Want to know why your last object lesson failed — and how to fix it? Read on, my friend!
Jesus was the master of object lessons. You know…”faith is like a mustard seed,” “you are the salt of the earth,” “heaven is like a pearl.”
I’ve seen a lot of object lessons in church — some great and some not-so-great. Don’t get me wrong. I love object lessons — when they’re done well. But I’ve seen them done poorly — more often than not.
While Jesus was the master, we often miss reaching children with our object lessons. Why? Because we cannot simply use object lessons with children the way Jesus used them with adults. Here are three reasons your last object lesson failed — and how to fix it.
1. Your object lesson was too abstract. Most children are still in the concrete stage of cognitive development. So teaching abstract concepts to these concrete-thinking kids is more of an art form than just making a comparison from a concrete object to an abstract concept.
Here’s a perfect example of a failed object lesson: Someone holds up a bar of soap and says that Jesus is like soap because he cleanses us from sin.
Here’s how to fix it: Give kids an experience by having them crumple newspaper in their hands while they talk about all the things kids their age do wrong. Then have them talk to Jesus silently about their sin. Finish up by washing each child’s hands as you say, “God loves you and forgives you.”
2. Your object lesson was too much talk. I understand that often the children’s message time in big church is as much for the adults as it is for the children gathered at the leader’s feet. But it shouldn’t be. When children are required to simply listen–and nothing else–you’ve lost their attention, minds, and hearts.
Instead, here’s how to fix it: Involve them in the object lesson. One of my favorite object lessons of all time comes from Brant Baker in his book Let the Children Come. To teach children about the parting of the Red Sea, Brant suggests having the kids run from the back of the room, down the aisle, and through the congregation. The key thing is he has the congregation fill the aisle before the children come–and then they rush to the sides as children come through. Brilliant! Kids will never forget that children’s sermon!
3. Your object lesson wasn’t surprising. Kids have a strong “duh factor.” They’re way more sophisticated than any other generation because of their exposure to media. So to do an effective object lesson means that you want to leave them wondering “how did you do that?”
One of my all-time favorite object lessons that has been in Children’s Ministry Magazine is “The Great Separation” from Dean Stone. It takes some setup, but you’ll leave kids wondering–and thinking–about the object lesson and the truth embedded in it. Watch the video for setting it up.
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