PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: ‘Twas the Evening of Christmas (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

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 ’TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS (Zonderkidz, 2017 ), written by Glenys Nellist and illustrated by Elena Selivanovaas as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

’TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS

by Glenys Nellist

PURPOSE:  To celebrate the forthcoming birth of Christ and amplify the meaning of the season in a fresh and special way using Glenys Nellist’s ’Twas the Evening of Christmas as our focus. 

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: Caring for Baby Jesus

Open in prayer, then, sitting in a circle, ponder the idea that Jesus was once a baby.  Ask them what makes babies special and how they need to be cared for so gently and lovingly. Then, take turns gently rocking the Baby Jesus. Pass the baby around until everyone has a chance to be sweet and gentle with the baby. Then, say, “Isn’t it wonderful that God sent his son Jesus, as a precious baby,  to be our savior? That’s what we celebrate at Christmas – that God sent his Son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the World.

INTRODUCE THE STORY

Introduce the story asking the children if they know the story ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.  (Maybe even have that one on hand.) Then explain, that this one, instead of being about Santa, is about Jesus and the night He was born. Then share the story ’TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS, pausing to ponder and enjoy each spread.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:

After reading the story, take out a nativity creche that includes all the figures that you have just read about in the story.  As you hold them up, one by one, have the children tell who or what the figure is and how they fit into the Christmas story. Then, marvel together at what a special night that first Christmas was. It’s when God sent his precious son, Jesus to be the savior of the world!

And where can we learn more about that precious night? 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 digging into scripture together to find the Christmas story. 

 Luke 2: 1 – 20

STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME:   Make Nativity-Themed Christmas Ornaments

Ahead of time, gather the materials needed so children can create a nativity-themed ornament to take home and hang on their Christmas trees.  Design your own or choose from these adorable options: 

Fluffy sheep ornament:  https://www.icanteachmychild.com/sheep-ornament/

Baby Jesus ornament: https://kidscraftroom.com/handprint-baby-jesus-ornament-craft/

WRAP UP: As children are finishing up craft – have them review with you the different parts of the story using the nativity. Then, give thanks that Jesus came to earth to be our Savior. Remind them that this is the real gift of Christmas. 

OPTIONAL SNACK IDEA:  Animal Crackers – Pretend they are coming to visit and worship Jesus.

EXTRA RESOURCE:  ’TWAS THE EVENING OF CHRISTMAS Activity Pack

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: Dream Big my Precious One (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

When I was a Children’s Ministry Director at the satellite branch of our 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 write an occasional blog series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. Today’s lesson uses DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE (Worthy Kids, 2021), written by Jill Roman Lord and illustrated by Brittany E. Lakin as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE

by Jill Roman Lord

PURPOSE:  Using DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE,  Jilll Roman Lord’s delightful ode to a child imagining all the possibilities for what they might be and do, this lesson will celebrate the dreams God places in each child’s heart, dreams that not only bring them joy, but spread God’s love to others.  

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: When I Grow Up… (building challenge)

Open in prayer, then explain that it’s time for a game – a guessing game! Ask the children to quietly think about what they want to be when they grow up, but not say it out loud.  Instead, have them give you a thumbs up once they’ve thought of something.  (If needed you can have a whisper conference to help those can’t think of something.)  Then, explain that they will have five minutes (or time of your choice) to build their “when I grow up” dream out of Legos.  Once the dreams are built, give each child a chance to present their project, allowing for guessing and then the reveal. 

INTRODUCE THE STORY: 

Marvel at all the wonderful dreams the children have for their futures, then introduce the story by showing the book cover. Have someone read the title. What do they see on the cover?  What do they think the book will be about? Dreams!  Future hopes! Possibilities! And what might this have to do with God?  Ponder together.Then read the story.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:

After reading the story, have a round of “popcorn-style” responses (no hand raising needed) to see how many dreams they can remember from the book. Did they had a favorite?  Then remind them of what you asked them before reading: What do our dreams have to do with God?  Ponder the possibilities together, then open the story book again to reread the three precious spreads remind us that:

 1) GOD is the one who plants dreams in our hearts because and HE is the one who grows us lovingly along the way;

2) that we can count on God to guide us we follow the dreams He plants; and

3) the dreams GOD plants in our hearts will not only bless us, but will BLESS others as well!

And where can we find God’s promises that all this is true? In the Bible!

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME: 

Wrap up the discussion by digging into scripture together to find God’s promises of love and hope as they relate to our dreams.  Use these verses to get you started: 

1 Chronicles 28:20 Jeremiah 29:11 Joshua 1:9 John 6:26

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.

STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME:   Dream Big, My Precious One Paintings

Ahead of time, decoratively print the words “Dream Big, My Precious One” in thick yellow crayon on sheets of water color paper, one per child. Then get out crayons, watercolors and paint brushes, so children can create their own Dream Big, My Precious One images inspired by the Brittany E. Lakin’s gorgeous illustrations. First, have them draw what they dream of doing/being with crayons. Encourage them to use bright colors and to press firmly.  When they finish, have a supervised water color station where, using a thick brush, they apply a color-popping coating of blue water color paint.  

Another option: 

Download Free Activity Sheets on the Worthy Kids DREAM BIG, MY PRECIOUS ONE book page. (Scroll down to find it. ) 

WRAP UP: As children are finishing the activity – give thanks for each child and the dreams God has planted in their hearts. Close in prayer.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: God’s Protection Covers Me (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

Over the summer I planned a series for our church’s 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 start an occasional blog series focusing on picture books that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. Today’s lesson uses GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME (Beaming Books, 2018), written by Amy Houts and illustrated by David Creighton-Pester, as the picture book hook. I hope it sparks thoughtful conversations with your kids.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYSA Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME

by Amy Houts

PURPOSE:  To recognize that just as various structures/coverings protect natural creatures, God’s protection covers us. Using Houts’ lovely metaphors as the spark, we’ll delve into Scripture for promises that God indeed cares for us with an everlasting love and protects us in the palm of His hand.

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: Building Card Houses

Open in prayer, then explain that today, we’ll be reading a story about all the kinds of structures animals build or find for protection.  Can they name some?  What do we build to protect us?  Houses! Tell them it’s time to do a little building – with cards!  Using only a deck of playing cards, challenge them to build their own houses. Demonstrate two building methods:  triangular and four-card cell. This article from wiki-how will give you helpful construction tips, if needed, so you can demonstrate before the kids have their turn.

INTRODUCE THE STORY:  Introduce the story by showing the book cover.  Ask what protection means?  What are some ways they protect themselves?  (Wearing helmets, using seatbelt etc.) Have you ever thought about how God protects us?  Ask them to be thinking about that as you read them the story.  Then read the story.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:

  1. Marvel at all the amazing ways animals are protected in nature.
  2. Brainstorm all the ways their parents protect their precious children – them!
  3. Ask, “Do you think God protects us?”  Yes!  “How?” He provides all good things – including families that care and watch over us, bodies that are designed to fight infection, human intellect that has allowed man to make medical advances to fight disease, create safer cars etc. and MIRACLES!  Yes, God is not limited by what is possible.  He invites our prayers to protect and provide for us even in the midst of the IMPOSSIBLE!
  4. And where can we find reminders of God’s protection? In the Bible!

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME

Wrap up the discussion by digging into scripture together to find beautiful reminders of God’s protective love and care.  Use these verses to get you started: 

Psalm 5:11-12   Psalm 32:7       Psalm 116: 5 – 7  

Matthew 6: 25 – 26  I Peter 5:7

STORY-BASED ACTIVITY TIME:  Select from one of the engaging activities provided by the publisher in the GOD’S PROTECTION COVERS ME Activity Guide.

WRAP UP:  As children are finishing the activity – remember together all the animals and protective things mentioned in the story.  Ask what those can remind us of?  God’s protection covers us!  That is wonderful news indeed.


PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: I Want Your Smile Crocodile (A Faith-Sparking Lesson)

Over the summer I planned a series for our church’s Sunday morning children’s program called PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS:  Sparking Faith Conversations using Picture Books and Scripture. Each week during July and August, 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.  Over the course of the fall, I will be sharing these and other picture book lessons that can be used as the spark for conversations about faith with your children. Today, I kick off this occasional series by sharing my lesson for I WANT YOUR SMILE CROCODILE (Zonderkidz, 2018) written by Denette Fretz and illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic. Stay tuned for more this fall.

PICTURE BOOK SUNDAYS: A Faith-Sparking Lesson

featuring

I WANT YOUR SMILE CROCODILE

by Denette Fretz

PURPOSE:  To recognize that each one of us is a miracle of God, wonderfully made and created with a special purpose and that our Heavenly Father delights in lavishing His love upon us! Praise God!

OPENING PRAYER AND GATHERING GAME: Zoo Charade 

Open in prayer, then explain that in today’s story, we will be taking a trip to the zoo. First, have the children write down (on little scraps of paper) several animals you might find at the zoo.  Put the slips of paper in a cup, then let each child pick a slip and then use pantomime to act out which animal they have. No speaking or sounds aloud. The children will have fun guessing and can cheer each other on.

INTRODUCE THE STORY: Introduce Denette Fretz’s I WANT YOUR SMILE, CROCODILE, by showing the book cover. Can they guess what is happening?  Explain that Meerkat has a problem. He’s got a bad case of “the grass is greener on the other side of the fence” syndrome! Can they guess what that is?  It means he thinks he would be happier if he had what others had, instead of what God gave him.  Have they ever wished they had what someone else had?  Did they think it would make them happier?  What do they think God would say in this situation?   Share and ponder together, then read the story.

FAITH-SPARKING CHAT TIME:   After enjoying the story, use these questions to spark meaningful conversation.

1. Who does Jack remind us of? US!!  

2. Who does the zookeeper remind us of?  GOD!

3. Do we need reminders from our zookeeper, GOD, that we too are wonderfully made and created for a special purpose?  YES!

4. And where can we find those reminders?  IN THE BIBLE!

DIG INTO SCRIPTURE TIME:

Wrap up the discussion by digging into scripture together to find beautiful reminders from God that we are wonderfully created and made for His wonderful purposes.  Use these verses to get you started:

Genesis 1:27   Genesis 1:31 Psalm 139:14     I Peter 4:10

STORY-BASED CRAFT TIME:  Craft Stick Crocodiles (from Easy Peasy and Fun!)

This fun crocodile-themed craft which I found on the amazing blog Easy Peasy and Fun (and which I am sharing here with their permission) was a big hit with my class. They especially loved the crocodile’s big, toothy smile. As we made the crocodiles, we chatted about what special gifts God has given us. If not big toothy grins, then what? Their answers were thoughtful and fun. Here’s the link to the craft: https://www.easypeasyandfun.com/craft-stick-crocodile-craft/ or you can follow this helpful video tutorial:

10:25  WRAP UP:  As children are finishing up craft – have them review who the various characters in today’s story are supposed to remind us of. Then, give thanks that God loves us and created us with His special purpose and that He loves us very much. That is the beautiful message of today’s story.