There’s a pile of rocks at my back door. The pile has been growing over the last few weeks since Caleb discovered “diamonds” inside of them. These treasures have brought him immense joy. He has decided that he is going to sell these rocks to others at the “rock-bottom” price of $1/ each to those lucky individuals who want to have some diamonds of their own.
But the other day, when we went for a walk, Caleb found a very special rock. This rock, he told me, was broken in half but you couldn’t even tell. And that meant, even though it didn’t have diamonds in it, it was definitely worth more and he’d be charging $2 for that one.
I should probably let you know at this point that Caleb’s diamond rocks where purchased at Lowes a few years ago by the previous owners of this house and used for landscaping (rock beds) around out the heating units in the back yard.
But to Caleb, these rocks hold diamonds.
Children are special. Their minds are full of imagination and dreams. They can create a treasure out of a piece of trash or a grand story out of an ordinary box. They have the capacity to “see” bigger than what is in front of them and to take the time to appreciate the smallest, inconsequential things.
And I can’t help but think about that when I think about how we teach them about Jesus and the Bible. You see, a lot of times as I listen to children’s pastors or parents, one of the things I hear them say is, “I want to find a new way to tell this familiar story or a super cool craft that will really get the kids attention.” But what we fail to realize is that while the story may be familiar to us and we might need a craft to get our attention, the children may be hearing the story for the first time and a super cool craft might be as simple as just handing them a rock and letting their imaginations take flight.
The flashier our story, the louder our music, the crazier our environment, the less our children’s imaginations can flourish. We provide them the answers, the receipt from Lowes to show our rocks are just ordinary rocks, instead of letting them dream and see diamonds in the ruff.
Jerome Barryman, creator of the curriculum Godly Play, had similar concerns which led him to put together a curriculum that encouraged children to engage in the act of wonder. In the introduction to the curriculum, he states, “Godly Play assumes that children have some experience of the mystery of the presence of God in their lives but that they lack the language, permission, and understanding to express and enjoy that in our culture.”
Why? Because we give them language, we offer them all the answers, and we hand them a craft with steps 1, 2, and 3 without space to dream, to create, to wonder about the story that have just experienced or the attribute of God they have just discovered.
What are some ways we can help our children’s imaginations free and let them wonder about the mystery and awe of God and His love for them?
First, don’t worry about being flashy or cool. They get that everywhere they go. Instead, invite them into the story by asking them questions. Godly Play encourages asking “I wonder” questions like, “I wonder why the Good Shepherd knows all of his sheep by name?” instead of saying, “God is the Good Shepherd and He loves us enough to call us by name.” Letting kids reach those kinds of conclusions on their own is a treasure.
Second, let them tell you the story. This is my favorite part of teaching children about the Bible. I love to tell them a story and then, usually as we are doing an activity, I ask them questions about the story to see what they got out of it. I’m constantly amazed at the things they pick up on and what stood out to them in the story. Very often, it’s not the main point or the part that I think is important, but it’s the part that they most resonated with or what they connected to, and it often ends up making God even bigger than my retelling.
Third, open up your activity or craft time to their imagination. Instead of a step-by-step put together craft, create an open-ended space for them to explore or re-tell the story in their own way. Crayons and paper, glue and scissors, play doh and clay, wiki sticks and legos; whatever you can make available to them to retell the story. It’s amazing what children can come up with when we give them the space to be imaginative and creative.
Finally, let the children know that Jesus wants to meet them in their imagination. Their creativity is a gift and their ability to see a bigger world is a precious thing that their Creator has given to them. Jesus wants them to explore and see Him in everything, even in their wonder. I tell the kids, “Jesus is with us right now and if we listen, he may talk to our hearts. So let’s be quiet as we do our craft so that if he talks, we can hear him and if he talks to our friends, they can hear him too.” I’m always surprised at how quickly the room will grow quiet and how often children will tell me later that they felt God in their heart.
We may see ordinary rocks but our children see diamonds. We may see a familiar Bible story but our children see a great big God.
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About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family, ChurchLeaders.com, and Seedbed
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