Jesus Without Language

Kid's Ministry & Sunday School Resources

Preparing to Teach : Servant David

 
Servant David
 

Quick notes:

Most bible passages and stories depict very ordinary people experiencing a very extraordinary God, but this one is quite the opposite. A secret king in waiting, living a very ordinary life, is spotted as a good musician and brought before the king to sooth his woes.

Saul is taken with David, he wants him to remain nearby and bestows on him the honour of carrying his armour.

David is anointed but not as king, rather as a chosen one, the elect of God. His anointing was not meant as a threat to Saul and his kingship would not begin for at least another decade.

David remains so unmemorable to the king that when faced with Goliath in the next chapter the king does not even remember his name.

Names you need to know

 
Samuel – the great judge and prophet (pretty quiet around now)

David – means beloved, youngest son of 8, anointed king, spirit filled

Jesse – David’s dad (we don’t know who mum was)

Saul – The present king, who’d messed up so God had left him

Armor-bearer – This is a title such as lord or knight, it was literally the one who carried the kings armour and was a great honour, though not an exclusive one.
 

Historical significance

 
King Saul is being afflicted by an evil spirit send by God. Samuel had left him, God had left him and the thought must have crossed him mind that his kingship may be taken from him too. Meanwhile the region is not actively at war but is far from stable, it’s pretty safe to assume his ‘court’ would have been rather unsettled right now. The calming power of music, an idea by what must have been a desperate attendant, is grasped upon swiftly and a hunt ensues.

infographic-david-good book companyEnter David, a youngster not fully grown. Saul, who is supposed to be quite imposing, would tower over him. Filled with Gods spirit by a rush of wind at his anointing by Samuel, David is not only godly, but handsome, strong and brave, plus a good speaker – all kingly qualities, but also ones that make him memorable by the kings servants. Samuel had gone to Bethlehem with the rouse of sacrificing a cow, anointing David in the presence of his brothers. Apart from a few prominent townspeople, David’s destiny was not common knowledge. It’s clear Saul had no idea who it was he was inviting into his presence, becasue it’s pretty safe to assume Saul would have killed him.

Instead David is given a small glimpse at what is to come. A chance to witness how a king lives, rules, and is treated by his subjects. He’s here to work, his kingly qualities qualifying him as a perfect kings servant. For to him the notion of his kingship is merely a promise, not a title to be taken. Soon he’s sending letters home to Jesse, signed with the kings seal. David’s given an intimate position of Armour bearer, one that shows great trust and honour. Yet the irony can’t be lost, the most direct preparation for his kingship comes through the lowliest of reasons – while being the youngest and least important son sent to guard the sheep, he had taken his harp or lyre to pass the hours. David who sings to his lambs and serenades the hillsides is now playing those same tunes for the most powerful man in his world.

Then the passage ends, leaving us thinking that Saul had come to love David, to give him a permanent position… but that’s not the case. The next chapter starts and David is back to being a shepherd and when David fights the Goliath Saul is unsure of his identity. It’s a point of contention, some claim David would have been brought into a darkened tent with a confused king, too deluded to really comprehend the musician, others argue the early stories of David are by no means in chronological order. More simple arguments wonder if David had aged and would look different from a distance, perhaps Saul had grown tired of David’s songs of a God who had abandoned the king, perhaps the evil spirit had calmed and David was called upon less frequently of late. Whatever the reason Saul and David are not so close as chapter 16 alone may lead one to believe.

If you want to put David’s like in context there is a great info-graphic by the good book company. (Pictured in small here)
 

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The danger of easy answers

pat answers
Teaching is challenge, and often just when you think you are getting somewhere one of the beautiful little darlings turns around and lands a big philosophical question like a slap across the face. Your mind whirls and whizzes trying to find an answer you can fit into a sentence or two as you watch the crowd of faces light up with recognition of a major flaw in your teaching or even worse switch off completely. Working on your feet you feel like you have 3 options:

1. Try and say something to placate the child, hoping them don’t ask for details.
2. Tell the child that’s a big question and you’ll like a minute to think about the answer, then either revisit it or more likely forget.
3. Distract the children with a new activity.


There are specific courses run for explaining apologetics to kids, the web is full of one sentence answers, and yet I find them hugely dangerous. Many teens dismiss easy answers when faith stops producing them, they relegate God to Santa and the tooth fairy and other things that have just as daft reasoning behind them.

Take for example the age old question ‘why did God create the world’. Some say ‘he wanted the company’ more scripturally based answers are ‘for his glory’ (psalm 19) ‘because he loved us’ (Jeremiah 31) ‘because we were part of his plan’ (Ephesians 6) or ‘to do his work’ (Ephesians 2). None of them are really sufficient, the logic is incomplete at best. If I was really pressed for scripture I’d go with Isaiah:
“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom” (Isaiah 40:28).

It’s tough not knowing the answers and it’s tough admitting it. It makes us sound weak, foolish and uneducated, but pat answers are just as bad. We are blessed to be in relationship with a God too big for answers but willing to make himself small enough for us to ask. We should not be afraid of the words ‘I don’t know‘, because you can always follow them with ‘God is a mystery, faith is believing even when you can’t find the answers, because you know enough answers to not need to know them all.’ Teaching youngsters to see God as the greatest of mysteries to discover, is a gift we have been given and one we should not squander with pat answers.
 

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Preparing to Teach : Life of Samson

 
Preparing to Teach : Life of Samson
 

Quick notes:

God has been quiet for 40 years. his people have turned away from him and to their eyes he has abandoned them

The israelites are occupied people, terrorised and controlled by the philistines that surround them

The main problem they face is the problem of the underdog, they are weak and can’t amass armies while being occupied.

However, this is not a totally volatile time, Samsons choice of a wife from the Philistines is frowned upon but accepted on both sides.

Samson’s story is a mirror to the story of Jesus in many ways, but Samson was the warrior the Jews expected not the humble saviour they received.

Samson was in many ways weak, and his actions are truly appalling, he is not a hero to imitate.

Names you need to know

 
Manoah – Father, questioner, needs reassurance but wants to do right.

Manoah’s wife – name-less yet initial revelation

Samson – nazarite, headstrong, at times unwittingly manipulated by God

Delilah – name means worshipper, probably a high end prostitute.
 

Historical significance

 
Israel has fallen away from God, and in response God has gone quiet. Before there were Judges, people who literally held court and judged, judged the arguments, judged the ideas, judged the religion. While some were noteworthy the last few before Samson are pretty unremarkable, or at least the bible remarks very little about them.

During the time of silence the Israelites have been on the receiving end of neighbouring nations wishes. The Philistines have come and pillaged, subdued, and basically run amok. The parallels to the Roman empire at the time of Jesus are blazingly obvious.

There are often sections to a story and Samsons has 5.
1. The conception,
2. The riddle,
3. The consequences,
4. The betrayal and
5. The redemption.


While sections 2,4 and 5 lend themselves best to storytelling, section 1 is crucial. Without first examining the place and purpose of Samson’s life the falling of the temple looks like a desperate act made by a man who has nothing left to lose. The whole thing about the riddle and the burning foxes is, to some extent, Samson having a temper tantrum and is actually much harder to teach an applicable lesson around. What it does do is show the neighbouring nations that these Israelites are no longer a pushover and gives a platform for Samson to be a judge, which he does for 20 years before meeting Delilah.
 

Thoughts

 

The bible is a wonderful book, full of drama and battles, full of sorrow, struggles, and consequences for foolishness. It’s a real time tale of a struggling people and their developing relationship with a deity. At many times it’s downright bloody and never more so than when you take a single story out of the whole narrative.

The story of Samson has its fair share of rather grisly solutions. For some groups this is a selling point, a little bit of nasty wrapped up in a story where the good guys win, a familiar and often popular format.

If I could have changed one thing about my own church education as a child, it would have been to learn more acceptance and less judgement. In many Old Testament stories God’s people resort to violence, and while not all fights can be resolved with words, it’s not actions we want our kids to imitate. We need to mix that message with the acceptance of Jesus, the willingness to welcome all, the gentiles meeting the pureness of the Jews and sharing communion.

Our challenge with stories such as these is to get past the drama, gore, good guy verses bad guy and paint a wider picture. Ask “Why did God allow this to happen?”, we know God can do these things, his power is boundless, but the real crux is the why. Samson’s life was a message to the Philistines, a message that God is powerful and will protect his people, even if Samson was less of a polite letter and more a sledgehammer through the front door.

 

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Little James

 
James-less-blogThere is a beautiful disconnect between our aspirations and our reality. We aspire to greatness, to leave a legacy, to make a name for ourselves, and yet humility and service don’t come with glowing awards. Indeed the greatest of saints will probably be people we have never heard the slightest utterance of their deeds, nor whispers of their names.

The lesson of James “the minor”, “the little”, “the lesser”, or “the younger” is probably the most vivid example of this. There must have been a great reason for Jesus to chose this man over the others who accompanied their party, but the reason remains obsured. Little James, perhaps younger, perhaps shorter, was by no means truly ‘lesser’ because his story is untold, it may actually be the case that his contribution was greater, we will never know.

We know so little. There was a James, that was not John’s brother, amongst the 12, all Gospel accounts clearly agree on this. Plus, there were others Jesus could have chosen, for Jesus chose, inferring a larger party. This is confirmed when Judas has exited himself from the picture and the disciples chose a replacement for him. We know that James “the great”, brother to John, was a more compelling figure in the group, indeed that James is part of Jesus’ inner circle… but this James, apart from his name and possibly his fathers, we hear no word.

So why should we take a session of our precious time to study a man who is rather unknown?
Firstly there are 12 disciples, they all deserve our attention. Secondly, if you examine the people you have met in your journeys who have shown Christ to you, will probably find more obscure than famous characters. Thirdly, blank spaces fascinate people, especially children, it lets their imagine come to the foreground.

Do join me in the coming weeks building a session to look at the possibilities, examine the reasons for Jesus choosing 12, imagine the purpose of choosing this James – what did he bring to the table, you never know, perhaps that was his speciality and he was the groups chef?
 

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Preparing to Teach : The Apostles

 
Preparing to Teach : The Apostles
 

Quick notes:

The 12 were ordinary men, all would have learnt scripture in school but none had been selected by a rabbi as an exceptional student to carry on their studies.

There were no volunteers, Jesus chose these 12, which suggests there was more.
The number 12 is so key in Jewish symbolism that after Judas died the apostles felt compelled to replace him.

While most would have been seen as poor in their Jewish devotions, others were noticeably devote.

Many had strong social, political, and religious views and expectations when they came to Jesus.

It’s believed many were teenagers, young and impulsive, malleable to new ideas but headstrong and stubborn in accepting them.

Names you need to know

 
Peter (Simon) – Probably the most vocal, impulsive, emotional and well known disciples, Simon is renamed Peter (the rock) by Jesus and goes onto be the sort of leader of the pack.

James & John – These brothers are called the sons of thunder by Jesus, over excitable and fiery they form the inner circle with Peter and seem glued to Jesus’s side.

Andrew – Leaving John the Baptist, Andrew seeks greater truth in Jesus, while brother to Simon-Peter, Andrew is much less impulsive and outspoken than his fellow Galilean fishermen.

Philip – Is clearly a seeker and will pull people into the discussion, inviting Nathaniel into the crowd. Not to be confused with Philip the deacon who met the eunuch.

Thomas – Is a man of declarations, be they boldly supportive, deeply theological, or famously doubtful, he’s the first to grasp that Jesus is fully God.

Nathaniel – Is a devout Israelite, a true Jew whose faith is very much alive and makes him able to see Jesus for who is really is, the messiah, right from the beginning.

Matthew – Longs to be accepted and loved, something he would never get being a tax collector, he sees an opportunity in Jesus’ invitation and doesn’t hesitate to leave it all behind.

Little James – James the less or the little is probably the most obscure of all the disciples, but Jesus did not always choose the dramatic and some stories are untold.

Simon – Another man of strong convictions, a Zealot defending tradition and Jewishness, to be in a crowd with the tax collector Matthew shows how Jesus would include all in his kingdom.

Jude – Sometimes called Judas or Thaddeus, he wasn’t very outspoken but may have shared some of Simons strong beliefs. Some people believe he wrote the epistle Jude.

Judas – The money keeper and betrayer, it’s the 20 pieces of silver and kiss Judas will always be remembered for, the only disciple not to see Jesus resurrected.
 

Historical significance

 
These 12 brash, uncouth, foolish, brave, but importantly ordinary men were chosen by Jesus himself as his top team. The number 12 was hugely significant, signalling completeness in scriptures. The 12 tribes of Israel represented the whole of God’s chosen people, and so for Jesus to chose only 12 of his crowd was to symbolically show he was there for the whole of the Jewish nation. In acts Judas is replaced with Matthias to continue this idea.

ApostlesUnlike some other biblical heroes, the Apostles stories are usually a bi-product, a means to illustrating a greater lesson, and for some their presence in the list is the greatest fact we can verify about them. For evangelicals the titbits of information can’t be bumped out with church tradition, though whatever your perspective on the validity of the non-biblical accounts it’s usually worth taking a look at.

These 12 men were chosen, there were no volunteers and their status as chosen lead to persecution for many. They accepted a role with no security, no pay, and often involving abandoning family. While the risks were great, and the sacrifice total, in return these 12 had an intensive discipleship course, at times having hidden meaning revealed to them while the rest of the crowd were left to ponder. As well as being sent out as part of the 70, and commissioned by the resurrected Christ, they were witness to countless miracles and the arrival of Pentecost. Many were martyred and some went on to write scripture.

Taking a closer look at the list reveals that they were neither all Galilean, nor all fishermen as they are often portrayed. Rather than gormless teens looking for something to do, most had careers they abandoned and were actively searching for a deeper truth. Many came to Jesus with a strong faith and firm opinions. The world they lived in was in turmoil, the religious groups torn between appeasing the empire that detested their religion, and fighting against it. Some were part of these groups, some on opposite sides. While elements of the Roman world shaped the early church, they met Jesus as an oppressed people dreaming of a ‘Messiah’, a great warrior who would rescue his people from it’s clutches. Jesus turned their dreams on their heads and seemed to spend significant time confusing their preconceived ideas.
 

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10 things to consider when teaching Holy week

 

why teach holy week

 

A young girl was collected from the children’s church early because she was crying uncontrollably. When she was calm enough to speak she relayed that the last time she had attended church the story was the birth of Jesus, today’s lesson was on Good Friday and it was unspeakably evil to call it good when they nailed an infant to a cross.     Another child came to church every Sunday without fail, even though they came from a non-Christian family. Every palm Sunday they waved paper blanches and every Easter Sunday they celebrated the resurrection. Later in life they admitted they had never really grasped the idea that Jesus had been rejected by the crowd, or explored the story of his death.     After Easter a terrified child suffered such bad nightmares they refused to go back to church. A well meaning teacher had decided that the kids should see the truth and showed them a movie clip of an actor being flogged and crucified. Oddly, the crucifixion didn’t scare the child but the bloody flogging scene disturbed them greatly.

 
Teaching Holy week is difficult. Some years I’ve waited until we know the end of the story before I’ve really explored it with the youngsters. Knowing it will end happily makes the scary part a little easier.

There is a lot of approaches to teaching youngsters the Easter story, and to be honest most of them involve hiding some of the ‘true events’ from the kids. Understandably, children can’t fully grasp all the things happening in the week leading up to Jesus’s death. However, which truths you chose to hide or omit from the story shapes the kids view of Easter. The regular attender couldn’t grasp the significance of the events any more than the other two terrified children. So how do we sensitively tell the truth to kids.

number-1 Do teach it, this is a central part of the Christian message, it should be taught every year!
number-2 Describe in simple words, eg. Jesus’s death destroyed the wall people had built between God and themselves.
number-3 Don’t miss the pain out of the story, Jesus knew he would face a painful death, it’s important.
number-4 Don’t teach only one part of the story, the empty grave and empty cross need to go together.
number-5 Being sad is OK. Some kids may cry, allow them to be upset but remind them that we know the rest of the story.
number-6 Be clear this is history not parable. put it in context of the 3 years of ministry and the roman empire.
number-7 Explore Holy week, before or after Easter spend a few sessions on the events surrounding Easter
number-8 Avoid blame. Jesus forgave, there is no baddie in this story, certainly not the children.
number-9 Avoid ignorance. Just because the disciples didn’t twig Jesus was coming back does not mean they were dumb.
number-1number-0 Allow reflection. This is a powerful story, giving short pauses for reflection is important.
 
This post originally appeared on the 9th of April 2013
 

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The worksheet as a teaching tool

 
Do you use worksheets or workbooks. There mixed opinions about these pages of pre-set activity, and while many use them others avoid them at all costs. If you are considering starting or stopping using worksheets here is a closer examine of the four main swaying factors.
 

The worksheet as a teaching tool

 

1. Are they wasteful?   2. Are they real teaching?

Anticipating for visitors means waste paper every week, or teachers risk running out. Worksheets can mean a lot of printing, and for some that’s just a lot of money they would rather spend elsewhere.

On the other hand, they are great to take home as they show visible achievement. Some parents like having them as prompts for discussion with their child, and paper does recycle well.
 
 

 
Some see worksheets as a teaching dodge. Print them out, add a craft or game, and the work is done. Children’s ministry should be engaging, not simply filling in boxes. There are other ways to do the same work.

Yet, others site worksheets as a way of giving children space to contemplate the meaning for themselves. They also give time for the adult to engage the children one by one while the others work.
 
3. Are they too school like?
 
 

4. Can they be used by diverse groups?
It’s true that worksheets are a teachers tool and as such the kids recognise the format and may associate it with school. For many this is a view they want to distance worship from.

Other teachers site the same reason for using them. Children are comfortable with what they know. They often focus the lessons learning, engaging children who keep quiet during discussions.
  A particularly academic child who loves to read their bible and a similar aged child who struggles with severe learning difficulties will not meet a worksheet the same way.

However worksheets can be a great activity to teach peer learning and peer support. For the children whose strongest learning styles incorporate the written word something paper based is often needed.

 


Obviously the decision is primary about your group, including the adults. My present church uses worksheets because we have very limited room for other activities, some lessons are quite literally straight out the box, and we like to maintain that pattern with our other leaders. My previous church did not use them, we used multiple activity stations, and worksheets were deemed unnecessary.
 

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My Kids Craft Essentials

 

ess-sets

 
I’ve met people who claim they simply don’t have the tools they need to do crafts with their children, and it’s for them I write this. A guide to just the bits you really need. There really is no need for cutting machines and expensive craft tools to make memorable creations with your children. While it would be wonderful to imagine one day we will all have these clever tools at our disposal, it’s not a reality yet. I think for around 2 thirds of crafts I only use the top 10 items listed.

I’ve grouped my top 30 kids craft essentials into 3 sets.


 

set-1 The first 10 are essential for everyone…
and I’d be surprised if your home didn’t already hold most of them.

 
Paper – just the cheap 80g office paper. Buy it in a ream / big packet.
Scissors – get a comfortable pair for you and a few child sized pairs.
Glue – dry glue sticks work best. If you use wet glue set out only enough for your needs.
Sticky tape – put it on a dispenser to save yourself hours of finding the end.
Printer – If you can, invest in a laser printer, more expensive but saves money over time.
Stapler – any size any shape, buy the spare staples too.
Coloured pencils – cheapest solution to colouring is often pencils, they last ages.
Pencil sharpener – get a chunky one that catches the mess inside.
Hole punch – a single one is best but a standard desk punch will suffice.
Sticky tack – for positioning, can also be used like plasticine.
 

set-2 The second 10 are things I’d hope at least one person on the team has…
or the church cupboard has in stock.

 
Ruler – If you can find a metal one all the better.
Push pin – The best thing I’ve found to score paper with is a plastic topped push pin.
Felt tip pens – bright and bold, chunky ones are good, keep the lids on!
Wax crayons – for the younger kids and to fill large spaces, thicker ones don’t snap as easily.
Thin card – approx. 140g often passes though the printer like paper but makes a big difference.
Craft knife – get a blade cover and keep it out of reach of the youngsters.
Cutting mat – well worth the extra to get one and they last for years
Cardboard – old cereal boxes, packing boxes, anything study you can stick paper to to.
Paint – large bottles or tubes of red, blue, yellow, black, white and silver should suffice
Paint brushes – Buy the cheapest biggest pack and let the small ones do finger painting
 

set-3 The third 10 are the basic craft items that get used again and again…
while not available everywhere, it’s usually worth buying when you see on offer.

 
Cardboard tubes – salvage these, get them from kitchen paper not toilet paper if possible.
Split pins – the simplest way to make moving crafts.
Pipe-cleaners or chenille stems – can be great to play with on their own too
Lollipop sticks or tongue depressors – save them or buy in bulk. Often sold in colours.
Tissue paper – get the flat tissue paper and not the crinkly crepe paper.
Craft foam – buy it in multi packs and get the flat sheets to cut your own shapes out.
Ribbon or string –thin ribbon is great for threading and hanging alike.
Stamp pad – or make your own using a little paint and a piece of felt on a plastic dish.
Fabric – collect scraps of felt and non fray thinner fabrics, in plain colours.
Fabric scissors – well worth having one set of blades that haven’t be dulled by paper-crafts

What did I miss? Leave a comment on this post or on Facebook to let everyone else know.

 

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