Sometimes life is tough and the only way to survive is to have Jesus in your life. As Christians, we continue to face different problems daily. We need to be careful about what we expose ourselves to. No matter what circumstances we do find ourselves in, Christ will help us through.
When you think about a tangible place that is tough and difficult to survive in, many different locations may come to mind. In this series we have selected the swamp. The animals sound scary, the fog covers the ground and the path is hard to find. For children, life can sometimes be this way. They are often faced with situations that are hard to wade through. We will look at some of the problems that kids face and how Jesus can help us through.
The setting for this series is a wet, cold, dark and ugly marsh. It is called "Slug Slime Swamp". It is the home of many creatures and personalities who will teach and entertain the children. All of the background props and equipment were designed to set the stage. The puppets were transformed into characters who were born and raised in the swamp. The pictures should provide some ideas. We don't have a large number of puppets and our resources are limited, so our talented puppet costume department (Sandra Pattison) creates the looks we need.
Lesson Two - Overcome Temptation
In everyday life we face temptations. We are constantly bombarded with all kinds of enticing opportunities but not all of them are pleasing to God. We need to learn to stand up to these temptations and try to do the right thing. This is very difficult. That is why we need help. We need to learn to depend on Jesus for his strength. It is only with his help that we will be able to withhold. This sounds like a heavy topic for children but it isn't. They too are faced with temptations. The fact that we need Jesus is universal and it applies to all ages.
In this second lesson all of the swamp props will still be needed. This time all of the characters will have started to sprout the much dreaded pink hair. It will have to be added before the program begins. In the story an old safe will be needed.
This particular series was designed for the outdoor setting. Again it could easily be adapted for a smaller space by altering the games.
At times in the Zoo program we have cancelled the opening activity so that we could spend some extra time with the children. Since they are in school all day our contact time for relationship building is rather limited. It is a valuable investment to make the program a little shorter and to spend time hearing about the daily lives of your kids.
If you have an indoor program it might be an idea to post the rules. Another suggestion that I have recently encountered is the contract. If you don't have a really large group this is a possibility. Design a contract that has the acceptable rules for behaviour on it. Make sure that it is explained in class. Have the kids promise to stick to these rules or face the agreed upon consequences. Have each child sign the contract and post it on the wall. Believe it or not this can work!
We try to have a strong prayer base for the children's ministry. We have found that a prayer chain is very effective. We try to pass any concerns and prayer requests on to this group and they are committed to lifting us up in prayer. Another program that we have recently started is prayer sponsors. These are people who have agreed to pray daily for the specific needs of our kids. It is a way that people who are unable to volunteer on a more active level can play a vital role in the ministry.
Kids love to sing. Sometimes to help them learn a new song we will circulate the words in a newsletter. The children enjoy that opportunity to practise.
The games in this lesson all deal with the swamp theme. They involve one of the most slimy creatures in the swamp; the snake.
Game # 1 - Snake Egg Relay
Select four players from each team. They will line up behind a pylon with a bucket of pink plastic eggs in front of them. Explain to the children that the snake eggs have been effected by the pink water problem. Each contestant must put the egg on a spoon and safely transport them to the other bucket. Once the egg has been deposited the player must return to the line and give the spoon to the next person in line. The team that transports all of their eggs to the safe bucket first wins.
Game # 2 - Silly Snake Relay
Select four players from each team. The teams will line up behind the pylon. The first player will be given a rubber snake. They will place the snake between their knees and run to the end and back when they return to the line they pass the yucky little snake to the next player. The first group to complete the task wins.
In the last lesson the children received the first piece of the antidote. RANGER RUSS and Dr. A.M. Phibian are back. Russ is a little frantic because he has started to develop the pink hair problem. He asks the children to think of something they know that the frog doesn't know. If they succeed they get the antidote.
This will be an interaction between a leader, the two puppets and the children.
Ranger Russ: (Speaking from behind the puppet stage. He is not visible) Hello, is anyone out there? It is me, Ranger Russ. I'm back but I won't be showing my face today. I am a little too embarrassed to come out. I will have to talk to you from here.
Leader: Ranger Russ, what seems to be the problem? It would be a lot easier to talk to you if you came out.
Ranger Russ: I'm sorry I just can't come out. It seems that I am suffering from the pink water problem. I have sprouted pink hair and I look silly.
Leader: We all know about the pink water problem and we know it causes pink hair. We won't laugh at you Russ, we promise.
Ranger Russ: (comes up slowly, seems uncomfortable, has some pink hair on his moustache) See, I told you I look funny. I am so humiliated. Thanks for not laughing at me.
Leader: I guess you really want to get the antidote. Have you seen Dr. A.M. Phibian since last week?
Ranger Russ: Dr. A.M. Phibian said he was going to be here today. He has been reading up on the bible. He thinks that there is no way you can win this time. He knows a lot of verses now. Oh look here he comes now.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: Greeting to you all. I am back again. I guess you were a little upset that I didn't give you the whole antidote last week. Well too bad. Look at Ranger Russ, doesn't he look silly. (laughs)
Leader: I don't think you are very nice Dr. You are really going to hurt Russ' feelings.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: Ok I'm sorry. I guess I am just a little upset that you knew something last week that I didn't know. It won't happen again. I have studied all week, I read almost every book in my library. I'll be back in a minute. (disappears)
Ranger Russ: I am glad that you have been studying but we are going to have to try again. For the sake of the others who live in the swamp we need to get rid of this pink hair problem.
Leader: It is true we need to get the whole cure. Will all of you kids help? I have another memory verse. Let's see if we can learn it and then we will see if Dr. A.M. Phibian knows it. Let's read it together... "You are God's child. Run from evil and work instead at right and good. 1 Timothy 6:11 " (Have the children repeat it until they can do it without looking at it) Now that we know the verse what else do we usually talk about? We need to know what that verse means or it is no good to us. You are God's children, he loves each and everyone of you. You are very important to him and he wants to be part of your life. When you start to live your life for God he wants you to stay away from bad things and do good things instead.
Ranger Russ: That sounds pretty good. I'll go get the frog. (Russ disappears and returns a few seconds later with the Dr.)
Dr. A.M. Phibian: I just had to sneak away to get a few more minutes in my library. I'm ready, tell me what it is. What have you learned that I don't know?
Leader: Ok, on the count of three we will tell Dr. A.M. Phibian the verse. 1,2,3.... (As the children are reciting the verse the frog joins in. He knows the verse too.)
Dr. A.M. Phibian: Ha, Ha... I know that verse. You haven't won this time. I guess there will be no antidote today. (He turns as though he was going to leave)
Ranger Russ: Not so fast frog. You might know the verse but do you know what it means?
Dr. A.M. Phibian: Well of course I do. I know everything. It is a great verse. It means... I believe that it tells something.... It is from the Bible....
Ranger Russ: I guess you do not know Dr.
Leader: Can any of you kids tell the Dr. what that verse means? (Have a child tell the frog) That is absolutely right. I guess we do win. We knew the verse and we know what it means.
Ranger Russ: That is the deal Dr. A.M. Phibian, they did know something that you didn't know. Hand over the antidote.
Dr. A.M. Phibian: All right but I am only going to give you part of it. You will have to come back next week to get the last piece. (Hands over the next part of the cure written on a piece of lily pad and then he exits)
Ranger Russ: You did an excellent job. What a smart crowd! You did a great job. If you can do it again next week we will have the whole cure and we will be able to save everyone who lives in the swamp. We can also share in the reward.
Leader: Sounds great. We will be back to try again next week.
In this section our swamp resident MUDDY WATER MEL is back. He has another piece of junk that he found in the swamp that reminds him of a story. He is introduced by the leader.
(His grammar is poor. Use your imagination and spice it up if you can. This will help him to have a more interesting character)
Muddy Water Mel: Hi to y'all glad you could come back. I hope you enjoyed your tour last week. I have some pretty cool stuff don't I. I spend a good part of my day findin these things. You never know when you might stumble across somethin exciting. Let me see, what have I found since I saw you last. Hmmm .... an old snake trap that was cool, let me see there was something I was meaning to show ya. Oh yes here it is. This past week I decided to go on a gator hunt. That's right alligators. We got quite a few of them 'round here.
I went stompin through the wet slimey swamp to see if I could find any. All of a sudden I tripped and fell flat on my face in the water. I was just covered in slime. I crawled through the mud to find what I had tripped over. I dug through weeds and dirt and found this here safe. I thought I was rich. I jumped up and down and yelled. I thought I hit the jackpot. I thought I was rich. I thought that old beat up safe was probably full of money. I dragged it all the way back here to the shack to open it. I took out a crow bar and pried it open. It was empty. After all that it had nothin in it. But you know that reminds me of another story.......
It is a continuation of the object lesson. It is told by Muddy Water Mel and is acted out by the SWAMP MONSTER and other puppets.
Muddy Water Mel: Do you remember my Friend the swamp monster? Well, his name is Bog and this another story about him. It is about a time when he found some money.
Bog was getting really excited about summer vacation. The weather was getting warmer. Bog could hardly wait till school was over. He sat in a desk between Ann and Joshua and looked out the window.
Later that day Bog was asked to help clean up the empty classroom next door. So, Bog, Ann and Joshua went to the room. They began to stack chairs and pick up garbage. Bog was trying to move a desk when he noticed an envelope on top of it. Bog opened the envelope, it was full of money. Bog was surprised. He didn't know what to do. He quickly put the envelope in the drawer of the desk. He didn't tell anyone not even Ann and Joshua. Bog went back to class. He sat in his desk thinking about the money. He began to think about all of things he could do this summer if he had that money. He could take the bus anywhere. He could play video games all the time. He could buy new rollerblades. Nobody knew that money was there. Someone had misplaced it. Bog began to think harder.... If I just slipped into that classroom after school no one would ever notice. I'll just say I forgot my pencil and then I'll go and grab the money and put it in my pocket. No one will ever know. Bog decided that was what he would do. After school Bog collected his homework. He was about to go into the classroom and get the money when someone tapped him on the shoulder. It was his teacher. Bog decided not to go in there. That night Bog thought about the money off and on. He didn't know what to do. He was confused.
Bog went to school the next day and he decided to tell the teacher about the money. Bog's teacher told the principal. It turned out that the money was lost. It was going to be used to buy some books for the school library but someone lost it. Bog felt really good, he realized that taking the money would have been stealing. Now he was a hero because he found the lost money.
Muddy Water Mel's Conclusion: When I tripped over that safe I thought I would have lots of money and that reminded me of Bog's money. You know we are often tempted to do things that are wrong. We try to make it ok in our heads but it isn't. We need to try to avoid those situations and ask God to help us to be strong. God wants us to run from evil, that is what it says in the Bible.
At this point the leader could jump in with some questions or further explanation.
Quiet seat prizes and prayer.
Copyright 1996, Bread of Life Ministries