Tag Archives: Kingdom of God

Making more connections

Kingdom connectionsLast Sunday we had small group discovery time. The children worked in groups of three to discuss a parable and record any treasures they discovered. The treasures were then added to our Kingdom of God connections board. I originally planned this activity to take about 15-20 minutes but they had so many ideas that it stretched out to almost 40 minutes. I wanted to try some small group work to encourage their sense of community in our class and to challenge them to begin having deep discussions with each other.

Open-ended Questions

Before class started I arranged all the materials on our table from the last five parables we have studied to provide a visual reminder of the stories. Groups were assigned randomly and each group was given one parable to discuss. Then I posted three open-ended springboard questions and we talked about each one briefly. What does this parable tell us about the Kingdom of God? What does Jesus want us to know or feel in this story? Does this parable remind you of anything else in the scriptures? Yes, these are pretty broad questions, but these children were up to it. They thought of their own questions as time went along, and they talked about other parables as needed. My husband and I traveled from group to group helping them condense some of their thoughts into writing. The ideas came directly from their hearts. Here are some of the treasures that were discovered in the groups:

Parable of the Pearl of Great Price

“Finding the pearl is like finding Jesus or God.”
“This parable is like the story of the man who loved his son. He loved him more every day. Then one day God asked him to sacrifice his son. He was willing to do it because he loved God more. (Abraham.)”
“The merchant had faith that the pearl would be there. The Kingdom of God is always there. It doesn’t go away.”

Parable of the Sower and the Parable of the Mustard Seed (they spontaneously talked about both when given the Sower)

“The Kingdom of God is like plants growing. Sometimes the plants die off which is like us because sometimes we don’t always listen to God.”
“The Sower story is like the mustard seed that grows. The seeds grow into large plants in the good soil.”
“When you tell someone about the Kingdom of God they tell others and more and more people learn about it.”

Parable of the Good Shepherd

“The Good Shepherd is like Jesus who lays down his life for us. We are the sheep.”
“The sheep follow the voice of Good not evil.”
“This makes me think about the Good Shepherd going out to save the lost sheep. ” (I haven’t presented the Parable of the Lost Sheep yet, so they have a head start.)
“Jesus wants us to feel protected.”

Sharing our discoveries and thinking out loud

After small group time we re-grouped as a class and shared our findings. The children placed their written discoveries on our Kingdom Board and we looked for connections between ideas. For example, they connected the idea circle that talked about Jesus laying down His life to the circle under the Precious Pearl that said “sacrifice.” Ideas about the Sower were connected to ideas about the Mustard Seed.

One boy said that it was interesting that just one little word could have so many connections. Then he went on to say that “we could make a board with Jesus in the middle. There would be so many connections you couldn’t even count them because there are so many things to know about Him, so many stories and everything good goes back to Him.” Wow.

At the end of class one girl made a last idea circle for our board. On it she wrote, “Like the parable of the mustard seed our thinking of the parables that we have learned [have grown and] we have more circles on the board.”  Then she wrapped a piece of yarn around the entire board, back to her idea and tied it off at the Kingdom center.

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Parable of the Pearl of Great Price

Parable of the Pearl of Great PriceThis is the first year we’ve done the Parable of the Precious Pearl in Sunday School, but it has turned out to be a very popular story with the children. Since its presentation various children have chosen to work with it every week. It has helped us think about how precious the Kingdom of God is to all who find it.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

Matthew 13:45-46

One boy commented that the merchantman had to have a lot of faith that the pearl would still be there while he took the time to sell off all of his possessions. A girl said that the other possessions the merchantman sold were like worldly things, but he was seeking treasure in heaven. Another boy said that the merchantman knew that the pearl was not a fake, it was the real thing and worth all his effort.

Merchant sells all

It seems like each week we find new treasures in this story. This story has inspired quite a few interesting play and art explorations. We’ve had different collages using pearlescent paper. One group set up a little store for a short time, using stones, pretending to sell off the merchantman’s possessions.

Precious Pearl

This class really likes to extend their thinking and keep the storyline going. A few children wondered out loud while using the material what might happen next in the parable. What does the merchantman do with just one pearl? One person suggested that maybe he died and the pearl was like going to heaven. Another boy made up his own ending that he gave the pearl to his son before he died. I did tell them that a parable isn’t always like an ordinary story that has a beginning, middle and end. Jesus told the story to share a special idea that is eternal. A parable helps us to wonder with the words of Jesus to guide us. I love it that they are becoming so involved in the story.

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Kingdom Connections

Kingdom of God concept map

We’ve been studying the Kingdom parables in our class for the past few weeks. My husband and I thought it might be interesting to make an on-going Kingdom concept map to make our discoveries visible to everyone in the community. Children are invited to post a picture, a scripture or an idea when they discover something special about the Kingdom of God. Then they connect their contribution to the other ideas represented using yarn. This has generated some great discussions on how different parables relate to each other. We have scriptures and songs represented too. This is a work in progress. It will be interesting to see how it changes over the next few weeks.

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Mustard Seeds

Parable of the Mustard SeedA couple of months ago I told the children the Parable of the Mustard Seed. Leslie at Thoughts from the Sheepfold very generously sent us a few of the tiniest mustard seeds I have ever seen. (She has some great photos of the seeds on her blog.) After reading the parable directly from the scriptures we spent some time looking at the tiny seeds. The children were quite amazed at their diminutive size so plenty of time was allotted to examining the specks very closely.

The parable allowed us to reflect on other things that start small and end up larger or greater. We thought about small seeds that end up as red wood trees, different kinds of animals, and even ourselves. One boy thought that maybe the the mustard seed was like the very first people, Adam and Eve, and that the seed grew into a great tree of families throughout time. He thought that Jesus was the main stem of the mustard plant that connected all the families together in the Kingdom of God. What amazing insights these children have! After hearing this I decided we really needed to study the Parable of the True Vine.

Mustard seed grows

The children’s art responses surprised me. I put out special papers for collage materials in addition to our usual drawing materials. One girl copied the parable and made a lovely 2-D collage with some lacy printed paper. Two boys bypassed the collage idea completely and made paper sculptures with the special paper. One boy made a very colorful, 3-D, abstract mustard bush with strips of paper taped together. I don’t think I’ll ever see another quite like it again.

As we were cleaning up the paper scraps one boy asked if we should save the scraps or throw them away. I told him we could keep them because you never know what you can make from something small. “Just like the mustard seed!” he exclaimed. Yes indeed.

Birds find shade in the branches

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