For those of you who do not know what AWANA is, it's a once-a-week activity that a lot of churches (is it just Baptist churches? I actually don't know. Kim? Jen?) hold for their children (it goes all the way up to high school, and I'm told there is recently-developed curriculum for 2 year olds) that focuses on scripture memorization. There's also usually a lesson time which varies from age to age (for example, my wife's class, the 3 and 4 year olds, have "story time," whereas my group, 4th through 6th grade, have "counsel time." Same basic idea, only counsel time doesn't seem to have a set curriculum. At least not at our church) and a game time.
This year, feeling that it was high time that I started giving more than just my Sunday mornings for my church, and wanting to become more involved with the children, I volunteered to help out at AWANA. My weekly assignment is to provide counsel time for the TNT's (that's the name of the class; we go from Cubbies to Sparkies to TNT's, I think). Sometimes I know a few days ahead of time what I want to talk about, but usually I don't. It's been a really eye-opening experience. Fun, too, of course, and difficult, but above all I'd say it's been a great learning experience toward the mind of today's kids.
Anyway, today I decided I'd try something different. Rather than come in and talk for fifteen minutes or so, I divided the class into two groups and asked them to tell me a Bible story. Afterwards, I planned to ask them questions about the story, what God did for or to the people in the story they chose, and how that story can teach us about God. I just told the kids to pick a story, though.
The first group huddled for a moment, and then one excited blond girl popped up and asked, "Can we do it as a play???" Well, I don't see how I could possibly say no to that, so the five of them ran into the other room to rehearse.
When both groups were ready to perform, the drama team came out and presented the story of Jesus' birth. One girl played Mary, one boy played a dancing, silent Joseph, one girl played the baby, one girl narrated, and one boy played a cow. (Just before going on, he'd said to me, "I'm not mooing! I'm not being a cow!" And I said to him, "Look, I'm playing a dolphin in the show I'm in now. You can be a cow for five minutes." Thus, we had an acting, mooing cow.) However, when they got to the part about the angels and the shepherds, they had no one to play the parts. I thought about asking if having two actors play a cow and a baby were as important as acting out the shepherd and angels, but this wasn't a drama lesson, it was a Bible lesson.
The next group told their story afterward. It was not a Bible story; they had decided to write their own. (Again, I don't know how I can discourage such things and not be a hypocrite) It went something like this:
There once was a carpenter who had no children, so he made a puppet. When he went out one day, God came down and made the puppet come to live, so the carpenter adopted the puppet as his son, but he didn't tell anybody about it. Then one day, while he was gone (seems the man was out a lot, doesn't it?), his house caught fire, and the whole thing burned down. And he returned home and saw it burnt to the ground and cried out, "No! My son!" And all of his neighbors said, "What? You never had a son."
Yeah. Let that one sink in for a moment.
The moral of that particularly cheerful parable is that you have to tell people about Jesus, or nobody will know.
And then, it was off to game time!