Jesus Without Language

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Kid's Ministry & Sunday School Resources

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

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.

My Kids Craft Essentials



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.


Having fresh eyes on a bible passage

About a month ago, I received this comment about my talk posts:

Her interpretation of the Bible stories is usually from a very different perspective from mine….makes me think!

After recently blogging about the process of teaching being a process of learning for both the child and the leader, you can imagine I took this as a huge compliment.

I firmly believe that Christian parents should be reading the well known stories of the bible to their children, that the teaching time should be additional to that. In that light I often strive to see different twists on the stories as a way of diving deeper into what may already be familiar.

However old or new the passage is to me, I always start with these 3 : perspective, history, and application.

Fresh eyesHaving fresh eyes on a bible passage

The bible gives us lots of room to move our viewpoint. It’s often useful to identify all the characters, who is speaking, who is on the sidelines. Could the story be told with a different voice? When you look at David and Goliath from the philistine camp it looks very different, the character of David pales before the might of God. Imagine telling the story of Jesus’s temptation from the view of the sand dunes or perhaps an angel taking watch in Heaven. Also, speaking from a different time frame allows us to show outcomes of actions rather than leave the story hanging outside of the big bible narrative, many of these stories came by oral tradition.

Having fresh eyes on a bible passage
Historical study on a basic level makes a big difference. Social history can place a story and inform you of the important factors through the witnesses eyes. Where in time was the story placed? What the clothes, food, and social rules were, can shape the events? Fishermen were amongst the hardest hit by the tax collectors in gospel times and the Sabbath rules make Jesus’s actions even more scandalous. Also go wide on the personal history of the characters, the other times they appear in scripture. Their past and future, shape how we see the actions in a given story. Mordecai was a descendant of Saul who had fought the Malachites, Haman’s people, the story is an important echo of events.

Having fresh eyes on a bible passage
Often we choose the controlling action in a story in a bid to get the children to, or not to, repeat it. Acts of the bible aren’t always repeatable, but the emotions and motivations often are. I had always taught John the baptist linked to baptism, but on JWL I linked it to humility. Here was the great newspapers Elijah so humble that he wouldn’t dare to untie the sandal of Jesus. I’ve never baptised anyone, but I can show humility. Equally, the negatives aspects can also be positive. Saul’s blindness was a gift, for his eyes opened in more ways than one. Examining the ways of worship, and discoveries made can also lead to a huge array of applications that can move passages from the dry page and into everyday action.

Are you learning?

Let me paint you a picture.

The conference was but a few days long: There were streams of teaching – small group sessions where we explored together, beautiful united worship – though we spoke a plethora of languages, and much sharing of stories. During the first meeting we were told we would not simply be talked at but learn from each other, as we journeyed together. At the final seminar we sat in the auditorium for a Q&A . On the stage were the session leaders, people who had taken each group through 8, hour long, conversations on an aspect of ministry. So, I asked the question “What have you learnt during this conference?” * and silence ensued. The leaders looked at each other uncomfortably, the audience shifted in their chairs as the pause became a gap. Slowly some of the respect I had for these leaders imparting their discoveries about God’s Kingdom started to evaporate. Eventually two ventured answers, the others didn’t even try.

Teaching is not a one way process. We should learn from the process of teaching. Sometimes we learn something new, sometimes we re-learn something and rediscover something we had forgotten.

However much we nod our head at this statement many of us simply don’t take the time to look at the lesson as a place to feed us as teachers. For many teaching becomes a one way process of giving, rather than an act of discovery as we join in reading the life giving scriptures together. This can lead to resentment at being ‘stuck’ in the children’s ministry and not able to be fed in the ‘adult’ service.

So where can we look to learn? Here are a few suggestions – feel free to add yours in the comments below.

What does this passage reveal about the world at that time or in general?
How would this story challenge me if I’d never heard it before?
How can this story transform a child’s life?
What insights can the mind of a child bring to my perspective?
How can I reflect on this passage through the week?
What have I learnt abut the materials and mechanisms of teaching this lesson?
What have I learnt about the mind and heart of a child today?
What have I learnt about my church community today?

are you learning

* the question was specifically, “What have you learnt, as opposed to been inspired by, at the conference?” – the conference was very inspiring, but inspiration doesn’t change things, things change when we learn to act upon them.

The hidden value of using colour


The most frequent comments to this site concern colour templates. Some posts have black and white templates, others don’t. While I’m always happy to make up a colourless template if requested, I think we should try to print in colour if possible. Why?…..


number-1 We know, ‘You’re worth it’.
If you were to buy your crafts they would come in colour. Colour is synonymous with worth, and it sends a message of value to the child. It tells them that this is an original, not a photocopy, that this was created for them, and that they are worth the extra. Photocopying has it’s place, but don’t be fooled into thinking that kids and parents don’t notice.

number-2 This resources is worth it
For years I was led to believe colour printing was too expensive. I’d spend a fortune on craft equipment, pens, glue, ribbons, and pipe-cleaners, but not on printing. Finally, I started to do the maths. A colour cartridge (or set) lasts for 100 ink heavy pages on a ink-jet printer or 2000+ on a laser. Buying recycled/refilled ink cartridges makes the price per page surprisingly small.

number-3 Colouring should engage you with the story
If you’ve ever sent a kid home with a half coloured template or watched enthusiastic kids spend an age colouring sides of houses, you may resonate. That is not engagement with the story. If you group loves colouring then give them a colouring page or ask them to draw a picture about the story.

number-4 We value time
Much like the point above, getting kids to do colouring can be a long process, printing in colour gives more time for an extra game, or a longer discussion time, or another craft to explore a different side of the story. The time we have with the youngsters is precious.

number-5 We want this to look good
Call me vain, but when I get my crafts to the stage I can print in colour and make them up I think they look better than the self coloured versions. If we are going to take time creating something let it be the best it can be. Something we are proud to show parents.

I do use white backgrounds and lighter colours when I can.
Investing in a cheap laser printer is well worth the money.
Find a service that can re-fill (and possibly re-chip) your cartridges.
I realised today that I can print 100 pages of colour for the price of a packet of felt tip pens.
+ Paper is easier to recycle than the pen jackets!


Clearing out

The great clear-out comes round occasionally to most churches, it’s frequency depends very much on the people in the team, but children’s work does accumulate stuff.

This week I once again sorted through one of my files, clearing out space, and I thought I’d share a my tips with you for what to store and what to say goodbye to.

Here are the 10 questions I ask of any item…. do add yours in the comments section below.

Why am I so keen to downsize,
sort and clear, well….

I used to work for a church that was blessed with space. It had a huge balcony that was rarely used and so the kids work had been given space for storage.

We had boxes and cardboard of all shapes and sizes, metal boxes, tiles and rolls of fabric ends, leaver arch files full of past templates… to the creative it was a sight of wonder, but after 3 years there I recognised that many of the items would probably never be used.

The problem wasn’t with the materials but that many just didn’t slip easily into the work we did week to week. Especially as things go digital the paperwork gathers more and more dust, it’s incompleteness meant only those who remember them first time round ever source from it’s wealth.

It’s heartbreaking in a way to see the wasted potential but it taught me that it’s better to store less and use it all.

Clearing out
What would we really use this for?

Teaching material, crafts, seasonal or a training item?

Clearing out
Would I choose to use this again?

Just because they could be used again doesn’t mean they will be.

Clearing out
Only store 1 as a memory.

Keeping templates or completed craft, chose just one and store it.

Clearing out
Tear it up

Stops you changing your mind or someone changing it for you.

Clearing out
Is this the best item for the job?

Would you really spend the time to find this again?

Clearing out
Is this complete?

Does it need special materials to accompany it?

Clearing out
Can I re-source this?

Is it just as easy to gather, buy or print again?

Clearing out
How will I know this is here?

Will I see this in the storage area or do I need to note it down?

Clearing out
Why did we stop using this

Old material is very rarely re-used, is this just too dated?

Clearing outClearing out
Will this dominate my lesson?

Bible lessons are put together round the bible not the craft, would this easily slot into a lesson or would you have to plan a lesson for it?

Preparing to Teach : David’s Anointing

Preparing to Teach : David's Anointing

Quick notes:

David was the youngest son, but don’t let that fool you, many scholars think David may have been around 20 at the time of this story.

Samuel was such a scary man he had to send word to the elders at Bethlehem to say he came in peace.

Little is known about his appearance though he is often called ruddy, which may mean he had a tinge of red in his hair. Also he is described as handsome and a bit short!

Just as in most of the biblical stories, to keep sheep denotes that he was considered the least of the brothers, but God has a way of choosing the ‘least’.

It is suspected that David’s family was of modest means, but little is known and David’s mother is never named.

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.

Names you need to know

Samuel – the great judge and prophet (pretty miserable as he mourns God’s favour leaving the present king Saul)

David – means beloved, youngest son of 8

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

Eliab – the most visually impressive looking brothers

7 Brothers – you don’t need to know the names but 6 of them can be found in 1 Chronicles 2:13-15, the unnamed is presumed to have died or been from a concubine.

Historical significance

Samuel comes to make an offering and invites people to sanctify themselves and join him, but he singles out Jesse’s household by sanctifying them himself. this means they were probably invited not simply to spectate but to join the meal. If a great man invites you and your sons to join him in a sacrifice and feast it may seem strange that you have sent one of your sons out to tend the sheep. We also know from later accounts that David leaves his employ as kings musician to occasionally return to the flock of sheep. From whatever angle you look at this it seems counter effective. Jesse sending David shows that, while he named him with a word meaning beloved, he believed him less likely to be honoured by the great judge. Equally David’s choice to take the task, if it were optional, shows his self worth as particularly low. Alternatively we could suggest that out in the solitude was a place David found more comfortable, though perhaps not the greatest asset for a future king…?

infographic-david-good book companyDavid is no small kid, probably already hitting his teens, if not emerging from them, he would not have been allowed to hide from fear itself. Though fear would have tinged the greeting in that household. Samuel was not a gentle man, and his feats of demonstrating God’s power had resulted in many deaths, you would not wish to cross him. Yet, so human, he falls quickly pray to the human sight, singling out the impressive muscle of Eliab as the most likely contender. This is doubly surprising as Samuel had just walked away from Saul, who was every bit a great king visually.

What is particularly pertinent to this tale is that while Samuel finally has his eyes opened to David being the right son to anoint his never announces why. Then Samuel leaves and David goes back to the sheep. While God has powerfully come into the picture from an outsiders perspective little seems to have changed. Yet, importantly, this was not an empty ceremony, David experiences the Spirit of God descends on him, allowing his to grow wise, courageous and strong. He built the characteristics of a prince elect from the heart outwards. His heart was touched by the grace of God and it’s not surprising that the songs of this shepherd boy become the great psalms, so great that soon the present king will beg him to come sooth his woes with the sound.

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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