When I was Children’s Ministry Director at a small satellite church, I planned a Sunday morning children’s program called “PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: Sparking Faith Conversations using Picture Books and Scripture”. Each week, using an engaging picture book as the spark along with games and a craft, children ages 3 – 10 delved into Scripture as we investigated what it means to be a beloved child of God. The kids enjoyed the lessons so much, that I have decided to continue with a regular blog series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children.
Today’s lesson uses PICTURING GOD (Beaming Books, 2019), written and illustrated by poet and visual artist Ruth Goring as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.
PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson
by Ruth Goring
PURPOSE: To be filled with wonder and gratitude as we explore a beautiful sampling of the many “pictures” (i,e. metaphors) for God found in the Bible using Ruth Goring’s PICTURING GOD (Beaming Books, 2019) as the spark.
OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: What Am I? (a metaphor guessing game!)
Ahead of time write down on little cards a rich sampling of the biblical metaphors for God found in the Bible. You can use Goring’s book to get you started, but also feel free to explore the Bible on your own and add concrete examples can easily act out. Examples: shepherd, eagle, rock, gate, hen, light. The morning of the lesson, open in prayer, then explain that in today’s story, we will be exploring what God is like, but first we’ll be playing a guessing game. (Don’t say yet that each is a metaphor for God.). Put the cards in a basket, then have each child pick a card and then use pantomime to act out what it is. No speaking or sounds aloud. The children will have fun guessing and can cheer each other on.
INTRODUCE THE STORY:
Hold up the book and have someone read the title. Explain that Ruth Goring is both the illustrator and author of the book. Ask them to take a close look and see what kinds of materials she uses to create her art. Do they know what this is called? (Collage.) Based on the title what do they think the book will be about? Then say there’s a special connection between our game today and the book. Do they know what it is? They are all pictures/ images that have been used in the Bible to describe God! Then read the story, pausing and marveling together at just how God is like the various metaphors ascribed to Him.
FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:
After reading the story, have a round of “popcorn-style” responses (no hand raising needed) to see how many pictures of God they can remember from the book.
Then for each, see if they describe in their own words how God is like a rock, eagle etc.
Finally, ask again where Ruth Goring found these wonderful metaphors? Did she make them up? No, then where did she find them? In the Bible!
DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME:
Special note: For first grade and up, I recommend having several children’s bibles on hand so children can work in pairs to find the verses. They LOVE this and in the process learn how to locate biblical passages by book, chapter, and verse – a rewarding and important foundational skill for future bible study.
Wrap up the discussion by going a little treasure hunt into God’s Word to find a few of the images of God we marveled at in Goring’s beautiful book. Use the verses listed at the end of the book, but prep ahead by putting a sampling on cards to hand out to each pair of children or, depending on ages, to look up together.
STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME: Create Your Picturing God Collages!
Ahead of time, gather an assortment of collage materials as well as glue and one plain white paper plate (with two holes punched at top) for each child. Then, opening up Goring’s book one once more, take a moment to marvel at how she uses bits of this and that to create beautiful images. Thus inspired, let each child pick their favorite metaphor from the book. Neatly print it across the top. Then, dig in and start creating! Our bits of this and that included shiny gold ribbon, sequins, pom poms and tissue paper squares, but use whatever you have on hand. As each child finishes, loop yarn for hanging, but instruct them (or their parents) to carry their masterpieces home flat until they have dried.
WRAP UP: As children are finishing the activity, give thanks together that God loves us like a rock, shepherd, door, mother, father etc.
NOTE: Beaming Books has also created a wonderful discussion guide if you would like additional ideas: https://ms.beamingbooks.com/downloads/9781506449395%20Discussion%20Guide.pdf