the Christmas story for Christmas and the story of Jesus' resurrection for Easter. The challenge, however, is to present those well known and time worn stories in a fresh and meaningful way to a part of your audience who has heard it all before without leaving out important details for those who haven't.

I decided to put a new twist on my Easter lesson. While I was confident my group knew very well of Jesus' death and resurrection, I didn't think they were familiar with the story of Moses and the Passover. I was sure they had never been taught the connection between the sacrificial lamb at Passover and Jesus' sacrificial death in our behalf. I planned to show the clip from the Disney movie, "The Prince of Egypt" that covered the account of the ten plagues culminating in the Angel of Death passing over the blood-stained door frames of the Israelites to kill the first-born of the Egyptians. Then I planned to have the children draw the scene of an Israelite family eating dinner while standing, framed by door portals outlined in red markers. They would turn their papers over and draw a picture of themselves with the frame of a red cross arching over them. I would explain that just as a lamb had to die in order to save the Israelites from the Angel of Death, Jesus had to die to take our place so we could have eternal life. We would finish the lesson by making homemade Communion bread.

Was I presenting too much too quickly, I wondered. Would they understand the backdrop of the ten plagues and the need for the Israelites to be freed from slavery enough to then make the connection to Jesus' death for our salvation? I prayed that God would help me explain everything simply yet in enough detail so my children would understand.

God was a step ahead of me! He knew my children's needs even before I prayed. As I turned on the DVD, several children said, "Is this 'Ten Commandments?' We watched that last night." One girl told how they were watching 'The Prince of Egypt' in school as part of a unit on Egypt. (Catch that! In the public school! Kudos to that teacher!) The small clip I showed acted as reinforcement to what the kids had already seen without being boring or repetitious. They were with me the rest of the lesson. To put the crowning touch on the morning, an elder showed up with Communion for the teachers and baptized students just as I finished explaining about Christ's sacrificial death. The timing was God-orchestrated.

As you prepare your lessons for the children you teach, you have no idea what they have seen and heard in the past week. But God does. Even now, He is preparing their hearts to hear the lesson you will teach next. A crisis might happen in their lives that makes them long for something more in life. A movie, a song, something a classmate or schoolteacher says might dovetail perfectly with your coming lesson. Parents might allude to a scriptural principle that you repeat, giving that necessary reinforcement.

God's Word says, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (2 Peter 1:3, 4)." This week, pray specifically that God will till the soil in your students' heart, that they might be ready to add to their knowledge (2 Peter 1:5). Pray that He will bring situations, other people, and yes, even movies, across your children's paths that will make them hungry for God's word, ready to learn what you have to teach, and equipped to make the connection from knowledge to action. He can do it. I know He can.

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