Fans of the movie “The Princess Bride” will remember Westley and Buttercup’s journey into the fire swamp. The scenes are filled with brushes with danger, but the hazard that catches the two off guard is the lightening sand. While walking along, Buttercup suddenly falls into a pit of quicksand. She simply never saw it coming. This scenario seems like a perfect metaphor for the ongoing challenges of 2020. Just when we feel like we are on solid ground, we step in sinking sand. At these moments, it is comforting for adults and children alike to be reminded of the solid ground of our faith. While much is out of our control, we can rely on the steady ground that is Christ’s undying love and care for us. In this lesson, your children will consider how their faith is like a rock, providing a solid foundation in an ever-changing world.
Begin the time with your children by gathering stones together. You may find some in your home or outside. Examine the rocks together. Ask your children to notice the qualities of the rocks. What do they look like? What do they feel like? What differences are there between the rocks? What traits do they share? Note that all of the rocks are solid. They feel firm and are difficult to break.
Read aloud Matthew 16:13-20. Point out Jesus’ excitement when Peter says Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Ask them what they think this means. Explain that Simon Peter has recognized that Jesus is not an ordinary person. He is both a human being and God on earth. Peter has listened to God rather than people who have doubted Jesus. For this reason, Jesus gives Peter a special role. He tells him he is “the rock” Jesus will build his church on (Matthew 16:18).
At this point, younger (and possibly even some older) children may be a bit confused about Jesus calling Peter a rock, so you’ll want to take some time to break down this image. Ask your children to remember what they noticed about the rocks they looked at earlier. All of the rocks were solid and firm. They could not be easily broken. When Jesus says that Peter is the rock the church will be built on, he is saying that Peter is like that rock. And he says this because Peter has just said that he believes Jesus is God with us. So the church of believers will be the ones who believe Jesus is both human and God. Since Jesus is God on earth, Jesus shares all the traits of God. (At this point, it may be worth asking your children what qualities they associate with God so that these are in the front of their minds.)
To help your children visualize what you’ve discussed, work together on this craft. Gather these supplies:
- Air-dry modeling clay or play dough (Note: You will be letting the clay/play dough dry. You can make a simple version of air-dry modeling clay by combining 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup cornstarch and 1 ¼ cup water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until thick. Then cool and knead until smooth.)
- Several small stones or pebbles
- Popsicle sticks
- Markers or crayons
Flatten out modeling clay/play dough and create a 1-inch thick foundation. Then, have your children press the small stones or pebbles into this foundation. As they do so, note that these stones represent the qualities of God that Jesus shows through his ministry on earth. Ask your children to name these qualities as they press the stones into the clay. Explain that this stone-clay foundation is what Jesus was talking about when he said Peter would be the rock the church was built on. Believing Jesus is all of these things is what serves as the basis for all we do as the people who make up the church.
Next, have your children use markers or crayons to decorate the popsicle sticks to represent the people in your family. (You could also ask them to decorate additional popsicle sticks to serve as members of your congregation.) Ask them to place each popsicle stick person upright in the clay-rock base. Note that the sticks stand firmly in this base. When the clay dries, the sticks will be virtually unmovable.
Explain that faith that we have as members of Christ’s church (as represented by the clay-rock base) not only make us part of this community of believers, it also helps hold us up no matter what. Talk about some of the challenges your children are having right now or anticipate having as they head into a school year that looks quite different than the previous one. Explore how their faith in God and the traits that they said God has can help support them as they face these challenges.
Set aside the art project so that the base can dry. You may want to revisit it throughout the week, noticing how the clay becomes increasingly solid as it dries.
JOELLE BRUMMIT-YALE is the director of children’s and youth ministries at Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When not at the church, she can usually be found at home with her son and husband caring for their many animals and developing their family homestead.