Have you ever thought about how often sheep appear in the Bible? From Jacob and Laban and the spotted/not spotted sheep to the first Passover meal to David as a shepherd boy, sheep play an important role in many Bible stories. Sheep are great animals. They can provide milk, cheese and clothing while still remaining alive to provide again another day. Of course when they were someone’s dinner or used for sacrifices, they needed to be replaced. So soon sheep also became a vital part of the local economy.
During the ministry of Jesus, sheep took center stage. Not just because shepherds were some of the first people to worship the baby Jesus, but because Jesus called himself our shepherd. He even said that we, his followers, were his sheep. Jesus told parables about sheep to make some important points about his role in our lives.
What better way to teach your kids about God than to take them to pet some sheep. Even many major urban areas have farms with sheep a short drive away. Perhaps your zoo has a petting section where the kids are allowed to interact with sheep. Maybe your local fair or festival has sheep for your children to pet and feed.
Once you find your sheep and your children have interacted with them for some time, grab a cool spot to rest and talk to your children about sheep and God. Ask your kids what they learned about sheep by observing them. Then tell them about shepherds and how they took care of their sheep. Tell them about the wild beasts waiting to eat the sheep. Explain to them how shepherds like David would risk their lives in order to save their sheep from being killed by wild animals or stolen by thieves.
Once your children have a thorough understanding of sheep and shepherds, ask them why they think Jesus called us sheep and himself our shepherd. If they are creative or thoughtful, even very young children may easily understand how Jesus dying on the cross for our sins made him just like a shepherd. They may know that people are like sheep and need a leader to follow. And what better leader than God’s Son?! If your children struggle for answers, help them see the connections between sheep and us – shepherds and Jesus.
When you are finished, you may want to enjoy some cheese made from sheep’s milk or snuggle up under a wool blanket. Use items created from the raw materials provided by sheep to give your children visual reminders of your sheep lesson. Wouldn’t it be great if every time your children touched something made of wool they remembered Jesus is our shepherd?!