Revealing the hidden truth: Who is your neighbor?

boy eating at tableWho likes to play games? How about playing a game around the family dinner table? After all, dinner table games can lead everyone into dialogue. And what could be better than a family talking!

What game shall we play? How about a storytelling game! Chose someone to start the story. They can start to tell a tale about anything! After a couple of sentences, they choose someone else, who then continues the story where it left off. Of course it’s more fun if you move along quickly!

 
When your story finishes up. Ask your family these pointing-to-another-story questions:

  • A parable is a type of story. Who is known for telling lots of parables? [Jesus!]
  • Can you name some of Jesus’ parables? [There are over 50! Dig through a Bible to find some.]
  • What is it about a parable that makes it unique? [Parables are stories with a hidden meaning that are meant to teach us something.]
  • What do you suppose is the hidden meaning in the Parable of the Good Samaritan? (Need to review the story?)
  • The hidden meaning in this story was that our “neighbor” can be the person we least-expect! What is this parable teaching us today? [It asks us to look at how we view others. Isn’t everyone our neighbor?]
  • Pastor Doug has been talking about “Disruptive Christianity.” What do you suppose we could do that would help out a “neighbor?” How would doing that be “disruptive?”

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Photo credits:
Child at the table by Jenna P, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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How to equip for the big game? Challenge memory!

This Sunday at the downtown location, the Big Game transpires!

We’ll be playing a large group game to review Bible stories we’ve covered since September. It will be sort of like the old TV show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” This game is always loads of fun.

A group of kids works together to determine an answer
At a previous big game, a class confers on an answer
How can you help your kids to prepare for this event? How about playing a game!

Everyone likes to play games; how about around the family dinner table? After all, dinner table games can lead everyone into dialogue. And what could be better than a family talking – especially with regards to their faith journey.

Here’s a game idea… Play the game “Things that Belong to Something.”

With older kids you can name a list of items and have everyone guess what they “belong” to; for example: A bag of snacks, a blanket, and maps. (Answer: What’s inside my car.) Use the list below to review our Bible stories.

For younger kids ask them to name three items in a category. For example: name three things in your bed. This one works for older kids too! Ask them to name three characters in a Bible story or to identify three verbs or three adjectives, that describe a story.

Here’s a list of the stories we’ve covered this year and some “belongs to” suggestions:

  • David, God’s chosen King, 1 Samuel 16:1-13
  • Sheep; Anointing oil; Samuel

    Eight sons; A man after God’s own heart; Bethlehem

  • Jesus calls disciples, Matthew 4:18-22, 9:9 and in Mark 3:13-19
  • Fishermen, Tax collectors; Sons of Zebedee

    Apostles; Follow me; Can anything good come from Nazareth?

  • The overall story of the birth of Jesus (a compilation of gospel stories in Luke 1:26-38, Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 2:1-18
  • Gabriel; Nazareth; Immanuel

    The Holy Spirit; A census; Shepherds

  • Esther, the book of Esther
  • Haman; Mordecai; Xerxes

    Risky; Praying; Bow now!

  • David and Goliath, 1 Samuel 17: 1-49
  • A slingshot; Trust in God; “Giants” in our life

    Armor that’s too big; Philistines; Relying on God’s power

  • The tomb is empty – Resurrection appearances of Jesus, Matthew 28:1-10, and in John 20:1-20
  • Mary Magdalene; Spices; A big stone

    An earthquake; An angel; Woman, why are you weeping?

  • The Great Commission, Matthew 28:16-20
  • Important instructions; Teach; Baptize

    Go; Some doubted; I’ll be with you

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We’d love to have you join the fun at this Sunday’s game: “Are You Smarter Than a Sixth Grader” at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI.


Photo credits:
Photos are from my archives.

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How to bring up certain topics

Does your family play games together? Why not use a game as a way to open up conversation about faith topics. How about at the family dinner table? (Or wherever your family is gathered together.) You can do this!

Play the “Face Game.” That’s where someone calls out an emotion — such as mad, or sad, or over-the-top-glad — and everyone has to make the face that was named.

Three different facial emotions are depicted

With each emotion named, ask this follow-up question: What could happen that would cause you to make that face?

When the “scared” emotion gets named, and everyone has shared something that causes fear, ask these additional questions:

  • Why do you suppose that your Sunday’s Cool classes this month have compared Goliath to a problem that you’ve faced?
  • How would it look like if you used faith in God to face your fear?
  • David’s experience protecting his sheep helped him to know that he could face Goliath. What would help you to have a stronger faith in God?

Games are a great way to open up to faith conversation with your family. Give it a try.


Photo credits:
Faces are in the Public Domain, offered via Pixabay.com.

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How to promote pondering?

Tonight, at the dinner table, “noodle around” and ruminate. Reap the benefits!

A young boy says sarcastically: my day was fine

Does this sound like conversation in your household?

You: How was school today?

Child: Fine.

You: What did you learn?

Child: Nothing.

Sometimes it can feel like pulling teeth!

Try turning your inquiries into a dinner table game.

Open quote mark Tell me two things that really happened today and one thing that didn’t happen, and I’ll try to guess which ones are true!

This suggestion comes from a book by Drs. Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, The Whole Brain Child: 12 Proven Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. ← (That is the link to the Ann Arbor District Library’s copy of the book.) Now, admittedly this line of questioning probably won’t go over well with older kids — for them try asking for a “true” opinion and a “false” opinion they hold on some newsworthy subject.

Regardless of the discussion topic there is benefit to this inquiring tactic — besides revealing your child’s activities, or learning how they feel about life — kids unwittingly receive practice in pondering.

What is so important about honing reflection skills?

Asking children to dig back into their memory is known by educators as essential to moving learning to long-term storage. Reflection has been described as the “mind’s strongest glue.” [1]

So promote some pondering! Let’s continue to mull over the events of Holy Week. Use the chart below to read and talk about the next portion of our story.

If you’d like to print out this reading plan/discussion guide, click here.
Or, check out the other mini reading plans for our Rotation on the events of Holy Week here. If your kids aren’t clear about the order of the events of Holy Week, start at the beginning.)

Read Talk about or do…
Matthew 26:36-39 What are Jesus’ feelings? If you were facing some sort of crisis, what three friends would you ask to be with you?
Bonus Q: Who were the two sons of Zebedee? Hint: Luke 5:10-11.
Mark 14:32-26 Tell about a time when you knew what was coming up; you knew what you were up against. Did you follow through? What is Jesus asking of God? What does he mean by “the cup?” (He’d like a way to avoid the cross!) What model does this give us as to how we should approach God?
Matthew 26:39-41 Why do you suppose the disciples fell asleep? What is another way to say, “my spirit was willing but my body was weak?” (I knew what the best thing to do was, but…) Name an instance when this happened to you.
Luke 22:41-45 Jesus is being very honest with God. What is something that you’d like to admit to God but are afraid to do so? Luke is the only gospel which includes the angel helping out Jesus and Jesus sweating blood. Do you suppose that Luke being a doctor had anything to do with the latter inclusion? (It has a medical name: Hematidrosis. Research this on the internet.)
Matthew 26:44-47 Do you suppose Jesus felt let down by his disciples? When is a time when someone let you down? Tell about a time when you may have let Jesus down.
Mark 14:43-46 What do you suppose is going through Judas’ mind? Who were these “chief priests” and why were they interested in arresting Jesus? (Review who they are here. Review why they are out to get Jesus by reading one example at Matthew 12:9-14.)
Luke 22:49-51 Why do you suppose Jesus’ followers were so quick to bare their swords? (and also seemingly quick to fall asleep!) What would you have done? How do you suppose the guards felt when they saw Jesus heal the man’s ear? Do you suppose they wondering: are we arresting the right guy?
Matthew 26:47-56 Explore the differences in the way the gospel writers tell this portion of the story — in Mark 14:43-50, and in Luke 22:47-53. The disciples go from sleeping on the job, to wielding swords, to running away. What about this surprises you? How would you have reacted to these events?
How do you value and encourage pondering in your family?

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[1] Kate Charner-Laird, Sarah Fiarman, Frederick Won Park, and Sylvia Soderberg, Cultivating Student Reflection: A Step-by-Step Guide to Fostering Critical Thinking in Young Children, Issue 6 (Dorchester, MA: Project for School Innovation, 2003).


Photo credits:
Pouting child, by Sergio Vassio Photography, licensed on Flickr under a Creative Commons License. (Picture was cropped and text added by me.)

Games at the dinner table

Who likes to play games? How about playing a game around the family dinner table? (Or wherever your family is gathered together.) After all, dinner table games can lead everyone into dialogue. And what could be better than a family talking!

Want to know how to bring up Biblical topics in your family time?

A game is a great way to have your conversation include faith stories. How about a game of Concentration? Only preparation necessary is to print out the these cards. (Have your kids cut them apart as part of their dinner-prep duties.) At an appropriate time, spread out the cards picture-side down. Everyone takes a turn to see if they can turn over two cards that match. Who ever finds a match, says something about the image on the cards.

Bread and wine Bread and wine

Did you know that playing this game sometime this week can help your child to prepare for the big Cool Disciples review game this coming weekend? On Saturday evening and Sunday morning, we’ll be playing a large-group game to review the Bible stories we’ve covered since September. It will be sort of like the old TV game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” This game is always loads of fun.

A group of kids works together to determine an answer
A shot of last years 3rd graders formulating their answer.

Here are the stories we’ve covered since September 2011:

  • The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-15, Luke 11:1-4)
  • Psalm 23 (Psalm 23:1-6)
  • Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42)
  • The Story of Jesus’ Birth (Matthew 1:18-23, Luke 1:26-38 and 2:1-20, Matthew 2:1-15)
  • Moses: Bulrushes to Burning Bush (Exodus 1:1 – 4:17)
  • Moses: Plagues and Passover (Exodus 5:1-6:13, 7:1-12:42)
  • The Last Supper (Luke 22:7-20)
  • Nicodemus (John 3:1-17)

Regardless of whether your child can take part this weekend, add an occasional game to your family dinner. Need another suggestion? Check out last years review game idea.

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Photo credits:
Concentration card images from WPClipart and Open Clip Art Library. (Images are in the Public Domain.)
Photo of playing the “big game” is from my archives.

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Using a salad bowl to spark family stories

“Do this to remember me.”
Love, Jesus

Communion chalice and bread

Remember the time… Jesus told us to remember?

You have it memorized. It was during that dinner that Jesus had with his disciples. You know. The last one. The one where Jesus invented Communion. Now every time we share the bread and the cup we remember what Jesus did for us.

What do you suppose would happen if we stopped telling stories to our children? Pretty soon, they’d forget! When the very first Passover occurred, God instructed Moses to tell the people to not forget this event. Every year on the anniversary of the first Passover, they were to tell their children the story of God’s intervention and their freedom from slavery in Egypt. (Read about this command in Exodus 12:24-27).

Are we finding enough occasions to tell our stories? How about around the family dinner table? Here’s an easy way to make sure that telling our stories happens.

Let’s make a salad!

Zoe made Bunny Salad

Not that kind of salad. But our “recipe” does call for a salad bowl!

Before dinner take some slips of paper and write on them storytelling prompts. Things like…

  • A summer story
  • A school story
  • I was embarrassed when…
  • A celebration or holiday
  • An adventure
  • A food story
  • A family joke
  • My first memory
  • I was afraid when…
  • i knew God was involved when…
  • I trusted God when…
  • A question I’d like to ask God
  • Add your own ideas!

Mix up all the pieces of paper in the salad bowl and place the bowl on the table during dinner. At the appropriate time, have each family member take a turn drawing a slip from the bowl and telling a story.

Jesus was celebrating a remembering-Passover-supper when he gave us new instructions to remember a different sort of event: Jesus’ death for us. May we never forget to tell the whole story!


Photo credits:
Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
Chalice and bread by James Emery and Zoe made bunny salad by Michael Newton, both licensed on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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Listening for God?

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Our Cool Disciples (both the Saturday’s Cool and the Sunday’s Cool varieties) are learning this month about Jesus’ visit to Mary and Martha’s home. In this story Jesus is teaching us that the best choice is to spend time listening to him. The question becomes: How do we teach our children to spend time listening to Jesus?

A baby wears large headphones while listening to music

The next time you are at the family dinner table (or wherever your family is gathered together) talk about listening. If you’d like to print out this Family Faith Companion discussion guide, click here.

First up, play some listening games:

  • Have everyone remain silent for one minute. When the time is up, ask everyone to say what sounds they heard.
  • Read a well-known Bible story, except change some of the details. See who notices.
  • Tap out a rhythm and see if everyone can repeat it. Make it harder. Can everyone still follow along? Try it again.
  • Have two people sit on the floor back-to-back. Give both people 5 toothpicks. Ask one person to layout the toothpicks in a pattern while describing to the other person what they are doing. (Example: Put one toothpick down so that a pointed end is facing you.) Do the two designs match up?

Debrief and extend the Bible learning:

  • What helped you to listen?
  • What made it hard to listen?
  • Jesus taught Martha something about listening. Let’s read the story to review. Read about it in Luke 10:38-42.
  • What did Jesus mean when he said that Mary had chosen what is better? (She chose to listen to Jesus, to spend time with him.)
  • What can you do in your daily life to make that same sort of choice?
  • What does it mean to listen to Jesus?

    Perhaps listening for Jesus doesn’t only happen with our ears. God made us different kinds of listeners. Some of us hear Jesus speaking to us when we see a pretty sunset. Some of us hear Jesus when we laugh at a funny joke or when we are reading the Bible.

    How were you made to best listen for Jesus?


    Photo credits:
    Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email).
    Baby wearing large headphones via photopin by Jo Jakeman, who licensed this photo on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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A family dinner game to prepare for the “big” game?

I have said this before: a way to spark faith conversations with your family is to make family dinner a priority.

But don’t just eat. Play games.

That’s right. To extend your time together as a family, add a “game” to your meal. And the game I have in mind – a variation of Twenty Questions – will surreptitiously help your kids to prepare for this coming Sunday’s Cool Disciples review game – AKA “The Big Game.”

Supplies needed:

  • Slips of paper no larger than someone’s forehead, 3 or 4 per person
  • Writing implements
  • Adhesive tape
  • A Bible (optional, in case someone needs a hint, or an argument needs solving!)

A child wears a game card on her forehead

Distribute the slips of paper and the writing implements and ask everyone to secretly write the name of a character on each slip of paper. The characters should be from the Bible stories that the kids have learned this year.

What were those stories?

The Beatitudes, Adam and Eve in the Garden, Four Friends Carry a Lame Man to Jesus, The Birth of Jesus from the viewpoint of his mother Mary, John the Baptist, The Parable of the Sower, and the story of Easter Week.

Right away you’ll probably not want anyone to write down God or Jesus. Way too easy to guess!

What are some possibilities?

  • Someone at the Sermon on the Mount
  • Adam
  • Eve
  • The snake (why not get creative)
  • The man let down from the roof
  • One of the 4 Friends
  • Angel Gabriel
  • Mary, mother of Jesus
  • Elizabeth
  • Joseph
  • John the Baptist
  • Daniel
  • King Darius
  • A farmer sowing seed (in Bible times)
  • Peter (the disciple)
  • The donkey Jesus rode on Palm Sunday
  • Judas
  • Caiaphas
  • Pilate
  • Herod
  • Joseph of Arimathea
  • Mary Magdalene

(Or you could just write out enough of the above characters ahead of time.)

Have everyone pass their pile of written characters (name-side-down) to the person on their right. Everyone will pick up one of the characters and paste it (name-side-out) on their forehead. (Pass the tape, please!)

Everyone takes turns asking yes or no questions about their character in an effort to determine who they are wearing. Have fun!

We’d love to have you join the fun at this Sunday’s game: “Are You Smarter Than a Sixth Grader” at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI.

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Photo credits:
Child eating a peach by Bruce Tuten, who licensed his photo under: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic. (Which allows me to re-touch this photo to add the forehead game card!)

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Family dinner games for the Parable of the Sower

The cover of the book: The Family Dinner

So what games have you been playing at the dinner table?

Playing games is what makes eating dinner together fun! (And memorable.) The book The Family Dinner has this to say about the goal of game playing at supper…

To lead everyone to great family stories and good conversations.

And if that conversation tends toward talking about issues of faith… all the better.

Here’s some games you can play that tie in with our current Rotation for the Cool Disciples at FUMC in Ann Arbor, MI.

  • What would you plant? Take turns telling what each family member would like to grow if you had a large garden.
  • Take it up a notch… assuming you could grow anything (such as colors of paint, or types of cars) what would each person like to try growing and why?
  • Play “Fortunately/Unfortunately” – one person starts off telling a story with a good or fortunate occurrence. Start off with: “Once upon a time, a farmer had good weather so he decided to plant some seeds.” The next person adds to the story with an unfortunate event, for example: “Unfortunately his bag for the seed had a hole in it.” The next person remedies the situation with another fortunate event, such as: “Fortunately, this farmer had a neighbor who had an extra bag.” Etc., etc. Back and forth with fortunate and unfortunate episodes.
  • Review the four different types of soil in the Parable of the Sower and note what happened to the seed on each soil. Go around the table and have everyone add one line to a modern-day story that conveys the same meaning. (How about a story about learning to ice skate?)

Have fun!

For more on making family dinners a priority, read here.


Photo credits: Click here for info on banner photo (not visible in readers or email)
licensed under: Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
Book cover – from my archives. (I took a picture of this book when I had it out of the library!)

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