Jesus’ parables are some of the most well-known texts in the New Testament. They are rich, challenging opportunities to meditate on the world Jesus is calling us to live into. Children often enjoy but struggle with parables because they are abstract. However, like the mustard seed, their meaning can grow and change as we continue to encounter and “play with” these stories. In this lesson, children will explore the parable genre and will wonder about several short parables offered in the Gospel of Matthew.
You will need:
- A Bible
- Chart paper or a whiteboard and a marker
- A computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television
- Videos: “Godly Play: The Parable of Parables” and/or “The Parables of Jesus”
- Playdoh (optional)
- Copies of a comic strip template and colored pencils (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Write “parable” at the top of a sheet of chart paper or the whiteboard. Ask the children to share what they know about this word. What does it mean? What do they associate with it? Record their responses on the chart paper/whiteboard.
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52):
- This reading comes from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew.
- In the reading, Jesus offers his disciples several parables.
- Show one or both of these videos about parables to the children to create a shared definition of a parable:
- After watching the video(s), ask the children to share information they learned about parables. Record their responses on the chart paper/whiteboard.
Read aloud Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52.
After reading, ask:
- Which of these parables did you like the most? Why?
- Which of these parables did you find easiest to understand? Why?
- Which of these parables was confusing? Why was it confusing?
- What do you think some of the ideas Jesus was trying to share with the disciples through these parables?
Playing with the parables
It is said that play is the work of children. Following that idea, offer the children opportunities to “play” with these parables through one or more of the following activities:
- Playdoh parables: Provide the children with a variety of colors of Playdoh. Ask them to recreate one of the parables from the reading using playdoh. Encourage them to create literal and figurative interpretations of the text. Have each child share their Playdoh parables.
- Comic strip parables: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: copies of a comic strip template and colored pencils. Provide each child with a comic strip template and colored pencils. Ask them to create a comic version of one of the parables in the reading. Encourage them to use both images and dialogue in their comic books. Have each child share their comic strip with the group.
- Parables for today: Have the group select one of the parables. Encourage them to pick one that they particularly like and that they feel like they understand. Note that Jesus’ parables were written for people who lived a long time ago in a culture that was different than our own. The images that Jesus used (mustard seeds, yeast, pearls, etc.) were part of those people’s lives. Brainstorm images from our time and culture that could replace the images in the parable. Create a new parable that uses that image.