Jesus is our Friend
It is very important that we don't make assumptions about the children we are dealing with. This program may be the closest thing to Sunday School or church that they have ever experienced. Remember, that they don't have a wealth of background about the Bible or God. The "Wilderness" Series is an attempt to introduce the children to the basic message. We have dealt with a lot of topics but we need to start dealing with some of the central ideas. We want the Zoo kids to come away having some concept of who Jesus is and what he is like. It will be our goal to present the lessons in very simple language avoiding typical Christian lingo. If we are going to impact children we need to weigh our words very carefully. We have to use language that is relevant to today's listener and to our "non Christian society."
The lesson that we will be teaching is a two week package that attempts to answer the question "Who is Jesus?".
Lesson One - Jesus is Our Friend
This lesson will reinforce the idea that Jesus is a friend, not just any friend but the perfect example of what a friend should be. Children tend to think in very concrete terms relying heavily on their senses; touch, taste, and sight. Since we can't see Jesus this lesson will attempt to make Jesus tangible. Jesus will be put in terms that even the smallest child can comprehend.
Jesus is always with us. He never leaves us. In this section the children will learn that even when they are lost Jesus is right there and He will not stop searching for us. He loves us through all circumstances.
This is the time normally used to introduce the rules and the theme. It can be done by a Wilderness character. He or she will dress in a plaid woolly type shirt. We have selected "Rugged Rob" who just came in from the woods!
The opening will be interrupted by a short commercial break. It has come to our attention that there are some safety issues that need to be addressed. The children must hear about the dangers that may be a threat to them. One that was brought to our attention is taking candy from strangers. We have a responsibility to explain to the kids that not everyone who gives out candy is from the "Zoo". (This is particularly relevant in the outdoor program.) We have chosen to deal with the topic by introducing a new puppet character. The character is a puppet that we already had and have dressed to look like a Forest Ranger. His name is "Forest Ranger Russ". Ranger Russell can be used to make any announcements not just safety.
Normally, at this point in the program the leader "Rugged Rob" will open in prayer and there will be a short introductory puppet song. Try selecting a song that deals with the lesson or fits the "Wilderness" theme.
During the music time the children have a chance to use some of their energy. Try to use upbeat, fun songs with lots of actions. If possible it would be good to choose songs that go with the theme. This is an effective way to create continuity in the program. It is also good to use songs that the children know and introduce new songs gradually rather than all at once.
This is a part of the Zoo program that is very important. If the games are fun the children will want to stay for the rest of the program. Select a few from each team to play the game. Although not all children participate the games are usually entertaining for the others to watch. We try to select games that have to do with our theme. This involves a little creativity but can easily be done. The simplest way is to take basic relays and adapt them. You'll see....
Game #1 - Set up Camp
Select 4 children from each team. Each team will be given a knapsack and camping gear (whatever you have will do) The first camper will pack up all the gear and run back to the next player who will unpack all of the stuff and set up camp. Then the knapsack will be given to the next camper who will pack up. This will continue until each child on the team has participated.
Game #2 - Rabbit Trap Race
Select 6 children from each team. Put them in partners side by side and tie one leg of each partner to the other. Tell the children that last week when you and your buddy went rabbit hunting you got your legs caught in a rabbit snare. It wouldn't come off so you had to run all the way home tied together. Have them line up and race.
Each week the children are given a memory verse to learn. We have been trying to think of interesting ways to teach them the verse. In this series the children will be participating in "The Zoo Ranger School". Ranger Russell will be teaching the children verses that will help them survive in the wilderness of life. If they can learn the verses for all three weeks they will receive a certificate as graduates of "The Zoo Ranger School". This will be given out with the candy on the final day.
Ranger Russ has a code that the children must use to figure out the verses. It is simply a picture drawn for every letter of the alphabet. Using the key the children must figure out the letters and then learn the verse. At some point during the teaching it is important to explain to the children that these words come from the Bible. It is also essential that the meaning of the verse be explained. There is no point in teaching the children a sentence if they have no idea what it means.
This week's verse is " There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24
This is also a very important part of the Zoo program. It gives the children a chance to see what they have been learning through the use of everyday items. It provides a concrete way to express what is being taught.
The story is an important means of communication. Through history people have used stories not only to relay information or to entertain but also to teach. Dr. Charles A. Smith recognized this when he wrote; "Childhood stories can be used to teach valuable lessons about life from conquering fear to helping others." This secular author saw the value of the story and so did our Lord. Jesus often taught his disciples and followers using stories. For this reason we need to use this portion of the program very effectively.
The Parable of the Lost "Camper"
(This story is a take off of the Parable of the Lost Sheep found in the gospel of Matthew. It has been adapted to fit the theme and to relate to an inner city child that would have little concept of farm animals.)
The story will be told by a puppet character called "Back Pack Mac". He is sort of a rugged woodsman type character. He is older and has seen a lot of things happen over the years. While he is telling the story it will be acted out by other puppets.
This story is written out to give the premise but should not be read directly since the dialogue is somewhat canned. Please feel free to add detail and create more character for Mac. Remember it is good to translate your own ideas and character into the puppet. When he reflects you he will have life!
Hi all you guys out there! My name is Back Pack Mac. I have been livin in this here part of the woods for forty years and I have seen plenty of excitement. I remember a good story to share with you. Listen close. Back about two weeks ago there was a bunch of kids about your age who wanted to go campin. They called up their favourite camp leader Dave and off they went. There were about 100 kids in all.
They drove on busses to the summer camp. They brought all kinds of equipment and hiked way back into these here woods. I was out huntin that day and saw them all go by. Eventually they came to a spot to set up their tents. They all began to unpack food and sleeping bags when Franklin discovered that one of the campers had gone missin. It was Ann. He ran to Dave and told him what happened. The other leader said, we have enough kids here to look after we don't need to be out runnin after one. But Dave was worried. He organized some campers to help him search.
Dave looked everywhere. He climbed trees to look for Ann. He looked in caves. He searched all night. The others got tired and went back to camp, but Dave never gave up. He walked through the swamp and through prickly bushes but he kept on looking. Suddenly he heard a small cry and looked behind a small pine tree. There was Ann. She had her foot stuck in a hole and couldn't get out. She was cold and crying. Dave managed to get her foot out and picked her up. He carried her back to camp and they all had a big party.
Now what do you think about that? Dave was a good friend and he thought Ann was very important. Did you know that Jesus is even a better friend than Dave. Hard to believe, eh? Well it is true. Jesus is perfect. He is the perfect friend and he is always with you. He is right there beside you all the time. All you have to do is talk to him by praying and ask him to stay with you.
Copyright 1996, Bread of Life Ministries