"Shelter at home."
A phrase most of us never thought existed, not to mention a mandate we would be required to adhere to. In communities near and far, families are sequestered away for safety and wellness.
But, our current circumstances have actually created a fantastic opportunity for parents to be the primary spiritual influencer in their homes. Gone for this season is going to church and dropping off our kids. Today, many kids and parents are home 24/7, and many parents don’t feel qualified or well prepared to teach their kids Bible stories. I argue every parent is qualified if they are willing to try.
Many years ago, I was introduced to a popular teaching model that many Sunday Schools adopted successfully. It’s called the Rotational Model. By teaching one lesson several times, in separate and unique ways, children learn the story in their preferred learning style. It works well in churches, and I know it can work in homes too.
Let me explain this concept using a classic Bible story that kids love; Jonah and The Whale. This is an example that you can modify for virtually every story in God’s Word.
First, if you have a child’s Bible storybook, find the story of Jonah and read it over. Use your own translation to prepare yourself and to be familiar with the story. Use commentaries and study Bibles for a deep dive (pun intended).
Second, as you read the story over, write down four creative and engaging ways to teach this same lesson. Teaching the same lesson in stand-alone lessons allows kids to learn the story best around their learning style.
This is one example of how you can teach the story of Jonah in four creative ways over four days.
Day One- Locate a great picture storybook or locate visual resources online that your kids can see as you read. Allow them to hear the story and imagine all that took place. Lead them in thinking how Jonah made his decisions, and what it must have been like to spend several days in the belly of a giant fish. Together, explore and discuss all the human feelings, thoughts and actions on the part of Jonah and everyone else involved with the story. Talk about fear, anger, and joy. Discuss the choice Jonah made and the consequences around a coloring page.
Chapter one ends with a very intriguing aspect of this story that foretells the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. See Matthew 12:40. Jonah’s name is mentioned several times in the New Testament…can you find them? Chapter two is a powerful prayer of praise.
Make the time fun and engaging. Search online for "historical art of Jonah and the big fish." Pray with your kids about all of the insights you have learned together.
Day Two – Let your children retell the story on their own. Have them read it to you or tell the story from memory. Again, process all the decisions, behaviors, and emotions involved. Imagine how the fish felt? What were the sailors on the ship thinking? Allow your kids, in age-appropriate ways, to research the Bible story on their own.
Utilizing technology will help you tremendously. You can locate narrated stories ready to stream on YouTube for kids and other sources. Choose another coloring page related to the Bible story. Pray with thanks for his faithfulness in giving second chances.
Day Three – Have your kids create a movie---that’s right, create a movie. Set up some space in a room and place a camera in a stationary location. Using the Bible narrative, have your family write a script with all the characters. If you have several kids, one may want to handle the technical details. Someone will need to write a script. Oh, you will need a Director too! Get everyone involved with simple props and costumes. Your kids will love doing this. Then download your “movie” onto a “big screen” for the whole family to watch together. Pop some popcorn and make it an event. At the end, pray together.
Day Four – Build a giant fish replica in your house or backyard. Your kids love to build and get their hands involved. Again, keep it simple. Use blankets and furniture to make a fish belly. Read the story together or stream it on a device while inside the big fish.
If that idea is too difficult, use playdough, or other materials to build items listed in the story. You could construct a fish, a boat, and cargo thrown off the boat. Draw pictures and do color art or use popsicle sticks, paper, and glue to build a fish or boat....or build both Find a song to learn together while in the fish. Just have fun and pray with thankfulness for all you learned together.
That is just one Bible story that you can teach over four days in different ways to teach the same lesson about God’s compassion and patience with people that He loves. The power in this is not only repetition, but kids learn in different ways. Changing the lesson methods connects better than others. Further, depending on the story, you may choose to do three lessons, or even five.
Now it’s time for you to give this a try. Start with an easy story and build from there. The timeless principles used in this model will help your children learn valuable lessons in fun and creative ways. The only limitation is your own creativity and ambition and don’t forget to share your adventures on social media. Other parents will really appreciate what you are doing, and it will inspire others to lead at home too!
If you are willing to try, pray for the Holy Spirit to prompt you, lead you and resource you with everything you need to be a fantastic teacher in this challenging season and beyond.
With decades of experience with parenting, grandparenting, and leading in the church, Gary has seen it all! Gary is our Ministries Executive Pastor here at Northwoods and is excited to share some of what he's learned over the years with our families here at Northwoods.