The parable of the unforgiving servant told by Jesus challenges adults but is also tailored for teaching children the same lesson. Participating in various activities during the Sunday School hour gives kids hands-on experience with this real-life issue they are sure to face even in their preschool years.
Read the Story
Reading the story of the Unforgiving Servant out of the King James version of the Bible might tax a fidgety toddler or preschooler. It is, after all, 35 verses from Matthew 18:21 to Matthew 18:35. Yet the plot surrounding the first servant forgiven of a large debt by the king who then fails to pay it forward when another servant owes him a much smaller debt is a story children can understand in a simplified version. Several online Sunday School supply companies offer a kid-friendly condensed version that hits all the main points without losing the message. If possible, use a preschooler's Bible with colorful pictures that children can follow along as you read it aloud.
Act Out the Scene
This story offers plenty of role-playing opportunities. Mission Bible Class suggests dividing the story into four scenes: The first is the servant before the king; the second is the unforgiving servant demanding payment from the other servant; the third scene involves the other servants informing the king of the actions of the first servant; and the fourth is the unforgiving servant before the king again being punished. Keep the lines and scene action simple and repeat the drama several times, allowing each child to play "good" and "bad" roles.
Watch a Video
Use the fact that today's kids are electronically tuned to your advantage in presenting this story by watching a video presentation. The visual depiction engages young minds and keeps them occupied for a significant portion of the allotted time these youngsters are in your charge. GodTube offers several downloads, some of which are animated. Veggie Tales -- a popular children's video series featuring Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber -- asks and answers the question, "God wants me to forgive them?" in the Grapes of Wrath -- a 14-minute video. Worship House Kids offers a downloadable mini-movie at its website.
Make the 70 Times 7 Crafts
The concept of unlimited forgiveness is easily illustrated with birdseed, film canisters and paper plates. Kids Sunday school offers a detailed approach to teaching the Biblical concept of forgiving as Jesus indicated -- 70 times 7. That equals 490 and tiny bird seeds are a wonderful way to get 490 individual pieces to depict that sum to children. Glue seven pieces of birdseed to the top of a film canister; this represents Peter asking Jesus if he should forgive his brother seven times. Have children draw a picture that makes them happy on their individual plates. Fill the film canisters with birdseed and secure the lids. As each child flips the lid off a film canister, discuss how the seven pieces of birdseed on the lid are the mere beginning of forgiveness, and tell them there is even more forgiveness contained inside the film canisters. Have them pour the birdseed onto the plate with their individual happy scene to symbolize how unending forgiveness makes people feel glad.
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