Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Mystery of Easter

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to The Mystery of Easter, our lesson for March 2.

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
We have ideas just for this Sunday's response time and also ideas that can last through Lent.
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 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, we can use a Jesus Tree, with ornaments representing our lessons as we get closer to Easter.
Our trees should be in your rooms. You may want to have your class figure out how to cover the star with something Easter-y.

See Rebecca's blog, to see her ornaments, below. They're great!
I can buy you some tags to make some like these with if you let me know ASAP!

Look here and here for finished ornaments sold on etsy. The children could easily make their own versions of these! You can see some ornaments made out of felt here and here and here.
If children need help thinking of what to make for their ornaments, here are some suggestions:

March 2, The Mystery of Easter: A cross

March 9, Jesus' Birth and Growth and Presentation in Temple: Doves, Manger, Holy Family, shepherds, angels, kings, donkey, etc

March 16, Jesus Lost and Found: scrolls, Temple, Mary and Joseph

March 23, Baptism and Blessing: doves, Jesus himself in the water, John the Baptist

March 30, Desert Experience: Bread, stones, an angel, mountains

April 6, 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 13, Jesus Offers Bread and the Cup: chalice, bread, palms, table

April 20, 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 a few 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. Suncatcher crosses: we have 30 or so in the resource room. And paint too.
3. 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!
4. Make a "Magic Cross" as shown here.

Hope this helps you. Enjoy!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Jesus Welcomes the Children

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to Jesus Welcomes the Children, a new script I've written for February 23 to share the scripture from Luke 18:15-17. The story script also alludes to several other stories from the Bible in which children play important parts, hopefully helping our children understand more of what Jesus is saying is important about how children think, love, believe, and trust.

I'll include the script below, in case teachers from other churches would like to use it. (Just scroll down to the end of this post.) It's been exciting for me to see our extra stories be used in churches all over the world! I hope this one works well for everyone.

Ideas for Response Time (Our Make a Gift for God Time!)

1. Children could celebrate Jesus welcoming the children by doing a collage of children's faces from magazines. (There's a big box of them in the art resource room near the door.) They could write the verse from Luke 18:17 at the top.
Or make a mural for your class, where each child draws themselves!

2. Children could make a puppet of themselves from a paper bag. We have lots of yarn for hair and fabric and all sorts of other things they could add. Could you video your kids using their puppets to sing Jesus Loves Me?

3.How about make a version of this? It comes from Growing Kids in Grace.
Children could write their own caption, using scripture or their own words.

4. How about letting the kids make story stones for Jesus and children- and maybe a disciple or two or parents. This idea comes from Flame: Creative Children's Ministry. you could make characters out of play clay or clothespins. Or whatever else kids think of!

5. You could always act out the story. My camera is on the blink right now, but if you have an iphone, send me the video and I'll upload it for parents to see. :)

6. Older children might want to research Bible stories about children, and then share them with the class.
Joseph-Genesis 37-47
Miriam- Exodus 1:1-2:10
Moses-Exodus 2:1-10
The boy who led a blind man
Samuel - 1Samuel 1-3
Isaac- Genesis 22:1-19
Ishmael-Genesis 16:1-13, 21:1-20
David - 1 Samuel 13
Mephibosheth-2 Samuel 4:4; 9:1-13
The widow's son- 1Kings 17
Two boys saved from slavery-2 Kings 4:1-7
The Sunammite boy- 2 Kings 4: 8-37
The slave girl- 2 Kings 5: 1-16
King Josiah-2 Kings 22
King Joash-2 Kings 11, 12
Jesus as a boy-Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 2, Luke 2:41-52
Nobleman's son- John 4:46-54
Daughter of Jairus- Mark 5:22-43
Boy with the Loaves and Fish- Matthew 14:14-21; John 6: 5-13
Little sick boy-Mark 9:14-29
Rhoda- Acts 12:1-19
Paul's nephew- Acts 23:1-22
Timothy- 2 Timothy 3:14-17
(This list is covered in the book, Children of the Bible, by Cindy Baw & Paul C. Brownlow)

Here's the story script...

Jesus Welcomes the Children
Whenever Jesus came to a town, people wanted to go see him.
Add Jesus figure to the underlay.
If their bodies had sicknesses or if their hearts or minds were sick or sad, they hoped Jesus could heal them. They wanted to watch Jesus heal others and to hear Jesus’s stories about what is important to God.
Add crowd
One day when Jesus came to town, the people were very excited. They put down their work to go and be near him.
Add symbols of work- broom, wheelbarrow or bucket
Moms and dads wanted their children to see Jesus too. If Jesus would only touch them, how special that would be for their children!   So they brought their children to the crowd around Jesus.
Add children figures
The disciples were there with Jesus as he spoke to the adults, and they saw the parents coming with their kids. Before the families could reach Jesus, the disciples stopped them in their tracks and said, “Jesus doesn’t have time for children. Don’t you see that he’s talking about important things? His time is too special to bother with kids.”
Add stop sign
But Jesus knew how important all children are.  
Jesus knew children could think important things and do important things, like loving and trusting.
I wonder if he thought of all the stories he’d heard in the temple about children, like the one about the little girl who was taken from her family in Israel as a slave. Add Naaman figure. When her master, Naaman, was sick with leprosy, she believed that God’s prophet Elisha could heal him. She suggested Naaman should go to Israel and see Elisha, and even though she was just a child, Naaman did what she said and he was healed.

I wonder if he thought of Samuel who served God in the temple, even as a little boy. Add scroll.

I wonder if he remembered the way Miriam, the big sister of Moses, followed her mother’s directions and put Moses in a basket in the river and stayed nearby, when the pharaoh said all Hebrew boys had to die. Add Moses in basket. When the princess found him, Miriam suggested the princess take him as her own and have Miriam’s mother be his nurse.  

I wonder if Jesus thought of the little boy who offered to share his fish and bread with the hungry crowds who had come to hear him, and with Jesus’ help, there was enough food to feed thousands.  Add loaves and fish picture

Jesus knew how children think and love and believe and trust-- how each of you think and love and believe and trust. He thought it was the best way to be of all.

Jesus saw the disciples shooing the children away and stopped talking to the adults so that he could call the children back.  Add Go sign. He said to his friends, “Leave these children alone. Don’t get between them and me. These kids are the God’s pride and joy. I’ll tell you something true: Unless you have their trusting kind of faith, you’ll never get inside the gates of the kingdom of God.” Add children around Jesus figure.

Wondering Questions:
11.  I wonder what is your favorite part of this story.
22.   I wonder what God loves most about you.
33.   I wonder what God loves about the way you think and believe.
44.   I wonder what God would like adults to learn from children.

I hope it works well for you!
Love, Becky

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Parable of the Loving Father

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to The Parable of the Loving Father, the story Jesus tells in Luke 15, 11-32. We'll share this lesson this Sunday, Feb 16.
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 will receive an email with the script included. 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?

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. 

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Jesus Gives the Sermon on the Mountain

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to Jesus Gives the Sermon on the Mountain, the story for February 9 from Matthew 5-7.
(The child's view)
How do I love this scripture as a story for children? Let me count the ways...
I love this story because the sermon covers so much territory--and because Jesus' words are so poetic and full of images which children can understand. I also like it because he clearly illustrates how different his ideas were. (His message on the ten commandments, for example, that obeying the commandments was not enough...that we're called to do more than they ask.) And I like that teachers can focus in the expression time on whichever part of the sermon that interests individual children. 

Do your kids want to work on learning/illustrating the Lord's Prayer? Why not?  Are there children in your class that are captured by Jesus' message about worrying? They can focus on that. Older children might be very intrigued by the upside down nature of the Beatitudes. Why not go to the Bible and really go through these together?

If you haven't received the story script in your email, let me know. 

Ideas to Get the Children Started for the Give a Gift to God Time
*Our creative time works best when the child feels ownership over his own work--that it comes from the child's ideas and is merely inspired by the ideas we share to get them started.
Here are some ideas from which they can springboard. I'm sure you can add even better ones. Please feel free to share in the comments.

 1. The children could make their own Godly Play set of the sermon, either by drawing it out or making three dimensional pieces from clay or paper or other materials--the door, the bird, the pack, the commandments, etc. Encourage the children to retell what they remember from the sermon.

2. The class could divide up the sermon and each child (or pair of children) could illustrate one part. This would make a great bulletin board for our hallway or a nice mural for the room. 

3. The kids could each pick their favorite part of the sermon and reproduce it in some way. 
Some of the fifth graders made a mural for the beatitudes.
Look at the birds of the air, they don't sow or reap or stow away in barns...

4. The children could play charades, each acting out a part of the sermon. The other children would have to guess what part they were playing.

5. You could help the children focus on the Beatitudes, assigning the beatitudes out to the kids to illustrate. (Matthew 5:3-12)

6. If you focus on the lamp, you could find photos of lamps in magazines to make a collage. Children could copy the scripture about being the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16) at the bottom and write a sentence about what that means to them.

7. Children could focus on the commandments and Jesus' words to do more than they ask. Children could illustrate this.

8. What does it mean to be generous? (Matthew 5:38-42) Children could illustrate this with drawings or acting it out.

9. Children could focus on the Lord's prayer by copying it and practicing saying it. (Matthew 6: 9-13) Asking the children to illustrate each line of the prayer would ensure that they understand it. For younger children, teachers could photocopy the prayer in a large font, cut out the individual lines, and have the children arrange them in the right order and illustrate each one. If you wanted to do this in a grand scale, you could ask each child to illustrate one line, and then hang this in your classroom--the words and their illustrations.

10. Children could also illustrate someone praying like Jesus taught them to pray, in a quiet room, away from others. They could draw their own bedrooms, showing where they pray.

11. Why not have the children make a bird collage and copy the verse about birds and worrying? (Matthew 6:25-27) Or make a bird for the tree we have in our hallway? That would be great! You could cut simple birds out of different colored paper (decorated however the kids like) and hang them with string, like these from Family Fun:

The children could write the Bible verse on the back, Look at the birds. They don’t plant, harvest, or save food in barns, but your heavenly Father feeds them. Matthew 6:26. Or they could write the verse in their own wording.
Or use the simple template shared here to make the birds.

12. The golden rule is something the children surely know. It's good that children see where it comes from. Why not write it out (Matt 7:12) and then illustrate it in some way?

13. The class could draw a mural of each child sitting at Jesus's feet as he taught from the hillside.

There's so much richness here. Enjoy!