Monday, January 26, 2015

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, February 1.
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? 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. 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'm happy to 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. 
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 cards 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.

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!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Jesus Visits Mary and Martha

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to the lesson for January 25, Jesus Visits Martha and Mary, the story from Luke 10:38-42.

I love this story because it does such a good job of raising questions about hospitality- hospitality that we try to practice  and the unique, radical hospitality of God.

Truth be told, I think I also love this scripture because I can really relate to Martha's predicament. What kind of hospitality is important in our own lives? To what extent is it important? I find it interesting-and comforting- that Jesus doesn't disapprove of Martha's focused cleaning and cooking and all her caring for her guests. His response to her frustration of finding herself doing all the work ("Lord, make my sister help me!") is to turn the focus to his own brand of hospitality to Mary.

As I know you know, children will need help understanding what the word hospitality means. Does God ask us to show hospitality to others? What about God's form of hospitality to us?

Of course, one of the big questions this story raises is just who gets to receive God's hospitality. You'll want to remind the children that in Jesus's time, rabbis did not allow women to sit at their feet and study the Torah, to listen and ask questions. Yet Jesus encourages it. Who would Jesus welcome to sit at his feet today, to act as a disciple? Are there people that some might choose to exclude? Children are so good at helping us broaden our circle!

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 her 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. Focus on Retelling the Story
*Each child could recreate a set of the Godly Play materials for themselves either 2 dimensionally, through drawing the pieces and cutting them out, or 3 dimensionally, with clay (bucket, plates, etc), clothespins (Jesus and the sisters) and other materials-a twig broom, etc.
* Make a mural of the story on butcher paper.
*Act out the story, either set in Bible times, or set in modern day. Let the children perform it for each other or another class. Children could play the roles of Jesus, Mary and Martha, and other children (who might be more shy) could be among of the 72 guests.

2. Focus on the theme of Who Would Jesus Want to Sit at His Feet?
I can imagine this being successful as an individual project (either a drawing or a collage from magazine pictures) or a class project, with each child picking what kind of person she would like to draw. Would Jesus want the poor, the rich? Different races? The old? The young? Families? Singles? Prisoners? Sick people? Well people? Lonely people? Happy? They could even draw themselves! In fact, I love that idea!

There is butcher paper in the Children's Activity Room ready for a class to work on it together. (They could draw directly on the paper or on small sheets and then glue each person's work to the larger paper.)

3. The children could work on their hospitality skills. Some could prepare some kind of food as Martha did. Some could sweep and clean. Others could be Mary, listening to a teacher read a story. Afterwards, the group could talk about how it felt to play each role. Then the children could take a look at Matthew 4:4 "Jesus answered, 'It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"  This verse comes from Jesus's desert experience (his quoting from Deuteronomy,) but it applies to this story as well. The children could write the verse in their own words and illustrate it with the Mary & Martha scene.

4. We have a Love Luncheon with Senior Adults scheduled for Feb. 8, so one way our children could practice hospitality is to make decorations for the lunch!

5. Our second graders drew pictures of what each of us would do to entertain Jesus if he came to our house.

 Hope this helps you!
Love, Becky

Monday, January 12, 2015

Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man, our story for Jan. 18, based on Luke 5:17-26.

It was really fun to think about how to tell this story, how to create the house so that the friends could deliver their paralyzed friend to Jesus's feet. It was also a pleasure to think about the lesson itself: what happened that day and what we can learn from it about faith, the power of Jesus, (and his ability to heal both wounds of the spirit and physical wounds) and what it means to be a Christian friend.

As you can see from the scripts, I've written the story in two versions: one for the younger children, which focuses on the healing itself and on friendship, and one for older children, which also includes the discussion after the healing between Jesus and the religious scholars. There is an added wondering question for the older children concerning this discussion as well.  (If you attend another church and would like the scripts, I'm happy to share. Just email me a request at becky(dot)ramsey(at)firstbaptistgreenville(dot)com. If you don't hear back from me, please email me again.)

As you tell the story, you will find enough Lincoln logs in your basket to build the house as shown below. I'm hoping to have enough donated so that you can be creative and build it how you like, but just in case you have to go with the blocks I've got, I'm sharing a pictorial guide to building it here.

If you like, as you build the house you could remind the children of last week's story about Jesus calling Levi (Matthew),  that some of the most important work Jesus did was done while visiting people in their homes, listening to them, talking with them, teaching them, bringing them peace, and often healing them in different ways.

Once the house is built, you can begin the story.
The popsicle stick roof makes it easy to remove "tiles" so that the paralyzed man can be lowered. You may want to take off all of the tiles and part of a side wall so that everyone can see what is going on inside the house.  Or just demonstrate the lowering, and then tell the rest of the story on the green underlay.

If you're teaching the older children, as you talk about Jesus's discussion with the religious scholars, you will want to stress that people may have thought that sin was connected to illness in Bible times, but that this is untrue. Children sometimes mistakenly pick up only parts of a sentence, and the idea that illness has anything to do with sin is definitely one we don't want them to get!

We can celebrate that there were actually two miracles shown by the story: that of healing the paralyzed man and that God empowered Jesus to heal the heart of the man, forgiving him of his sin. None of it would have happened if it hadn't been for the man's friends, who loved him enough to do whatever it took to get him to Jesus.

Gift - To - God Ideas
The story is probably enough to inspire the children to express it through their very own artistic gift to God, but just in case they need a little springboard, here are some ideas I hope will be helpful.

1. Let the children act/play out the story:
*on the rug with the teaching materials (in a group of 2 or 3)

(Encourage them to retell the story to each other, not just build the house.) I hope to have enough extra Lincoln logs to add to those in the story basket. We'll see.

*Pick characters and act it out. Bring a blanket and let them try to lift one person in the blanket (over the carpet, and not very high,:) )

2. Make parts of the story.
The house made from clay. Note the stairs beside it.
* Make a mat with fabric and Popsicle sticks and a man and his friends and Jesus from clothespins. Bring shoeboxes and let the kids make a whole set, with the house too. Can they make a set of stairs leading up to the roof? (See an example of something sort of like this here.

*Weave a mat as shown here. When the kids can use it at home as a placemat, it will remind of the story. All it takes is construction paper.

3. Make a collage about what it means to be a(Christian) friend. Cut out pictures from magazines that show people being friends to each other or draw pictures that show friendship in action. This could also be a great mural that the whole class works on together.

4. Make a Man-on-a-Mat snack.  Frost graham crackers with icing, and arrange stick pretzels and marshmallows to form the body of the person on the mat. (Or you could use gingerbread men.)

5. We might not be able to heal others, but cards with pictures and friendly messages can help aid the healing. Offer kids the option of making get well cards for church members or shut ins.

I hope you enjoy the story. Don't forget to borrow my camera if you like, and take photos!

Thanks for all you do!
Love, Becky

Monday, January 5, 2015

Jesus Calls the Disciples

Hi Godly Play Teachers!
Welcome to Jesus Calls the Disciples, our story for Jan 11, which focuses on two of the Jesus stories Godly Play doesn't cover: the calling of the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James and John, and the calling of Levi (also called Matthew.)

(Child's View)
I was really thrilled to create this lesson and look forward to seeing how the kids receive it. I'm sure that they'll have interesting ways to process it, interpret it, and teach us about it. They always do!

You should have received the lesson's script in an email I sent to you. If not, please shoot me a note (becky (dot) ramsey (at) firstbaptistgreenville (dot) com) or call and I'll send you a copy in the mail or email. I'll also have extra copies in the basket with the lesson. It will be in your classroom ready for you to pick up if you like on Wednesday.

I love these two stories for many reasons. First, I think it's so valuable for the children to begin to explore what exactly a disciple is and that Jesus calls us all to come along with him and help him do his work. The fisherman miracle is so powerful, and it introduces the beautiful idea that Jesus calls ordinary people to bring in others to join the faith journey. (By the way, it's also a great time to talk about why Christians use the fish symbol, if you want.) The Levi story helps us remember that we are all broken, that nobody is "good enough" to be called by God, yet God still calls each of us.

To inspire the kids--and for extra fun-- I'll have two extra things in your classroom that you can use (or not use) as you like: a fishing net and a basket of goldfish crackers. Have fun!

I have the wondering questions included with the script. I'll have copies in your classroom also.

Ideas for the Create a Gift for God Time

Recreate the Story 
Children could retell the story in many ways:
1. Two Dimensionally:
     Besides drawing or painting story scenes, a class could work on creating a scene for each of the stories together. I can imagine a big boat on butcher paper and the kids making lots of fish, the fishermen, a net, Jesus, etc.  You could also create the banquet scene: Levi, Jesus, his friends, and tables heavily laden with food (from magazine collage pictures or drawn.)

2. Three Dimensionally: Make items from the story (a boat, a banquet table with clay or
felt, boats (paper folding)
or felt, lake, money bag, 
Here's a site with a plan to make 3D boats:

Or you could talk about the story as you fish, like these third graders!

Make Artwork Focused On Being a Disciple
1. You could suggest the children head their paper: Disciples Do Jesus' Work. Then they could draw or watercolor or do a collage showing how we do Jesus's work: helping others, visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, being a peacemaker, sharing what we have, etc.

2. You could focus on the fishermen and Levi's decision to be a disciple, drawing a before and after of what each person's life might have looked like. (Before: Peter mending nets, fishing in a boat, selling his fish. After: following Jesus, watching him teach the crowd, helping him go from town to town, telling others about how his life has been changed by Jesus.

Spend Time Learning/Researching the other Disciples 
Children may want to search for the names of the other disciples and draw all twelve, labeling them with their names. (Find this in Luke 6: 12-16)  If you like, assign each child a disciple and have the children draw a face, labeling it with the name they were given. They could include their own face and name with the 12 for a great classroom decoration.

Want to help the children learn the disciples' names? There's a song at the website here. Could they rewrite it into a rap song? (I know they could!)

Enjoy, everyone!