Monday, November 25, 2013

The First Sunday of Advent

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the celebration of the First Sunday of Advent, this Sunday, December 1.

What an exciting time of year!
This Sunday we focus on getting ready to enter the mystery of Christmas. It's perfect timing then for us to focus on the prophets' telling that something big was about to happen in Bethlehem. The people didn't know exactly what or when, but they were told to get ready, to watch and wait.

Our Godly Play lesson begins with a discussion of the color change at church to purple, the color of kings. It's a great time to talk about what kind of king the people expected and how God surprised them all.

One thing to note: the Godly Play Advent lessons don't come with wondering questions at the end. I think it's so helpful to have some discussion questions to let the children process their thoughts on the lessons so I've included some of my own questions for this Sunday at the bottom of this blog post. I've put copies of these for the storyteller and the person writing the responses in each of your classrooms.

Making a Gift for God

When it comes time to help the children decide what work they want to do--what kind of gift to God they want to make in appreciation for the story, there are several paths they can take, each exploring different themes to the lesson.
Some of the themes include:
1. The theme of Advent--getting ready.
2. The theme of who prophets are and what did they do and say.
3. The idea of Jesus being a light to the world. (Since we light candles each week in Advent)

Here are some "Gift to God" ideas to add to your own:

Something For All of Us to Do: Gift Bags for Senior Adults

Matt has asked us again this year to decorate white gift bags for the senior adults for a Christmas gift. They love getting their gift bags decorated by our children. You can have the children use colorful markers to draw symbols of Christmas on the bags, manger scenes, whatever they like.  Thanks for helping with this project!

For exploring Advent...

1. Make an advent wreath together, or have each child make his own. 
Many of our children made these three dimensional advent wreaths with real candles on Sunday, 

but if you want to make a simpler advent wreath a choice for them, that would allow children who missed the workshop to have one too. There are plenty of candles and a few wood rounds that we used last year in the Art Resource Room. (If you want more than five or so, you may need to purchase the rounds and give me the receipt.)

Paper advent wreaths are a great idea too. I love this one, from second grade a couple of years ago. Each child contributed a leaf or two or a candle.

 2. Make an advent chain. Have the children cut out 25 strips of paper each and (using tape or staples) make them into a chain. They could even put a task to do on each ("sing Away in the Manger," or "read the Christmas story" or "draw an angel," etc.) and each day in December the child would take off one link in the chain. This is a great way to illustrate waiting and getting ready for Christmas.
See lots of advent chain ideas here.

For exploring the Prophets...

1. Let the children look up some of the verses in which the prophets predict Jesus' birth or a leader coming out of Bethlehem.
Verses include:
"But you, Bethlehem in Ephrathah, small as you are to be among Judah's clans, out of you shall come forth a governor for Israel, one whose roots are far back in the past, in days gone by." -Micah 5:2

King Herod called a meeting of the chief priests and lawyers of the Jewish people, and asked them: "Where is the Messiah to be born?" "At Bethlehem in Judaea", they replied; and they referred him to the prophecy which reads: "Bethlehem in the land of Judah, you are far from least in the eyes of the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a leader to be the shepherd of my people Israel." Matthew 2:1-6 - NEB

"Surely the Messiah is not to come from Galilee? Does not scripture say that the Messiah is to be of the family of David, from David's village of Bethlehem?" John 7:41,42 - NEB

Isaiah 7:14. "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign, Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel."

2. The children might want to make a model like the one we use of Bethlehem. They could use their own ideas of what Bethlehem might have looked like, or they could use books to research it.

3. Another option would be for the kids to divide a paper in half (or a mural on butcher paper.)  It could be titled something like, "A King Is Coming..." On one side they could draw or list what people expected the king to look like, and on the other side they could draw a manger scene with Baby Jesus.

For exploring Jesus as the Light of the Word,  the children could make candle cookies like this one here.

Susan D'Amato had our fourth graders do this one year and they loved it.
The directions are here. (

Here are the wondering questions I've come up with for this week's lesson. Enjoy!

1. I wonder about getting ready. I wonder what your family does to get ready to celebrate Christmas.

2.   2.  I wonder if there are special things you might do at your house to remember what Christmas is really all about.
3.   3. The prophets told the people of God that a new king was coming. I wonder what you think they expected. What kind of king do you think they thought he would be?
4.   4. I wonder what you think about why God sent Jesus as a baby. 
5.   5. In our time together today, we talked about how prophets know the most important things and show the  way. I wonder if you remember any prophets from our Sunday school lessons and what it's like to be a prophet.
6.   6.  I wonder how God feels about God’s prophets.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Prophet Jeremiah

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the story of the Prophet Jeremiah.

The story of the prophet Jeremiah is another good one to share after The Exile and the Return. Be sure to help the children see where Jeremiah fits into this story, the time before and after the Babylonians came and took some of the people of Jerusalem (including Jeremiah) with them to Babylon.

There are several themes of the story that are particularly helpful to children.
1. God can help use even very young people to do his work.
2.  God plans a hope and a future for each of us. ("For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." 29:11)

3. When we turn away from God, God tries to woo us back.
4. God will be with us, even when we do the wrong thing.
5. God always offers hope for forgiveness.

One note: Because we want to emphasize God's role as a healer and forgiver, (which stands true to the scripture, even in Jeremiah itself) I would suggest that you add another part of the story immediately after you share the broken pottery (when God says God will smash this nation and this city.) After following the script in this part, I would share the part in Jeremiah (chapter 18)where God takes Jeremiah to a potter to watch him work. God shows Jeremiah that as the potter works, he often takes pottery that has a mistake in it and reworks it into a new piece that he finds good. God showed Jeremiah this to let the people know that if they want to change, he will remake them into something good.

Ideas for Give a Gift to God time:

1.  This would be a great time to work with clay, considering all the references to pottery. Children could make elements of the story (lion, wolf, pyramid, cup) As they work, you might want to remind them of the verse from Jeremiah 18:6 :“As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand."
I'll have clay to use available for all classes.

2. Here are a couple of sites where you can make your own shofar:

*If you tell me by Wednesday evening that you'd like materials for these, I'll shop for you. Starting Thursday morning, though,  you're on your own. :)

3. Celebrate special verses, like this one I found on pinterest: (Look! It's really pretty and simple.)
The children could copy the verse and then do watercolors to illustrate it. I have watercolor paper I'll put on the cart for you to use if you want.

Also, you could highlight this one. It's beautiful! 
It goes with  Jeremiah 17:7, 8a :
Happy are those who trust in the Lord, who rely on the Lord.
They will be like trees planted by the streams,
    whose roots reach down to the water.

I also like this one, for Jeremiah 33:3

I hope these ideas are helpful to you!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Story of the Prophet Elijah

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to The Story of the Prophet Elijah, the Godly Play story scheduled for this Sunday, November 17. You can find the script in the pink Enrichment Presentations for Fall book on p.86-93.

This story fits
within last week's story of the Exile and the Return. It might be helpful to remind the children of the setting of this story. You might want to recap the story of Solomon building the temple and bridge that lesson to the Exile lesson and today's lesson by saying something like this:

After many years of faithfully following God, Solomon began to try to please others by worshiping other gods. He wasn't the only one who sinned against God this way. Many of the people of God began to do the same thing.  They hid from God and pretended that God wasn't there. They sometimes even worshiped other gods, like Solomon did.

After King Solomon had died, his kingdom was divided into parts. These parts were ruled by kings. Sometimes the kings and the people did bad things, and God sent them prophets to tell them what God wanted them to know. 

The story script of Elijah picks up at this point.

The wondering questions that we'll use at the end include:

1. I wonder what part of this story you liked best?
2. I wonder what part of this story is the most important?
3. I wonder what part of this story was about you- or what part was especially meant for you to hear?
4. I wonder if we ever worship other gods without meaning to-- if we ever act like things or people are more important than God.
5. I wonder what this story teaches us about what God is like?

Feel free to add other questions that the children or you want to pose. I'd love to share them and the children's responses with the parents. Thank you for taking time to write down what they say.

Idea Sparkers for Our Give A Gift to God Time

1. Celebrate the story by reproducing the story items in some way:
  a. Make an altar. There are small stones in the art resource room.

b. Draw Elijah's altar and Baal's altar

c. Make a raven. Find directions here for a raven out of paper plates (scroll to the Giving Raven) and out of paper bags. Scroll down further to see a raven cookie. (You could even use an oreo and a candy corn beak.--Just remember with any cooking we have to be nut free.) You could also make a raven with the children's handprints, as shown here.
Or make a raven with origami, as shown here.

d. Make altar cookies by melting butterscotch chips and mixing in chow mein noodles, dropping them by tablespoons on wax paper. Add "fire" with red icing or sprinkles or chopped up fruit roll ups.

e. Make bread like the widow made for Elijah. You could use crescent rolls and let children shape them as they like, then bake them in the parlor kitchen.

2. Break the story into scenes and let each child or a pair of children illustrate each scene- or make something that represents each scene. (Playdough or quick dry clay could be used as well.)

a. Elijah speaks to Ahab about the temple of Baal
b. Elijah lives beside a brook and is fed by the ravens
c. Elijah and the widow who makes bread for him
d. Elijah and the two altars--and the rain
e. Elijah hiding at Mt. Horab
f. Elijah and the chariot of fire
At closing, have each share what they have created and what it means.

Our first graders' Elijah banner
3. Explore how God speaks to us- not in wind or an earthquake, but in a still small voice. Children could make a collage or drawing of what they think that means. How does God speak to us?

4. Explore what it takes to be a prophet. Make a job description. Or work as a class to draw a big picture of Elijah, labeling what about him made him such a great prophet of God. (A brave heart for God's love, a mouth that could be fed by ravens, strong legs for all the walking- and escaping the angry people!, strong arms for making an altar and digging a trench around it, ears to hear God's small voice, a body and mind willing and able to serve God- and to join God in heaven, via a chariot of fire!

I hope these ideas are useful. And personally, I hope someone chooses to paint Elijah in a chariot of fire. I'd just love to see what the children imagine that would look like!

Love, Becky

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Exile and Return

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the Exile and Return, the Godly Play story scheduled for this Sunday, November 10.

Last week we shared the story of the ark and the temple, and talked about meeting God in a special place and honoring him with certain routines that both honored God and helped remind the worshipers of the sacredness of being close to God. 

At the end of the lesson, we read Solomon's prayer of dedication of the Temple, where he prays, "But God, will you really live here with us on earth? The whole sky and the highest heaven cannot contain you. Certainly this Temple that I built cannot contain you either..." This week, we think about this again as we learn about what happened when God's people were taken away from Jerusalem and its temple, which they had believed to be God's home.

Some themes to explore:
* Where do we find God? What if we suddenly have no temple or tabernacle or special routines or things to honor God? Can we still meet God?

*What do we do when we're very afraid, when bad things happen to us? What do we pray for? What does God want us to do?

*What does it mean to be homesick? What were God's people homesick for during the story? Were they homesick for God?

*What changes have you been through that have been hard or scary for you? What did you do? Who gave you help? What should we remember when those times come?

*What does it mean to be faithful? How is it different to be faithful in hard times versus in easy times?

Some activity ideas to add to your own, to help children make a gift to God in thanks for the story: 
Reproduce the story.
1. Children could make their own physical elements of the Godly Play story, with blue yarn for the rivers. (Or maybe they can think of another way to represent them.) Pieces of wood for the cities. Can they make a chain out of pipe cleaners or strips of paper? (While they do this, teachers can talk about what the chain means--what it means to be in exile.) What could they use to make the people of God?

2. Children could draw or paint with watercolors a scene from the story: the destruction of the temple, the sad journey away from Jerusalem, the happy rebuilding of the temple.

3. Older children could use markers to trace the path of God's people on a photocopied map. Could they make a map of their own? One for the class?

4. Children could use colored sand to make a desert scene.

Explore themes from the story.
1. Children could take a large sheet of paper, divide it down the center into 2 parts, label the left side Times We Are Sad Or Scared, and the other side What We Can Do. Then the children can draw or paint pictures to illustrate both sides.

2. Children could draw or paint or do a collage on the subject of Where and When I Meet God Today. Is it in nature? In church? At home reading the Bible? Being with friends? This would be a great addition for our new bulletin board. This could also be done as a class project on butcher paper (like a mural.)

3. What does it mean to be faithful?
Children could make a collage or drawing or mural showing what it means to be faithful to God. Does it mean coming to church and worshiping together? Bringing an offering? Praying? Trusting? What else?

4. Children could draw or write about a time they were homesick. What helped them get through it? What would God want us to do when we feel homesick?

Some great verses to get children thinking:

“We sat down and cried by the rivers of Babylon when
we remembered Zion. How can we sing the song of the
Lord in a strange land?”
(Psalm 137:1, 4)

“Praise the Lord, all nations! Praise Him all people! For
His loving-kindness toward us is great. And the truth of
the Lord lasts forever. Praise the Lord.”
(Psalm 117)