For my Christian Education class, I had to present and report on a children’s story. Before doing the story I had to share my message plan with the class. All this happened in the past week. Here is the report that I will hand in tomorrow.
Here it is:
It is possible to think of a children’s message as a parable. Jesus used parables many times during his ministry. These parables often told more than one story, had multiple messages based on who was listening to the story. The children’s message has multiple audiences as well and as such can bring more than one message or a single message at more than one level of understanding.
The passage for the main message at my church on Sunday October 2 was 1 Timothy 6:16-17.
17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. (TNIV)
The direct audience for the children’s message is children aged 3 to 8. In the group of eight children present, the full range of those ages was represented. The goal of the storyteller was two fold: first to recognize that we are rich (verse 17), and secondly to realize that those riches come from God and God puts us in charge of using those things given to us (verse 18).
The secondary audience is the rest of the congregation as they follow the storyteller, learn from the responses of the children, and hear the message at a different level than its primary target. The goal of the storyteller for this audience, was to drive home the point that the things we have come to us from Gods hand, they belong to God, and should be used to do things that God would want done.
The message began by discussing the colour of the storyteller’s tie to introduce the concept of riches. It was purple and the children were told that purple was a colour of riches in ancient times. One of the children was wearing purple and was congratulated for her choices. The question was asked: “Are you rich?” Most of the children could not answer that question, likely because they had no basis to understand the difference between their richness or poverty. “Freddy” was introduced on a computer screen and on the screen behind the children for the benefit of the congregation. This child is obviously poor, wearing ragged clothes and standing in front of a pile of garbage. This visual experience allowed the children to agree that compared to “Freddy” they were indeed rich. The children realized that “at least they had pants”!
The storyteller then moved on to use money from his pocket to further illustrate the idea of riches. Various amounts of money were given to each child. They recognized that each person was not getting an equal amount, that some got more than others. All the while the storyteller reminded the listeners that this was not their money, it belonged to the storyteller and they were holding on to it. The children were then given permission by the storyteller to use the money they were holding. It was suggested that they might try to imagine how the storyteller would want the money to be used. It could go to the Sunday School collection, but they were free to buy ice cream or a gift for a loved one with the storyteller’s money. They were in charge of the money.
The storyteller then pulled the story together by pointing out that it is God who gives us the things that we have, who makes us rich. We are responsible to use God’s things in a way that would please God, but we get to decide, in the end, how we will use those riches.
The story went well. The storyteller did have issues with a couple of the children as they acted out, but in general the level of engagement was good. After the service a number of children came to the story teller, spontaneously, to share their planned use of the money they had received. Reports from a New Member’s Class held that evening reinforced the fact that adults were blessed by the children’s message. Their conversation led to a teaching time on stewardship and what it means to take care of the things God gives us.
The storyteller also learned from the experience and was blessed by it. The key learning in terms of storytelling was that in this activity one needs to be flexible as well as prepared. The mantra “this is my money” came during the telling of the story in reaction to the children’s response the first time it was said. That repeated phrase reinforced for all the concept that the riches we have belong to God.