What is the Church’s Role During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

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I started writing this blog post about a week ago, then everything started to change.  To be honest, it has been difficult to get anything out with all the major changes going on.  Some places are completely devastated due to the coronavirus at the moment.  Shops are closed, schools are closed, travel suspended and churches can no loner meet. 

As I write this, I am in small town Kenya.  So far, none of the coronavirus cases have come to our town, but one can never be to cautious.  In Narok, several people are out of work.  People are wondering how we are going to get essential needs if this last much longer. People are starting to panic.

Which brings me to my next question.  What is the role of the church in this?

“When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land, or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

In light of social distancing at the moment, how can we reach people for Christ in light of the current crisis?  How can we continue to be Jesus to our communities?

Please leave your comments below. 

Let the Gospel be the Gospel

Standing in sin carton
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This past week while in the midst of performing and videoing some dramas, some of the actors asked, “Can we make it funny?” 

                “Yes!  But make sure the Gospel message stays the Gospel message.”

We were recording a drama called Sin Captures which can be found here. (Video to come later.)  In this drama, someone comes and sees something so tempting he just has to try it.  He puts one foot inside a box labeled “SIN.”   However, his foot can’t get out.  So, he puts another foot in. Maybe by having both feet in, one can push the other out.  However, this is not the case.  Eventually, he is completely stuck in a life of sin not knowing how to get out or who can help him.  What happens next is interesting.  One person comes along and says,

                “Well, you should have known better!”  then walks on.  Another few people come along and think that they can pull him out if only they are strong enough.  But all these efforts fail.  Still someone else comes along and says,

                “You need to change first and then come to church with me.”  And another person says,

                “There are consequences to that lifestyle.  You got what you asked for.  Sorry, I can’t help you.”

Isn’t this so typical?  What happens when we see someone living the life of sin?  How do we react?  Which of these people can we relate to the most if we had to choose?

What is the Gospel?

The sad part is that none of these responses is what the true gospel message is about.  A pastor friend of mine recently shared that while asking some of his Bible College students what the Gospel is, many of them did not know.  What is the Gospel?  The Good News?

John 3:16 – 18 says it this way:

                “For God so loved the world that HE GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever BELIEVES in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.  Whoever BELIEVES in him is not condemned, but whoever does not BELIEVE stands condemned already because they have not BELIEVED in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (NIV Caps and Bold mine)    

Notice the emphasis on the word BELIEVE?  The Gospel is not something we do.  It is not counting how many times we go to church in our lifetime.  It is not even showing that we live a pure and perfect life.  The Gospel has nothing to do with anything that we DO or work for.  The Gospel is a message of salvation that God GAVE his Son.  We cannot save anyone with our strength or condemnation.  Only God gives salvation.  Then, none of us can attain salvation by our efforts alone.  It is only God who saves, through his Son Jesus, who died on the cross to be a sacrifice for our sins once and for all.  The only thing we must do then, which is of no works effort at all, is to BELIEVE AND FOLLOW Christ. 

“Let us not get distracted by a false doctrine.”

When we are working in our churches, at home with our families, or even talking with a friend, or perhaps seeing someone on the street, let us not get distracted by a false doctrine.  Nothing we do physically can save them.  We cannot condemn them enough, persuade them enough or force them enough.  In fact, the church is getting a bad name just for these types of efforts. 

Instead, Jesus tells us to speak the truth in LOVE.  Ask yourself, “How can I love my neighbor today?  If I was stuck in that life of sin, would I be truly happy and fulfilled?  Or might there be something I am searching for?” Maybe there is a lot of hidden hurt. Then ask yourself, “How would Jesus love this person?”

Put your grace foot forward!

During a leadership seminar last week, one of the speakers made a very powerful statement, “Put your grace foot forward.”  Grace means simply, giving someone what they haven’t earned.  It means, that no matter what they have done against us or against God, we are going to give them unmerited favor. Whatever we do this week and next, let us learn to put our grace foot forward.  Let us act and speak in grace and in truth.         

Creative Storytelling with Almost Any Audience

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I recently came across some notes from a creative storytelling seminar I took part in several years ago.  One of the things I like to focus on in my children’s and youth lessons is telling the story in a unique and memorable way.  Or in other words, how to make it REAL to the students you are teaching.

So many times, I see teachers start to tell a story, open the Bible and start reading …. LIKE……..THIS…..AND….THEY…..READ…. SO…. SLOW…. THAT…..I…..CAN’T…..FOLLOW…..ALONG…..  I hope you understand what I mean.  So how do we reach those we are trying to teach?  How do we make a connection, and use creative storytelling in an exciting and memorable way?  The first thing to prepare is to make sure you know the story well.  So how do we do this?

How to prepare your story

Start off by reading the story to yourself.  Your first time reading the story should not be in front of your class.  Come up with questions.  What questions do you have?  What questions might your students have?  Are there any words that you don’t know the full meaning of?  What is the time of year and setting in which the story takes place.  One thing that I have learned while studying in order to tell a story well, is that the culture and setting and even the time of day that the story is told can make a huge difference as to the lessons learned and what we want to get across to our students.  So, make sure you READ, READ, READ and study well. 

The second thing to do is practice.  This may sound strange, but go over the story in your mind.  Is there anything that sticks out to you from the story?  Does anything repeat?  Is there any character that stands out that should be learning something but is perhaps not?  These are the clues you will use in determining the best way to tell your story and get it across.

After you have gone over this in your mind, try practicing when you are with yourself, or with your kids at home.  Sometimes, while I am practicing out loud I will notice things that otherwise I would not have known if I had not been practicing or saying it out loud.

With that said, I will now show you some of my top creative storytelling methods to get students engaged in a way that they will remember.  Many of these things can work for almost any age.  (Just a hint:  Adults as well, learn in the same ways that children do.  We do not outgrow our learning styles.)

1. Use silly voices

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Have you ever told a story where two or more people were talking to each other?  Of course!  My kids always love it when I do the voices.  Let’s say I am telling a story about Abraham and Sarah. I might want to have one voice for what Abraham says and another voice for Sarah.  Then still another one for God, and an angel and so on.  Don’t be afraid to be silly.  After all, when our students experience the story through creative storytelling, they will remember it.   

2. Act it out as one of the characters from the story

creative storytelling
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In a lesson plan I recently wrote, “Adam” comes to the class as a very old man and tells his story. Adam wears a simple Maasai blanket, carries a walking stick, has slippers and has used chalk to make his face look old.  Of course, there is no fooling the kids as to who Adam really is, but they don’t need to know that we know that.  As you are teaching you may say something like, “I am looking for my visitor and he’s a bit late.  Let me go and check.  I will be right back.”  Leave the room, but when you come back you are not yourself but a character in the story wondering where the teacher is.  Check out my Adam and Eve Lesson Plan here.

I can remember when I was in secondary school and our Biology teacher did this and came back as a historically known scientist who studied genetics.  I don’t remember all of the lessons that my teachers taught in secondary school, but I will never forget this one due to the way the teacher used this creative storytelling method.  (By the way, we all knew it was really our teacher.  But we learned a lot that day.)

3. Use the students to act out the story

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You may want to tell your students that you have a story to tell but you need their help.  Chose students to become the characters in the story and show them how to act out the parts as you get to them in the story.  You may want to provide props, costumes or signs for each character to wear so that we don’t forget who they are in the story.  And don’t forget to make it funny.

4.  Use props to represent parts of the story

Kids in nursery school and class one are learning how to sequence events in school.  They need to know what comes first, next, last and so on.  Try using a prop to tell the first part of the story and then put it down.  Use another prop to tell the next part of the story.  Line these props up as you tell the story.  Then, mix them up and ask the kids to come put them back in order as they tell the story back to you.  Props can be anything!  It can be an interesting rock, stick or another item found in nature.  It can also be something from your home. Be creative.

5. Use a puppet.

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OK, HOLD ON!  We are an African church.  We don’t have puppets!  Think a minute and yes, you do.  You can make puppets form the things you have.  Do you have an old sock with no match and can draw eyes on it.  You may also have an empty bottle that you can draw a face on.  In a previous blog post, I wrote about how to make Bible characters from empty tissue paper tubes.  And if all else fades, use an old carton, draw a character and cut it out.  Something magical happens when we are not just reading a story from the Bible, but the puppet(s) come to tell the story. Get the Noah’s Ark Lesson Plan and use these puppets.

The more “real” you can make the puppet, the more the children will be fascinated by it.  Give your puppet a name and a personality.  Hide the puppet until he or she comes out.  If you have a sock puppet, drape a sheet around your arm so that it looks like you are holding the creature as it talks and its not just your arm.  Remember, as soon as the puppet comes out, the kids will be interested in what is going on. 

6. Audience participation and repetition

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Some stories that we read have a common theme or a question that is asked.  In one of my recent lessons, “The Good Samaritan,” the law expert asks Jesus a question.  “Who is my neighbor?”  In the beginning of the story I have taught the kids three different “chants” to help the story become more interesting.  One of these chants the students clap three times all together and say, “And who is my neighbor?”  Whenever the question in the story is raised, I have the students say it.  This can work with any age and is a sure way to get the students involved in a memorable way.

7. Use a silly character

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In our last camp, I had introduced the character of Biffy.  Biffy is a grown up who thinks and acts like a child.  He wears a silly costume and is very animated.  Biffy does not talk much, but uses body and facial expressions to communicate.  Another thing about Biffy is that while he always tries his best and has a heart to do well, he also always makes mistakes and a big mess of things. 

Biffy came several times during camp.  He was a part of our drama team.  He can also be a student volunteer and help you to act out the story.  Give Biffy the character in the story who needs to learn the lesson. For example, in the parable of the talents, Biffy can be the one who hides the talent and does nothing with it.  In one of our dramas, Biffy was a student volunteer during a magic trick.  But instead of doing as the teacher told him he messed everything up and the teacher ended up with banana all over his face!  The students will remember Biffy well and remember the story that he helped to tell.  Give your character their own funny name.  Check out some of our dramas here.

I hope you have enjoyed these seven creative storytelling methods. These are just a start.  Remember to READ, READ, READ your story.  Choose an interesting method and practice.  Tell us how it went in the comments below.  If you enjoyed this please download my lesson plans and subscribe to the blog to get the latest updates.          

Bible Character Tube Puppets

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner “Hi There!”

I recently posted a lesson plan on Noah’s Ark.  To tell the story, I made TOILET/TISSUE PAPER TUBE PUPPETS! These will work great in almost any lesson.  I made 4 men to serve as Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth and 4 women to serve as their wives.  These could be interchanged for other characters in other stories.  I thought that you all might enjoy seeing how they are made, so here it is!  I used absolutely no money to invest in these puppets.  Everything was what I had saved and not thrown out.

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner What you will need…

You will need:

               Empty tissue paper tube rolls


                Permanent Marker


                String or yarn

                Fabric Scraps

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner Add a great big smile!

First, I drew a face about halfway down on the tissue paper tube.  I looked at some clip art/cartoons that I had to create some cute designs.

Next I fit on the “Skirt.”  I cut a piece of fabric about (7″ x 2 3/4″). I folded down a bit that would make the top edge nice first, then wrapped it around the bottom part of the tube.  It was a bit difficult to hold and tie a string around for a belt at the same time so I used a little tape to hold it in place.  Then I cut off about 1 foot of the string to make the belt.  I tied it with the tie in front then cut off the loose ends to an appropriate length. 

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner Don’t forget to hold it in place with tape!

Next, I cut the square for the head piece. I cut a piece of fabric about (6 1/2″ x 5″).  This was a little bit more difficult to tie on so I asked one of my kids to hold the head piece on while I tied a string on to hold the headpiece in place.  I made sure the knot was in the back and then clipped the ends to an acceptable length. 

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner Look at me now!

And there it is! The last thing to do is to give your character a name.  Here are some of the ones that I made.       

acaciacorner | The Acacia Corner What a nice family!

How about yours?  Please comment below and show us if you tried it.