Welcome to The Ten Best Ways, the Godly Play story scheduled at our church for this coming Sunday, Sept. 28. You can find the story in Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:1-21. The Godly Play script can be found in the 14 Presentations for Fall book (the orange one), p73-80.
I love that Godly Play refers to the Ten Commandments as The Ten Best Ways and places them in a heart shaped box. This helps us remember that our God is not a supreme dictator who exists just for the chance to squash us when we don't adhere to his rules, but is instead a God who loves us enough to want to give us boundaries, so that we can fully enjoy the life God meant for us.
In preparation for teaching the lesson, it's good to look back at the session that precedes it: the Exodus. God has led his people out of slavery, away from Pharaoh and the soldiers chasing after them, through the sea, into freedom. Now they can live where they want, do what they want, be who they want. As the story script says, "Now that the people are free...where will they go now? What is the best way?"
Thank goodness (and thank God!) that God provided divine guidance, motivated completely by love.
What to focus on? Here are some general ideas :
1. The younger classes (first grade and younger) might choose to keep things simple by focusing on the first heart in the box: Love God, Love People, God Loves You. Or, depending on the children, you could go deeper and study all the commandments. You probably have an idea of what the children can handle best.
2. Study each of the commandments by reproducing them in some way.
3. Explore the idea of Moses being the only one with the courage to climb up into the fire and smoke to meet God. Children will find it interesting that God wanted to protect Moses from his powerful presence, so God put him in a crevice in the rock and put his hand over him until he had passed by, allowing Moses to see his back. I love the line, "When we see God's back, we can follow God all of our days."
4. The older children may benefit by exploring the conflict that comes when we find ourselves stuck between two commandments, like when Grandma gives you a present that you don't like and asks you what you think of it. How do we love others and still stay true to the truth?
We should also address more close to the heart conflicts, like divorce. Many of our children are experiencing divorce and will be listening especially to the Best Way of honoring marriage. We need to be sure to include in our session a focus on grace and forgiveness. Sometimes people try their very best to honor the Ten Best ways, and it just doesn't work out. God always offers love and forgiveness to all. His love never stops, no matter what.
Art Response Ideas:* Thanks to Charlie Bryan, we have beautiful pieces of slate and granite that could be used for a Ten Best Ways project. A class could let each child paint or write one commandment on each piece for a classroom set, or each child could have his own and use sharpie markers to write all ten. We have over 80 pieces, so there should be enough for each child! Please feel free to use these. I'll have them on a cart in the hallway.
* Give the children big construction paper hearts divided into the sections Love God, Love People, and God Loves You. "I wonder how you could illustrate each section?" Children could choose whether to draw or cut pictures from a magazine or paint with watercolors. Or children could work together on one huge heart of butcher paper, contributing illustrations for each section. (This idea is especially for the younger children.)
*Let each child make a set of commandments, painting the tablets with watercolors after they write their version of the Ten Best Ways. It's beautiful...see here.
*See this version done on slate.
* I wonder if we could make a Mount Sinai? (With a cleft for Moses to hide in!) Could we make Moses out of a clothespin? How would we make the Ten Best Ways?" The youngest children might need ideas from which to choose.
*Could we make a huge set of Ten Best Ways together for our classroom? As tall as a child? Could we illustrate each commandment? Which one would you like to work on?
*I wonder what materials we might use to make individual sets of Best Way hearts, so that you can take it home with you. (You might want to see what kind of interesting materials you can find at a craft store. Save your receipts and I'll reimburse you.)
*I wonder if you can make up hand motions to illustrate each individual Best Way? Could you split them up among children and videotape each one, making a video the whole class can enjoy? (If somebody does this I'd love to share it with parents!)
*I wonder which is your favorite commandment? Would you like to concentrate just on that one, making a 2 dimensional or 3 dimensional representation of it? (a drawing or collage or making a scene out of play clay, etc?)
Obviously, we wouldn't want to present ALL of these options to the class, as that might be too overwhelming. But it's a list I hope will help you...and get you started thinking of your own ideas.
Speaking of other ideas, I'd LOVE to hear yours in the comments section if you want to share!