Object lessons provide a powerful way to teach spiritual truth to any age group, but particularly to children. An object lesson makes use of a tangible item that serves as a practical example of a principle or abstract idea. This visual component aids in memory retention and understanding. Making use of school-related items for a back-to-school presentation will ensure that each time the child sees a similar object, he will recall the lesson.
Authors Dan and Chip Heath in their book "Made to Stick" list concreteness as one of the key reasons why some ideas find life and longevity and others die. Concreteness, as they define it, is making use in communication of objects, or speaking in terms of things that can be handled. Jesus, for example, spoke of a "Good Shepherd" and his care for his sheep when he taught about his love and concern for his followers. This everyday example was readily accessible to his audience. Effective teachers begin with a truth to communicate and then brainstorm about objects in the everyday lives of their students--objects that can represent those concepts.
A teacher brings a bag of common school supplies. This may include pencils, scissors, notebooks and other items. The teacher takes a marker and begins to write his name on each item while explaining to the children that it is important to label their supplies to show ownership. In similar fashion, according to Ephesians 4:30, God labels those who belong to him by giving them the Holy Spirit to dwell in their hearts.
A teacher brings a pencil with an eraser or even a pencil and very large pink eraser. He writes various sins, such as "lying" or "cheating," on the paper. Then he takes the eraser and rubs out the words while discussing how God's grace will erase our sins. This can illustrate God's forgiveness and the truth of Psalm 103:12, which speaks of God having removed our sin from us.
The teacher wears a stuffed back pack to represent the burdens that we sometimes carry. He puts rocks, bricks or other heavy objects into the backpack to make it harder to endure. He asks a child volunteer to bear this burden. This lesson can illustrate the truth of Galatians 6:2, which tells Christians to bear one another's burdens. The teacher invites another child to help remove some of the load or to otherwise help the load. He encourages the kids to talk about how they can share the "burden."
The teacher makes a set of personalized flash cards, including one which reads "1+1=3." This illustrates the spiritual lesson that when at least two Christians meet together to pray, worship or speak about the Lord that Jesus promises to be there with them, according to Matthew 18:20.
The teacher brings a box of crayons. He tells a story of how each color represents a different personality, such as "blue" being a sad crayon, "red" being an angry crayon, and "yellow" being a happy crayon. He explains that even though the crayons are different colors, they all have the same purpose--to draw. He further describes how that alone they are limited, but together they can make pictures. This object lesson describes the importance of unity, as expressed by Jesus in John 17:20-21.
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