Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Teaching tips.

Teaching tips from Maurice Sweetsur ( ).


Teaching John 3.16.
Overcoming discipline problems - by making your lessons fun and exciting.
1. Getting children to pray in public.
2. How we should pray (A lesson from blind Bartimaeus).
3. Ideas for teaching the David and Goliath story.
4. Ideas on teaching about Creation.
5. Developing good habits.
A. Teaching children how to make right choices.
B. Teaching children to be generous givers.
6. Use of Balloon modelling in Children's ministry.
7. Use of Ventriloquism to teach class rules.
8. Leading children to Christ.
9. Noah's ark and the flood.
10. Use of storytelling.
11. What is love?
12. The Lord's prayer.
13, Teaching Memory verses.
14. What's in a name?
15. Telling the C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. story.
16. How God speaks to us.
What do children believe?
17. Ideas for teaching about Zacchaeus.
18. Jesus Understands (Easter).
19. Teaching Bible stories in context.
Creation or Evolution. Does it really matter what we believe?
20. Creation and Evolution.
21. The lost sheep.
22. The lost son.

Teaching John 3.16.

Story - A soldier gives up his life for his friends.

This story is taken from the film "Bridge over the river Quay." I cannot vouch for the details being 100% accurate, but you will get the overall picture.

During World war ll, some British soldiers were taken captive by the Japanese, and made to work very hard building a railway track through the jungle in Burma.

One day, the Japanese guards discovered that an axe was missing from the storeroom. Naturally, they thought that one of the British soldiers must have stolen it. The camp Commander lined all the British soldiers up, and asked for the man who had stolen the axe to step forward, because they were going to take him away and shoot him. Nobody moved.

"Very well" the Commander said. "I will give you one last chance. If the soldier who stole the axe doesn't step forward right now, I will choose one soldier at random and shoot him instead. Then, if the guilty soldier still doesn't own up, I will keep on shooting other men until he does so. Will the soldier who stole the axe step forward now." A soldier took one step forward. He was taken away and shot.

Sometime later, the guards checked on the storeroom again. To their surprise they found that all the axes were present! They had made a mistake the first time they had counted. Nobody had stolen an axe.

That British soldier had not stolen an axe. In fact, he had done nothing wrong. What he did do was give up his life so that his friends might live. What do you think the other British soldiers thought of their friend when they found out he had given his life that they might live? If, in someway, they could have communicated with him, what do you think they would have said? I think they would have said something like this. "Words cannot express how grateful I am to you. You gave your life for me. Now I am going to give my life over to you. Wherever you want me to go, I will go. Whatever you want me to do, I will do." I think that would have been the natural response.

What a wonderful act it was for that soldier to give up his life for his friends. But do you know that Jesus gave up his life for you BEFORE you were His friends (Romans 5.8). What is your response to Jesus? Do you say "so what" or " who cares." I know what my response was. As soon as I realised that Jesus had died for me, I said to him " Words cannot express how grateful I am to you. You gave your life for me. Now I am going to give my life over to you. Wherever you want me to go, I will go. Whatever you want me to do, I will do."

John 3.16.
I often introduce this scripture by showing the word GOSPEL down the left of a card, explaining what it means - Good news about Jesus Christ, and then uncovering the rest of the card to show the verse in full, as shown below.
God so loved the world that he gave his
One and only
Son that whoever believes in him shall not
Perish, but have
Life. John 3.16.

Having got the children to repeat the verse a few times, I then get them to make it more personal by replacing "the world" and "whoever" with their own names, and then repeating a few more times.

Another way of teaching this verse is to explain each part as you read it - as per the illustration below.

God (the greatest Person) so loved (the greatest extent) the world (the greatest company) that He gave (the greatest act) His one and only Son (the greatest gift) that whoever (the greatest opportunity) believes (the greatest simplicity) in Him shall not perish (the greatest promise) but have (the greatest certainty) eternal life (the greatest possession).
Another way of teaching this verse is to explain each part as you read it - as per the illustration above. I then often conclude by getting the children to do the illustrated word search (see above).

Overcoming discipline problems - by making your lessons fun and exciting.

There has been much written about how best to discipline 'problem' classes. I certainly don't profess to be an expert on the subject, but I would like to share my own experience in the hope that it will be a help to you.

When I first started teaching Bible classes, I had my share of discipline problems, especially from the older boys. I soon realised, however, that many children were causing trouble simply because they were bored with my lessons!

I therefore determined to make my lessons more fun and exciting. I believe that this is something we must all do, otherwise many of the children - even if they don't actually misbehave - will simply "turn off." Fortunately, there are many ways we can do this. Here are a few suggestions.

Tell familiar stories from unusual angles, to keep the children guessing. e.g. The Good Samaritan from the point of view of the donkey, Daniel, from a lion's viewpoint, Jonah, as seen by the large fish, David and Goliath from the Giant's perspective. (Don't mention the Giant's name till the end - to keep your class wondering!). etc etc.

If your class is well behaved, use skits involving the children - most Bible stories can be adapted to be told in this way. If your class cannot be trusted to do this properly, use puppet skits. I record the skit beforehand, and get children to operate the puppets. Check out for an extensive array of skits.

Use ventriloquism.You don't need a special dummy. A hand puppet will do. And you don't have to be expert. If you use good material, the children will love it, and won't mind if they see your mouth moving a little.

Teach memory verses in lots of different ways. The number is only limited by your own imagination.

Review your teaching with quizzes. Noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) is a popular way to do this.

Dress up as a Bible character, and tell his/her story with a monologue. Nebuchadnezzar, telling about the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace, and the cripple who was brought to Jesus by his four friends, have worked well for me.

Use lots of object lessons to illustrate your teaching points. Better still, use illusions, which are essentially object lessons with "special effects." Many illusions are very easy to do, but will still baffle your class. Two excellent sources of illusions are and (which also has an excellent range of ventriloquism skits). Also, many illusions, especially those involving paper cutting or ropes, cost nothing to do.

Result ? I can now say that I rarely have any discipline problems. I don't think this is because my present classes have generally better behaved children in them, but rather because I am now better able to keep their attention.

I am not saying that we should abandon our programs so as to keep the children entertained, but if they are not happy, they won't learn much anyway and will be put off the church in later years. We can still teach our programs, but we should all be continually searching for more interesting and exciting ways to do it. We owe this both to our children and to the Lord.

1.Getting children to pray in public.

I teach children mainly from non-Christian homes, and in the approximate age range 6 to 11. I have found that it is relatively easy to get the younger children to pray out loud in class, but those aged about 8 and above are more self-conscious, and so less inclined to do so. The following is a technique that I have found to be very effective in encouraging older children to pray in public.

With each new class, I start off the same way, by getting the children to go through a simple routine. I say "God is good." The children have to reply "All the time." I then say "All the time," and the children say "God is good."
When the children are used to this (just one or two weeks), I get different children to do the leading instead of myself. Then after one or two more weeks, I get the children who want to lead to think up their own words to describe God, i.e. "God is wonderful, awesome, powerful, marvellous" etc. etc.

When the children are used to this routine, I say "Today, instead of starting by talking about God, I want you to start by talking to God, by saying God, you're good, wonderful, awesome etc. We won't do the 'All the time' part, but as many of you as want to can participate." Usually there is no shortage of volunteers, and the children have actually started to pray in public.

A few weeks later, I invite the children, if they wish, to make their prayers a little longer, by thanking God for something. So they may pray "God, you're wonderful, and I thank you for sending Jesus." "God you're awesome, and thank you for my mum." etc. To encourage the children, I often compliment them on their prayers. "What a great prayer." "That was a wonderful thing to pray for." etc.

Using this procedure, I find that most children are eager to participate in our opening prayer to God. I have had one or two classes where only a few children would volunteer to pray, but this was easily overcome by offering an incentive. I say, "I have a piece of paper in my pocket, with a number on it. If the number is 1, the first person who prays will get a little prize (e.g. a bookmark), if the number is 10, the tenth person to pray will get the prize, etc." I have never needed an incentive for the following week. Once children "take the plunge" and pray out loud for the first time, they are eager to keep doing it. I usually find that after a few weeks, whenever I enter a class, the hands of about half the children shoot up, indicating that they want to participate in the opening prayer!

2. How we should pray.

I find the story of Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10, Luke 18) ideal for teaching children about how we should pray.

After telling the story, I write out the first four letters of the Beggar's name ( B.A.R.T.) on a card, and talk about each one in turn.

B. Stands for Bold and Persistent. Bartimaeus refused to listen to the crowd who tried to put him off, but just kept on calling out until Jesus heard and answered him. If we want something badly from God, we should come boldly before Him, knowing that He loves us and wants to bless us. We should keep on asking until we get an answer, and refuse to listen to those who may try to discourage us.

A. Stands for Ask and be exact. Bartimaeus knew exactly what he wanted Jesus to do for him. He simply said "I want to see." And that is exactly what he got. Don't pray 'General' prayers like "God bless my family," but rather make up your mind exactly what you want God to do for you, and ask for that.

R. Stands for Remember to Believe. Believing is the only way we can receive from God. Even while he was still blind, Bartimaeus really believed he would be healed, and proved it by throwing off his coat. (This would have almost certainly have been a special Beggars coat - given to him by the Authorities, thus showing he was legally allowed to beg.) If Bartimaeus had remained blind, it is extremely unlikely he would have found his coat again. However, he was so convinced Jesus would heal him, he basically threw away his only source of income! Jesus saw Bartimaeus' faith and said, "Then see, your faith has healed you."

T. Stands for Thanksgiving. After the miracle, Bartimaeus followed after Jesus praising God. We already have many things we can thank God for. Perhaps you can think of some of them right now, and thank Him for them?

3. David and Goliath.

The following is not meant to be a lesson plan, but rather a number of ideas that you may wish to incorporate into any lesson about David and Goliath.

Story. Using my imagination, I usually tell this story from how the Giant (I don't mention his name till near the end) might have seen things - e.g. a huge, strong, man loved fighting, so he joined his country's army and soon became their "Champion." His country went to war with their deadliest enemies, but the giant had a good idea - that he should challenge the enemy's champion to do battle in single combat, with the losing side having to surrender to the victors. With the approval of his King, this he did. - - - - - - - - Eventually someone came out to challenge the giant, but his joy at the prospect of a fight soon turned to disgust when he saw that it was only a boy that was confronting him.

Skit. I then perform a fun skit, playing both parts myself by running from left to right as the two combatants confront each other. When I am the giant, I put on a crown hat marked "Champion", pick up a cardboard sword, and use a deep booming voice. For the boy, I put on a cap, and use a little squeaky voice. Here is some suggested dialogue, but the important thing is to really "throw" yourself into the two characters. Children love it when you overact.

Giant. "Am I a dog that you come against me with sticks. Are you going to beat me with your sticks? Why, I am going to chop your head off, and feed your body to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field."

Boy. "You come against me with a sword and a spear, but I come against you in the name of the Lord God of Israel, and - - - and - - - and - - - and I'm going to chop your head off, and feed your body to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field - so there!"

Giant. " Why you cheeky young rascal, I'm going to whip you.
Boy. "No you're not. I'm going to whip you."

Giant. "I'm going to thrash you."

Boy. "No. I'm going to thrash you."

Giant. "Oh yes. You and whose army?"

Boy. "Just me and the Lord God of Israel. We are going to thrash you together."

Giant. "Your God won't be able to help you against me. Don't you realise who I am? I am the biggest. I am the greatest. I am the strongest. No one can beat me."

Boy. " Well, me and my God are going to beat you."

Giant. "That's enough of your cheek (lifting up his sword), prepare to die right now."

The giant took a stride forwards, but the boy reached down, picked up a stone, put it in his sling. The sling went round and round, the stone flew out and hit Goliath (because that was the Giant's name of course) on the forehead. Goliath crashed to the ground, David (the boy's name of course) picked up Goliath's sword and slew him.

And that day, David and the Israelites won a great victory over Goliath and the Philistines.

Question. How was it that David could defeat the giant? Was he bigger than Goliath? No. Was he stronger than Goliath? No. Had he got better weapons than Goliath? No. The answer is that he defeated the giant because he remembered that God was on his side, Interestingly, God was also on the side of the other Israelite soldiers - they were part of God's Special people -, but it didn't do them any good because they forgot that! When they looked at Goliath, all they saw was a giant - a big problem. When David came along, he saw that Goliath was big, but he also remembered that his God was far, far, bigger!

Defeating Giants. At this point I use my Object lesson No. 6, Defeating giants, using the two curved cards to help the children understand that with God on their side, they can also defeat any giants in their lives.

Throwing your giants on Jesus. I usually teach 1 Peter 5 v. 7 - "Throw all your worries on him, because he cares for you." in connection with this story. I explain that there are many "giants" or worries that people have in their lives, e.g. another person who is giving them a hard time, a bad habit, or a fear (e.g. of the dark, nightmares, flying, dying, snakes, spiders, dogs etc.). I get the children to write out the names of their giant(s) on a piece of paper. Then, as I lead them in prayer, at the appropriate time, I get them to crumple up their papers (giants) and throw them on Jesus - imagining Him to be standing at the front of the class. Conclude by emphasising that because Jesus now has their giants, they have them no more.

Object Lesson 39. - Wrestling match. I invite one of the bigger boys to come out for a wrestling match. I explain that it is a "handicap" match - all of him against my little thumb! My volunteer can use both hands, and all he has to do is wrestle my little thumb to the ground! After he has failed to do that, ask "Why wasn't that big boy able to defeat my little thumb?" Answer. Because my thumb, small as it is, is attached to something far bigger - it is attached to me! Remind the children that if they are trusting in Jesus, they are actually attached to God, and no matter how big their "giant" may appear, they will be able to overcome it because God is far, far bigger.

Object Lesson 40. - Samson pad. These are pieces of white plastic, but they look and feel like cardboard. They can be obtained from . Take one plastic sheet and one ordinary cardboard sheet (which comes in the same pack), and write on each "GIANT". The two sheets should look identical. Give the cardboard sheet to a small girl, and the plastic sheet to a big boy. Explain that we are going to imagine that both the volunteers have giants to overcome. God is on the side of both of them, but one - and you are not saying which - is like David, and has remembered that. The other is like the other Israelite soldiers who forgot that, and so were afraid of the giant.

Ask the volunteers to defeat their "giants" by ripping up the 'cardboard' into small pieces. It will soon be obvious which one is like David.

Puppet Script. A "fun" play "David and Goliath" can be found on . It is well worth a look. As with all scripts, you don't have to use it exactly as written, but you can adapt it to suit your particular class of children.

4. Creation.

I can think of no other Bible topic that lends itself to so many fun activities for children than creation. Here are a few examples that you could incorporate into your lessons on this subject.

1. (Object Lesson 41 - The earth, sun and moon). After teaching how God created the earth, sun and moon, get three children to act out their motions.
a. The sun stays still, but always shines (smiles).
b. The earth travels round the sun, rotating as it does so (365+ spins per one circuit round the sun!).
c. The moon travels round the earth, remembering to always keep its same side facing the earth.

I have always found this to be great fun for children of all ages. Usually the 'moon' finds it hard to keep up with the earth, causing great hilarity among the spectators.

You could explain that God has made the conditions on earth just right for life. Even small changes would make life, as we know it, impossible. Ask "What would it be like on earth if - - - ?

1. The earth was nearer to the sun -------- Too hot. (It has been calculated that even a 2 degree C. rise in the average surface temperature of the earth would be enough to melt the polar ice caps and cause devastating flooding).
2. The earth was further away from the sun ------ Too cold.
3. The earth didn't rotate once on its axis every 24 hours ------ One side would be day all the time and be very hot. The other would be night all the time and be very cold.
4. The earth rotated faster than now ------ Very short days and nights, and constant hurricane force winds.
5. The earth wasn't tilted on its axis ------ No seasons. Countries near the equator would be very hot. Those far from the equator would be too cold to grow food - resulting in a world-wide food shortage.
6. The diameter of the earth was (say 10%) less than its present 13,000 Kilometres ------- Because of the consequent reduction in gravity, most of the oxygen which we need to breathe would escape into outer space.
7. The diameter of the earth was 10% greater than at present ------ The increased gravity, and hence air pressure would cause the polar ice caps to melt - resulting in devastating flooding.
8. The moon was a little smaller or a little further away than at present ------ Very little tidal action, resulting in even the oceans becoming stagnant and the death of all aquatic creatures.
9. The moon was a little larger or a little nearer than at present ------ Too severe tidal action, with low lying areas being flooded twice a day!

What a wonderful Creator we have, who not only made the earth just right for us to inhabit, but He also keeps it that way year, after year, after year.

2. (Object Lesson 42 - Gravity). Get a soft, hollow ball and pierce two holes in it close to each other. Thread a piece of string through the holes and tie together. You are now ready to demonstrate the importance of having the right strength of gravity as the earth circles the sun.

Hold the end of the string, and swing the ball round your head. Explain that your head represents the sun, and the ball represents the earth travelling round it year after year at a constant speed. Also, because gravity remains the same, the earth remains the same distance from the sun.

Ask, "What would happen to the earth if God increased gravity a little?" Demonstrate the effect by letting the ball crash into your head.

Ask "What would happen if God decreased gravity a little?" Demonstrate by letting go of the string. The ball will fly off to the other side of the room!

3. (Object Lesson 43 - Can nothing turn into something?). Bring an empty jar to your class, complete with lid. Ask the children to watch the jar for you for a few weeks, and tell you if anything begins to appear on the inside.

After a few weeks, ask the children if anything has begun to grow inside the jar? No. Ask, if you left the jar in the room for a year, with the lid closed, they think something will then have begun to grow - perhaps a little ant? No. How about 10 years? 100 years? A million years? Ever? The answer is still no. Explain that if nothing cannot become something in a few weeks, there is absolutely no reason to believe that it could ever do so. (You may wish to explain that there is actually air in your jar, but if even the air could not turn into something, there is certainly no way that 'nothing' could).

Some people do believe, however, that this did happen. They call it Evolution. They say that a long time ago, there was nothing. But them this nothing, all by itself, managed to become something, and that this something kept changing and changing into all the variety of things we see today, including us! The Bible tells us, however, that in the space of six days God, through His power, created the Universe and everything in it. God not only made everything complete and perfect, He made it all for our benefit - for us to enjoy and take care of.

4. (Object Lesson 44 - Dependence on oxygen). Talk about how God created the air ( or oxygen ), and then demonstrate how dependent we are on this by getting the children to see how long they can survive without it, i.e. how long they can hold their breath. If the oxygen level were a little less than its present 21%, breathing would be difficult. If it were a little higher, the fire danger would be greatly increased.

5. If you do balloon modelling, here is a good object lesson you could use. If not, it could be adapted for use with a toy animal, or even a cut out one. This was first published in Newsletter No. 8, as Object Lesson 20. I will reprint the version more suitable for younger children here. Check out my earlier Newsletter if you minister to older children e.g. nine or above.

Produce your balloon animal and ask. "How do you think this model was made? Do you think it could have been made by accident? Perhaps someone left an uninflated balloon in this room last night, and left the window open. Overnight, the wind blew through the window and into the balloon. The balloon then began twisting itself round and round until it formed the shape of this animal, which you see here now. Finally, the end of the balloon managed to tie itself in a knot to stop the air escaping. Do you think that really happened, or do you think that there is a balloon model maker somewhere who made this animal on purpose?" The children should see the absurdity of the model being able to make itself by accident, and respond. "There is a balloon model maker somewhere." Admit that you are the model maker, and then emphasise the point that everything the children see around them has to have a maker. Watches need watchmakers, shoes need shoemakers, chairs need chairmakers etc. Nothing can make itself.
You will then be able to apply the above argument to the creation of the Universe and everything in it. State "There are some people who believe that the Universe made itself by accident. But the Universe is far more wonderful and complex than a balloon animal, and if even that couldn't make itself, then how likely is it that the whole Universe made itself? No, the Bible teaches us that we have wonderful Creator who made the Universe and everything in it on purpose. And the good news is:- He made it all for our benefit.

6. Give each child a circular piece of plain cardboard (or paper). Ask them to imagine that they are the Creator, and that they are going to create a new world by drawing on their cardboard. Allow a few minutes for this, and give a few suggestions e.g. birds, flowers, animals, people.

When complete, ask the children to close their eyes and imagine the creatures in their perfect world coming alive - singing, laughing, playing etc. Everything is wonderful.

Now ask the children to imagine that something has gone wrong in their perfect world. People are arguing, fighting and killing each other. The animals are killing and eating each other. Weeds are growing among the flowers.

Explain that this is exactly what happened with God's perfect world. The question to the children is, "What should they do about their world that has gone bad?" Give them four options:-

1. Destroy their world. (You will probably find that most children will vote for this option!)
2. Send someone to teach the people how to be good.
3. Go yourself to show the people how to love each other.
4. Give the people the power to change and be good.

Conclude by explaining that God didn't choose to destroy His world, because He still loved it even after it had gone bad. Rather, He chose options 2, 3, and best of all No. 4.

7. My Object Lesson with Dandelions (No.28) on God's provision ( Newsletter No.11) is ideal for helping children to understand how much the Creator cares for all His creatures.
8. There is an excellent object lesson about "an amazing flying machine" on Here is a summary.
Talk about all the money and brain power that have gone into making some marvellous flying machines, such as Concorde, the Space shuttle, Stealth bombers, etc. Then say that you are now going to talk about an amazing flying machine that is far more wonderful than all the others put together! This flying machine can take off and land sideways on a vertical wall! It has tremendous manoeuvrability, being able to instantly change direction. It can take off with amazing acceleration. It has the ability to sense danger, and can take off and be out of danger in a split second. If it develops a fault, it can often correct itself, and even has the ability to reproduce itself! "Would you children like to see a picture of this amazing flying machine? Here it is - a fly! (Produce a picture of an ordinary house fly. Note. You can download one from this web site. If you are not a member, I could send you one if you email me). God's creations are far more wonderful than people can make!"
9. Children are fascinated with dinosaurs. You may be able to purchase at reasonable cost a suitable fossil, e.g. a dinosaur tooth, or footprint and take this along to your class to talk about.
10. (Object Lesson 45 - "Made after its own kind."). God made the first of every living Biblical "kind", each with the ability to reproduce 'after it's own kind.' To explain this, take along an acorn. Explain that God created the first oak tree, with acorns (seeds) like this one contained in it. Some of those acorns would fall to the ground and grow into other oak trees, just like their parent tree, with each again containing their own acorns. Those, in turn. would fall to the ground and some would grow into more oak trees containing acorns, etc. etc. And that's how we get oak trees today. You may then wish to apply this argument to other living things, emphasising that cats always produce cats, dogs produce dogs, and people produce people etc.
11. Adam had to name all the different animals, and then he would have to have remembered their names - a remarkable memory feat. My object lesson 29 (Newsletter No.12) enables you to do your own memory feat in front of your class.
12. have twenty puppet plays listed on the subject of Creation. I must admit I haven't checked them all out, but I found that "God made the world" by Puppet Productions was simple, fun and informative.
13. One question children sometimes ask is "Is there life somewhere else in outer space?" (In fact, if I ask a class how many of them believe there is life somewhere else, apart from earth, usually the majority will put their hands up!) I usually answer the question this way.
"The only Person who knows everything about everything is God. And God has written us a book called the Bible which tells us everything we really need to know about life. Therefore the first place we should go to find out if something is true or not is the Bible. Unfortunately, the Bible doesn't say if there is life somewhere other than on earth, so we cannot know for sure. However, if there is life somewhere else, we do know three things about it.
1. It is not important to us on earth. If it were important, the Bible would have mentioned it.
2. It is younger than life on earth, because God didn't create the sun, moon, stars, and consequently any planets that may be associated with them, until Day 5 of the Creation week.
3. It cannot be superior to us, because we humans were made in God's image - and you can't get better than the best!
The Bible makes it clear that the earth (physically insignificant as it is) is the most important place in our vast Universe. It was here that God created man, that man sinned and consequently brought the whole of creation into bondage to decay (Romans 8.21). It was here that God became a man and was crucified for our sins. And it will be to here that Jesus will return for those of us who are trusting in him."
14. People, especially children, find it difficult to comprehend the vastness of the Universe - and hence the Greatness of God who created it all. Instead of talking about trillions of stars, you could use the Voyager spaceship to help children understand how big our Universe really is.
The Voyager was launched in 1977 to explore the Universe. It travels at a speed of 1.5 million Kilometres a day. Travelling at that speed, it would take the Spaceship :-
30 minutes to travel once round the earth.
6 hours to reach the moon.
3 months to reach the sun.
26 years to reach the outer limits of the solar system (where it is now).
And a massive 40,000 years to reach our nearest star, Sirus! And, of course, there are trillions of stars in the entire Universe, all of which are much, much further away still.
"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands." Psalm 19.1.

5. Developing good habits.

A. Teaching children how to make right choices.

As parents, or teachers, it is quite natural for us to want to warn children of the possible consequences of making wrong choices. In some cases "the wrong choice" is obvious. However, in others, e.g. Halloween activities or watching 'Harry Potter' films, Christians disagree on what "the wrong choice" is.

Rather than 'laying down the law' and often appearing to the children to be spoil sports, a far better approach is, I believe, to concentrate on teaching children to find out what God's will is for themselves. And of course, if they do that, they will make the right choice.

Here are four ways to guide children into making right choices. These apply to all choices they have to make, but we will use 'Halloween' as an example.

1. The popular W.W.J.D. (What Would Jesus Do) bracelet is a good place to start. Ask, would Jesus go to that Halloween party, or go knocking on strangers doors for 'trick or treat' ?

2. What does the Bible say ? This is our Instruction book for life. If the Bible approves or forbids something, that is the end of the argument. Halloween is not mentioned in the Bible of course, because it was written earlier. The Bible does say, however, that we should avoid all kinds of evil. The question then is "Are the Halloween activities, as we know them today, evil?"

3. Ask more mature Christians for their opinions, beginning with your Parents or Bible teacher. As we have seen, however, these may sometimes differ.

4. Go directly to God, and ask Him what He wants you to do. Colossians 3.15 says "Let the peace of Christ rule (be the Umpire) in your heart." If we are about to make a wrong choice, God will remove His peace from our hearts as a warning. Teach the child that God will make His will known to them if they ask him through the presence or absence of His peace. Having prayed first, they should then ask themselves "Do I feel good about going to that Halloween party, or do I feel uneasy about it?" "Is there a presence or absence of peace, when I think about it?" Emphasise to the child that they must approach God with an open mind. If they have already made up their mind to go to the party, and simply want God's approval, He is unlikely to speak to them. If, however, they genuinely desire God's will and have the attitude "Whatever you say Lord, that is what I will do," then He is well able to guide them into making the right choice.

A good way to summarise this teaching is to write out the word "S T O P" on a board or card. Explain that :-

S = Stop. Before you make a decision - Stop.
T = Think. Think "What Would Jesus Do" if He was me?
O = Obey. Obey what the Bible says.
P = Pray. Pray and ask God to make His will known to you.

Object Lesson 46 - Making right choices.

Maurice Sweetsur's photo.

Ask for a volunteer to come out and be tied to a chair with a piece of rope. Ask for a second volunteer to come out and make an important choice.

Produce a glass of water and a sweet (or other suitable reward). Explain that their choice is " In return for this sweet, will you throw this glass of water in the first volunteer's face? He/she is powerless to stop you, because they are tied to the chair." If they refuse, begin to increase the 'reward' on offer - 2, 3, 4 sweets, 4 sweets and a chocolate bar!

If your volunteer refuses to throw the water, tell them they have made the right choice. No matter what 'reward' was on offer, it would always be wrong to throw water in someone's face. State that the Bible teaches us that if we make the right choices here on earth, we will be rewarded in heaven. Give them their reward of sweets and chocolate bar.

If your volunteer says they will throw the water, tell them they have made the wrong choice, and give the 'reward' to their intended victim instead.

Note. It is probably better to choose a girl as your second volunteer as, in my experience, most boys are willing to throw water in someone's face, even in return for one sweet!

Object Lesson 47 - Choosing the right friends.

It is important to teach older children especially about the importance of choosing the right sort of friends.

Preparation. Take two pieces of plain white paper, and smear one with a dark jam (e.g. blackcurrant).

Application. Explain that the 'clean' paper represents them (hopefully), and the 'dirty' paper a friend who does wrong things and gets into trouble.

Ask "What will happen when I rub the two pieces of paper together? The possibilities are :- 1. The clean paper will stay clean, and the dirty paper dirty. 2. The clean paper will make the dirty one clean. The dirty paper will make the clean one dirty."

Most children will realise that the third possibility is the correct one. Demonstrate this by rubbing the papers together.

Conclude by saying "This is usually what happens if you choose a friend that does wrong things - some of their 'dirt' is likely to rub off on you."

B. Teaching children to be generous givers.

I know that Christians differ in their attitude to, and practice of tithing, but I am sure we are all agreed that we should be generous givers. The question is, how can we teach our children to be generous in their giving, both to their church and to other good causes?

If children are asked to give more money to Sunday school (for example), they are most likely to just go and ask their parents for more so they can pass it on. But this has no long-term-value at all.

Our task is not to increase the Sunday school income, but to teach children to be consistent, generous givers. The best way is to teach them, not to ask their parents for more money, but rather set aside a proportion of their normal pocket money each week to give to God's work.

This approach may actually result in an initial reduction of Sunday school income (without mum and dad's contributions), but the long-term benefits, both for your Church and for the children will be immeasurable.

I came upon a very simple object lesson on giving on (Four give away one equals 8).

Basically, you take a piece of paper, and say you are thinking of giving away one of the four corners. You are concerned that if you do so, you will have less corners for yourself, but decide to give a corner away anyway. Cut off a corner, and give it to someone. What has happened? You now have five corners, and the person you gave the one corner to has three! You could continue, giving away more corners, and the people you give them to, in turn, giving some away. This is God's way of working. The more you give, the more you have!

Teaching Tip 6. Use of Balloon modelling in Children's ministry.

Being able to make simple balloon models is, I believe, a very useful technique to have at your disposal for enhancing your lessons. Younger children, in particular, are always thrilled to see someone make a balloon model.

The main reasons why most teachers do not do balloon modelling is because they think it a hard (or expensive) thing to do, or because they don't know how they could use it in their classes. I will endeavour to answer both these points.

A. With just a little practice, most people find it easy to make basic balloon models - personally I find it a lot easier to make a balloon giraffe (for example) than to draw a picture of one! There are lots of booklets available on balloon modelling, but I think the best way to start is simply to get some balloons and try it yourself. Here are some tips :-

1. Probably the most used modelling balloons are Qualatex 260Q. If you buy in bulk, these are very inexpensive, and would probably cost (depending on what country you are in) about U.S. 10c. each - less than the price of the cheapest Bookmark, for example. You will almost certainly need a balloon pump (unless you have very strong lungs!), but again these are fairly cheap.

2. When you blow up a balloon, leave about 3 or 4cm. uninflated at the end - this is for the air to expand into as you begin your twisting. Then let a little air out before you tie the end of the balloon. This should ensure that the balloon doesn't burst as you are shaping it.

3. Basic balloon animals have the same shape. They differ only in their dimensions. Thus, for all of them, you twist a head, two ears, a neck, two front legs, a body, and two back legs - leaving a little over for the tail. Each animal will simply have a different 'long' section. For example, Rabbit - ears. Giraffe - neck. Dog - body (a 'sausage' dog). Cat - tail. Practice a little, and you will soon see how easy it is.

4. The Children's Ministry Today web site ( ) has an extensive section on Balloon modelling tips - well worth a visit, especially if you are contemplating making more complex models.

B. Balloon models can be used in many different ways in your class. Here are a few suggestions :-

1. As an inexpensive prize. e.g. Best behaved child, or as a reward for remembering a Memory verse.

2. To illustrate any story (Biblical or otherwise) involving an animal.

3. As props for a play or skit. e.g. a sword or a crown (both very easy to make).

4. To have a 'fun' competition among the children. Choose two teams of three or four each. Give each member an inflated balloon, and keep one for yourself. Make a simple balloon animal, and get the children to try and copy you as you are doing so. On completion, get someone to give marks (e.g. out of 10) for each model. Total up the marks to see which team is the winner.

5. My Object Lesson 8 illustrates how we must receive God's gift of Jesus. You could use a balloon model to demonstrate this. In case you haven't seen this lesson, I will paste it on below.

O.L. 8. Receiving Jesus.
This is an illustration that I use following teaching on John 3.16. All you need is a small gift. I usually make a balloon animal (as the gift) while I am talking about it.
State that John 3.16 talks about a giver (God), a gift (Jesus) and a receiver (Us). No matter how wonderful any gift is, it will not do you any good unless you receive it. I have a gift here (produce or begin to make your gift), but unless you receive it, it is no good to you at all.
Some of you may say "I don't want your gift" Well, if you don't want it, you won't get it, because I will not force you to take it.
Some of you may say "I don't believe it. It's too good to be true. Teacher must be tricking us." Well, if you don't believe it, you can't receive it.
Some of you may say " I will think about it" There is nothing wrong in thinking about the gift, but all the time you are thinking about it, it is not yours and it is not doing you any good.
Some of you may say. " I will have to earn the gift. I will have to sit up straight, be really quiet and still, and then perhaps "teacher" will notice me and give me the gift because I deserve it." Well, I like you behaving that way, but that's not the way to get the gift because it can never be earned.
But one of you may simply say to himself / herself " Yes, I want that gift," and get up, walk out to the front, take hold of the gift, and it will be theirs.
It is exactly the same with God's gift of Jesus Christ to the world - and the Eternal Life He brings with him.
Some people say to God "I don't want your gift of Jesus. I want to live my own life, go my own way, do my own thing." Much as God still loves them (they are still part of the world) He won't force His gift of Jesus on anyone. We must choose to receive Him.
Some people say. "I don't believe in the gift. I don't believe in Jesus. I don't even believe in God." Well, if you don't believe, you can't receive.
Some people say. "I will think about the gift. Perhaps when I am older I might receive God's gift." There is nothing wrong with thinking about the gift, but the problem is many people never make up their minds, and so always miss out on what God wants to give them.
Some people ( in fact most people ) think they have to earn God's gift. They say. " I will have to be very good. I will not have to do anything bad. I will have to go to Church or Sunday school every week. I will have to say my prayers and read my Bible every day. Then, perhaps, God will be really pleased with me and give me His gift of Jesus." These are good things to do, but you can never earn God's gift.
But some people say "Yes, I want to receive Jesus into my life," and do so by faith - by simply asking God for His gift of Jesus, and believing that they receive Him.
At this point, you will probably still be holding your gift - unless there is someone very smart in your group who has taken you at your word and received it already! You will probably have to keep prompting until someone comes out and receives it. You could say:-
"Well, it is still here."
"I wonder who will be first to believe me. All you have to do is take it."
"You won't get it by thinking about it, or by sitting up straight, but someone could come out and receive it."
When someone receives your gift, state that they didn't deserve it or earn it, but they got it because they were the first to believe that all they had to do was take it.
Conclude by stating that unfortunately you only had one gift, but the good news is that there is enough of God's gift of Jesus for everyone. There is no need for anyone to miss out.
If appropriate, you could then lead your group in a prayer to receive Jesus.
6. Making balloon models in front of your class are excellent ways to teach about Creation. I will paste on my object lesson 20 as an example.

O.L. 20. Creation.

When introducing the topic of Creation, I usually start by emphasizing the point that there are two things that only God can do.

Firstly, although people are very clever, and can do such things like land a man on the moon, invent televisions or computers, they cannot make something out of nothing. Given starting materials, people can often change their properties - size, shape, colour, texture etc., but they cannot make something out of nothing - only God can do that.

Secondly, people cannot make something that is living out of something that is not living. Again, only God can do that.

I then proceed by stating that I am now going to re-create two of the creatures that God first created on the fifth and sixth days of the Creation week. I then make a balloon bird (or fish) and a balloon animal, continuing my talk as I do so. ( If you don't do balloon modelling, you can still get your point across by simply cutting out appropriate shapes from pieces of paper).

As you make the shapes, emphasize that you are starting with something that already exists e,g. your uninflated balloon and some air. Then state that for anybody to make anything ( whether it be a watchmaker, a car-maker, a shoe-maker, or a balloon animal maker) only two things are needed - Know-how ( or intelligence ) and Power ( or energy ). Without power, your idea will remain only in your head, and without know-how (or an intelligent plan), you will just make a big mess!

As your models near completion, ask "If I had more know-how, do you think I would make a better or worse model?" The children will respond "better." Then ask "The Bible tells us that God has all know-how (He knows everything and is super-intelligent), so how good do you think God could make things?" The children should respond "very good" or "perfect." Then state " That's exactly right. The Bible tells us that in the beginning, God created a perfect world."

Then ask "If I had more power, do you think I could make these models faster or slower than I can now?" The response will be "faster." Then ask "All the power in the Universe belongs to God, so how fast do you think He could make things?" The children should respond "in a split second" or "instantly." State "That's exactly right. The Bible tells us that God not only created a perfect world, but He also made everything in it instantly - just by speaking."

Alternatively (for a younger class) you could simply produce a balloon animal which has already been made, and ask "How do you think this model was made? Do you think it could have been made by accident? Perhaps someone left an uninflated balloon in this room last night, and left the window open. Overnight, the wind blew through the window and into the balloon. The balloon then began twisting itself round and round until it formed the shape of this animal which you see here now. Finally, the end of the balloon managed to tie itself in a knot to stop the air escaping. Do you think that really happened, or do you think that there is a balloon model maker somewhere who made this animal on purpose?" The children should see the absurdity of the model being able to make itself by accident, and respond "There is a balloon model maker somewhere." Emphasise the point that everything the children see around them has to have a maker. Watches need watchmakers, shoes need shoemakers, chairs need chairmakers etc. Nothing can make itself.

You will then be able to apply the above argument to the creation of the Universe and everything in it. State "There are some people who believe that the Universe made itself by accident. But the Universe is far more wonderful and complex than a balloon animal, and if even that couldn't make itself, then how likely is it that the whole Universe made itself? No, the Bible teaches us that we have wonderful Creator who made the Universe and everything in it on purpose. And the good news is :- He made it all for our benefit.

I hope that the above will encourage you to at least think about incorporating balloon modelling into your lessons.

Teaching tip 7. Use of Ventriloquism to teach class rules.

I have taught many different classes over the last ten years, and the general group behaviour has varied considerably. Fortunately, today, most of my classes are fairly well behaved. However, even for the well behaved classes, I think it advisable to have a few simple rules. That way the children will know and understand when their behaviour is unacceptable. Having class rules is also a good introduction to teaching on God’s rules (e.g. the Ten Commandments).
Note. Many teachers do not use Ventriloquism in their classes because they are not 'experts', and fear the children will notice their lips moving. Don't worry! If you have good material ( and One way street have some excellent scripts), the children won't mind if your lips are moving, and will love it anyway.
Paul Anglemyer has posted an interesting skit ‘The Rules’ on the Children’s Ministry Today ‘Vault’ ( for teaching class rules using a Ventriloquist’s doll. I have adapted and expanded on this skit for my own classes using my Ventriloquist’s doll ‘George’. I proceed as follows.
Write out your ‘Kool’ Rules and display them prominently.
Kool Rules.
1. Be quiet.
2. Don’t be a space invader.
3. Stay seated.

Self. George, I want you to teach these children our four ‘Kool Rules’. Can you remember the first one?
George (Excited). Yes, I remember, I remember. The first rule is Everyone Shut up, Shut up, Shut up.
Self. George, it’s rude to say ‘Shut up.’ But we do want the children to be quiet while I or any other Leader is talking. That way, everyone will be able to hear what is being said. If anyone wants to say something, they need to put up their hand. Then I may, or may not, ask them to speak. But at all other times they need to be quiet.
George. That is what I said. Everyone Shut up, Shut up, Shut up.
Self. Alright, I think they understand the first rule. Now, do you remember the second Kool rule?
George (Excited). Yes, I remember. The second rule is:- No punching. No kicking. No fighting. No pinching. No spitting. No scratching. No biting. And No Kissing.
Self. I wouldn’t have put it quite like that, but we do want the children not to be space invaders. Everyone must respect other people’s space. So you need to keep your hands, feet and other parts of your body to yourselves. Now George, do you remember the third Kool rule?
George. Yes, the third rule is ‘Stay seated.’
Self. That’s exactly right.
George. I know how we can make them all stay seated.
Self. How?
George. Super glue. We stick them all to the floor or their chairs with Super glue. That way, they won’t be able to get up!
Self. That’s no good George. There may be times when we want them to get up to do something.
George. No Super glue?
Self. No Super glue. But I think they will remember that rule. Now George, I am sure you remember the last and most important Rule of all?
George. Mmmmm. I’ve forgotten.
Self. Come on George, try harder.
George. Mmmmm. Oh yes, now I remember. The last rule is No fun.
Self. No fun?
George. That’s right. No fun. Nobody is allowed to have fun.
Self. No George, it’s the opposite of that. The last rule is Have fun. Everybody has to have fun.
George. Everybody has to have fun?
Self. Yes, that’s the rule. Everybody has to have fun.
George. I don’t like the sound of that. What happens if somebody doesn’t have fun?
Self. But they have to have fun. That’s the rule.
George. But suppose somebody isn’t having fun. What happens to them?
Self. Tell me George, are you having fun?
George. No, I am not.
Self. Then this is what happens to someone who is not having fun. (George is quietly put away into his case)!
Poor old George. I don’t think he likes our last rule. But we aren’t given rules so that we will like them. We are given rules so that we will keep (or obey) them.
We get rules from many different sources. God has given us rules to live by, and these can be found in the Bible. The Government gives us rules, about things like paying our taxes or crossing the road. You have rules at school, and I am sure you have rules at home – things you can or cannot do. Some rules you probably like, and some you don’t. The most important thing to remember about rules – no matter where they come from – is that they are not given to us to spoil our fun. Rather they are given to us for our own benefit and protection. If we keep the rules, we are not likely to hurt ourselves or others.
Now, lets all say together our four Kool rules. But you have to shout the last one out, to make sure that George hears it!

Teaching tip 8. Leading children to Christ.

Leading a child to Christ is an awesome privilege and responsibility. Unfortunately, in their natural zeal to see children make a commitment to Christ some teachers may try to lead a child to the Lord before he/she is really ready. Conversely, other teachers may always "leave it to someone else" and so may miss God-given opportunities to help children into the Kingdom.

Obviously opportunities should be given for children to receive Christ, but I believe "appeals" should not be made too often, or the children may become hardened to them and not treat them seriously. I believe appeals should be reserved for "special occasions" when time can be taken to ensure that each child is made aware of what salvation really is, and of the importance of the decision they are being asked to make. Much prayer, wisdom and God's guidance is needed in knowing both the right time and method best suited for the child or children in question. ( I often use my Object Lesson No. 8 (Receiving Jesus) when teaching on Salvation. I will paste it on below for the benefit of the newer readers).

I have been in many children's meetings where the Leader has given an invitation for anyone to accept Christ by raising their hands or coming out to the front. There is absolutely nothing wrong with encouraging children to make a Public commitment, but usually in my experience what happens is either nobody responds or they all (or nearly all) do! This is because children are very much influenced by their peers. A child may wish to respond to Christ, but if none of their friends raise their hands, they will probably not do so either. Conversely, a child may not be ready to receive Christ, but if they see their friends going to the front, they don't want to be the odd one out, and are likely to follow them.

In a group situation, I believe the best way to make an appeal is by inviting the children - if they wish - to follow you in a prayer to receive Jesus. In this way no "pressure" is put on the children, and it will be their own decision, without being influenced by their friends.

This is how I usually invite children to receive Christ.

I show and explain John 1.12 "To all who received him, He gave the right to become children of God.", stressing the need to receive God's gift of Jesus if we are to become part of His family. I then teach them four simple steps they can take to do this A, B, C, D. I use a folded card which I gradually unfold to show one word at a time as shown below.


Thus, A stands for Admit. We need to Admit we have done bad things, and be willing to turn away from everything we know is wrong in our lives.
B stands for Believe. We need to Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and died on the cross in our place, so that we could be forgiven.
C Stands for Consider. Something to think about. Jesus not only wants to be our Saviour and Friend, He also wants to be Lord of our lives. That means He wants us to put Him first, and live to please Him rather than ourselves. Some people aren't willing to do that, but if you are, you are ready to move onto the final step.
D Stands for Do. We have to invite Him to come into our lives to be our Saviour, Friend and Lord. If we do (and really mean it) we can be certain that He will come in.

Before leading the children in prayer, I will often say at this point :-
"There are probably four groups of people here -
1. Those of you who have already received Jesus. Wonderful, there is no need for you to pray, as once you receive Him, He stays with you forever.
2. Those who haven't received Jesus, but have now considered it, and would like to. You can pray my prayer after me.
3. Those who are still unsure. That's alright. There is no need for you to pray.
4. Those who once received Jesus, but you know you haven't really been putting Him first, and would like to come back to Jesus again. Or perhaps you are not sure if you have ever received Jesus or not. You can all join in my prayer as well, and then you will be sure."

I then lead the children in a simple prayer along the A B C D lines.

Afterwards, I stress that they are now part of God's family, not because of how they may feel, but because God says so " To all who receive Him - - - - - ."

I then ask the children to do two important things. :-
1. Tell at least one other person what they have done.
2. Come and ask me for a booklet (have one on show) that will help them to live for Jesus. There are plenty of suitable booklets about, but I use "Special to God" obtainable from

Teaching tip 9. Noah's Ark and the flood.

One of the favourite Bible stories for many young children is undoubtedly Noah's ark. Older children, however, often question the authenticity of this remarkable event. Here are a few of the questions I have been asked, together with the answers I gave.

Question. The Bible says Noah took 120 years to build the ark. Wouldn't he have died of old age by then?

Answer. No. People did live a lot longer before the flood - about 900 years on average! It was only after the flood (about 2,300 years B.C.) when, probably as a result of the much harsher climatic conditions, the average life span of people began to decline until the time of King David (about 1000 B.C.), when it reached its present level of about 70 years.

Question. How did Noah manage to gather together all those animals and get them onto the ark?

Answer. He didn't. God caused the animals to come to Noah. All Noah would have to do was to open the door of the ark.

Question. Was the ark large enough to accommodate all the thousands of animals?

Answer. Yes. The Ark was enormous. It has been calculated that if the average size of the animals was that of a sheep (actually it would probably have been smaller), they would have only taken up one third of the available space. Thus plenty of room would be left for Noah, his family, and all the food. Also, I believe, God would have chosen young, and therefore smaller, animals for the ark. (All land animals are small when they are young - even Dinosaurs!).

Question. Wouldn't it have been too big a task for Noah to feed all the animals during the year or so they were on the ark?

Answer. Noah was not on his own. He had his family, eight persons in all, to help him. Some animals have the ability to hibernate. We don't know for sure, but perhaps God caused all the animals to hibernate while they were on the ark. Then Noah's task would certainly have been a lot easier!

Question. Where did all the water come from to flood the earth?

Answer, Genesis chapter 1 indicates that from the second day of the creation week, God placed a huge canopy (or envelope) of water vapour above the earth, probably to protect life forms by absorbing harmful radiation from the sun. Many believe that something happened to cause this canopy to collapse and fall to the earth in the form of rain over 40 days and nights. It has been suggested that a collision with a large meteor triggered this collapse. But whatever the physical cause, the important thing to remember is that God was in complete control. He only allowed the rains to come on the day Noah and the animals were safely on the ark. At the same time much water that was originally trapped under the earth was forced to the surface and came out as "great fountains" to add to the floodwaters.

Question. Would there have really been enough floodwater to cover the highest mountains, e.g. Mt. Everest?

Answer. No. Before the flood there were probably no high mountains, so the floodwater, when it came, could have covered all the earth. The Bible indicates (Psalm 104) that, probably as a consequence of the great forces in operation at the time, the mountains were forced up and the valleys dropped down to compensate. The floodwaters then flowed down into these valleys to form our present oceans, seas and great lakes.

Answers in Genesis ( ) offer excellent cardboard scale models (about 12 ins. long) of Noah's ark. They are excellent for taking along to your class, or for giving out as prizes.

Noah Jokes.

I usually incorporate the following jokes into one or other of two ventriloquism skits that I have with Shaun - my sheep puppet.

1. Shaun. Were you on Noah's ark?
Self. Shaun, have you any idea how long ago Noah had his ark?
Shaun. How long?
Self. About 4,300 years!
Shaun. So?
Self. 4,300 years ago, and you are still asking me if I was on the ark?
Shaun. Yes.
Self. Shaun, exactly how old do you think I am? No. I most certainly was not on the ark.
Shaun. Well, if you weren't on the ark - - - - - - How did you survive the flood?

2. Shaun. I was one of the animals on Noah's ark.
Self. I find that hard to believe. If it's true, tell me, What was the name of Noah's wife?
Shaun. Joan.
Self. Joan?
Shaun. Yes, Joan of Ark!
Self. What did all the animals do to pass away the time while they were on the ark?
Shaun. They read.
Self. You mean animals can read?
Shaun. Yes.
Self. Well tell me then, What did the cows read while they were on the ark?
Shaun. The Moos paper!
Self. What else did the animals do on the ark?
Shaun. They played basketball.
Self. Basketball! What is it called then if a Duck scores at basketball?
Shaun. A Slam Duck!
Self. I bet with all that water about, you did lots of fishing while you were on the ark?
Shaun. No, we didn't fish.
Self. Why not?
Shaun. There were only two worms!
Self. People often play cards to pass the time. Did you play cards on the ark?
Shaun. No, we couldn't play cards because Noah sat on the deck!
Self. I imagine that the worst animals to have on the ark would have been the skunks - they smell aweful.
Tell me, How did you stop the skunks from smelling?
Shaun. Easy. We just held their noses!
Self. I heard you had a light while you were on the ark. As electricity hadn't been discovered, what sort of
light did you have during the flood?
Shaun. A Floodlight of course!

Object Lesson 49. R U E ?

When talking about His second coming, Jesus referred to the days of Noah, saying that when He returned, the conditions on the earth would be similar, i.e. great lawlessness. Jesus went on to explain that the actual date of His return was not important, what really matters is "Are you ready?"

Write out on a card the letters R U E ? (ensure that the "E" is in red). Ask the children "What does this say? That's right R U E. But what is the colour of the "E"? That's right - red. Now, read the card again, but this time say the colour of the letter "E". That's right R U red E. Now, keep on saying it, faster and faster _ _ _ _ _ _ _ You've got it. It says "ARE YOU READY?" The important question is "Are you ready for when Jesus returns? Are you really trusting in Him?"

Object Lesson 50 - Trust.

Here are two simple, but fun, object lessons on trust that you can use with your lesson on Noah, or indeed many other lessons where you want the children to understand what trust is.

A. - A mousetrap. Take along to your class a broken mousetrap, but one that appears to be in working order. Place it on a table, and very carefully place a large coin on top of the trap.

Explain to your children that you want them to understand what trust really is. Challenge the class along these lines. "I am looking for someone who will really trust me. If they do, they will be able to come out and, without hesitating, pick the coin from off the trap and take it away to keep - without any harm coming to them. If they don't really trust me, however, I am not responsible for anything that might happen to them." You should have no shortage of volunteers!

Explain that if the volunteer hesitates in any way, causes the trap to move at all, or drops the coin while attempting to pick it up, it doesn't count - even if the trap does not actually go off. In my experience, the first two or three volunteers will be hesitant, and thus be disqualified. Eventually, someone will pick up the coin without hesitating etc. You can then demonstrate that the trap is not actually working, but state that your volunteers did not know that, and the person who got the coin was indeed really trusting you.

Trust is taking someone at his word, and not doubting it for a moment.

B. - Falling backwards. This illustration has been used for many years, but it is still a very effective lesson for teaching on trust.

Ask for volunteers who really trust you (You could choose two teams). Explain that all they have to do is stand up straight with their backs to you, fall backwards, and you will catch them. However, if their feet move, or their knees bend, they don't get a point as that shows that they were not really trusting you.

After the exercise, you can conclude by saying : "Everyone who took part in that said they trusted me, and I am sure most of them really thought they trusted me. But when it came to the test, it was found that some were really trusting me, but some were not. It is not important whether you really trust me or not, but what is important is whether you are really trusting in Jesus. Many people say they are trusting in Jesus. But the vital question is are you really trusting in Him?"

Teaching Tip 10. Use of storytelling.

The telling of a good story remains the most effective way of imparting spiritual truths to children. Children will forget basic facts, but will remember a good story, especially if it is told in an interesting and exciting way.
Jesus is THE Great Storyteller of course, and remains our best example to follow. Read the Parables, and learn from the Master.

I have found that the best way to improve my storytelling is by listening to other storytellers. Over the years I have heard many excellent storytellers, and have learned something from all of them. I have sometimes been able to simply repeat the story in the same way that I heard it told. Other times, I have been able to adapt the story to suit my own class and personal storytelling preferences.

There are however certain tips that we can learn that will improve our storytelling, and I have listed some of them below.

1. Decide what is the point of your story? What truth do you want your class to learn? It is best to have only one point (or at most two) and plan your story around this.

2. Make your story exciting. Be dramatic. Move around the room as you are telling it. Change the tone and speed of your voice at appropriate times. If you are not excited about the story, then the children won't be either. Practice beforehand until you can tell it without having to pause to think "what comes next?"

3. Tell your stories in lots of different ways. Use plenty of props such as clothing, pictures and maps to make your stories more interesting. If appropriate, you could even incorporate a good object lesson or illusion into your story. If you are teaching a Biblical story, tell it "in context." I often take along a "Time Line", that lists all the major Biblical events in chronological order, to show the class where a particular story (especially if it is one from the Old Testament) fits into God's redemptive plan. Never lose sight of "the Big Picture."

4. If you are telling a story about a Bible character, consider 'becoming' that character. Dress up as the character, and tell it from his/her viewpoint.

5. Consider telling familiar stories from different angles - to keep the children guessing! e.g. Daniel and the Lion's den from the viewpoint of one of the lions, David and Goliath from the viewpoint of the Giant (don't mention Goliath's name till the conclusion), the Good Samaritan from the viewpoint of the Donkey etc. etc.

6. Involve the children as much as possible. There is much truth to the old Chinese proverb : -
"I hear, I forget."
"I see, I remember."
"I do, I understand."
Your class could be asked to copy specific actions that you do throughout your story, or to respond to phrases they hear by giving a certain response. You could ask for feedback from the children as your story is progressing. "How do you think Character A was feeling at this point?" " What do you think Character B was thinking here?" "What would you have done in this situation?" etc.

7. Consider telling your story by getting children to act out a play. Write out a simple script for them to read as they act it out. You don't have to stick strictly to the Biblical narrative, as long as you are getting your point across.

Think about telling Biblical stories in a modern setting. The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan (e.g. the Priest, Levite, Samaritan, Donkey and Innkeeper become respectively a Politician, Sunday school teacher, Gang member, Motor Bike and Hospital Receptionist) have worked well for me.

Think about telling your story as a Puppet play. I usually record the story on cassette beforehand using different character voices, and then play it back as selected children operate the puppets.

8. Children love to hear personal stories about "Teacher", so tell a few, especially from when you were about their age. This is a good way of teaching children how they can learn from their mistakes, and about the Goodness of God.

Teaching Tip 11. What is Love?

It is easy for us as teachers to tell children that "God loves you" and assume they all understand exactly what we mean. However children have different concepts as to what love actually is, and you will probably find that you need to explain it to them.

I came across some amusing children's comments on this subject on the Internet recently. Children were asked "What is love?" Their replies were all humorous, but many contain an element of truth. I have subsequently been able to use these comments to teach some of my own classes on what love is (see below), and in particular the difference between human love and God's love.

Question. What is love?


"Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne, and they go out and smell each other." Karl (age 5).

"Love is when you tell a boy you like his shirt, and then he wears it every day." Noelle (7).

"Love is when you go out and give someone most of your French fries, without making them give you any of theirs." Chrissy (6).
There is a lot of truth in that because if you love someone, that means you want the very best for them. You want good things to happen to them, even more than you want good things to happen to yourself. So if you give someone most of your French fries, without asking for anything in return, that is an expression of your love.

"Love is when mummy gives daddy the best part of the chicken." Elaine (5).
Another expression of love. 'Mummy' is putting 'Daddy's' needs before her own. Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves. Everyone loves themselves. Do you hit yourself, lie to yourself, or steal from yourself? No, of course not! You all treat yourselves well. If you are thirsty, do you say "Oh I can't be bothered giving you a drink right now" ? No, you just give yourself a drink. In the same way that we are good to ourselves, we should be just as good to others.

"Love is when mummy sees daddy all smelly and sweaty, and still says he is handsomer than Brad Pitt." Chris (7).

"Love is when you kiss all the time. Then when you get tired of kissing, you still want to be together and talk instead. My mummy and daddy are like that. They look gross when they kiss." Emily (8).

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend you hate." Nikka (6).
A good answer. It is easy to be nice to people who are being nice to you, but very hard to be nice to those who are being nasty to you. But Jesus told us to "Love your enemies." Jesus wants us to be nice to everyone, even to those who are not nice back to us.

"There are two kinds of love, our love and God's love. But God made them both." Jenny (8).
This is probably the best answer. The difference between human love and God's love is that human love is often conditional on the other person loving us back, whereas God's love is unconditional. Suppose you like someone, so start being good to them. If they are nice to you in return, you will carry on being nice to them - wonderful. But if that person is nasty to you in return, do you carry on being nice to them? Probably not. You probably won't want anything to do with that person anymore, or you may even start being nasty to them yourself. God's love is not like that. God's love is unconditional. He loves us because "God is love." He loves us even if we are nasty to others, Ignore Him, or even reject Him. These things all make God sad, but there is nothing anyone could possibly do that would ever make Him stop loving them. He always desires the very best for us.

Teaching tip 12. The Lord's Prayer.

Many children, whether they go to church or not, know the Lord's prayer (Matthew 6. 9 - 13). In fact in Britain, many schoolchildren have to repeat this prayer every morning before the start of their lessons. I found, however, that although many children could recite the Lord's prayer for me, most of them didn't have much idea of what they were praying for! This, I believe, is because of two main reasons. Firstly, many children are still taught this prayer in old (King James) English using words that they are totally unfamiliar with such as art, hallowed, thy and trespasses. Secondly, although some children are taught the prayer, they are simply not taught what it actually means.

This is the way I teach the Lord's prayer to children. I write out the prayer on the board, or a piece of cardboard, using a modern translation e.g. Contemporary English Version. Then I go through the prayer, explaining each section as I do so as shown below.

Our Father in heaven,
What a great privilege it is for anyone to be able to call God 'Father'. God is the Creator of everyone, but He is only the Father of those who have become part of His family through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. Many people, when they pray call God 'Father', but if they are not part of His family, they should really call Him by some other name, like 'my Creator'.

help us to honour your name.
God and His Name are inextricably linked together. That is why we should never use His Name, or the Name of Jesus, in a disrespectful way, such as swearing. If we do so, we are actually disrespecting God. No, we should always use the Name of God in the right way, with respect and honour. And if we really love Him, we should want others to Honour His Name as well.

Come and set up your Kingdom, so that everyone on earth will obey you, as you are obeyed in heaven.
This is the greatest prayer that anyone could ever make. God is, of course, obeyed in heaven, but not everyone obeys Him here on earth. Our greatest desire should be that everyone does obey Him on earth. We know that one day, after Jesus returns, everyone on earth will obey God. The exciting thing is, we can play a part in making this happen. The more we pray this prayer, the sooner Jesus will be able to return and bring in that glorious day.

Give us our food for today.
I think this is my favourite part of the prayer. After teaching us to pray the greatest prayer imaginable (Come and set up your Kingdom - - - - ) Jesus tells us to ask for "our food for today." (That is why many people 'give thanks' to God at mealtimes). This reminds us that God is interested in every little detail of our lives, even the food we eat. It also reminds us that everything we have, food, water, clothes, houses, families, etc., even the air we breathe, comes from God.

Notice also, that Jesus teaches us to ask for our needs for today. Many people worry about the future, "will I pass my exams, will I get a job, will I have enough money, will I get sick, etc., etc." No, Jesus tells us not to worry about the future, because He will take care of that. We are to concentrate on today. Today is the important time.

Forgive us for doing wrong,
There is nothing that you or I could possibly do that God won't forgive if we ask Him to, and we are truly sorry.

as we forgive others.
Much as God wishes to forgive us when we do wrong, He can only do so if we are prepared to forgive others that hurt or harm us. This can be a very hard thing to do, but nevertheless something that we must do, if we wish God to forgive us. The important thing to remember is that you need to choose to forgive others. Don't wait until you feel like forgiving them, because you may wait forever! And when you do forgive them, you are not saying "what they did didn't really matter". No, you are actually handing the situation over to God, for Him to deal with in however way He chooses. So always remember to tell God when you choose to forgive someone. (The Parable of the unmerciful servant - Matthew 18. 21-35 - is a good story to teach to reinforce our need to forgive others).

Keep us from being tempted,
Everyone is tempted to do wrong. And being tempted is not a sin. What is a sin, is when we give in to our temptations. But we can pray and ask God to "keep us from being tempted".

and protect us from evil.
There is a lot of evil in the world, but God is well able to protect us from it, if we ask him to.

That means "so be it" or "I agree" (to what has just been prayed). So by saying "Amen", we are including ourselves in the prayer.

Now, let us all pray this prayer together, and really think of what the words mean as we are saying them.

Teaching tip 13. - Teaching Memory Verses.

If someone were to ask me what was my main purpose in teaching my children’s ‘Bible’ classes, I would probably say that it was to impart God’s Word into their lives.
The importance of memorising scripture is highlighted by the fact that almost every Christian has experienced times when the Holy Spirit calls to mind some scripture or truth at a moment when it is needed, for example in their own conversion experience or personal life, or in counselling or witnessing. Thus, if we can get relevant scripture verses into the minds, and then (by memorising) into the hearts of the children, the Holy Spirit will be able to recall truths and verses to them when they are most needed.
Most of the children I teach, I have for about 30 lessons, over a 1year period. During this time, I will attempt to teach them 5 or 6 relevant memory verses.
Here are some useful tips for effectively teaching memory verses.

Good planning. Many teachers plan a lesson, and then ask themselves “What is a good memory verse to go with this lesson?” I do things the other way round. I decide well beforehand which memory verses I want to teach my class, and then build the rest of my lessons around these. I allow plenty of time (e.g. 10 to 15 mins.) for teaching each verse.

Choose the right Bible translation. If possible, look up your verse in a number of modern Bible translations, and then decide which one is best to teach. Some teachers still prefer to use the Authorised Version (King James). However, if you do decide to use this, I would suggest that at least you change the ‘Old English’ words such as ‘thee’, ‘thou’, ‘thine’, etc. into their modern equivalents.

Explain the verse. Don’t assume that the children will understand exactly what the verse means. It may be plain enough to you, but you will need to explain it to your class.

Vary your teaching methods. There are numerous ‘fun’ ways for teaching memory verses, and I have listed a number of them below. To keep my teaching interesting, I never use the same method twice with any one group of children.

Repetition is the ‘key’ to success. Whichever methods you choose to use, always leave enough time for your class to repeat the verse about 7 or 8 times. By repeatedly saying the verse, it should really get down into their spirits. You can make this part more interesting by getting different ‘groups’ within the class to repeat the verse in turn, e.g. boys, girls, those with blue eyes, brown eyes, older sisters, younger brothers, coloured socks, etc. etc. (Some children are actually better at remembering a verse if you get them to repeat it as fast as they can. Give it a try, if only for the sake of variety!). I will then encourage the children to write the verse down while it is still fresh to them, and then offer incentives of small prizes to those who can repeat it to me the following week.

Ways of teaching Memory verses.
There are many ways to teach Scripture (Memory verses) to children, but I have found that the more "fun" you make it, the more likely they are to really take it in. 1. Diminishing words.
In my experience, the most effective method I have come across is to use "Diminishing words." This is very simple and easy to prepare, but children really enjoy it because they think that they are fooling "teacher." Write out your memory verse about 6 or 7 times on pieces of cardboard (or paper). However, each time you write, gradually make the words smaller. The words on your last card should be as small as you can possibly write them. Show your first card (Biggest words) to your group, and have them say the verse. Then simply work your way through to the last card - children repeating the words each time. As you get to the smaller words, start to compliment the group on their eyesight. Act amazed when they manage to "read" your last card. Then say "I think you are trying to fool me. I don't believe you can really read this last card. I think you have memorised the verse. I think you can repeat the verse without any card at all" - And they will!

2. ‘Repeater’.
If you have a ventriloquist’s dummy or a glove puppet, use that to help teach the memory verse. Have the verse written out for the children to see, and then explain to them that your puppet is going to say the verse – a few words at a time – and they have to repeat everything he says. You can have a lot of fun with this method by getting the puppet to ‘say’ totally irrelevant things, e.g. jokes, personal comments, etc. as he gradually works his way through the verse, always remembering to bring ‘him’ back to where he digressed. Then get the puppet to say the verse, but pausing in the wrong places. Finally, get the puppet to say the verse the right way, with the children still ‘repeating’ of course.

3. Guess the letter.
This is another popular method, but it does take a little longer than most other ways. Write out your verse by putting “blanks” for letters e.g.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Luke 19.10.
The idea is for the children to guess the correct letters that make up this verse. As they do so, fill in the blanks.
There are two ways of using this method.

Competing teams (e.g. boys v. girls). One person from each team guesses a letter in turn. If team 1, for example, guesses ‘n’, and there are three n’s, they get three points. If team 2 guesses ‘e’, and there are six e’s, they get six points etc. The team with the most points when the verse is complete is the winner.

The class compete against ‘teacher’. Explain that if they guess a letter and it is not in the verse, you get a tick. If you get (say) four ticks before the verse is completed, you win.

4.Elimination methods.
Show the verse in full, and then gradually eliminate the words until they have all gone. Test the children after each step to see if they can still say the verse. There are a number of different ways you could do this.
a. Write the words out on a number of different cards (e.g. 1 or 2 words per card), Get a line of children to hold them up for all to see, and then simply remove the cards 1, 2, or 3 at a time – depending on the length of the verse.
b. The same as above, but write the words out on inflated balloons. Get volunteers to gradually ‘pop’ the balloons with a pin. (This is a popular method!).
c. Write the complete verse out on a large piece of cardboard. Then get volunteers to gradually tear pieces off it, until it has nearly all gone. By the time this is complete, the children should have said the verse the targeted 7 or 8 times.

5. Invisible writing.
Write the verse with a white crayon on white cardboard or paper. Get volunteers to gradually paint over the cardboard with red food colouring. The words will then ‘magically’ appear as the food colouring adheres to the crayon. This is a good way to teach verses concerning the blood of Jesus.

6. Puzzle methods.
1. Balloon race. Take two pieces of paper, and write out your verse on each one. Cut each paper into small pieces, with two or three words on each. Put each set of papers into two uninflated balloons. Choose two teams. One member of each team has to race to the other end of the room, blow up their balloon, tie it, burst it, retrieve the pieces of paper, and get the other members of the team to help to arrange the verse in the correct way. For larger classes you could, of course, have more teams.
2. Flannelboard Jigsaw. Write your words on any interesting shape, back with winceyette, or other suitable adhering material, and cut into about 8 or 9 pieces. Place the pieces in random order on your board, and get two or three children to come out and rearrange the jigsaw correctly. Shapes you could use are a question mark, a Bible shape for any verse relating to the Bible, or a telephone for Jeremiah 33.3.
3. Rearrangement. Write out your verse on about ten pieces of cardboard. Have a line of children hold up the cards in random order. Other children will then try to rearrange the cards in the correct order, and in the shortest possible time. (n.b. you could then conclude by slowly removing the cards as in Elimination method a, shown above).
4. Picture puzzles. Draw a series of pictures, each representing a word. Get the children to try and guess – you may have to give some ‘hints’ – what each picture stands for, until the verse is complete.
5. Mirror image. Write the verse backwards, so that you could only read it properly by looking at it through a mirror. (Ensure that the individual letters are written 'the wrong way round'). Get the children to try and read the verse. In my experience, most children do not have any trouble doing this.
6. Code method. Write out the verse in code form, by either changing the letters to numbers (e.g. a=1, b=2 etc.) or, for older children, to symbols. Don’t forget to show the children the code. Alternatively, you could not show the code, but change only the vowels (e.g. a=1, e=2 etc.).
7. Extra letters. Write out the verse, but add (say) two extra letters between the words. Leave no gaps. Here is an example:-
8. Jumbled letters. Jumble up the letters of each word. Example:-
het sno fo mna acme ot eeks dna ot aves het tlos. Lkeu 19.10.

Revising Memory verses.
I always consider it a good idea to revise your Memory verses a week later in order to see how effective your teaching has been. Here are four ways that I do this.
1. As I mentioned above, I offer small prizes for those children who can say the verse to me the following week. I get them to repeat the verse in front of all the class. This way all the children are hearing the verse again a few more times.
2. Mistakes. Read out the verse, and make a number of deliberate mistakes. See if the children can spot them all.
e.g. The brother of God arrived to find and shave the poor. Matthew Chapter ninty verse eleven. (Luke 19.10. - Mistakes underlined).
3. Puppet fun. I bring along my 'Dummy' George, who tells the children that he wants to learn the Memory verse. I get a child to repeat it to George, but then he gets it wrong. e.g. "Out towels dried for us while we were still swimmers." (Romans 5.8). A second child repeats the verse, but George still gets it wrong e.g. "McDonald's fried for us while we were still hamburgers." Finally, all the class repeat the verse to George. This time he gets it right!
4. Elimination. Get either individuals or groups to say the verse in turn (i.e. go round in a circle) - one word at a time. No hesitating is allowed. If a child (or group) cannot say the next word, they are eliminated. Once the verse is complete, get them to do it again, only faster!
"The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword."
Hebrews 4. 12.

Teaching tip 14. - What's in a name?

In Bible days a person's name was usually highly significant because it often described what they were, or what they did. Though obviously of less significance, the names of most children today still have meanings. (At least they do for those with a European background. I am not sure if this is still true for those from other cultures).

I find that some children do know what their name means, but the majority do not. There are many 'Babies name' books around that we can go to find name meanings, so I often tell the children in my classes what their names mean and, as you can imagine, they are usually very pleased to find out.

Fortunately, most names have positive or encouraging meanings - e.g. Michael means 'one who is like God' and Linda means 'pretty'. There are, however, a few names with not very positive meanings. In these cases I either leave the name out of my list, or try and find some positive aspect to the name meaning, For example, 'Emma' means 'Grandmother'. If I told a girl that her name meant 'Grandmother', she would probably get upset and think "Oh, my name means that I am like an old woman!" However, if I said "Your name means Grandmother, and when we think of a Grandmother, we think of someone who is kind and caring", that would be far more acceptable to her.

Telling a child the meaning of their name is a wonderful way to increase their self-esteem. For example, you could say :-
"Sarah. Do you know your name means Princess? I think it suits you really well."
"Roger. Your name means a Famous warrior, and I think you will become a famous warrior in God's Kingdom. I am certainly praying that you will."
"Richard. Your name means Strong, and I believe you will be both physically strong and strong in the service of God."
"Gemma. The first time I saw you, I wondered if your name might be Gemma. Gemma means Jewel, and I believe that you will shine like a sparkling jewel in the Kingdom of God."

At the beginning of the year many teachers will either make or get the children to make name badges. One idea would be to include the name meaning on the badge as well.

Many children have 'Biblical' names, and again they may or may not be aware of that. Sometimes, if a child has a Biblical name, I will take a few minutes telling the child (and their class) about their Bible namesake. Other times if I am telling a story about someone with a common name, for example Paul, David, Peter, Mary, etc. I will say "Do we have anyone with that name here today?" Thus, by being able to make a personal connection between the Bible character and themselves or someone they know, they will be more likely to pay attention to the story.

Teaching tip 15. Telling the C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S. story.

Write out on separate pieces of cardboard the nine letters that make up the word 'CHRISTMAS'. Take each letter in turn to illustrate the Christmas story. As you talk about each letter, get a volunteer to come and hold it up before the class - at the conclusion the complete word will thus be shown.

There are a number of variations that could be used, but here are some ideas.

C = Christ. God's gift to us.
H = Heaven. Jesus came down from Heaven to be born at Bethlehem.
R = Redeemer. You will probably have to explain this. To redeem something means to buy it back. God
created us, but then he had to buy us back with the blood of Jesus. The famous story about the boy who
made, lost and then had to buy back a toy boat is helpful in explaining this.*
I = Israel. Jesus was born in Israel. (An alternative could be Isaiah, who foretold of His coming).
S = Star. God sent a bright star to guide the wise men. (An alternative could be Stable).
T = The wise men. The Bible doesn't say how many there were, but they brought Three gifts.
M = Manger, in which Jesus was placed. (An alternative could be Mary).
A = Angels, who announced Jesus' birth.
S = Shepherds, the first to hear the 'Good News. (An alternative could be Saviour).

* A boy once made a toy boat. He was very proud of his boat because he hadn't bought it, he had made it himself. One day whilst sailing his boat on the lake, the wind suddenly strengthened and blew the toy boat out of sight towards the other side of the lake. The boy immediately ran around to the far side of the lake to look for his boat. He searched and searched, but couldn't find it anywhere, the boat was lost. The boy was bitterly disappointed because this wasn't any ordinary boat, this was his special boat that he had made with his own hands.

Sometime later the boy was walking past a shop. He happened to look in the window, and there up for sale was his boat. He knew it was his because he had made it himself and knew exactly what it looked like. Immediately the boy rushed into the shop and paid the asking price for his boat. On leaving the shop, the boy looked admiringly at his boat and said "Now you are mine twice over. I made you, and now I have bought you back again. I have redeemed you."

That is a picture of what God has done for us. He made us and therefore owns us, but because of our sin we became lost and separated from Him. But in His love, God sent Jesus to buy us back, to redeem us. And the price Jesus paid? - His own blood that He shed on the cross. So although at Christmas we remember the coming of Jesus to earth, we must also think of Easter and remember the purpose of His coming, to redeem us to God.

Teaching tip 16. How God speaks to us.

As teachers, I am sure we all teach our children about prayer and encourage them to develop good prayer habits for themselves. However, we should always remember that rather than just listening to our monologues, God desires to have a two-way conversation with us. Listed below are ten ways in which God can and does speak to us. Some of these ways may not be totally understandable to some children, so taking their age and Christian maturity into consideration, you will need to decide which ones are suitable for sharing. As you share these ways with your classes, it will always be good to illustrate them with examples, including your own personal experiences. I have done this (in italics) to give you a few sample ideas.

1. The Bible.
This is God's Word, so what the Bible says, God says. This is the main way in which God communicates with people today. Thus, if you neglect your Bible reading, you could well be preventing God from speaking to you.

Although all of the Bible is God's everlasting message to us all, He can take a part of it - perhaps even a single verse - and use it to speak into our lives, by making it 'come alive' to us, so to speak. Thus as we read this particular verse, we get excited and just 'know' that God is using it to speak to us.

For a number of years, I had been attempting to emigrate with my family to New Zealand. Unfortunately, I didn't meet the New Zealand Immigration requirements, as I didn't have enough 'points' to qualify. Although we still believed that it was in God's will for us to come to New Zealand, I was getting disheartened. Then in my Bible reading, I read Jeremiah 29. 11. "I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to bless you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I had read this scripture many times before without it really exciting me, but now it just seemed to jump out of the page at me and witness with my spirit. I just 'knew' that God was in control, and that He would get us to New Zealand because it was part of His plan for us.

Within a few weeks, all the New Zealand Immigration rules changed, and I now easily qualified for entry! Did God arrange for those rules to be changed just for me? I don't know, but I tend to think so because that is the sort of Person God is. There is nothing that God is not willing to do for you, if it is part of His plan for your life.

God can of course bring to our mind at any time any scripture that we have memorised. Almost every Christian has experienced times when the Holy Spirit calls to mind some scripture or truth at a moment when it is needed, for example in their own conversion experience or personal life, or in counselling or witnessing. That is why scripture memorisation is so important for teachers and children alike.

I had been seeking the truth about God for two or three years. I wanted to believe in God, but as a scientist, and coming from an atheistic background, I had many doubts and unanswered questions. Really, I was trying to prove in a scientific way the reality (or otherwise) of God. I was frustrated because I realised my search had got me nowhere. Oh yes, I now knew a lot more about what Christians believed, but was no further forward in knowing whether it was really true or not. I wanted answers to my questions before I would consider making any form of commitment to Christ.

Sometimes I prayed - just in case God was real and could hear my prayers! One day while praying, two scripture verses came into my mind. The first was "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11.6). Suddenly everything became clear. I realised that no-one could ever prove the existence of God in a scientific way, and that the only way to know Him was by faith. I had reached the point where I realised that Christianity was both reasonable and rational, but the final step to God had to be one of faith - not exactly a leap in the dark, but certainly a small step into the unknown as we put our trust in Him.

But what was I to do next? The answer came straight away in the form of the second scripture "Ask, and you shall receive." (Luke 11.9). So I did. I prayed "Lord, if you are really there, if you really exist, reveal yourself to me." Immediately, it was as though I sensed God's presence. Waves of love and joy flowed through my whole being and I just 'knew' that God was real. These waves of love and joy were quickly followed by a devastating sense of shame because for the first time in my life, I realised I was a sinner. Now, I had been going along to an evangelical church for over two years, and I had thus been told that I was a sinner, and accepted the fact in my head. But knowing this in your head, and having a revelation of it in your heart are completely different things. The surprising thing was that I now realised that my sins were not so much the bad things I had done, but rather the fact that I had spent my whole life centred around myself, instead of around my Creator. There and then, I repented of this self-centredness, and put my trust in Christ. All my doubts disappeared and the unanswered questions I had didn't seem to matter any more. All that mattered was that God was real and that He loved and accepted me. And the rest, as they say, is history!

2. An audible voice.
The Bible records a number of occasions in which God spoke to people this way, perhaps the best known being the boy Samuel. This is not God's usual way of communicating with people today, but that is not to say that He cannot or will not speak to you in an audible voice.

I have never heard God's audible voice, but I know a number of people who have. In most cases, someone's life was in danger. It was as though God had to speak to someone urgently to avert the danger. However, I once taught my class about God speaking to Samuel. The following week a girl came up to me and said "God spoke to me a few days ago in an audible voice, just like He spoke to Samuel. He told me to go and tell my Gran. that He loved her." I asked her if she had done it, and she replied that she had. This reminds us that the important point is not how God speaks to us, but whether we are obedient to what He says.

3. An inaudible voice.
Although you may not hear God speaking to you with your ears, if you are trusting in Jesus, God's Spirit lives in you and He can speak to you through your spirit. For example, you may get a 'little voice in your head', a strong desire or impression to do / not to do something, speak to someone, go / not go somewhere etc. The closer you grow in your relationship with God, the more clearly will you be able to recognise this 'inner voice.'

The following story came out of China a few years ago.

A fairly new Christian worked for a mining company. It was part of his duties to ring a bell when it was time for the miners working underground to finish their shift and come to the surface. One day this man kept hearing a 'little voice' in his head say "Ring the bell, ring the bell." He tried to ignore the voice, reasoning that it wasn't time for the miners to come up. The voice persisted however, and the man finally gave in to it and rang the bell even though it was still too early. On hearing the bell, all the miners came up to the surface. At that moment there was an earthquake, and the whole mine collapsed. If those miners had still been underground, they would all have been trapped and almost certainly killed. However because one man heard the voice of God, and was obedient to it, many lives were saved.

My Pastor had been speaking about discovering our God-given spiritual gifts and ministries. I was a little concerned because although it was obvious to me what the giftings were for many other members of our congregation, e.g. evangelist, teacher, pastor, showing hospitality etc., I still hadn't discovered what mine was. Although I was involved in a lot of different church 'activities' I didn't seem to have any special gifting in any of them. Then one day while I was working in the garden and thinking about these things, a 'little voice' in my head suddenly said "You are an apologist." I really believe this was God speaking to me because I wasn't sure what an apologist was. I had to go and look the word up in the dictionary! An apologist is a person who defends their faith, or as Peter put it "Always be ready to give a reason for the hope you have within you." (1. Peter 3.15).

Immediately, I realised that this description fitted me perfectly. Whether I was evangelising 'door to door' , writing articles for Christian Newspapers, or teaching the Bible to children, I was never content to simply say for example "I believe that Jesus is the Son of God", or "Jesus died for your sins." No, I always wanted to go further and explain why I believed Jesus was the Son of God, and why He had to come and die for our sins. I have never questioned my "calling" since that time.

4. Your conscience.
This is one of the things that makes us different from animals. God has given to everyone who has ever been born a conscience. This is God's voice within us all that warns us - by making us feel uneasy or anxious - when we are about to do wrong. God will never take our free will away and prevent us from doing wrong, but He will always warn us when we are about to make a mistake.

We should always listen to our conscience, because if we keep ignoring this "little voice" and continue doing wrong, the voice will appear to get smaller and smaller until we can hear it no more.

5. Older Christians.
By this I mean people who have known Jesus longer than you have. They are often able to give us good advice and help guide us into what God wants us to do.

6. Circumstances.
God can use the everyday events of life to guide us. This can be likened to the opening and closing of doors. For example you may wish to get into the school Rugby team, but you are never chosen. Therefore you start playing Soccer instead - and find you have a greater ability for Soccer than you ever had for Rugby.

When certain events happen at the same time in our lives, it is very easy to just write them off as coincidences. Often it is only as we look back that we are able to see God's hand guiding us through these 'coincidences'.

In the early 1990's my plan was to resign from my job in Scotland, move to New Zealand, and get a new job there. I was rather apprehensive about this, however, because my Scottish job was so specialised that it was extremely unlikely that I could get a similar one elsewhere, and I didn't really like the idea of making a career change at my age. However, when I finally got the 'green light' to come to New Zealand, I unexpectedly was offered voluntary redundancy from my Scottish job. The timing couldn't have been better because this meant that we were able to move to New Zealand, and I wouldn't need to get a paid job there - my private Scottish company pension being sufficient to meet our financial needs.

On arrival in New Zealand in 1993, I had no idea of how I was going to spend all my newly acquired spare time. However, my first Sunday in this country happened to be 'Bible in School' Sunday - the one day in the year when the churches promote the practice of 'ordinary' Christians going into state schools to take weekly Bible lessons. I could hardly believe what I was hearing! Such a practice is unheard of in Britain. I 'signed up' straight away, and within a few months I was going into about ten different schools to take Bible lessons. Eleven years later, I am still taking regular Bible lessons in ten schools and thoroughly enjoying it.

Coincidences? I don't think so. I can now clearly see God at work through my circumstances.

7. The desires of your heart.
Psalm 37.4 says "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Most people think this means that if you put God first, He will then give you whatever natural desires you happen to have. I interpret this verse in a slightly different way. I believe it means that if you concentrate on "delighting yourself in the Lord", He will then put His desires for you in your heart, so that they become your desires as well.

Probably the strongest motivation for doing something is that you desire to do it. So do you have a strong desire to be something, to do something, to go somewhere? It could be that God has given you these desires because that is His will for you.

When I was a young boy in England and I heard about someone leaving the country for a 'better life', it usually seemed to be that they were going to Australia, Canada, or South Africa. I never had any desire to go to these, or indeed any other countries. But I did have a desire to go to New Zealand. I knew nothing about this country, and if anyone has asked me why I wanted to go there, I would not have been able to answer them. I just had a 'strange' desire to go there.

When I was older, and contemplating career choices, one that I dismissed straight away was that of a Teacher - I knew from personal experience how 'difficult' children could make life for their teachers! However, when I became a Christian in 1980, I got a great desire to share what I knew about Jesus with others, and soon found myself teaching Children's groups.

Now, all these years later, here I am in New Zealand and teaching children. Did God place these two desires in me? Yes, I believe so. But remember, the key to making your desires become a reality is to "delight yourself in the Lord."

8. Through Prophets.
A Prophet is essentially a Messenger. That is someone who hears from God, and takes His message to someone else. There are many Prophets in the Bible. Indeed much of the Old Testament itself is a recording of these ancient messages from God.

There are still Prophets in the Church today, and God may use one of them to bring you a message, perhaps to tell you to do something or to go somewhere. But if someone 'brings a message from God' to you, how do you know that it really is from God? The main thing to remember is that God uses Prophets to confirm what He has already spoken to you about. For example, suppose someone comes to you and says "God wants you to go to China." If your reaction is something like "What me? What a surprise! I have never thought of going to China." Then forget it, this message is not from God. However, if your reaction is more like "Oh yes, I have always been interested in China, I love the Chinese people, I always thought I would go there one day," then this message is almost certainly from God. It is God confirming what he has already spoken into your life, and perhaps enabling and encouraging you to take the next step in your preparation.
9. Through dreams and visions.
We all know what dreams are, and God can speak to us through them. Visions are often similar to the 'moving pictures' we get in dreams (or they could be just a still picture), but God gives them to you while you are awake. God spoke to many people in the Bible through dreams (e.g. Joseph and Daniel) or visions (e.g. Peter and Paul).

I have never had a Vision, but I know many people who have. In the early 1980's, I belonged to a church in Prestwick, Scotland and for a number of years God's Spirit moved in a mighty way. Consequently the congregation grew from around 20 to almost 300 in about two years. My wife used to get many visions in these church services. She would often be sitting behind people, and 'see' either a white spot or a black spot in the middle of their backs. This was confusing to her for a while. The obvious explanation for the white and black spots was that some people were 'sinners' and others were 'righteous'. The problem was that some of the 'righteous' people were thought to be unsaved, and some of the 'sinners' were professing Christians! As events turned out however, the original interpretation of the 'spots' proved to be correct! On other occasions my wife would 'see' dice or beer bottles in the middle of newcomer's backs. Again, events proved that these people had a gambling or drink problem. What should my wife have done when she had these visions? Possibly more than she did do. But she was new to such manifestations at the time. However, at least she was able to pray for the people involved.

A few years ago, I went to a Sunday school weekend camp. The theme of the camp was 'Hearing from God.' On the Sunday afternoon the Camp Leader gave each child a notebook and pen, and told them to go out and be completely on their own for 30 minutes. They were all told to ask God to speak to them, and write down in their notebook what they thought He said. On their return, all but one or two of the thirty children claimed that God had indeed spoken to them. Many of the children said that they had seen visions, including many of Jesus on the cross.

There was one new boy to the Sunday school at that camp, and no-one knew very much about him. He shared a cabin with three other boys. On returning from their 30 minutes of isolation, these three boys all independently said that they thought God had to them "I will never leave you, I will never let you down, I will be with you always." Their cabin companion then said that that message must be for him. He revealed that his parents were in the process of divorcing, and he felt let down and was worried about what was going to happen to him in the future! Isn't God good! He doesn't speak to us so we can just say "Wow, God spoke to me." No, He speaks to us for our benefit, or for the help and encouragement of others.

10. Through Ideas.
We all have ideas, and we tend to think "Oh, that idea is mine." But perhaps God placed the idea in your mind in the first place!

I once came across an eight year old girl in the school playground, crying. I asked her what was wrong, and she replied that none of the other girls ever played with her and that she had no friends. I told her that I would pray for her and ask God to give her a good friend. As I began to pray, I noticed another girl about 100 metres away begin to run towards us. She arrive just as I finished my prayer and had said 'Amen.' She looked at the girl I had been praying for and said "Will you come and play with me?" An instant answer to prayer! But why did that second girl suddenly run over to the first one and ask her to play? I don't really think that God shouted down into the playground with a loud voice "Hey Jessie, Go and ask Jodie to play with you." No, I think He just put the idea in the mind of Jessie (who interestingly was a Christian) "Why don't you play with Jodie. She's not really all that bad." Alternitively,Jessie could of course have heard God's inaudible 'inner voice' , though when I questioned her afterwards she didn't seem to be aware of it. In either case the important point was that she was obedient to what God said.

How can I know if it is really God speaking to me?

There are two tests that we can apply to any message we think may be from God.

1. Does it agree with the Bible?

God never contradicts Himself. Therefore, if your message doesn't agree with God's revealed Word in the Bible, then it is definitely not from Him. For example, if you think God is telling you to tell a little lie because it will get you out of trouble, forget it! That is not from God, because the Bible says "Do not lie."

2. Do you have 'Peace' about the message?

Colossians 3.15 says "Let the peace of Christ rule (be the umpire) in your hearts." An umpire is the one who decides. And God has given us His Peace as our umpire, so that we may know if something is from Him or not. Thus, if you feel at peace about a message, supposedly from God, then it probably really is from Him. On the other hand, if you feel uneasy or anxious about the message, that is God removing His Peace to warn you that this is not from Him.

How can we hear more clearly from God?

If you love God, your greatest desire will to know Him better and communicate more fully with Him. How can we hear more clearly from God then? Fortunately, the answer is very simple - stay close to Him!

If I was talking in my normal voice and you were sitting close to me, you would hear me very clearly. But suppose I was still talking in the same way and you were at the other end of the room, or even outside the room. Would you hear me so clearly then? No. You may not hear me at all, and if you did, you would probably hear me incorrectly and get the message wrong.

It is exactly the same when hearing from God. If we stay close to Him, we will hear Him clearly. But if we are a long way from God, we are unlikely to hear Him. How then, can we stay close to God? There is no short cut to this. We need to ensure that we spend adequate time in His presence by reading and meditating on His Word, talking to him (prayer) and doing what we know He has already told us to do. Then we will be in the right position to hear from Him when He speaks to us.

"The nearer we come to God, the more graciously will he reveal himself to us."
Charles H. Spurgeon.

What do children believe?

The short answer to that is anything and everything! One of the greatest benefits of teaching children is that they are generally very open and responsive to whatever you tell them. However, this is also one of the greatest difficulties. If children are open to you as their Bible teacher, they will also be open to other people. I am becoming increasingly aware that a child may gladly believe all they are taught about the Bible, but at the same time also believe in such things as evolution, reincarnation, horoscopes, talking to the dead, ghosts, aliens etc. To put it simply, they usually lack discernment. They don't seem to realise that you can't believe the Bible and all the strange ideas that they are exposed to. It is often said that we should always have an open mind. That is true, but an open mind, without discernment, is likely to have all kinds of rubbish thrown into it!

One story that I enjoy teaching children is about David and Goliath (See my Newsletter 17 for some teaching tips). In connection with this, I usually teach 1 Peter 5 v. 7 - "Throw all your worries on him, because he cares for you." I explain that there are many "giants" or worries that people have in their lives, e.g. another person who is giving them a hard time, a bad habit, or a fear (e.g. of the dark, nightmares, flying, dying, snakes, spiders, dogs etc.). I get the children to write out the names of their giant(s) on a piece of paper. Then, as I lead them in prayer, at the appropriate time, I get them to crumple up their papers (giants) and throw them on Jesus - imagining Him to be standing at the front of the class. I conclude by emphasising that because Jesus now has their giants, they have them no more.

When the lesson is over, I pick up the papers listing the ex giants to see what they were as this often gives me an idea of what the children believe in. As you can imagine, the list of giants for any one class is usually long and varied. However I discovered that the most common giant is a fear of dying - a somewhat surprising find, considering we are talking about young children. Some giants are unusual (e.g. fear of being abducted by aliens) or upsetting (fear of a hiding from my Father). However, the most disturbing one I came across just a few weeks ago. This was written by an eight year old child who had been receiving regular Bible teaching for at least two years. The child wrote "My friend can tell the future, and he says that I will die before I am 25 years old." I can hardly imagine what trauma the acceptance of that false belief must have had upon that child.

Most of my readers will have the privilege of teaching children mainly from Christian homes, where what you teach is re-enforced at home and vice-versa. However many of us in New Zealand and Australia in particular teach children in state primary schools. Our children come from a variety of backgrounds and are often exposed to many strange ideas that contradict God's Word. The question then is, how can we best counteract this?

The ultimate solution is to get them saved, for if they are truly born again they will receive the 'Spirit of truth' and should automatically be able to recognise false ideas when they hear them. (See 1. Corinthians 2.14). Unfortunately, we are not permitted to 'make appeals' in state schools. In these circumstances there are two other things we can do:-

1. Encourage the children to always use their minds and think for themselves. Teach the children not to accept any statement as true, simply because someone says it is - even if that person is their Bible teacher! Often, if we really examine a belief, the inconsistencies and falsehoods soon become apparent.

2. Emphasise the importance of the Bible. State that Christians believe the Bible is God's Word, and therefore what the Bible says, God says. If a particular belief or idea clearly contradicts what the Bible says, it should be rejected. Ultimately it comes down to who we choose to believe. Do we believe God who was there at the beginning of time, knows everything, is never wrong and cannot lie, or do we believe people who were not there at the beginning, only know a tiny fraction of all there is to know, are often wrong and sometimes lie? I choose to believe God!

Teaching tip 17. Ideas for teaching about Zacchaeus.

The well known story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19. 1-11). is useful for teaching a number of Biblical truths. Here are a few ideas.

1. Why was Zacchaeus a cheat? The Bible doesn't say, but it does give us a clue. He was very small (verse 3). You could speculate that Zacchaeus' stature caused him to have a tough time at school - e.g. name calling, bullying, not being allowed to join in games etc. This could well have caused Zacchaeus to become bitter, and have a desire to 'get even' when the chance arose through his tax collecting job. Relate this to problems some of your children may be having because they are 'different'.

2. Jesus knew Zacchaeus' name even though he had never met him before. Jesus probably knew everything about Zacchaeus - that he was a cheat, why he was a cheat, but most importantly what he could become if he allowed God to change him on the inside. This reminds us that our God knows everything. Here is a simple illustration you could use to teach that truth :-

Take four pieces (you could use more if you wish) of differently coloured cardboard - e.g. yellow, red, blue and green. On the back of the yellow card write "You will pick up the yellow card." Write on three small pieces of paper "You will pick up the red card ----------------- blue card. ------------------green card." Place these papers out of sight, but in easily accessible positions e.g. inside a plain envelope which is in full view of the class, inside the front cover of your Bible, etc.

Place the four coloured cards in full view of the class, and ask for a volunteer to come and pick up one of the cards - stating that you know beforehand which one they are going to choose. If the yellow card is chosen, ask your volunteer to pick it up and turn it over - showing the words "You will pick up the yellow card." They will probably think that the other three cards have a similar message written on the back. Show the class that this is not the case !

If your volunteer picks up one of the other cards, direct him/her to the appropriate piece of paper in the envelope, Bible etc.

Conclude by stating that what you did was a trick (without revealing how it was actually done), but that our God really does know everything - even the future !

There are four more alternative illustrations on this theme in Newsletter 10.

3. Zacchaeus truly repented, and proved it by promising to give half his money to the poor, and to pay back everyone he had cheated four times as much. When we do wrong, it is very easy to say 'sorry' , but what God is looking for is a 'Zacchaeus attitude'. If we are really sorry, we will not only say 'sorry' , but truly change our attitude, and do everything we can to put right the wrong. A fun object lesson on repentance, or changing direction (Which way?) can be found in Newsletter 4.

4. Here is a fun rap about Zacchaeus, written by Sue Bluett. I normally say the verses, and get the children to say the chorus between each verse.


Zac was short and robbed the poor
Because he was a tax collector.


Once there was a man called Zacchaeus
Who went around taking money from us
He got so rich life became a bore
Wondered why he hadn't any friends no more.

Now counting out his money feeling down
He heard about a man who was coming to town
Jumped to his feet, hit the crowded street
Cause this was a man he wanted to meet.

Now being short he couldn't see
So he climbed up into a sycamore tree
And when Jesus came into that place
He looked right up into his face
And said "You!"
"Who me?"
"Yes you"Couldn't be"
Well Zac my man come out of your tree
Cause I'm coming to your house for tea
In a state of shock he shimmied down
Ignoring the angry stares and frowns.

Now the crowd were not pleased with Jesus choice
So they cried out in a very loud voice
"Anyone can tell that he's no winner
Doesn't Jesus know this man's a sinner."

But off they went and had a private chat
And he came back a brand new chap
Salvation came to his house that day
And his desire was to repay.

He said, "Here's your money don't be poor
Not once, not twice but four times more
For once I was short before my call
But now I'm over ten feet tall."

Zacchaeus changed and made a new start
And of God's family he became a part.

Teaching tip 18 - Jesus Understands.

The following lesson has been around for a number of years in slightly different forms. I have, however, always found it very effective in ministering God's love to children. Therefore, I will share it here for the benefit of those to whom it is new.

Every child will experience difficult or stressful situations at some time as they are growing up. However you can use the Easter story to show them that Jesus also had to go through many tough situations, especially at the end of his earthly life. In fact, because many of these were similar to those we may go through, He now understands how we feel at these difficult times. It is therefore a great comfort to know that when we share these hard situations with him in prayer, He understands exactly how we feel.

There are a number of circumstances Jesus faced that we could talk about, but I usually choose seven and write their titles out on cards. I then show the cards at the appropriate times as I tell the Easter story. Also, as you are telling the story, It is also a good idea to share a few personal examples of tough situations from your own childhood.

1. Being different.
As Jesus was growing up, he must have realised that that he was different from other children of his age - even though he may not have known exactly what his purpose on earth was while he was very young. But imagine how he felt when he found out that his purpose for being on this planet was to die for the sins of others!

"It is never easy being different. Perhaps some of you here today think you are different from other children. For example, you may feel bad because you think you are too tall, short, fat, thin - - - - , or wear glasses, teeth braces etc. Perhaps you feel different because you don't like most of the things the other children seem to enjoy? If you feel different, remember Jesus Understands, because he was also different."

2. Being let down.
Jesus was let down (or betrayed) by his friend Judas who sold him over to the religious leaders for thirty silver coins.

"I am sure some of you have been let down sometimes. Perhaps someone has promised to give you something, take you somewhere, or do something with you - but they didn't keep their promise. Or perhaps you have shared a secret with a friend - and then he/she has gone and told everyone in your class about it! It is never pleasant to be let down, but remember Jesus Understands, because he was let down in a big way by Judas - and by all his other friends who ran away when he was arrested."

3. Being unfairly blamed.
At his trial, Jesus was blamed for doing things that he was innocent of.

"Perhaps something has happened at school or home, and you have got the blame for it, even though you were not guilty. It makes us feel very bad if we get the blame for something we haven't done. If this has ever happened to you, please remember that Jesus Understands how you feel, because he also was blamed for things he didn't do."

4. Being teased.
Jesus was handed over to the Roman soldiers, and they beat him and mocked (or teased) him greatly.

"It is never nice to be teased. Maybe some of you have been teased, perhaps by being called nasty names - and that does really hurt people on the inside. There is an old saying 'Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.' That is not true! Calling someone a nasty name could hurt them far worse, and for far longer, than hitting them with a stick or stone. If you are hurting on the inside because someone has called you names, remember Jesus Understands because he was also teased horribly."

5. Being left out.
Pilate wanted to release Jesus, so he brought out a murderer called Barabbas. He gave the crowd a choice of freeing either Jesus or Barabbas. And the crowd chose _ _ _ _ _ _ _ Barabbas! Imagine that. A murderer was chosen, and Jesus was left out.

"It is never nice to be left out of something. Perhaps you wanted to join in someone's game, but they wouldn't let you. Or maybe you were hoping to be chosen for a team, but you weren't picked. Or maybe there was a special task to be done at home or at school. You were sure you would do a good job if asked, but someone else was picked instead. It makes us feel bad on the inside when these things happen, but remember Jesus Understands. The crowd chose a murderer instead of him."

6. Being lonely.
On the cross, Jesus was completely alone. His friends had deserted him, and even his Heavenly Father had abandoned him because He couldn't stand to look on sin.

"Perhaps some of you are lonely at times. It could be because you haven't any really good friends, or no brothers or sisters to play with? Being lonely makes you sad, but remember if you ever feel lonely, Jesus Understands. At the very time it seemed he needed his friends the most, he was completely on his own."

7. Being without a father.
The Bible records that Jesus' mother, Mary, was at the cross witnessing his horrible death, but it doesn't mention his 'earthly father' Joseph. It is thought that Joseph probably died while Jesus was still a child. Therefore, Jesus probably grew up without a father.

"Perhaps some of you don't have a father. Or maybe you don't have a mother. It could be that someone doesn't have a father or a mother. In these days many families break up, often leaving children with only one parent living at home. And this can often be a very tough situation. But remember, if you have only one parent at home, Jesus Understands what it is like for you, because he also probably grew up with only one parent."


"If you have identified with any of these seven situations, why don't you take a few seconds right now to tell Jesus about it. Remember, He understands exactly how you feel because he has gone through similar situations himself. If you are feeling hurt or upset, ask Jesus to take it all away and replace it with his love, joy and peace."

Concluding Prayer. "Lord Jesus, I thank you that you know everything about each child here today. You know those who feel different from others, those who have been let down, those who have been unfairly blamed, teased or left out. You know about those who are lonely, and those who only have one parent. I thank you that because of what you had to endure at the end of your own earthly life, you know exactly how each child feels. So I ask you to take away every sorrow, hurt and pain, and replace them with your love, joy and peace. Amen."

Teaching tip 19 - Teaching Bible stories in context.

I find that many children know a lot of Bible stories, but they have little idea of when they actually happened, or how they fit into God's plan of redemption. Therefore, when teaching Bible stories, I always like to put them into context and so give the children an understanding about where each particular story (or event) fits into God's overall plan for this world. In fact, with each new class I take, I always like to start by giving them an overview of the Bible - God's plan of redemption. There are a number of ways this can be done, and six of them are shared below. I will fill in a few details for the first three, but just give the bare outlines for the others, leaving it to you to fill in as much of the detail as you think appropriate for your class.

1. God's Time Line.

Draw out a time line for the children to view as you talk about it. Begin at Creation, and continue to the present. (You can consult a Study Bible to find the dates of some of the more important events). Include as many events as you wish, but the time line shown below is one I have used. Later in the year when I am telling a Bible story (especially one from the Old Testament), I will refer back to my time line to show where it fits in. (I often intend to go through the year telling the Bible stories in chronological order, but Curriculum considerations - and the fact that in the New Zealand school year, Easter always comes before Christmas! - usually prevent it).

Idea. Get a book of Children's Bible stories that has pictures of all the major characters. Decide which of these you wish to include in your time line. Tape the pages together in such a way that when you now 'flick' through the book you will reveal only the desired characters, and in the right order. You can then use this as a visual aid as you go down the time line.

Introduction. The Bible is the most amazing, wonderful book in the world because it was written by God, Himself. In contrast, every other book has been written by ordinary human beings. The Bible is important to us for four main reasons.
1. It is a book about God. There have been thousands of books written about God, and many of them are very good. But no-one knows God like He knows Himself! So, if you want to know what God is really like, read the Bible.
2. It is a book about ourselves. No-one knows you better than God does, because He made you. So, if you want to know what you are really like, especially on the inside, read the Bible.
3. It is an instruction book for life. God knows what is best for you, what is right and what is wrong. If you let the Bible guide you as you journey through life, it will keep you going the right way and stop you getting into trouble.
4. It tells us how we can become God's forever friend, through faith in His son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is more important than anything else in the whole world.

As well as all the above, the Bible is the most exciting, amazing book that has ever been written. It is all about God's plan for the world, and how He used ordinary men, women and children, who were simply prepared to be obedient to him, to do amazing things, perform miracles and overcome much stronger enemies and great obstacles. But what makes the Bible even more exciting is that all the stories in it are true. With most other books, the stories are fiction - they were made up from the imaginations of the authors. But the Bible stories really happened.

Over the year we will be looking some of these amazing stories in more detail, because God caused each one to be written down, so that we could learn something from them. (Some of the stories, I won't have time to tell you. But there is no reason why you cannot read them for yourselves). Firstly though, we are going to have a look at God's time line. The Bible is a record of the history of the world. The Bible records all the major events that have ever happened, or indeed will ever happen, and this time line will give you an idea of what order the events took place in, and how long ago they happened.

Time Line.

Creation. (The Bible indicates about 4,000 BC). God made a perfect world.
Adam and Eve. The first people disobeyed God, and brought sin into the world.
Noah. (2,400 BC). The earth had become so corrupt, that God destroyed it with a flood.
Babel. The origin of different peoples and languages.
Abraham. (1,900 BC). God had a two part plan to make things perfect again. Part 1 was to choose a special people (The Israelites) to be an example of how to live the right way towards God and to others, and also to prepare the way for the coming of His son. He began with Abraham. The rest of the Old Testament is a history of the Israelites. When they were obedient to God, He helped them, did some amazing things through them, and caused them to prosper. When they were disobedient, He allowed things to go wrong.
Joseph. Abraham's Grandson. God caused Joseph to become Prime minister of Egypt, so when there was a famine in Israel, he was able to invite his family (about seventy of them) down to live near him where there was plenty of food.
Moses. (1,400 BC). About four hundred years later the Israelites, now numbering about two million, were still in Egypt, but living as slaves. God used Moses to rescue them from the Egyptians and lead them back towards their own (promised) land. He also used Moses to give us the Ten Commandments. These are God's rules for life which, if we obey them, will prevent us from hurting ourselves or others.
Joshua. He actually led the Israelites back to the promised land. He is best known for his part in the battle of Jericho.
Gideon. Another great hero who God used to defeat a great army with just a few men.
Samson. The strong man who lost his strength when he was disobedient and had his hair cut off. But he was still able to defeat God's enemies when his hair began to grow longer again.
Samuel. Who God spoke to in an audible voice while he was still only a young boy.
David. (1,000 BC). Who God used to defeat the giant, Goliath.
Elijah. Who was able to call down fire from Heaven to burn up his sacrifice, and defeat the worshippers of false gods.
Jonah. His disobedience led to him being swallowed by a large fish.
Captivity. (700 BC). Because of their disobedience, God allowed many of the Israelites to be taken captive to Babylon. It seemed as though they were in great danger of becoming extinct, but God still had a plan for them.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They were thrown into a fiery furnace because they refused to worship the king's golden idol. But God rescued them.
Daniel. He was thrown into a lion's den because he refused to stop praying to the one true God. But God rescued him.

The entire history of the Israelites was a whole series of ups and downs as they were in turn obedient, then disobedient to God. But God remained committed to them throughout the entire 1,900 year period. Eventually, the time was right for God to put Part 2 of his plan into operation.

Jesus. (Year 0). God came to earth Himself as a man, to defeat sin, death and evil. (You could mention some of the miracles that Jesus did).
Crucifixion. (30 AD). This means we can be forgiven and become God's forever friends.
Resurrection. This means God's power is now available to change us and to enable us to live lives of power and love that are pleasing to Him.
The Disciples. (30 AD to Present). Beginning with people like Peter and Paul, 'Believers' began to share the Good News about Jesus, and continue His work on earth. This continues today.
The return of Jesus. Sometime in the future, when He comes back to complete the job of making everything perfect again.

2. God's Plan for Man.

Get each child to cut out a circular piece of light coloured cardboard, about the size of a small dinner plate. Tell the children that they are to imagine that they are the Creator, and that they have to create their own world by drawing on their cardboard whatever they want to have in their world - eg. flowers, birds, animals, people etc.

Allow about 10 min. for this activity, then get all the children to sit down, holding their creations. Get the children to close their eyes, and to imagine their creations coming alive. Stress that each creation is wonderful, with birds singing, animals running and playing together, people laughing, playing and enjoying each other etc.

Next, the children are to imagine that something has gone horribly wrong with their perfect creations. " Oh no! The people have started arguing and hitting each other, weeds have started growing in their beautiful gardens, the animals have started hunting, killing and eating each other. Now, even the people are killing each other."

Explain that because of our deliberate rejection of our Creator, this is exactly what happened with His perfect creation, our world. The question is what could God do about it?

State that the children each have to decide what to do with their now spoiled creations. Give them four choices (it is a good idea to have these displayed in some way):-

1. Destroy their world.
2. Send someone to teach the people of their world how to be good.
3. Go yourself to show the people how to love each other.
4. Give them the power to change and become good.

Get the children to indicate which of the four options they would choose (In my experience the majority usually choose option 1!).

Explain that God still loved His creation despite what had happened, and therefore He rejected option 1, and did not destroy the world. What God did choose were options 2, 3, and 4. He sent people (they were called Prophets) to teach us to be good, but usually we wouldn't listen to them. Then God came Himself, in the form of a man - we knew him as Jesus. He showed us how much God loves us and how we should love each other, but people still killed him. Now we come to option 4. The wonderful news is that Jesus rose from the dead, and that because of his death and resurrection we can be forgiven our wrongdoing and receive God's power to change us and make us good.

3. God's Diary.

"This is my Diary. I am sure some of you keep diaries as well. They are very useful for writing in future appointments we have, or events we are looking forward to. And when they have passed, our diary is a permanent reminder to us about them.

Some events in our lives, like birthdays, are of course more important to us than others, and it is the same with God. I think that if God kept a diary, He would mark in it some events that are more important to him than all the others. In fact, I think God would mark in his diary the following six events as being the most important both to him and to us.

Idea. Make up a simple, but large, diary to show the children as you are talking about the 'six major events'. Staple three pieces of plain paper together, and write on the pages, Creation, God became a man, Jesus died for us, Jesus rose again, Jesus returned to heaven and Jesus returns to earth.

1. Creation. Once absolutely nothing existed, apart from God - no matter (solid things), no space, no time. Then God spoke and brought the Universe into existence by His power. God created a beautiful and perfect earth for us to live on and enjoy. He then created people, in His own likeness, to be his special friends. But the very first people disobeyed God, and that brought sin into the world and spoiled it all. But God still loved His creation, and had a plan to make it good again.

2. God became a man. Because of his great love for us, God became one of us. We called him Jesus. He limited Himself to a human body with a human nature. Thus, Jesus was just like us. For example, he could only be in one place at a time, and he got tired, hungry, thirsty, happy, sad, etc. - just like we do.

3. He died for us. Jesus didn't die of old age, a disease, or an accident. No, he was crucified by wicked men. But the amazing thing was, he allowed it to happen to himself. In fact he died in place of us, so we could be forgiven our sins and become God's forever friends.

4. He rose again. After three days, Jesus rose from the dead, proving that he had beaten sin, sickness, evil and death. Thus Jesus is not like the leaders of other religions. Followers of other religions could probably take you to a tomb somewhere and say "Our leader is in there. He lived, and we believe he was a good man, but then he died and his body is rotting away in that grave." Christians, on the other hand, could take you to a tomb in Jerusalem and say "Our leader died, and his body was placed in that grave over there. But He is not there now. The tomb is empty, because Jesus came alive again!" This means that Jesus is alive today, and he is able to give us all the power we need to change and become the people God wants us to be.

5. He returned to heaven. Six weeks after He rose from the grave, Jesus returned to heaven. But he hasn't gone there to live a life of comfort. No, through his death and resurrection, Jesus won the earth back for God, and He now rules over it through all his followers. The Bible tells us that Jesus is also preparing homes for us to inhabit in heaven one day.

6. Jesus will return to earth again. This, of course, is the only one of these six major events that has not yet happened. But it is something that is certain to happen. God is not like us. We may write a future event in our diaries, and then something may happen to cause it to get cancelled. But when God says something is going to happen, nothing can stop it taking place.

When Jesus returns, it will be to judge the earth. If you have put your trust in Jesus, your judgement is past - Jesus has paid the penalty for your sins, and you are forgiven. If, however, you refuse to let Jesus forgive you, you will have to pay the penalty for your own sins.

Conclusion. Just like our diaries have a final date in them (usually December 31st.), so has God's diary. One day, God will declare, "Time up." That is why it is so important to ensure that you put your trust in Jesus before that 'final date', and to tell as many people that you can about 'God's Diary'.

4. The Wordless book.

This is usually used by teachers in sharing about Easter. However, by simply adding a white page at the beginning, you can use it to describe the whole history of mankind.Thus :-

White. God made a perfect earth.
Black. Sin entered the world.
Red. Jesus shed his blood for us.
White. We are forgiven and cleansed.
Green. We need to grow to become more like Jesus.
Gold. The colour of heaven - our future home.

In place of a Wordless book, I use a Colour change bag (available from ) for a greater effect. It looks like an ordinary cloth bag, but as you keep turning it inside out it changes to all the colours of a wordless book. If you wish to start your story at 'Creation', begin with 'white', and then you will be able to reveal in turn the colours red, black, red, white, green and gold. For the extra 'red' (prior to the 'black'), I say something like "Sin entered the world and everything went wrong. Red is the colour for blood, and animals began to hunt, kill and eat each other. Even people began to kill each other. Things were so bad, it could only be described by the colour 'black' - - - - - ."

5. The Seven C's of History.

Answers in Genesis ( ) have produced a series of colourful children's worksheets called "The seven C's of History." Each sheet is full of information and activities, and could be used as the basis for a whole lesson. Alternatively, you could use the "Seven C's" as an overview of the history of the world. Thus :-

1. Creation.
2. Corruption (The Fall of man).
3. Catastrophe (Noah's flood).
4. Confusion (the Tower of Babel).
5. Christ.
6. Cross.
7. Consummation (the new heavens and new Earth).

6. Four words to describe the history of the world.

1. Creation.
2. Deception.
3. Substitution.
4. Restoration.

Creation or Evolution. Does it really matter what we believe?

Many Christians would answer "No" to that question, stating that all that really matters is whether we have put our trust in Christ and been 'born again'. Consequently they would argue that therefore it doesn't really matter what we teach our children about the origins of the Universe and life. In fact I have a Christian friend who refuses to teach on the subject of Creation, stating that it is too controversial.

I can sympathise with my friend's point of view because our children are being brought up in an 'evolutionised' society where it is usually accepted without question that higher life forms evolved from lower ones and that the earth is billions of years old. Therefore to teach children that God made the entire Universe, including all its different life forms, in the space of just six days only a few thousand years ago, is indeed likely to cause confusion in the minds of some.

I should make it clear that I am not talking about Godless evolution, which basically states that everything in the Universe made itself due to a series of chance random processes over billions of years. No, I am talking about theistic evolution, which is the belief that simple life forms did change and evolve into higher ones, but that God directed the process.

Many Christians do believe in theistic evolution, thinking that they have found a way to both keep their faith and accept the most popular 'scientific' views regarding our origins. They argue that God could have created us through a series of evolutionary processes. True, but the real question here is not how God created us, but rather how God said he created us. And a straightforward reading of the Bible tells us that God created each different 'kind' complete and perfect in the space of six days.

Some Christians regard the Biblical account of Creation and the subsequent fall of man as myths. But if the first part of the Bible never really happened, where then do the myths end and real history begin? If people put their own interpretations on the first part of the Bible, where do they stop? If Genesis cannot be trusted, and God didn't really make things as the Bible describes, how do we know for example that all the miracles the Bible talks about really happened? And what about the resurrection of Jesus? Perhaps his body didn't really rise from the dead? Maybe it was just a 'Spiritual' resurrection? Also, if the Bible is open to different interpretations, how do we know which one is the correct one? No. If we don't accept the entire Bible as God's infallible word, we are likely to end up doubting it all.

I believe it is important to teach our children about Biblical creation (See Teaching tip 20 below) and the subsequent "fall of man", because the Gospel doesn't make much sense without it. We need to teach the bad news before we can teach the good news. If there was no original sin and rebellion against God, why do we need a Saviour?

I believe that the general decline in moral standards today can largely be attributed to the widespread teaching and acceptance of various forms of evolution. If we are taught that we are just highly evolved animals, it is hardly surprising that many end up acting like them.

If your pet dog gets old and sick, the best thing to do is get him 'put down'. So if your granny gets old and sick, why not put her down as well?

If a kitten is born deformed, the most humane thing to do would probably be to drown it. So what should we do with a human 'animal' that is born deformed?

If we all descended from the trees, some races have been 'human' longer than others, so aren't we justified in enslaving these 'lesser humans', or even eliminating them if they pose a threat to us?

Why do we need to wear clothes? Animals don't wear clothes, so why should we bother? (The answer of course is in Genesis - to cover up our shame. But if we reinterpret Genesis - - - - - ).

Why is homosexuality and same-sex marriage wrong? We have no reason for condemning such behaviour, if we don't believe a literal interpretation of Genesis.

If there is no Absolute Authority, and the Ten Commandments, for example, are only rules made up by men, why shouldn't we all make up our own personal rules, and live by them instead?

Thus, a society that believes in evolution is likely to allow euthanasia, abortion, racism, pornography, same-sex marriage and become increasingly lawless. A society that accepts the entire Bible as the 'Word of God' will know that every person is made in 'the image of God' and will treat them with the respect, caring and dignity that God demands.

For many years the Church has fought against such things as euthanasia, abortion, homosexuality etc. But, I believe they are fighting merely the symptoms of a sin-sick society. What we should be concentrating our efforts on is upholding the inerrancy, accuracy and integrity of the Bible. The Statement of Faith for most Christian denominations includes something like "We believe that the Bible in its entirety is the inspired and infallible Word of God." But so often many Christians compromise God's Word, and from their conversations it is obvious that they don't really believe it to have been given to us by the Creator, Himself. And if the 'world' thinks that we don't really believe parts of the Bible ourselves, why should they listen to us? If we don't believe it ourselves, how can we expect them to? They think we are just sharing our own opinions. And why should our opinions be any more valid than theirs? Some of the humanistic arguments put forward by Christians in trying, for example, to persuade youngsters to abstain from sex before marriage or not to co-habit, don't sound very convincing to me. No, I believe we will only be able to make real progress in our spiritual battles when we come to the place where we can say "That behaviour is wrong - because God's Word says so!" Period.

I recently read a very challenging book "Revolution in World Missions" by K. P. Yohannan, founder of 'Gospel for Asia'. Dr. Yohannan puts the case for "Preaching the Word" rather than sharing mainly a 'Social Gospel'. Concentrating on sharing the love of God by meeting the social needs of people has very limited success. He cites Thailand as an example. Christian missionaries have been active here for over 150 years. They have played a major role in the modernisation of the country, being largely responsible for its widespread literacy, first printing press, first university, first hospital, first doctor and almost every other benefit of education and science. Yet Christians still only make up about 2% of the population. Ultimately, what has been the value of these modern benefits, if most of the people still die without Christ?

First and foremost we are called to 'Preach the Gospel'. Some of you are probably thinking " I'm a teacher, not a Preacher." But the word 'Preach' simply means 'to make known'. And we can all make Christ known to the children in our classes. So I encourage you, when you teach a Bible account, do not simply teach it as a good story that the children can learn something from, but teach it also for what it is - the Word of God 'that cannot be broken', teach it in context, and teach it as real history.

It is easy to criticise the religious leaders of Jesus' day for their opposition to him, but at least they accepted the Scriptures as God's authoritative Word. In his discourses with these leaders, Jesus would often silence them by quoting scripture - "The scriptures say this, or the scriptures say that." The religious leaders couldn't argue with that because they all accepted the Word of God as absolute truth.

I long for the day when Society as a whole will once again accept God's Word as the final Authority for what we believe, and how we act. But it needs to begin with those who already profess a personal relationship with God.

Teaching tip 20 - Creation and Evolution.

I don't usually mention the theory of evolution in my classes, concentrating instead on just teaching Creation from God's Word. Sometimes, however, an older child may raise the subject. Then I will proceed along the following lines. I explain the basics of special creation by God and evolution, and then state that there are two ways we can test which one is more likely to be true.

1. Ask "Is evolution happening today?" The answer is obviously "No." We never observe one kind of creature changing into a different kind. Thus, cats always give birth to cats, dogs give dogs, potatoes give potatoes and carrots give carrots etc. etc.

2. Is there any evidence to show that evolution ever happened in the past? Again the answer is "No." Fossils are a collection of 'dead things' - creatures and plants that lived and died in the past. But the fossil record shows clearly defined species, with no evidence of one type of creature changing into a different type. If evolution were true, we would expect to find billions of transitional forms. But they are just not there.

There have been a number of claims that 'intermediate' forms have been found (e.g. ape-men), but on further inspection they have proved to be false. So-called ape-men, for example, have subsequently been shown to be really either apes, men, or fraudulent hoaxes (e.g. Pilkdown man).

Science is concerned solely with what is happening in the present. It cannot tell us anything about what happened in the past. So when it comes to the origins of things, we move into the realm of speculation and personal faith. Ultimately, the question is "Who are we going to believe? Fallible men who weren't there in the beginning, or God who is the only one who was there?"

Note. See Teaching tip 4 (Newsletter 18) for ideas on teaching about creation, and object lessons 20 and 43 if you are also going to talk about evolution during your lesson.

Teaching tip 21 - The lost sheep.

Fun story - The lost sheep.

Jesus wanted people to understand how loving and caring Father God in heaven really is, so he told a story about a Good Shepherd and a lost sheep. With your help, I am going to tell a story based on the one Jesus told, but the important thing to remember is that the Good Shepherd in the story is like God (or Jesus), and the lost sheep is like us.

I want you all to listen out for five 'special' phrases. Whenever you hear them, you have to all respond in the following ways.

Whenever I say 'little sheep', you all have to say "aaaah." Let's try it out. Little sheep. (aaaah). I heard one of you say "baaah." Let's try again. Little sheep. (aaaah). That's better.

Whenever I say 'run away', you all have to say "Oh no!" Let's try it. Run away. (Oh no!). That's right.

Whenever I say 'Lion', you all have to raise your arms to the side of your faces and say "Roar." Let's do it. Lion. (Roar). Good.

Whenever I say 'Wolf', you all have to cup your hands to your mouths and go "oooow." Let's practice. Wolf. (oooow). Very good.

Lastly, whenever I say 'Thistle', which is a sharp, jaggy weed, you all have to jump up from your seats and say "Ouch!" Let's have a go. Thistle. (Ouch). Excellent.

So this is the story about a Good Shepherd who had one hundred little sheep (aaaah). (You may have to prompt the children the first few times). The Good Shepherd loved his little sheep (aaaah), and took really good care of them. He made sure they had enough to eat and drink, and he protected them from any lions (Roar) that might be prowling around looking for juicy lamb chops for their dinners, or any wolves (oooow) that might be looking for some nice mutton stew for their suppers.

One night the Good Shepherd came home and began to count his little sheep (aaaah). He went (pointing at the children) 1 . . . 2 . . . 3 . . . 4 . . . 5 . . .6 . . . 7 . . . 98 . . .99. Oh no, I must have made a mistake. I know, I will start again, beginning at the other side. 1 . . .2 . . .3 . . .4 . . .5 . . .6 . . .7 . . .98 . . .99 . . . Who can tell me , how many sheep should there have been? That's right - 100. How many sheep did the Good Shepherd count? That's right - 99. Now, Here is the hard question. How many sheep were missing? That's right - 1. So the Good Shepherd said 'On no, one of my little sheep (aaaah) must have run away (Oh no)."

Then the Good Shepherd left the 99 little sheep (aaaah) who were safe, and went to look for the little sheep (aaaah) who had run away (Oh no). As he went, the Good Shepherd heard the sound of a Lion (Roar). The Good Shepherd said "Oh no, I hope that that lion (Roar) hasn't caught my little sheep (aaaah) who has run away (Oh no) and eaten him up for his dinner."

Then the Good Shepherd went a little further and he heard the sound of a wolf (oooow). The Good Shepherd said "Oh no, I hope that that wolf (oooow) hasn't found my little sheep (aaaah) and gobbled him up for his supper.

The Good Shepherd went a little further and heard another sound . This was like Baaah. The Good Shepherd said "I know that voice. I know who that is. That's my little sheep (aaaah) who has run away (Oh no)." So the Good Shepherd went to where the 'Baaahing' was coming from, and there he found his little sheep (aaaah). He had been caught in a thistle (Ouch). So the Good Shepherd got hold of his little sheep (aaaah), pulled him out of the thistle (Ouch), put him over his shoulder and carried him home.

The Good Shepherd was so happy at finding his little sheep (aaaah) that he invited all his friends, relatives and neighbours over to have a great big celebration party.

Who did I say the Good Shepherd was like in that story? That's right God, or Jesus. And who did I say the lost sheep was like? That's right us. The Bible tells us that we have all been like that lost sheep. Because of the wrong things we do, we get separated and lost from God. But the reason Jesus came to earth was to look for us and rescue (or save) us - not from a lion, wolf or thistle - from something far worse, our sins. And when just one boy or one girl is rescued by Jesus and brought back into God's family, all the Angels in heaven get excited and have a big party.

Lost sheep skit.

With the aid of a sheep puppet, I perform this ventriloquism skit after telling the 'lost sheep' story.

Self. I would like to introduce you to a friend of mine. This is Shaun the sheep. Say 'Hello' Shaun.

Shaun. Baaah.

Self. Thank you Shaun. I have brought Shaun along to our class today because he tells me that he's the very sheep we were hearing about in the story - the sheep that ran away. Is that true Shaun?

Shaun. Baaah.

Self. Thank you Shaun, I thought it was. Now Shaun, will you tell these boys and girls your side of the story?

Shaun. Baaah.

Self. Thank you very much Shaun, I knew you would. Firstly Shaun, what made you run away?

Shaun. Baaah. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and go where I wanted to go.

Self. That's like a lot of boys and girls today. They just want to go their own way, and don't listen to their parents, teachers, or even God. What happened after you ran away?

Shaun. It got darker.

Self. Well it does get dark at night Shaun, but what happened next?

Shaun. It got darker.

Self. Yes, and then?

Shaun. It got darker.

Self. I think we all understand that Shaun. It was very dark, but what happened next?

Shaun. It got colder.

Self. Oh I see. It was cold as well as dark that night. What happened next?

Shaun. It got colder.

Self. Yes, and then?

Shaun. It got colder.

Self. I am sure we all understand that Shaun. It was very dark and very cold, and you must have been very frightened by now. But what happened next?

Shaun. Then I heard a lion.

Self. Oh Shaun, that must have terrified you. What happened next?

Shaun. Then I heard a wolf.

Self. Oh Shaun! A wolf as well as a lion. What did you do?

Shaun. I ran and ran and ran.

Self. I'm not surprised. I think that if I were on my own on a cold, dark night and I heard a lion and a wolf, I would run and run and run. What happened next?

Shaun. I ran and ran and ran.

Self. Yes, and then?

Shaun. I ran and ran and ran and ran.

Self. Yes Shaun, but after you ran and ran and ran, and ran and ran and ran, and ran and ran and ran and ran, what happened next?

Shaun. I ran and ran and ran into a thistle.

Self. Oh Shaun, that must have been very painful for you. What happened next?

Shaun. All of a sudden, there was the Good Shepherd.

Self. That's right, he came out on that cold, dark night just to look for you. Did he give you a row for running away?

Shaun. No, he just picked me up and took me home.

Self. I expect that was when you got a row for running away?

Shaun. No, we just had a big celebration party.

Self. That's right. The Good Shepherd was so happy at finding you that he invited all his friends, relatives and neighbours to celebrate with him. What do you think of the Good Shepherd now?

Shaun. He's so good to me.

Self. Will you ever run away again?

Shaun. No, I will never leave the Good Shepherd again.

Self. Good, I think you have learned your lesson.

Shaun. I want to go back to the Good Shepherd now.

Self. We understand that Shaun. You don't want to be away from the Good Shepherd for too long. We will let you go back to him.

Shaun. Before I go, can you answer me a question.

Self. We will if we can Shaun. What is your question to us?

Shaun. Where does a sheep go to get a wool cut?

Self. I know where I go to get a hair cut, but where would a sheep go to get a wool cut? - - - - - - I think you will have to give us the answer Shaun.

Shaun. He goes to the Baa Baa's!

Self. Good bye Shaun.


That sheep got into trouble because he was disobedient to the Good Shepherd. It is exactly the same with us. When boys and girls get into trouble it is usually because they have been disobedient to God, or the people - like parents and teachers - that God has chosen to look after them. So if you don't want to get into trouble, the answer is simple - listen to your parents, teachers , and what God says in the Bible. Be obedient to what they say, because they love you, they want to protect you, and they know what is best for you.

Note. My object lesson 9 (Which way?) or 38 (Obedience brings success) could be used to conclude this teaching on the lost sheep.

Teaching tip 22 - The lost son.

Play - The lost son.

Here is a play based on Jesus' famous parable of the lost son (sometimes called the prodigal or the wasteful son). I use it with my classes, having first retold the parable itself. The play is set in the present time and has four scenes, involving four actors - the father, the younger son, the older son and a home help. There is a narrative to introduce each scene. I select a good reader to do this, or sometimes do it myself with a slightly younger class.

This play is more suitable for 9 year olds and upwards. I usually do it as a radio play by recording the children as they read their parts, and conclude by playing it back to the whole class. Prior selection of the younger son and the servant will enable you to personalise the play by inserting their names into the script.

Note. For younger children this could be used as a puppet play.

Scene 1.

Narrator. This is a play about a patient father and his wasteful son. The first scene takes place in a house somewhere near ____________ (name of local street) in ___________ (name of local town or city).

(Younger) son. Hi Dad.
Father. Yes son.
Son. Is it true that when you die, I will get half your money?
Father. Yes son. Your brother and you will share my savings in the __________ bank.
Son. Well I can't wait until you die. I want my share now.
Father. Why is that son?
Son. I am tired of school and living around here. I want to go to downtown _____________ (name of nearest large city) and really party - in the Night clubs, casino and all-night bars.
Father. If that is what you really want, here is your share of the money.
Son. Gee. Thanks Dad. You are really quite a cool dude after all.

Scene 2.

Narrator. True to his word, the wasteful son went to the bright lights of downtown ____________ and really partied - drinking, gambling and party-going. He made many friends who helped him spend his money. However, after a few months, all his money had gone - and now his so-called friends didn't want to know him.
Unemployment was high in ____________, and the wasteful son had no money, no job, nowhere to live and very little food to eat. Eventually, he managed to gat a job selling hot dogs from a wheelbarrow.

Son. Hot dogs. Hot dogs. Get your hot dogs here.
Woe is me. Business is bad. Woe is me. Woe is me. WOE IS ME.
I am a fool. I have nowhere to live, no money, no friends, my clothes are dirty and torn, and I only have hot dogs to eat. Even my father's home help is better off than I am. I should never have left home. I know! I will return to my father. I am no longer worthy to be called his son, but perhaps he will give me a job in his lolly shop.

Scene 3.

Narrator. So the wasteful son returned home, wondering what type of reception he would get from his father. He thought that his father would probably be very angry and tell him to clear off. But as he neared home, he saw his father running towards him.


Son. Father, I have sinned against you and against God. I am not worthy to be called your son.
Father. My son. My son. You have come home. Oh what joy you have given me. You were dead to me and now you are alive. You were lost and now you are found.
Son. But father, I am not worthy to be called your son.
Father. The only thing that matters is that you have come home. We must have a celebration party to welcome you home. Miss _______. Miss _______ .
Home help. Yes sir.
Father. My beloved son has returned home. Make sure he has everything he needs. Give him the best coat, put a ring on his finger, shoes on his feet, and invite all my friends round for a celebration homecoming party.
Home help. Whatever you say sir. Come with me Master _______ . I will get your old room ready for you.

Scene 4.

Narrator. The older son, however, was not as forgiving as his father. As he returned home from working in his father's lolly shop, he heard the sound of joyful music.

Older son. Miss _________ . What on earth is going on?
Home help. Your brother has returned home and your father is jumping for joy. He has given him a bicycle, a computer, a play station, and a big bag of his favourite lollies. He is now having a big celebration party, and he wants you to join them.
Older son. No way! It sounds as though Dad has really gone crazy. Send him out to me please.
Home help. Whatever you say.


Father. Yes son. What do you want?
Older son. Dad, have you gone completely crazy? That rotten brother of mine has dared to come home, and instead of sending him away, you have welcomed him back as though he had never done any wrong, It is just not fair.
Father. Son, you are with me always, and whatever is mine is yours also. But your brother was dead to me and now he is alive again, he was lost and now he is found. It is only right that we should celebrate his return.


Narrator. Just like the forgiving father in this play, our heavenly Father waits patiently for his lost children to return home. And when we do, he welcomes us gladly. All our sins are forgiven and forgotten and there is much rejoicing in heaven.

Four gifts from the Father.

In this parable, the father welcomed his son home by giving him four gifts. These gifts each had special significance in 'Bible' days, and they also have their spiritual equivalents for us today as children of our heavenly Father.

1. The best robe (coat). The son had just come from the pigsty. He must have looked and smelled awful. However the father didn't ask his son to clean himself up first. Rather he put the best robe over his dirty clothes. This reminds us that our Father doesn't ask us to clean ourselves up before we come to Him. No, He accepts us just as we are. The Bible in fact talks about a 'Robe of righteousness' which we are given to cover our sins, just as that robe covered the dirty clothes of the son.

2. The ring. This would almost certainly have been the father's 'signet' ring, which would have then enabled his son to conduct business on his behalf. In much the same way, we are given the 'Name of Jesus' to enable us to receive blessings from heaven. That is why we pray "in the Name of Jesus". When we do this, it is just as though Jesus were praying on our behalf.

Imagine your dad giving you his credit card, enabling you to go to the shops and buy whatever you wanted, crediting it all to your dad's account! What a wonderful blessing it is to have 'The Name of Jesus'.

3. Sandals. In 'Bible' days only slaves or servants did not wear sandals or shoes. That father did not want anyone to mistake his son for a servant. No, he wanted everyone to know that this boy was part of his family, he was his beloved son. In the same way, when we put our trust in Jesus and come to the Father, He doesn't make us His servants. No, he makes us his sons and daughters, of whom he is very proud.

4. The prize (fatted) calf. Meals were very important in 'Bible' days. If someone invited you to share a special meal with them, they were in fact inviting you to enter into a covenant relationship with them. By so doing they were in effect stating that all they had was now equally yours. By sharing the prize calf with his son, the father was restoring all his previous rights and privileges of sonship. Everything the father had now also equally belonged to the son. In the same way, God has entered into a covenant relationship with us through Jesus. All the riches of heaven are now rightfully ours, as His children.

Story - A modern Prodigal.

I sometimes use the following true story to complement my teaching on the lost son. I came across it on the Internet sometime ago. Unfortunately I cannot recall the source so, as I will have to retell it here from memory, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of some of the details.

A girl from Glasgow (I will call her Agnes - a good Scottish name!) was unhappy living at home under the rules of her parents. One day she informed her parents that she was leaving home and going to make her own way in the world. Her parents loved their daughter dearly and were very disappointed to hear of her decision. However they saw that Agnes was determined to leave, so didn't try to stop her.

Thus Agnes left her parental home to 'lead her own life', and severed all connections with her parents. She never went back to visit them, never wrote, never phoned and never even sent them a Christmas card. Agnes' parents had no idea where their daughter was or how well she was doing with her new found 'freedom', but they continued to love her and long for her return. The years passed, and the father died. The mother, however, continued to long for the return of her daughter.

Meantime, Agnes has made a series of bad choices. She had chosen the wrong friends, and soon found herself living a lifestyle of alcohol, drugs and gambling. After a number of years Agnes found herself completely destitute, with no job, home or money. Each evening she would go along to a 'soup kitchen' run by a Glasgow church for homeless people.

One evening Agnes happened to glance at the church notice board and saw a photograph of a little elderly lady. She thought "That lady looks rather like my old mother", so she went to have a closer look. To her amazement, it was a photograph of her mother, with a simple message underneath which read. "Agnes, please come home, I still love you." Agnes could hardly believe what she was reading "My mother still loves me and wants me to come home, despite how I have treated her" she thought. Suddenly, just like the lost son in the Bible story, Agnes realised what a fool she had been leaving home, cutting off all communications with her parents and making all those bad lifestyle choices. She determined that she had to go home and see her mum immediately.

It was late in the evening and the buses had stopped running, and of course Agnes couldn't afford a taxi. Thus Agnes walked quite a number of mile all the way back to her old home, arriving in the early hours of the morning. Her first instinct was to knock on the door, but then she thought "No, that might frighten my mum if she hears knocking on the door at this time of the night" Agnes then instinctively reached for the doorknob and turned it. To her amazement, the door swung open.

Agnes began to worry. "Why was the door unlocked at this time of the night? Perhaps burglars have got in? Perhaps something has happened to my mum?" Making her way quickly to the bedroom, Agnes found her mother asleep in her bed. Waking her up, Agnes announced "Mum, it's me, Agnes. I saw your note. I have come home."

Mother and daughter embraced, then Agnes asked "Mum, I thought something bad had happened to you. Why did you leave the front door unlocked?" Her mother replied "Agnes, I have never locked the front door since the day you left - just in case one night you decided to come home!"

Conclusion. No matter how far our wrong choices take us away from Father God, his door is always open to us.

Game 1 - The Forgiveness game.

Here is a good game to use with your 'lost son' story, or indeed any teaching concerning God's desire to forgive our sins.

This is based on the popular game 'Simon says' (You give out instructions to the children prefaced by "Simon says". For example, Simon says - - - stand up - - - jump - - - - stop jumping - - - - put your hands on your head - - - - etc. etc. However, if you give out an instruction without prefacing it with "Simon says" and the child carries it out, he/she is eliminated).

When I play this game, I use 'Jesus says' rather than 'Simon says'. I explain to the children that if they do something wrong and are thus eliminated, I will put a X on the back of their hands. They then have to remember what it was that they did wrong. Begin the game. After a few children have been eliminated, suspend the game and ask the 'eliminated' ones what they did wrong. If they remember and confess their 'wrongdoing', rub off their X and allow them to rejoin the game. (Those that don't confess their 'wrongdoing' remain out of the game). Explain that in much the same way, if we confess our wrongdoing to God, he will always forgive us, wipe out our sin, and give us a fresh start. Continue the game in the same way for as long as you wish.

Game 2 - Forgiving others.

The father in the lost son story was eager to forgive, but the older brother was not. Explain that if we want God to forgive us when we do wrong, we must forgive others that have done wrong to us (Matthew 6. v. 14, 15). (For more on this, see Teaching tip 12 - The Lord's prayer, Newsletter 24). Forgiving others usually seems an easy thing to do - if we actually have nobody we need to forgive! However, if we do have somebody we need to forgive, we usually find it is a hard thing to do.

In much the same way the following game sounds very easy to do, but when they actually try it out, most children find it hard.

Give each volunteer two round inflated balloons. All they have to do is keep the balloons up in the air for 30 seconds. (They are not allowed to hold on to the balloons or let them rest on their hands, but must keep them bouncing). If one of the balloons hits the floor - or any other object - within the 30 seconds, they have failed. You will probably find that most children are unable to do this 'simple' task.