Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Child's Prayer

Teaching children to pray is so important. One of the best ways is to model prayer that is reverent, humble, trusting, and penitent. Use the routine of mealtimes and bedtime. When teaching kids to take their requests to God, don't set them up for disappointment. Let them know God hears every prayer, understands their prayers even better than they themselves do, and answers every prayer. As they observe our own patience in prayer, they will begin to understand the peace that comes from submission to God's perfect knowledge and perfect timing.

Sometimes I go overboard on my projects for Children's Moments, and this is one of those times. I made origami books out of pretty wrapping papers with a prayer printed inside on the tiny pages. (The wrapping paper needs to be pretty heavy to feed through the printer; start by cutting 8 1/2 x 11 sheets, then after printing, trim to 8 1/2" square.) Here is the link to the You Tube video for folding instructions: 

You can adapt this project to make it much simpler for your group. Try printing the verse onto photo paper and cutting into bookmarks. Or just enlarge the font enough to print on a separate sheet for each child. You can get beautiful paper in the scrapbooking section of a craft store. Or get post-it printing paper from the office supply store, so they can stick the sheet on the wall beside their beds.

Our Bible verse today says, " Ask, and it shall be given to you;" Matthew 7:7. In this verse, Jesus is telling us two things. First He says, "ask"; He is telling us to pray. Then He says, "it shall be given to you"; He is saying that God answers our prayers. "Ask, and it shall be given to you."

Here is a story about a boy who prayed:

Nick loved basketball. He started playing basketball when he was seven years old. Nick wanted to be a good basketball player like Michael Jordan. Michael Jordan is six feet, six inches tall. Nick wanted to be tall. He prayed, "Father, please make me tall, please make me grow at least six feet tall, so I can be a good basketball player." Nick trusted God to answer his prayer. So he practiced basketball. He played basketball. He listened to his basketball coaches and obeyed them. Nick got better and better at basketball. And he grew taller. By the time he was fifteen years old, Nick was five feet, nine inches tall.

Then one night in a basketball game, Nick rolled his ankle. His mom took him to the doctor the next day. The doctor said, "Nick, your ankle is not broken." That was good news. Then the doctor said, "I can see from your x-ray that you're done growing." That was not good news to Nick. Why not? (because he wanted to keep growing, at least three more inches) He was very sad that he would not be six feet tall like he had prayed. He tried not to cry, but he couldn't help it. Nick's mom asked him why he was so sad. He told her about his prayers to God asking God to make him at least six feet tall. He thought God did not answer his prayer. His mom said, "Nick, God understood your prayer and will answer it in the best way and at the best time for you." Nick was not so sure. He decided to play the rest of the season, but after that, he didn't want to play basketball anymore. Nick's coaches were very unhappy. They wanted Nick on the basketball team.

One year later, after missing a whole season of basketball, Nick changed his mind. He was still only five feet, nine inches tall, but he tried out for the basketball team. He made the team, but did not get to play much. Most of the game, he sat on the bench. Nick wanted to play more, so he worked harder, and practiced a lot, and obeyed his coaches, and Nick got better and better at basketball. After awhile, his coaches let him play more in the games. Then at last, Nick was allowed to be a starter and play almost the whole game for the rest of the season. Nick's team was so good that year, they won their basketball sectional, and their first regional basketball game. They were one of the best teams Boone Grove High School ever had.

Nick thought about how God answered his prayer to be six feet tall. God understood Nick's love for basketball. God knew that Nick didn't need to be six feet tall to be good at basketball. So He just helped Nick become good at basketball. Nick worked as hard as he could, and God did the rest. God made Nick and the other players and the coaches as good as they could be. And God gave them all a great basketball season they will never forget. Nick thanked God for his wonderful season of basketball, and Nick thanked God for a better answer to his prayer than he could ever have hoped for.

God loves you all so much. He wants to hear from you. When you pray to God, you are having a talk with God, and He loves that. You can tell God anything. There is nothing you cannot tell to God. God will hear your every prayer. And God will answer your every prayer in the best possible way for you, because He loves you.

Sometimes, we all have trouble deciding what we want to say to God when we pray. Here is a little book with a good prayer to get you started. It's called "A Child's Prayer", and since we are all God's children, it is a good prayer for all of us. So, let's bow our heads, fold our hands, and close our eyes.

Lord, Teach this little child to pray,
   and then accept my prayer.
For You can hear the words I say,
   for You are everywhere.

A little sparrow cannot fall
   unnoticed, Lord, by Thee.
And though I am so young and small,
   You do take care of me.

Teach me to do the thing that's right,
   and when I sin, forgive.
And make it still my chief delight
   to serve You while I live.

God bless you in your ministry, and God bless the little ones you are teaching.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Jesus Got Baptized, What's Up With That?

Continuing in Luke, we are at the baptism of Jesus. What do kids need to know about the baptism of Jesus? Why did Jesus get baptized? Did he have sins to repent from? God had something to say about it. What did God say? What else happened and what did it mean? Just covering these basics will help kids begin to understand the baptism of a penitent believer. And let's face it, kids are curious about baptism!

This origami dove is pretty easy, only takes a couple minutes to fold. I didn't have paper lace doilies, so I used basket style coffee filters. Here is the link to the instructions: Good luck!

Hi Everybody! This is my puppet friend, Eli. What kind of animal is Eli? (call on a 2 or 3 year old) An elephant, very good! Is it true that elephants never forget? (heads shake or nod) Well I don't know about real elephants, but I do know that Eli has a great memory. It seems like he remembers everything! Especially Bible verses. Let me see if he gets this one right. (speaking to puppet) Eli, what is our Bible verse for today's lesson? (listen to puppet). Sure enough, he got it right! Luke 3: 21-22. "Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He prayed, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice came out of heaven saying, 'You are My beloved Son, I am very pleased with You.'"

Remember our lesson last Sunday? Who was baptizing all the people? (John the Baptist) Right! So who baptized Jesus? (John the Baptist) Right again! John the Baptist told the people to do something before they got baptized. Eli, what was it? (repent from their sins) I know all people sin, but Jesus is the Son of ... who? (God!) Right, Jesus is the Son of God. (speaking to puppet) Eli, isn't there a Bible verse that tells if Jesus ever sinned? (listen to Eli) I knew you would remember! (speaking to kids) Eli said "in Jesus there is no sin." 1 John 3:5. Thanks, Eli. So the people had sins to repent from, but Jesus was like, perfect. So why did Jesus need to get baptized? What's up with that?

Well here's the thing, part of baptism is symbolic. Eli, do you know what symbolic means? (Eli shakes his head) Here's what symbolic means: a symbol looks like one thing, but means another thing. Give me a thumbs up. (they do) Good, what does thumbs up mean? (we like something, we agree with someone, this movie is good) Baptism looks like just getting dunked under water, right? (nods) But it means something else. It means the person is starting over to be different. It's like saying, "before I did things my way, not God's way, and that was sinning, but now I want to do things God's way."

Jesus getting baptized was really important. You know how I know that? (heads shake) Because all four gospels tell about it. Who can name the four gospels? (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) Excellent! They all tell the story about Jesus getting baptized. It is the beginning of His ministry, His work, the very first thing He does! And what does God think of Jesus getting started this way? Who remembers? Eli? (he was pleased) Yes, God was very pleased with Jesus, and He let everybody know it, didn't He? How did God let the people know He was pleased with Jesus? (speaking from heaven) Yeah, God spoke from heaven. That must have been awesome to hear! So even though Jesus' baptism was different from everyone else's baptism because Jesus didn't have to repent, still God wanted Jesus to be baptized, and God was very pleased with Jesus.

So, for all the rest of us, baptism is the start of a new life, a life with God. We repent from our sins, and God forgives us. One more thing happens when we get baptized, and it happened to Jesus when He got baptized. What was it? (the dove) Right, the dove! The dove was the Holy Spirit! Baptism is when we get God's gift of the Holy Spirit! Jesus said the Holy Spirit is our Helper. The Holy Spirit helps us live our new life with God!

Here is a paper dove for each of you. It is a symbol of Who? (the Holy Spirit) God's Holy Spirit, right!

Let's bow our heads, fold our hands, and close our eyes. Dear God, You spoke from heaven to everybody. How awesome! You said You are so pleased with Jesus. We want to please You, too. Thank you for forgiving our sins and giving us Your Holy Spirit to help us. In Jesus name we pray, amen.

If you ever have an opportunity to volunteer for nursery duty at your church, do it! This kind of paper project is so fun for kids, especially the 3 and 4 year olds, and you can tell a Bible story while you demonstrate the steps for them. There is nothing better than teaching kids about God, and how much He loves them!

John the Baptist, God Prepares the Way (I Know the Plans I Have For You)

Why is it that we don't hear much about John the Baptist, the goofy guy from the wilderness? God had John out there preparing the way for Jesus, and that makes me feel good. If God prepared the way for Jesus, He'll prepare my way for me (and you, and you, and you... ) ;-) I believe this because the Bible teaches we are "joint heirs with Jesus", not lesser siblings, but equal siblings, even though we are different from Jesus (duh, diety!) Since God is "not a respecter of persons" i.e. God doesn't play favorites, what He does for one of His children, He'll do for us all. What He did for Jesus, He'll do for us. What He promised Jeremiah (Jer. 29:11), He promises to us! I think kids can understand this, at least I'll try to teach it to them. Here goes...

Hi Everybody! I invited Dooley to come with me today. (Dooley waves, kids wave back.) We were having Puppet Bible Study at my house last week and someone mentioned John the Baptist. Dooley said, "Who's John the Baptist?" So I invited him to come with me this morning because we are going to talk about John the Baptist. 

(speaking to puppet) Dooley, some of these church kids already know some things about John the Baptist. (turning to kids) Who knows what John the Baptist wore for clothing? (camel hair tunic, leather belt) Right! Do any of you know what John the Baptist ate for food? (locusts and wild honey) Good job! Can anybody tell Dooley where John the Baptist lived? (in the wilderness) Impressive!

This question is a little harder. John the Baptist had one main job to do. God gave him this job. What was John's main job? (they'll probably guess baptising people or preaching, etc.) You're getting close, but those are not quite the main job that God gave John the Baptist to do.

John the Baptist was supposed to prepare the way for Jesus! That means he had to get the people ready so Jesus could start His ministry. John the Baptist told the people that the Lord was coming, so they needed to repent from their sins and be baptized.

And you know what happened? (they don't know) Dooley, what do you think happened? (Dooley shakes his head, he doesn't know) Lots of people listened to John the Baptist. They came out of the city and towns just to listen to him. And they did repent from their sins, and they did get baptised by John the Baptist.

So Dooley, now you know! God gave John the Baptist a very important job to do. John the Baptist had to prepare the people for Jesus. Did he do his job? (puppet and kids nod) Yes, and he did a good job, too. He got the people ready for Jesus. So then John's job was done, and Jesus could start His ministry.

You see, God prepared the way for Jesus, and He let John the Baptist be His helper. God prepares our way, too. He said in the Bible, in Jeremiah, "I know the plans I have for you" (point to Dooley) and you (point to another), and you, and you, and all of us (pointing with each "you"), "good plans, not bad plans, to give us a future and a hope". See God has a plan for each one of us, a good plan, and He will help make our plan happen for us, just like he helped John the Baptist make His plan for Jesus happen. How cool is that?!

Now, I don't know how John got people's attention so that they would come out of the city and towns to hear him. I don't know if John blew a horn, but he might have. So I have a horn for each of you today. (Dooley claps his hands) This is not an inside toy! Only blow your horn outside, okay? (they all nod, of course!) Moms, Dads, they all agree to only blow their horns outside. (all laugh, pass out horns)

Let's all bow our heads, close our eyes, and fold our hands. Dear God, You prepared the way for Jesus, and You let John the Baptist help You with that! We know You have a plan for each of us, and thank You for caring about us so much. Please guide us along the paths You planned for us. We want to stay on Your good paths! In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

I can almost guarantee one of them will blow the horn in church, but that's okay. Hopefully no babies will cry! May God continually bless your ministry to His little ones. Thanks for reading :-)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Where Would You Look? (Jesus Lost in Jerusalem)

As a child, I went to church when my parents went to church, and I skipped church when my parents skipped church. My youthful mind equated church with school, and missing a Sunday was almost as good a reason to rejoice as getting a snow-day off of school. Not all kids are like that ... some love school for the opportunity to socialize,  and others for the opportunity to learn interesting lessons. That last stretches my imagination as far as it can go, because I have never met that child, but I have heard that some do exist. Or maybe I have only read about them in fiction ... hmm. Nevertheless, my boundless optimism insists, a lesson worth learning is a lesson worth teaching.

The church is a place where people look for God, a fact many congregators would do well to remember. So here you are, a lesson for both your audiences and the conclusion of the second chapter of Luke.

41 Every year Jesus' parents went to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. 
42 When Jesus was 12 years old, they went to the feast as they always did. 
43 When the feast days were over, they went home. The boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 
44 Joseph and Mary traveled for a whole day. They thought that Jesus was with them in the group. Then they began to look for him among their family and friends, 
45 but they did not find him. So they went back to Jerusalem to look for him there.

46 After three days they found him. Jesus was sitting in the Temple with the religious teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 
47 All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and wise answers. 
48 When Jesus' parents saw him, they were amazed. 
49 Jesus asked, "Why did you have to look for me? You should have known that I must be where my Father's work is!"

If you are looking for a person, and you know that person loves to help take care of sick people, where do you look for that person? (in a hospital) 

If you are looking for a person, and you know that person loves to play football, where do you look for that person? (in a football field, park, backyard)

If you are looking for a person, and you know that person loves to pet puppies and kittens, where do you look for that person? (in a pet store, animal shelter) 

If you are looking for a person, and you know that person loves to fly airplanes, where do you look for that person? (in an airport) 

If you are looking for a person, and you know that person loves to cook, where do you look for that person? (in the kitchen) 

If you are looking for a person, and you know that person loves to go fishing, where do you look for that person? (at a lake or stream, on a boat) 

If you are looking for a person, and you know that person loves to sing hymns, where do you look for that person? (in a church)

If you are looking for a person, and you know that person loves to preach sermons, where do you look for that person? (in a church)

If you are looking for a person, and you know that person loves to learn about God, where do you look for that person? (in a church) 

In our Bible story today, who was looking for a person? (Jesus' parents, Mary and Joseph) 

For which person were they looking? (Jesus) 

How long did they spend looking for Jesus? (three days) 

Why did it take so long? (they didn't look in the right place) 

What did Jesus love to do? (learn about God and talk about God) 

Where do people go to learn about God and talk about God? (to church) 

And that is just where Jesus' parents found Jesus. 

Our last lesson was about making Jesus number one this year. One way to make Jesus number one is to learn about Him and talk about Him and ask questions about Him. Where can we do that? (in church, at home) 

One last question: if you are looking for a piece of candy, and you know I love to give you stuff, where do you look for that candy? (believe me, they will get this answer right! Every one of them has no doubt noticed the gift box sitting untouched beside me!)

Let's close our eyes, fold our hands, and bow our heads ...

Dear God,
You made Your church full of people who love to learn about You and teach about You.  Sometimes we skip church and we're sorry when that happens. Thank you for making a place for us to learn all about You, God and about Jesus and about Your Holy Spirit. Please make us Your good students. 
In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

This lesson works well with a hand puppet to help answer all the questions. It also engages children, so they'll want to answer questions, too. If you are better than I am at planning ahead, order some little plastic magnifying lenses to pass out instead of sweets. May God bless you in your ministry to His little ones.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The ONE AND ONLY THING! Simeon Sees Jesus

Kids have so many things they want to do—they can't wait to wake up each morning! 

These simple refrigerator magnets can help remind kids that seeing Jesus is the one and only thing they need on their list of goals. For each one, you need six inches of ribbon, one inch of self stick magnetic tape, and glitter glue. 

Insert the red ribbon picture into a document, add text, print and cut out to glue on top of each ribbon. Alternatively, leave off the magnet, and you've got a bookmark.  

There's a story about a girl dying from leukemia. She made a list of things she wanted to do before she died. Lots of people do that. They list things like: 
* visiting all 50 states,  
* seeing a baseball game in every major league ball park, 
* playing golf at Pebble Beach, 
* driving a 2010 Camero …  
Do any of you have something you are hoping to do someday? (responses)  
In our Bible story from Luke, chapter two, verses 25-30, we will read about Simeon. Simeon gets to do the ONE AND ONLY THING he had wanted to do all his life. Listen closely to see if you can figure out what Simeon's ONE AND ONLY THING was:  
(If you have a children's Bible, show them the picture. I use the illustrated New Testament linked at left. Focus their attention by asking, “can you all see?”)  

25A man named Simeon lived in Jerusalem. He was a good man and very religious. He was waiting for the time when God would help Israel. The Holy Spirit was in him. 
26The Holy Spirit told Simeon that he would not die before he saw the Christ promised by the Lord. 
27The Spirit led Simeon to the Temple. Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to the Temple to do what the law said they must do. 
28Then Simeon took the baby in his arms and thanked God: 
29”Now, Lord, you can let me, your servant, die in peace as you said. 
30I have seen your Salvation with my own eyes.  

What was it? What was the ONE AND ONLY THING Simeon had wanted to do all his life? (responses) That's right! He wanted to see Jesus, the Christ, the one promised by God who would save all the people from their sins. When Simeon saw Jesus he said, “I have seen your Salvation with my own eyes.” Jesus was the one who was going to save the people from their sins.

Seeing that Jesus is the Savior of the world and trusting Him to save us from our sins is something much more important than visiting all 50 states or (mention one of the kids items). In fact it should be our ONE AND ONLY THING to do before we die! Because this is so important, I made a magnet to remind each of you. What is number one this year? (Jesus!)

Only Jesus can rescue us from punishment; only Jesus can give us eternal life in heaven.

Dear God, You let Simeon see Jesus, the Savior of the world—that was awesome! We all need Jesus. Thanks for sending Him to save us. Please help us to understand—only Jesus can keep us from punishment and bring us to heaven when we die. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.

Happy New Year to you all!

P.S. The movie was "A Walk To Remember" based on the novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks.