Jesus Without Language

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Kid's Ministry & Sunday School Resources

At home packs for families in isolation

 

Are you stuck at home?

It’s a situation repeated across the globe, families unable to get out, churches closed, parents trying to keep up with school, friends and worship via a screen.
 

 
Jesus without language is here to help. I’ve been putting together print and go packs specifically put together for busy parents. They can be run with no screen and are suitable for kids up to the age of 10 (or 12 if there are younger siblings about). I’m not alone either, other kidmin writers are joining the party.
 

Featuring:

 

Bright & engaging material for multiple ages.
A single file in A4 or US letter format that the parents can print and go.
Full instructions in straightforward language.
Based on the lectionary reading for this week (follows the church year for those who need to).
Clearly marked pages to indicate target ages.
2 paper-crafts, a play dough mat, a colouring picture, 2 worksheets (for different ages) & a memory verse.
Plus – a simple service liturgy if you want to hold a service!
 
Click on the banner on the right of the screen to get the pack and see this weeks pages.
Here’s a picture of my baby using the first weeks pack about ‘A man born blind!’ – he used the pages for preschool and loved it!
 

The theory behind teaching with Bible Characters

 
Lets face it, the bible has some pretty interesting screw-ups and God uses them all, but while it’s great that the kids know David threw stones and Balaam chatted to a donkey these aren’t exactly the behaviors we are hoping our kids will imitate. With so many questionable stories is copying bible characters a good way to really teach our kids then… well I still think so.

The pull of a face

I love teaching with bible characters. It can be a really pure way of teaching the bible and there is something quite special about putting a face to a story. There is a deep and real reason for linking a story with a specific face – it’s the way we are programmed as a human race. As infants we learn to process and understand faces a whole lot earlier than any other object. A few years ago some scientists suggested that a four month old could process a face at an almost adult level while other objects or shapes were still being processed by a lower part of the visual system!

nun in the roomShortly after Christmas my husband shouted to me from the bedroom that there was a nun in the house. What he had seen was a partial pillow reflected in a mirror. Meanwhile what his brain had so readily done was try to assign the shape meaning and hit on a face. As a race we see faces everywhere, it’s even got a name : pareidolia. If you’ve ever thought a car was looking angry or a socket looked like it was screaming (image credit) it’s because of this.

Kids tap into this almost subconsciously. If you ask a child to draw a person the head will often be dis-proportionally large, because the face is the important part they want to show. This is well studied, having clearly defined eyes and high contrast faces is a technique used deliberately in children television programs. Even non humanoid shapes will undergo anthropomorphism having human features like eyes and mouth added – think Thomas the Tank Engine or Disney Cars. Ultimately we resonate with things that look more like us, we are attracted to people who share our features, we are drawn towards the familiar.

The importance of imitation

But it’s more than just a face that has me choosing bible characters over catechism so often, it’s another hard wired thing – imitation. Imitation is one of the primary building blocks of learning from the youngest ages. It’s generally understood that kids see most of their world in black and white terms. For an infant the imitation is fixed, “if you do this then that happens so if I do the same action again I will get the same result”. Things change after the age of 2 when children begin to use symbolism thanks to the developing imagination.

The infants stick is now a wand, a pen, a drumstick! While they continue to learn about their world through their senses they can learn about worlds closed to them by practicing the art of imitation. They unlock the dressing up cupboard and suddenly little Susie is Elsa and Dan is Spiderman. This is an important step in the development of empathy, role play allows us to imagine other peoples feelings in a way children’s brains are not hard wired for. Yet when Elsa runs away the child knows exactly what to do because they know these characters narratives already. As they repeat the characters actions the link with them becomes stronger and the more the narrative settles in them. Pause and just that last sentence with bible characters in mind.
 

 
Lets put this into real terms…

What kid doesn’t recognize Zacchaeus’ issue as they stared at coat backs unable to see the main event? Josiah clearing out the temple becomes the parents favorite lesson idea even if it involves a huge paper fight. Rhoda forgetting to unlock the door to Peter becomes a great lesson in over-excitement. John the Baptist allows us to grapple with the very difficult idea of humility as he speaks of being unworthy to untie Jesus’ saddles. These faces don’t just teach stories but become faces the children can inhabit to peer out of into the biblical pages.

When there is no character

Sadly not all passages have characters, so much of the bible is instruction, poetry or law. It doesn’t neatly fit into a lesson on a specific character. This is where you have to make a decision on how much you’ll let your bible passage be accompanied by non cannon material. A technique used by almost every kids bible show I’ve ever seen is expanding the story beyond the text. This has been used for centuries by literature and art.

On the most basic level it’s why we think of Jesus with long hair and a long beard when culturally he would almost certainly have had short hair and a neat beard if one at all. Remember Judas had to identify Jesus (Matthew 26:48) with a kiss to be arrested. On a deeper level you end up with CS lewis and the world of Narnia – a story woven deeply with biblical reference but choosing not to be explicit with it. Much of the bible allows you to weave a story that falls between these two, keeping pure biblical details but adding in extra characters and padding. This can be done badly, taking the emphasis away from the scripture, but when done right it can have the added benefit of linking other texts and biblical details allowing you to represent more of the big bible picture.

A practical example

The theory behind teaching with Bible CharactersThe latest lesson onsite is a good example of this. Jesus teaches about the lamp being hidden under a bed or basket, a bushel. It’s a simple idea, it lends itself well to science experiments and games in dimmed light but I’ve chosen to give it a face.

The Apostle Paul’s home town of Antioch was one of the earliest place to have known street lights, oil lamps, strung up on a series of ropes (read more). The guard responsible for lighting the house lamps was called the lanternarius and so making the logic jump to having a lamp lighter for the city center is a but a skip. This character then epitomizes the idea of a light being seen, he has a long torch that reminds us the light must be lifted high and his job is to illuminate the darkness. Importantly he takes the conversation one step further, he not only learns the symbolic meaning of Jesus’ words he also ties the narrative into the apostle Paul and how the message transformed his life going forward.

I know some won’t touch this story. There are purists who will balk at biblical movies that bend the text to accommodate extra plots and inwardly sigh just a little when the great King David is a scrap of asparagus in Veggie tales. I know they would rather say Jesus said this and lets play with lamps. The kids will learn the lesson, they will hold high their candles and torches understanding they are symbolic. But will it inspire kids to want to turn that stick into a torch to be a lamp lighter?

Live the story

When a story resonates with a child they live it. They can walked those streets with Albas the lanternarius, peer into windows with him and felt the sting of Jesus’ words. That’s what story does, it draws you into a different perspective. That perspective is somehow more powerful when you are looking at the world through someones eyes. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our kids wanted to be Mary as much as Elsa and David as much as Spider man?
 


This talk was written for the bible creative conference which I sadly pulled out of. Just an extra note : Jesus without language also recently got featured in the top 20 kidmin blogs to follow by Feedspot! Click through to get some of the latest kidmin content delivered to your inbox!

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One Child – One Week – Prayer

 
one-child-one-week-prayer Prayer is powerful, and each community needs to have someone praying for the young people in their church.

It is important to differentiate between prayer for the young peoples ministry, and prayer for the specific young people. I have found that often the former is much more widely prayed for than the latter. This little card is an easy way to ask specific adults to pray. In the example I have not put the child’s full name, it is designed to be filled as much as is needed and nothing more, the child’s name could be just a letter. Print the cards any size you wish, the back of the cards is a summery of the 8 steps if you wish to print it.

Those who receive a card are asked to use it to pray for a child for just one week, using the following 8 points as a guide. At the end of the week, if appropriate, the child can be informed that somebody from church was praying for them this week. The graphic to one side can be printed and placed on the noticeboard – for the prayer cards and the graphic please click on the images and a larger quality image will load.
 

One Child - One Week - Prayer Start your prayer time by putting aside your issues, both those from today and from your own childhood. Ask God to help you pray unbiased for this child and their needs. Thank God for bringing this child’s needs to you.

One Child - One Week - Prayer Be specific about the child you are praying for. Bring the child to mind if you know them, or use whatever information the card gives. Lift this individual to God as his child and his servant in his kingdom.

One Child - One Week - Prayer Be age specific. Is this an exam year, is there anything in the local news that may effect them, etc. Below is a simple 4 word description of areas that may generate issues by age group, this is very general but may be useful as a starting place for some.
 

0-1 years
Feeding, Sleeping, Movement, Communication
1-2 years
Independence, Language, Instructions, Self Awareness
2-3 years
Cooperation, Separation anxiety, Defiance, Inter-dependence
3-5 years
Friendships, Exploration, Personality, Pre School
6-8 years
School, Acceptance, Awareness of future, Independent goals
9-11 years
Relationships, Responsibility, Puberty, Peer pressure
12-14 years
Body image, Academic results, Stress, Complex thought

 
One Child - One Week - Prayer Siblings deeply shape a child’s everyday life. Consider praying for issues surrounding fairness and sibling rivalry, the process of sharing, and the strength to support each other. For single children pray for issues surrounding friendships, autonomy, and demanding attention.

One Child - One Week - Prayer Pray for the parents. Pray for their lead in discovering God, their relationships, and their ability to provide for their children. Consider that for a child provision of love is arguably the most important.

One Child - One Week - Prayer Pray for their contact with church. the group they are part of – it’s group dynamic and the leaders who serve. Pray for the groups needs and how they may influence the child.

One Child - One Week - Prayer Pray for their strengths and passions Praise God for their gifting and ask him to open opportunities to use that gifting in the child’s life. Pray that they can receive the encouragement and necessary tools to develop their gifting.

One Child - One Week - Prayer Pray for the child’s weaknesses and struggles. Pray that God will be with them in the dark moments they may encounter. Pray for strength, reassurance and confidence to face what may be troubling them and peace for the end of their journey through the present trials they face.

 

One Child - One Week - Prayer One Child - One Week - Prayer

 

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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 30 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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