For those of you that teach Sunday School and are always looking for additional activities I thought I would share some of the things we are beginning to implement in our class which consists of children from 1st through 4th grade.
Years ago I heard James Dobson say that most parents teach children to be defensive Christians and not offensive. What he meant by that is, we teach them what to abstain from to maintain their purity and innocence, a noble and grand work. But in so doing we often forget to teach them to use their God given gifts and fail to ignite a passion to serve and follow Christ in His missions of today. Children have hearts that are tender and sensitive to the needs of others and if we train and expose them to the needs that surround them here and abroad they can catch a vision of God’s kingdom that extends farther than we often give them credit for.
The following is an attempt to ignite that Godly vision of serving Christ in his many loving works going on worldwide today.
In order to do this we simply incorporate subjects and approaches to the wonderful curriculums already in place.
I will show here some simple ideas that cover worship, teaching, crafts and games. I think in helping children learn that they are old enough to storm the gates of hell, and if they are presented with themes on a regular basis, that it will eventually become part of their thinking and they will see the hand of God and hear his Spirit when it moves around them and be far more likely to act. My hope is that after reading this it will spark ideas of your own and that you will share them with me to expand this pamphlet.
In addition to all the wonderful songs we sing to the Savior, I propose to add some that speak to what he is doing today and praise Him for it. Often the songs we sing are directed to receiving and frankly they can be somewhat self-centered.
Let me give you an example of how a song can be changed to be service oriented.
Let’s take the old gospel song “Give Me Some of That Old Time Religion.” We can add some verses that will help visualize Christian service, such as –
Makes you care for widows and orphans, makes you care for widows and orphans, makes you care for widows and orphans and that’s good enough for me.
Another lyric addition could be –
Makes you love foreigners and strangers.
Makes you love everybody.
Makes you care for the downcast.
Makes you want to feed the hungry
With these examples of these lyrics, I’m sure you can think of many others.
Using Matthew 25 as a theme of a song, we can express the lyrics with hand and body motions that represent the acts of compassion Christ exhorts us to do. Acting out feeding the hungry, giving a drink, inviting in the stranger, clothing the naked, tending to the sick and visiting the prisoner.
Psalm 82:3,4 and Psalm 41:1-3, and Job 31:16 – 20, Isaiah 58 6-12 are examples of scriptures that can be adapted.
In addition to adapting songs to include deeds of compassion we can look to other cultures and incorporate different modes of worship. For example in Liberia where often they have no instruments they use their hands and clap to their songs.
If you have the class help research different methods of worship around the world, it not only gives them something new but it helps them see their brothers and sisters worldwide with a sense of unity; it simply broadens awareness.
In other cultures they sing songs that we can learn that are equally exalting to God but done with different melodies and arrangements. For example the African nations have a distinct sound to their worship and can be fun to learn.
Most Sunday School classes have a time of crafts and there are a host of activities that can be proactive and help extend the power of love from the classroom to the local church, those in need in our country and those abroad.
The children can produce crafts, pictures, prayer cards that can be sent to shut-ins within the church to let them know they are not forgotten. I have listed some additional ideas below.
Letters to service men and women.
I can’t think of anything that would be more heartening than to receive letters from a Sunday School class showing their appreciation for their sacrifice.
Widows in church
We are repeatedly encouraged to visit and care for widows, and a picture of the class of Sunday School children smiling and waving to those widows in distress can be a wonderful way of showing love and let them know they are not forgotten.
Sick or shut-in correspondence
The loneliness caused by Isolation from sickness can be eased with correspondence from the children.
Single parents in church
Many single parents struggle with the heavy load of going it alone and a hearty hello from the children of the church can help let them know they are remembered.
Prayer posters for those in disasters
If there was a natural disaster we can, in an age appropriate way, talk about it with some pictures and then plan to spend the month doing something about it.
E.g. We can have the children work on a special work of art for the month and sell them in the foyer one Sunday and send the money to a Sister Church in the area to help fund emergency items.
For those who are more ambitious, I could actually see this art sale done in front of Fred Meyer or some chain with informative signage; I think it is a good testimony, and if student initiated, I think the public would donate by way of buying a picture. Works for Girl Scouts.
We could Color a picture at craft time and send a short compassionate note.
We could do a corporate art picture with all the children’s hands and a short prayer or word of encouragement from each child.
Support letters for missionaries in church
We could write or draw or paint things for our missionaries. Working in the mission field away from home and those we love can be a very lonely task. What a wonderful way to let them know we appreciate the work they are doing. We can ask them for updates to show our interest in the work.
We asked one of our missionaries who works with an orphanage in Liberia to give a presentation to the children where we learned about the desperate needs through video, pictures and teaching. Explaining the needs with age appropriate graphics helps them personalize the needs and sets some children on fire with an eager compassion and missionary zeal.
If the missionary project has a computer, it may be possible to have a Skype call so the orphans can be introduced to the supporting children and the supporting children can meet those of another culture, what fun! Many cultures speak English, but even if not, a rehearsed sign language using simple symbols could be utilized.
Holiday notes for nursing home residents
Correspondence with the elderly in nursing homes is always appreciated. There are some residents that never receive a card from anyone. Loneliness is a universal issue with those that have had to leave their own homes and spend the remaining months or years isolated from family and friends.
Correspondence needn’t be during holidays only.
The ideal of course is to contact the activities director at the Nursing Home and set up a time where the children could come in a sing a few songs and hand out things personally.
Prayer card for the President
In response to the exhortation to pray for our leaders we can have the children send a personal or corporate note.
All across America there are organizations that bring in and help refugees adapt to the new country; there may be ways we could help them. Frequently they come in with nothing but the shirts on their backs, and asking the children to share some of their toys with the new residents may be an option.
Ideas for Projects
Child trafficking project
Newspaper articles to find prayer projects
Gifts for nursing home residents, sundries, bingo games etc.
Make a collogue? with photos from newspaper
Work projects for shut-ins
Carnival day outreach
Here are some simple games that help remind us of the needs of others while having fun.
Rescue the kidnapped
Have one child sit in a chair at one end of the room.
Form a line of children at the other end of the room about halfway to the child sitting on the chair. The child sitting represents a kidnaped child or an abandoned or otherwise needy child; and the goal is for the other children to reach across the room and touch the sitting child to set him free. The children can stretch out in order to reach the sitting child and they can use any article of clothing to help extend their reach, (belts, ribbons, coats) but they must be connected either by clothing article or hands or feet.
Distance the children far enough from the sitting child that it makes a real challenge to reach them.
For larger classes have two teams compete.
Capture the Flag
This game is based on Jn. 4:35 about the fields being white unto harvest and I thought about adapting a "capture the flag" game.
Have one child represent a kidnapped child and have three kids guarding in a corner. Then have one child with a flag in their back pocket try and reach the prisoner without having his flag removed. This of course would be nearly impossible. So then to show the advantage of numbers the rescuers could be gradually increased until there is such a number that reaching the child would be easy.
Back to Matt 25, there needs to be a game to represent feeding the hungry, quenching the thirst, clothing the naked, aid to the stranger, visitation to the sick and those in prison.
I was trying to brainstorm and one idea came up of giving the kids some tape, heavy gauge paper and scissors and have them try to make some kind of shoe to help clothe. First to achieve is the winner. That could be fun and as creative as some of the kids are there could be some interesting shoes. They could work in teams of two or three. Now for the balance of the applications I'm leaving that up to you
Have one child stand at one end of the room, have another stand about 10 feet from him and a third 10 feet farther. The farthest child represents an orphanage or some place that needs aid. The first child has a paper airplane representing air travel, also a balloon representing a boat and lastly a wheeled cart or a skateboard could be used to represent railroad travel. The furthest child from the “orphanage”, fly’s the plane to the center child who then fly’s it to the orphanage.
If the plane flies off course, the child intended to receive it, can reach for it but cannot move their feet toward it, if so, they must start again. Once the plane reaches the destination the boat, represented by a inflated balloon is batted to the middle person same as the plane. And lastly the cart or skateboard, which is easiest, is sent scooting to the middle person to be passed on to the orphanage.
We have three lines that compete getting the supplies to the orphanage.
The children began improvising and the most successful attempt was when the children taped the balloon, and the airplane to the cart; and in addition they taped shoes, representing clothing as well as magic markers representing school supplies. Needless to say we were impressed.
We use the children’s offerings to support projects the children have been informed about and are working on.
We encourage the Sunday School children to bring their own money from their allowance or money they have earned. I would encourage all parents to start their children on an allowance - saving part for deeds of charity, of course part for their future and some savings for things they want in the near future, even if it’s only ten cents per week.
Collecting toys, stuffed animals, food. When the children share something that is their own with someone in need it helps personalize giving.
We could encourage the children to bake something and have a sale at church.
Plant potting, encourage the children to plant flowers that could be sold.
Jewelry, making items to sell.
Well there you have it, this is an ongoing work and if you like these ideas and have some of your own you would like to share with us please do.
Email Fred at email@example.com
This week I thought we could send home a 3 part bank box for the kids so that they can save money at home and have their own money to bring in on Sunday to donate.
Some of the kids made get well cards this week for Claire because she had surgery that was cool. I will keep my ears open for people in our church that need encouragement. Also I will get a group shot of our kids and I will make prints so we can send that out or even use it as a postcard to send out.
I hope to have a bulletin board eventually for kids to bring in articles of places to pray for and we can keep them up. If we get new information we can bring them in and put it up with it.
Spread the Word
I have often carried a small New Testament in my purse and asked God for an opportunity to hand one out as He may ask me to. So we could ask all the kids and their families that are going on vacations around the country/world to take some Bibles and give them to someone they felt the Lord was prompting them to share with.
I have thought how cool would it be to have a map up on a bulletin board with a heading "where are we spreading the word too?" And then when the kids are going someplace they can take a little New Testament and hand it out. Then they can have their picture take at that location and then we can put a tack on the map with their picture. Maybe we can even get the adults in on it. It sure is fun to see who God is going to put in your path!