Celebrating, Capturing & Remembering Life's Special moments
This week our Awana storyteller is on vacation in Mexico, so I had the wonderful privilege of sharing the story of Noah with our kids yesterday night. This year our incredibly talented Awana storyteller has made it a tradition to involve kid volunteers in the storytelling each night. This is super awesome, but the idea was a little daunting to me. The kids LOVE it, but there is always that unpredictability piece involved. As apprehensive as I was about the idea, I had to go forward with the plan. There were already 5 kids signed up to help, and the waiting list was already full for the next week.
I prayed for inspiration, and grit my teeth as I headed down to our supply closet to look for costume or prop ideas, that would not require explaining as the children's involvement is almost completely improvised (except for a few whispered instructions as the groups wander in).
I ended up making some funny improvised "costumes" for Noah, his wife and 3 sons, which I ended up pretty excited about. They were basic enough to throw together quickly, yet very fun for the kids to wear (maybe because they were so ridiculously simple). With the current trend of  beards and mustaches going around, I knew that any facial hair prop was sure to be a hit (even for the girls).
I found funny beard templates from the family fun website, which I traced onto different colors of construction paper (you can find the same templates here). I ended up having to use some masking tape pieces to hold the side burns in place as well as yarn to tie the beards onto kid's heads.
When I was digging through a box of yarn looking for something to tie the beards on, I found some delightful fat yellow yarn that looked to me like tight blonde curls. I decided to also improvise a wig so as not to leave Noah's wife out of the costuming fun. The yarn was already cut, so I laid the pieces out on some masking tape to make a perfectly silly wig.
I ended up really having a lot of fun including the kids in the story. The kid volunteers did an awesome job acting out even the parts I had not given them any instructions on. Of course, there was the element of chaos, as would be expected. Even the chaos, however occurred at the right and expected moment, during the flood when Noah and his family got to squirt the audience with spray bottles. Let's just say, the "flood" didn't want to stop, and could have very well last for 40 days and 40 nights without a little intervention. Also, only one of the beards survived said flood for me to take a picture of it the next day. :-)

I finally got around to making the workbook for the summer 2012 Sontown memory challenge. It is not nearly as intensive as last year's (which included 3 challenge options, including a reading challenge with Bible study questions). This is a really busy summer, so I kept it nice and simple. I was thinking about forgoing it all together, but I figure if a few kids commit to memory a passage that contains so many amazing truths about God, well, that is probably worth the couple of hours it took to put the challenge together.

This challenge is simply a memory challenge for Psalm 139. The workbook contains the chapter in a large legible font, tips on memorizing, a suggested schedule for memorizing to finish by the deadline and a few blank pages with lines for writing the verses by hand.

Download the workbook here:

File Size: 446 kb
File Type: pdf
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Last summer I did a teaching series on Hebrews 11 "racing" through the stories of the Bible in chronological order based on the stories of the people found in that chapter.

Because God had been placing the vision for equipping parents to be more involved in their children's Faith (this was when God was getting me ready for the philosophy behind Tru), and I wanted kids to get the benefit of the series despite missing Sunday services due to vacations I issued a special challenge. We name it the Sontown 500 challenge.

There were 3 parts to the challenge. One part was to read through Hebrews 11 and the stories mentioned in the chapter (parents could read it to their kids) and then answering some questions about the stories. The second and harder part of the challenge was to memorize Hebrews 11. The third part was to complete both challenges. I was surprised to have 5 kids complete the third challenge and they got a really awesome grand prize. Even the parents of kids who didn't finish thought the challenge was a great idea.

I was asked recently if I would be doing another memory challenge this summer. I had almost completely forgot about it as it is gearing up to be very busy summer. I might have to work on it more in my spare time, but I think I would like to do another challenge.

Thinking about the challenge made me think it would be fun to post the PDF of the booklet here since I put so much work into designing the challenge last summer. Maybe someone besides the 5 kids who completed the challenge last summer would benefit as well. I updated the planning calendars to 2012, and put in blanks where before I referred to specific due dates and prizes. Maybe it will come in handy with your kids or ministry.

The document includes a description of the challenges, the text of Hebrews 11 (so that it can be taken anywhere), some memorization tips as well as the reading and questions. A kid who finishes anyone of these challenges will have a pretty good coverage of their Old Testament stories and better yet, how they all fit into one story.

Download the file below:

File Size: 827 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

This morning in Sontown I utilized the "shock factor" as a method of storytelling. The overwhelming fragrance of body spray/perfume  permeating my hair right now was and is totally worth it to see 30+ little mouths agape as I poured said perfume from a pretty vase into David's dirty rubber flip flops. Not stopping there, I proceeded to dry them with my hair (which I first had to dislodge from a stubborn pony tail). All while I recounted Mary's lavish act of worship, the reactions of the dinner guests and Jesus' words in response.

As I started to wipe the shoes with my hair one girl questioned, "are those dirty?!" I smiled inside, knowing a new part of the story had just come alive. I truthfully answered "yes" and explained that Jesus' feet and shoes were probably even more dirty.

I set up the stage for this unexpected display by giving the kids facts about the perfume Mary used and some background into the culture. We talked about our prized possessions and how much perfume like that cost (a year's wages). This helped set the scene not only for the strangeness of what I was about to do, but how much more lavish and over the top the original actions of Mary were towards Jesus.

I can't say for sure what God did in the hearts of each of the kids. But as is often the case  when I teach, the story has come alive in my own mind and imagination as I ponder the implications. To some level I can now better understand the powerful love and emotion that would have inspired such an act. Although mine was not nearly as sacrificial or outrageously inappropriate as Mary's was, it was still quite a humbling posture.

Both myself and the kids also experienced first hand the fragrance filling the room just as Luke recounted in the original story. I never realized that you could smell an act of worship! In addition as I still smell the fragrance in my hair, I realize how both Mary and Jesus probably smelled like nard for days. The memory of that lavish act lingered on long after the moment was past.

After the story, I asked my little group of kindergarteners if they thought maybe it was hard for Mary to do what she did, considering how expensive the perfume was. One little boy replied "no I don't think so. She loved Jesus so much. She loved the stuff a lot too. If she had loved the stuff more than Jesus it would have been hard, but she loved Jesus more than the stuff." Wow! I never realized that! I understood that it was a huge sacrifice, but assumed it must have hurt to do what she did. I may have even assumed that perhaps that was one of many reasons she was crying. But no, her love for Jesus was so overwhelming that the sacrifice was nothing compared to the love. I do believe this little boy understood the story better than I did.

Sometimes I wonder if God allows me to teach children not so that I can teach kids, but so that He can teach me. I learn from them, and through the process of teaching them so many amazing things about His love and what it means to love him. What a privilege it is to teach and be taught by children!

P.S. The word lavish so perfectly describes Mary's act, and is my favorite word for today. Microsoft word defines it's synonyms as: Extravagant, Profligate, Wasteful, Over-the-top, Immoderate, Unrestrained, Excessive. The antonym being frugal.

May you discover the beauty of lavish worship and the lavish worship that is unique to you! May you not only discover Jesus' lavish love for you but may you also find the beauty of loving Jesus like Mary did. A love that overshadows any pain of sacrificing dignity, wealth or prized possessions. Read two accounts of the story in John 12:1-8 and Matthew 26:6-13 and wonder with me at it all.

I said it again, the forbidden word, this and the last time are the only times I can remember being accused of using a "naughty" word. In a passionate recounting of the story of the prodigal son and how foolish the son had been I let slip "stupid..." Right there, interrupting what I perceived to be a vivid and beautiful storytelling experience a little girl piped up loud and clear "that's a bad word!"

My storytelling trance was broken as I tried to excuse my slip. As much as the word really does describe the actions of the prodigal son I knew the little girl was right in the context of children's church. Hooray to that little girl for speaking out about what her parents have taught her!

The other time this word slipped I was talking about how "stupid" sheep are. I don't remember if a little voice corrected me that time, but I do know that I cringed inside seeing some of those little eyes grow wide at the word.
Call me overly sensitive or legalistic. But I take seriously my role in these little one's lives. I know of little girls that were disappointed when I cut my hair because they were growing their hair long to match mine. I hear of little people who copy the posture of prayer I have taught for "a prayer of release" (palms raised to release distraction and accept what God has to teach) to the confusion of parents. I know that although more often I can't see it, what I say (and don't say) has an impact.

The Bible says that teacher's are held to a higher standard (James 3:1). The Bible has especially harsh things to say regarding a person who leads a child to sin (Matthew 18:6-9). The Bible also commands children to obey their parents. If by using the word "stupid" carelessly I am leading a child astray from what their parents have taught them, then will I not be held accountable if I take the conviction lightly?

So what would you do? What faux pas have you committed in teaching kids? Have you ever been called on the carpet by a child?

I know from now on I will be extra intentional to eliminate that word from my storytelling vocabulary and interactions with children in general. While I personally do not feel "stupid" is a bad word (although it will probably be discouraged as a regular piece of my someday kid's vocabulary), I will choose to die to myself in even this small way for the sake of God's beloved children whose angels see the face of our Father in heaven (Matthew 18:10).