Last 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.
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.