Why I Stole a 1st Place Ribbon from a Child in Sunday School

Imagine the scene: a jumping-jack contest in Sunday school with the teacher pitted against a first grade student. The student easily wins the contest, but the teacher claims the beautiful 1st Place ribbon for herself. The children break out in LOUD disapproval: “That’s wrong. You didn’t win. That’s not fair!” Righteous indignation spews from a group of 30 children over a stolen award. What kind of teacher does this?

The above scene was a carefully scripted part of a lesson in The ABC’s Of God. It served as an illustration to help children grasp an important biblical truth:

for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God, (Exodus 34:14)

I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols (Isaiah 42:8).

That God is jealous means that God will not share His glory or the praise and honor He alone deserves. But think about this definition from the perspective of a young child, What? God doesn’t share? Daddy and Mommy tell me I must share. Sharing is good. Why doesn’t God share?

When we give children a concrete illustration – like stealing first place from the true winner – we are helping to set a context for understanding the rightness of God not sharing His “1st Place” position and the wrongness for anyone or anything to try and usurp that position. If the children can feel righteous indignation because a teacher stole a 1st Place ribbon from a student, imagine how much more it is right for God not to share His first place standing! Because God is jealous, He is to hold “1st Place” in our love, devotion, honor, and praise.

This is just one example of how important illustrations are to teaching children. The Truth78 curriculum contains many such illustrations. They are carefully thought out and strategically placed. Many are fun and interactive, but their main purpose is to help the children grasp important biblical truths – especially deep and sometimes difficult truths.

Here is how R. C Sproul explained the importance of using illustrations,

[Martin Luther] said that the makeup of the human person is an important clue to preaching. God has made us in His image and has given us minds. Therefore, a sermon is addressed to the mind, but it’s not just a communication of information — there is also admonition and exhortation. …There is a sense in which we are addressing people’s wills and are calling them to change. We call them to act according to their understanding. In other words, we want to get to the heart, but we know that the way to the heart is through the mind. So first of all, the people must be able to understand what we’re talking about…

That which makes the deepest and most lasting impression on people is the concrete illustration. For Luther, the three most important principles of public communication were illustrate, illustrate, and illustrate. He encouraged preachers to use concrete images and narratives. He advised that, when preaching on abstract doctrine, the pastor find a narrative in Scripture that communicates that truth so as to communicate the abstract through the concrete.

In fact, that was how Jesus preached. Somebody came to Him and wanted to debate what it meant to love one’s neighbor as much as oneself. “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves…’” (Luke 10:29–30). He didn’t just give an abstract, theoretical answer to the question; he told the parable of the Good Samaritan. He answered the question in concrete form by giving a real-life situation that was sure to get the point across. (“The Need for Illustrations in Preaching.”)

 The Truth78 lesson illustrations may cause you to gather a few extra visuals and props. Sometimes they’re messy and loud. You may even have to lose a contest to a 7-year-old. But in my experience, those extra efforts are worth it for illustrations that help communicate deep theological truths to young minds and hearts.

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Truth78.

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image