Have you ever thought about why Jesus used parables at times to teach people? Perhaps it was because he was trying to help the people understand concepts that were difficult to understand or entirely new to them. Jesus knew that by comparing them to relatable things and circumstances, they could better understand the lessons he wanted them to learn.
For your children, many of the common every day things Jesus talks about in his parables have little if any emotional connection to your kids. Adults can process them intellectually, but kids and teens may not have the life experience or empathy to do so. Yet these are vital lessons Jesus wants your kids to understand.
Thankfully, there are some fun ways to help your kids experience and better understand those parables. You can do them as a family devotional or just a little life lesson during your day. There are probably a lot of things you can do, but here are some ideas to get you started.
- Parables of sowing and weeds. If you have an area in your yard for planting, great! If not, you can use small pots and secretly plant “weeds” if you are doing that parable. Different soils can be managed by adding gravel from the side of your street or one of those little bags of stones from craft or plant stores. For it to really work well, you will need to basically plant the seeds in all rocks – it’s amazing how little dirt seeds need to get started. This is a long term parable experience, but continue talking about the parable and its lessons as you check on the progress of your “garden”. Your children will be more enthusiastic and more upset by dying plants or weeds if the plant they are growing produces something that excites them.
- Parables of lost things. Let’s face it. The average child won’t be upset by a lost coin or sheep. However, if their phone or stuffed animal goes missing for two minutes… Don’t traumatize your child, but washing the stuffed animal or quietly confiscating the phone for a bit, will help them understand the frantic feeling of the people in the parable – and thereby the lessons.
- Parables of lost treasure. It’s time for a treasure hunt. “Lose” a special treat or money in the house. Whoever finds it gets to keep it. Discuss how badly they wanted to find it – even though it wasn’t really theirs. How would they have felt if it had been theirs and someone else had found and kept it. (Lots of Bible lessons in that one!)
- Parables of leaven or yeast. Find a simple bread recipe requiring yeast. Have your kids help you make the recipe. Measure how high the dough is before rising and after the yeast works. (Be careful not to leave it too long without checking. After a certain amount of time if the dough is not kneaded, the yeast will get too activated and the risen bread collapses again.)
- Parables of banquets and guests. Consider throwing a party, but invite people you know can’t come. At the last minute, have your kids run around and invite their friends instead. Or reenact some of the other scenarios using a modern twist. (costume party for wedding clothes, something they need to have to be ready for the party without knowing exactly when it will be instead of the oil lamps for the bridesmaids, etc.)
- Parables of light. This will work better when you lose electricity or out in the country where their is little light at night. Use flashlights or battery lanterns in place of candles and reenact the parables. Younger kids will appreciate the symbolism more if there isn’t already plenty of light outside to help them see. (Or if you live near underground caverns with tours, guides will often turn off the lights for a moment. That is true, total darkness.)
There are other things you can do, but you get the idea. Take the biblical parables and have your kids experience the scenario, using the same items or modern equivalents. Don’t forget to make the connection back to the original scripture and the lessons Jesus wants us to learn from the parable. It takes some extra time and effort, but it will make those parables and the lessons God wants your kids to learn, much more memorable. It really is worth it.