Jesus used parables to help people visualize and understand a lesson He taught, much like how we use object lessons to teach kids today. The parables can be a great teaching tool in Sunday School. However, many of Jesus' parables may be difficult for children to understand. So how can you teach the parables to kids in simple terms?
Below are ten of Jesus' parables and ways to bring the story to life, whether through objects, actions, or questions.
Just as Jesus told stories on a level that we can understand, we must take that example and tell His stories in a way that kids can understand, as well.
Parable of the Sower
God gives us good thoughts, desires, and ideas; He puts them inside of us to grow.
Jesus told a story about a farmer who went out to plant seeds. A great way to retell this story is to dress as a farmer for the lesson. Kids love costumes, so you'll immediately grab their attention as they wonder, "why is the teacher dressed up like a farmer today?" For your lesson, get seeds and soil to use as an interactive object lesson. Place the seeds in little bags with a word written on each bag, like joy, kindness, patience, etc. Explain that when we are sad or hurting, we can rely on the seeds that God plants in our hearts to grow. For instance, when you are lonely, we can still have joy because God has planted the seed of joy inside us. This will also bring to life the idea of God literally planting something inside of them.
Parable of the Lost Sheep
Every person is important to Jesus.
In this parable, Jesus begins with a question "What do you think?", which could be a great question to ask at the end of the story referencing the verse Matthew 18:12. He paints a visual picture of a man having 100 sheep. To help kids visualize this story, have 100 items to show the class, like pennies, crayons, or buttons. Showing them what having 100 of something looks like is a good way to bring this parable to life. Explain that we may not care about losing one of 100, but God does. Even if one penny goes missing, God cares that it is lost.
Parable of the Hidden Treasure
The Kingdom of Heaven is like a hidden treasure, it is so valuable and when we find it, we will feel like we have found a big pile of gold.
This parable begins with Jesus explaining that the Kingdom of Heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. A great object lesson could begin with a treasure chest or chocolate gold coins. If a real “treasure” is easily accessible, it could even be something that looks like a treasure to “wow” them. This lesson could simply begin with a hunt in the room for "treasure" or a picture of treasure. Then, when a kid finds the treasure, ask them how they feel. Helping give tangible feelings to the kids will help take this lesson a step further.
Parable of the Lost Coin
Even though we may get lost sometimes and fall away from God, He is loving and forgiving and rejoices when we return to Him again.
The parable of the lost coin is one of the simplest parables out there! It is so easy to bring to life. All you need is, just like the verse says, (Luke 15:8) ten silver coins. Use one set of coins to tell the story, or in a reasonable class size setting each kid could get their own set of ten silver coins to help them visualize the story on their own. You can also start with only nine coins, having hidden the tenth coin in the room for the kids to find on their own. When the lost coin is found, celebrate and explain that God rejoices in the same way when one of his children is lost, but then found.
Parable of the Good Samaritan
God cares about everyone and wants us to help anyone who is in need, even if that person does not look, act, or live like us.
Start this lesson off with a question about who the kids think their neighbor is. A lot of kids at a young age may have a different view of who their neighbor is, so take the chance to explain who Jesus teaches is our neighbor. End your teaching of this parable with a discussion of how we get to spend forever in Heaven because of Jesus and offer kids a chance to say the Salvation Prayer.
Parable of the Bags of Gold
If we keep using the gifts that God gave us and do not hide them, God will make them bigger and continue to give us more.
Teaching this parable can get interactive, which will help kids understand the lesson and make it memorable. Ask a few kids to stand in front of the class, giving them bags of money, pretending they are "bags of gold." Or, give them bags with the words for talents written on them. As the story progresses, make sure to relate how the wealthy man in the story is God and that we are the ones with the "bags of gold", "gifts from God" or "talents."
Parable of the Doorkeeper
We should be always waiting and ready for when we will go to Heaven and see Jesus because no one knows when that will be.
A great way to illustrate this parable is to literally put a kid in charge of the door and to leave the room (supervised by other adult leaders). Ask this one kids to be in charge of watching the door so they can tell the rest of the class when you are coming. This shows the kids that they should be ready for Jesus’ return, waiting and watching. This could even go as far as having the children pretend to sleep when you leave, but when you are gone they can "wake up" and play, but as soon as the doorkeeper sees you coming they have to warn them so that you don't catch them sleeping, just as the verse says (Mark 13:36).
Parable of the Forgiving King
It is important to forgive everyone, just as God has forgiven us, for everything that we do.
The parable of the forgiving king or the parable of the unmerciful servant is a great way to initiate a conversation with kids about forgiveness. Have they been forgiven for something? Has someone forgiven them? Does it feel bad when someone does not forgive you for something that you have done? They are simple yet thought provoking questions and can help them understand this story from their own lives and the things they have experienced. Almost everyone will or has experienced the feelings of being unforgiven and forgiven.
Parable of the Lost Son
It is important to forgive and give second chances and grace to everyone; and to be happy when anyone does a good thing, as only Jesus was perfect.
This is another parable that is great for having the kids act out, with lines that go right along with the Bible verses. There does not necessarily need to be actual "acting" but more of reading the story with a happy, sad, angry, or excited voice. This will help them to grasp and understand all the emotions that are used in this parable. The story mentions a share of an estate and it could be explained by using pretend coins or money, and then having the child throw the money literally in the trash bin.
Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders
We should build our lives on and around God, who knows all and never changes.
This story can be told through a visual example. Place a plate of sand and a plate of rocks on a table. You can also buy actual dissolving paper online that you can use to build a “house.” As you tell the story, explain that when the storm or water comes, the house is placed on the sand. Pour water over the “house” you placed on the sand and watch the dissolving paper will completely disappear. This could even be taken a step further with books underneath the plates. The book that is placed under the rock can be labeled "God" and the book that is placed underneath the sand can be labeled with anything that can be used to replace God in our lives "Money, Friends, Famous People", which will help drive the lesson even further home that what Jesus is saying is to make sure we are building our lives on Him and His Word.
Want more resources on how to teach the Parables to kids in your church? We have a ton of ideas for you. Check them out!
Parables 8-Week Children's Ministry Curriculum
The Parable Of The Good Samaritan Coloring Page
The Parable Of The Wise And Foolish Builders Coloring Page
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