The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” Matthew 13:10
I have been asked in the past few months at least 3 times what do you teach in Children’s Church. Which is a strange question to me because my first reaction is the Bible of course…What would you expect me to be teaching. However as I read today’s verse I can see a similarity. When people are asking me these questions what they really wanted to know is not what Bible stories was I teaching but what is the method that I use to teach the Bible stories which is kind of what the disciples were asking Jesus.
“Why are telling stories to the people in order to explain the kingdom of God to them. Why not just tell them in plain language.”
Similar question What are you doing to teach the children of our church? Why do you do different activities? Why not just read the Bible stories to the children? What do you do to engage the children?
My answer is this…. while teaching children I have to get down on their level. They have short attention spans and I need to reach the children where they are at. They need to move, be active, and use their different skills and talents in order to fully grasp and understand what the Bible is telling them.
For example a few weeks ago the children were learning that we have to feed our Spiritual bodies as well as our physical bodies, we taught this in several different ways over the week (both on Sunday and Wednesday night): 1. They played Freeze For All this is a game that they would listen to praise music while dancing, jumping, swaying and doing any move they could think of until the music stops and then they have to freeze. After several rounds of this game they discussed how praising God is an excellent source of power food for our spirits. 2. They made “power bars” They each got to choose 4 Bible verses that we have been learning over the past several weeks and cut those verses out and then they created a cover that looked like a candy bar that said Power Bar on it. The point is that the Bible is an excellent source of power for our Spiritual lives. 3. They had a worksheet that reviews the Bible verse,Bible story, gives a prayer challenge for the week and activity challenge for the week that encourages feeding our Spiritual bodies. 4. They drew pictures of things that was healthy for their bodies then discussed what is healthy for our spiritual bodies. 5. They read out of the Bible two different bible stories and even met two Bible characters that came dressed in costume so that we could ask them questions about their lives. They met the Rich man from the Bible story found in Luke 16:19-31 and John the Baptist from the Bible story found in Mark 1:4-8. One was an example of a person following God and living a very different lifestyle than the world around them, the other was an example of someone not feeding their spiritual life and how that ended up with eternal suffering in Hell.
So let’s get back to the disciples question….Why Jesus do you teach in parables? His answer was this:
He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:
“Though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
14 In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah:
“‘You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.
15 For this people’s heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. 17 For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.
Even Jesus used stories to reach the people of his day….everyday stories that would grasp their attention. Stories of a farmer planting seeds, stories of weeds, stories of mustard seeds and yeast, stories of hidden treasure and a pearl, and even stories of a net.
Jesus met the needs of the people. He saw where they were and reached out to them in a way that they could understand. That is what we all need to be doing.
It doesn’t matter if we are teaching children, friends, co-workers, neighbors or family members the best way to teach is by reaching them where they are at. Understand the person you are witnessing to. What do they enjoy doing? What is their occupation? What are their talents and skills. Reach the people by being real to them and helping them see God’s Kingdom in way that is real to them.