Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Faces of Easter II: Jesus Is Lost and Found

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to Faces of Easter II: Jesus Is Lost and Found, our lesson for March 4.
This week we remember and celebrate the phase of Jesus's life when he was a boy by telling the story from Luke 2: 39-52. In this story, Jesus is found in the temple after the Passover festival.
What a great opportunity for children to think about Jesus as a boy, a child near their own age. I'm sure that if they really start doing some heavy duty thinking about this, a zillion questions may spring up. It's great for all of us to witness this and ask questions of our own!

At the end of the story, you can choose whether to ask children to find an item in the classroom that helps tell about this part of Jesus's life or you can ask wondering questions.

Here are some wondering questions you might ask:
1. I wonder what your favorite part of this story is.
2. I wonder what the Jewish teachers thought about Jesus, as he listened to them and asked questions.
3. I wonder how Mary and Joseph felt when they realized that they didn't know where Jesus was.
4. I wonder what Mary and Joseph felt when they found Jesus.
5. I wonder what Mary and Joseph thought when he said, "Didn't you know that I had to be in my father's house?" 
6. I wonder what the temple leaders thought when they heard Jesus say that.
7. I wonder what questions Mary had about all of this after they were back home again.

Gift to God Time
There are several ways you and the children can choose to go during your response time. You can focus on the story itself, you can help children think about the role of church in their own lives, or you could focus on the idea of God helping us grow during childhood. I'm sure you can think of other ways to respond to this story. Here are a few ideas you might find helpful for the children to use as a springboard:

For a focus on the story itself:
Flickr photo by Lawrie Cate, creative commons
1. Make a scroll of scripture, like the ones Jesus might have studied.
Each child could make their own, or the children could work together to make a big one for the class, with each child writing a verse on it.
To make a scroll, take a sheet of white paper the size of your own choosing and let the children write or copy a verse or several verses. (Luke 2:52 would be especially appropriate for this week.) Then crinkle up the paper, straighten it, and repeat several times to make it look old. If they want, kids can tear the paper around the top and bottom edge (not the sides, where they'll attach the dowel sticks.) Then curl the sides around dowel sticks and glue to dowels. Paint the scroll with tea and let it dry.
A fifth grader makes a scroll.

2. Children could draw Jesus in the temple, or draw the temple background and cut a Jesus figure out of paper so that you can move him around the temple. Kids could also cut out Mary and Joseph figures so that they can "enter" the temple and play out the story. Or you could turn a shoebox into a temple scene with clay or clothespin Jesus, Mary, and Joseph figures, in addition to temple leader figures. Or you could have the children just make the figures and let them retell the story using the Godly Play temple we have in our rooms.
Mary comes with a question mark because she's wondering where Jesus is.

3. Act out the story. Why not go to the Temple that the fives created at the end of our hallway and act out the story? Have props available (or make them!) Be sure to take photos!

For a focus on the role of church in the children's own lives:
1. Have the children draw or paint or cut out photos for a collage on what their favorite thing is to do at church. Maybe have one side of the drawing of all the things we do at church, and then on the other side their absolute favorite thing.

2. Have the children make a church/temple out of a shoebox or popsickle sticks or lego or clay. Kids could go look at the bulletin board in the children's hallway and see what the temple looked like first. 

3. Make a stained glass window from torn tissue paper and construction paper, as shown here.

For a focus on the idea of God helping us grow:
1. Have the children trace each other's bodies on butcher paper and color them in with markers or paint. You could hang your classroom of students on the wall and have the children come up with a title about how God helps us grow.

2. As you talk about growing, each child could plant grass seeds or flower seeds in a small pot--or if you really want to get creative with the Easter theme, in an (Easter) egg shell, as shown here.

3. Jesus grew by learning and working hard. How do the children do this? They could draw the things they do as they grow to learn and work hard. Or they could make coupon cards for their parents, good for cleaning their room or dusting the furniture or sweeping, etc.
Now, how can I get my thirteen year old to do this? :)

Hope these ideas help!
Thanks you all!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Faces of Easter I: Remembering the Birth and Presentation of Christ in the Temple

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to Faces of Easter I: Remembering the Birth and Presentation of Christ in the Temple, our lesson for February 26.
As you retell the story of Christ's birth in light of the Lenten season, why not also share the story of his presentation in the temple from Luke 2: 22-38? We don't always share this part of the story and this would be a great time to do so.

If your Godly Play story baskets are all displayed in your classroom where the children can see them, I'd encourage you to include the part of the script in which you invite the children to gather one by one anything in the room that reminds them of this part of Jesus's life, put it around the story tile, and share their thoughts about its connection with the story. As you know, the children can be so creative in this and make connections that we might not even think of.

If your materials are not where the children have easy access to them, here are some wondering questions you can ask, in lieu of having the children gather materials that support today's lesson. 
  *   I wonder what your favorite part of today’s story is. 
  *   I wonder what Joseph and Mary did for Jesus when he was a baby to help him grow?
3.    *   I wonder how God helped Jesus grow?
4.    *   I wonder what hopes Mary and Joseph had for Jesus and who he would grow up to be?
5.    *   I wonder what hopes God had for who Jesus would grow up to be?
6.    *  I wonder who else might have helped Jesus grow to be the person God made him to be?
7.    *   I wonder if any of the shepherds, angels, Magi, or inn keeper knew what happened in Jesus’s life.   I wonder what they might’ve thought about it.

As for the Give a Gift to God Time, here are some thoughts...

If your class is decorating a Jesus tree, there are several ideas for ornaments:
Jesus in the manger
(Like this one here  on the left from

The kids could make Jesus from a clothespin and make a manger out of twigs and leaves from a walk outside.

Or make ornaments of baby Jesus and the pigeons out of felt as seen here. So precious! Or how about these felt doves here?

Or they could make the animals in the stable, the shepherds, angels, holy family, or the Magi.

Wyline had a great idea of making ornaments by having the children cut out egg shapes out of construction paper and decorating one side like an Easter egg and illustrating the other side with elements from that Sunday's lesson.

As much as you can, let the children come up with how they want to illustrate the story. They're so much more invested in their work when the whole thing is their idea.

If your class is working on completing the cross map of Lenten lessons, as shown here, this would be the time to make an illustration for the square of Jesus's birth. Children could illustrate this with whatever materials they want--watercolors, markers, collage, colored pencils, etc.

Another idea would be to create three dimensional scenes in your classroom for each week's lesson. For this week you could bring a baby doll to represent Jesus and have the children figure out how to make a manger to lay him in, maybe make pigeons out of clay for the presentation in the temple. Find material in the resource room for the kids to make a blanket with which to swaddle him. I bet the children can think of other elements for the scene. You could arrange these scenes around the room, making your own version of the stations of the cross!

I hope this helps!
Thank you for all you do!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Mystery of Easter

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to The Mystery of Easter, our lesson for February 19.

This lesson gives us a wonderful way to help the children remember that Easter "turns everything inside out and upside down" and that as we enter Lent and study each Sunday who Jesus grew to be, we should be on the lookout for God to show us unexpected things. The Mystery of Easter reminds us that Easter, as our faith's biggest celebration, is full of God's mystery and joyful surprise.

Though it doesn't focus on a particular Bible story, I think it's worth giving this lesson a whole Sunday morning because it both signals to the children that Lent is beginning and reminds the kids what Lent is all about. When we announce Lent and usher it in, we allow the children to realize what an important time it is--and hopefully they'll wonder what they can do to make it special to them.

A great way to begin this lesson is by changing the color of the felt underlay underneath the holy family to purple, since this is the First Sunday of Lent. This also segues well into the lesson script, "Now is the time for the color purple..."

Ideas for the Make A Gift For God Time

Projects to Last Through Lent
I love the idea of individual or class projects that can be added to and worked on over the entire Lent period, allowing kids to go back to them each week as they like, in addition to any other projects they want to do on  a certain Sunday.

Here are two ideas for the whole season of Lent that I hope you might consider:
1. A Cross, with blocks to illustrate each week's lesson about Jesus

You could do this many different ways.

What I did here is to take the biggest construction paper we have ( 12" x 18", I think) and made a pattern of a cross, which looks uneven because the copier cut the top off. Sorry! Then I sectioned it off into blocks. The kids could make their illustrations on squares of white paper the same size of the squares and glue them on, or they could draw directly on the cross. I would suggest they use the white paper, so they don't have the urge to throw the whole thing away if they make a mistake or are unhappy with one block.

The words are just to show you where you might put the different lessons. The children could choose to write captions or not.

It would be really cool if the crosses could be in purple, and then on Easter they could make one illustration on a matching white cross and glue it to the other side. Then it would remind them of this particular lesson.

2. A Jesus Tree.
You might have heard of a Jesse tree, like this one here, sort of like our Chrismon tree which we use to celebrate advent.
For Lent, why not make a Jesus Tree, with ornaments representing our lessons as we get closer to Easter? It could be made from real branches in a pot of something like plaster of paris --or even just bricks- to keep it from falling over. Each weeks the kids could make ornaments for the class tree. (Or they could make one for the class tree and one for a tree at home.)
Want to look at an example? Check this one out.  Or this one, which is done two dimensionally as a banner, not with real branches. 

Here's some photos of the Jesus trees I'm making for some of our Sunday school classes. Keep in mind that yours can be smaller. I kind of got carried away!
First head to the woods and collect stray branches. February seems to be a great time to find them. As you can tell, I found more than enough!
Then find a container and make a grid with tape. Then start inserting your branches.

Once your tree is the size you like it (or you get carried away as I did and lose all perspective and make trees so large that only 2 at a time will fit in your van...) prepare the plaster of paris. It takes 2 parts plaster  to 1 part water. (For each of my containers I think I used about 2 cups water and 4 cups plaster.) Pour the water in a container first and then add the plaster and stir with a stick until smooth. Then pour into your tree's container. You can see that I got a little messy.

It sets up quickly but I recommend letting it set overnight before transporting it.

You can paint the tree white if you like or leave it as is.
I painted mine lightly. 
Now, the trees are only important because of the ornaments they display showing the life of Christ.

See examples of ornaments here and here and here.
If children need help thinking of what to make for their ornaments, here are some suggestions:

Feb 19, The Mystery of Easter: A cross
Feb 26, Jesus' Birth and Growth and Presentation in Temple: Doves, Manger, Holy Family, shepherds, angels, kings, donkey, etc
March 4, Jesus Lost and Found: scrolls, Temple, Mary and Joseph
March 11, Baptism and Blessing: doves, Jesus himself in the water, John the Baptist
March 18, Desert Experience: Bread, stones, an angel, mountains
March 25,Jesus as a healer and parable maker: person being healed, Jesus's hands, anything from the parables-bread, shepherd, mustard seed, the Good Samaritan, pearl, seed packets
April 1, Jesus Offers Bread and the Cup: chalice, bread, palms, table
April 8, Easter: Children could make a cross out of white construction paper and make it beautiful with illustrations or cut out pictures of flowers from magazines and glue it to the back of their cross. If they wanted to make ornaments for the Jesus tree, they could make crosses, or the stone from the tomb, or Easter Eggs. (Come to think of it, this would be a great time to do the Romanian eggs--or any kind!)

Projects Just for This Sunday

Children could make crosses.
Here are two kinds:
1. Mosaic Cross. Cut a cross from fun foam and then cut bits of fun foam of other colors to glue on the cross to create a mosaic effect.

2. Stained Glass Cross:
Using a pattern, have the kids cut two identical cross shapes from waxed paper. Then use a plastic knife and scrape old crayons into shavings of various colors. Spread the crayons on one of the wax paper crosses.  Then place the second waxed paper cross on top. Have an adult use a warm iron to press the two pieces of waxed paper together. Attach a hanger and hang in the sun!

3. Make a "Magic Cross" as shown here.

Hope this helps you. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Parable of the Loving Father

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to a brand new lesson, The Parable of the Loving Father, the story Jesus tells in Luke 15, 11-32.
I've always called this parable the Parable of the Prodigal Son, but I like that many others call it by this name, changing the focus from the sins of the son to the amazing forgiveness, grace, and love of the father.

What an important lesson to teach our children, that nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:38-39!) The world is full of hurting people who need to hear this, don't you think? What a great story to help our kids explore.  Who hasn't made mistakes and felt out of the circle-- and who hasn't also felt a tinge of resentment when someone not playing by the rules gets a free ride? (Or maybe that's just me! :) )  Awareness of God's grace is so important to our kids. It's a perfect discussion topic for this week.

If you're one of our Sunday school teachers at FBC Greenville, you should have received an email with the script included. Let me know if you didn't get it or have trouble opening it and I'll see if I can fix the problem. (If you're at another church and would like to use the script, send me an email and I'll send it to you.)

The parable is in a gold box (after all, it's a parable!) in your Sunday school rooms, ready for you.

Now, how can we help the children deepen their exploration and understanding of the story through their art time? What ideas can serve as springboards for their own creativity in making a gift for God?

Since this Sunday is two days from Valentine's Day, why not make your art time a celebration of God's love and amazing grace?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Have a celebration feast, just like the father threw for the son, celebrating God's special kind of love. The kids could decorate cookies--or here's something corny... eat pigs in blankets--reminding them of the pigs the son took care of. You could eat at the end and spend the first few minutes making it really special, letting the children make have decorations for the table. Candles on the table would be nice. And as you prepare, you could help the children remember what the feast is all about: honoring God, who loves us and welcomes us back to him, no matter what we do, no matter if we misbehave or if we stick so closely to the rules that we miss the whole point of love all together.
I'm glad to reimburse you for any supplies you need to buy. Just bring me a receipt (with only Sunday school purchases on it) and I'll make sure you're repaid quickly.

The fourth graders make a special table cloth full of love messages.

The feast is ready!

2. Put a small mirror in a craft store frame which each of the children can decorate, writing on it with Sharpies something like God loves me exactly like I am. Children could decorate the frame however they like, by gluing on sequins or foam shapes, by using glitter glue or whatever supplies you have on hand. 
We have a few of these frames in the resource room. If you give me a call before 2:45 on Thursday, I can let you know how many we have and put them in your room for you.

3. Children could make valentines for Meals on Wheels and for our folks in the hospital or in nursing homes. I'd be glad to see that they get to those who need them.
Valentines made by our first graders.
*I'll leave supplies for making valentines in the resource room.
4. Older children might be interested in taking a look at the much loved hymn Amazing Grace. They could illustrate it --or record themselves singing it. Let me know before Sunday if you need a recorder.

5. Some children might enjoy acting out the parable. I'd love to tape this if you do it. Let me know ahead of time if you plan to suggest this and I'll lend you a camera to tape it.

6. I bet the children could be really creative if you ask them to make a valentine for God, however they want, however big or small, whether 2 dimensional or 3 dimensional (clay maybe?)

If your kids make something you think should definitely be shared with the parents in the newsletter, would you drop me an email or call? I try to check your rooms during the week, armed with my camera, but I don't want to miss anything!

Thanks, y'all! I appreciate you!