PLEASE TELL ME A STORY
Stories are powerful tools to
help our children connect with healthy images of God
by Linda Kondracki
"Who needs another father,
anyway?" a ten year old blurted out following a lesson in Sunday
School stating that he could have God as his heavenly father.
"I've already got one and I'm not too thrilled about him!"
It is a fact of life that our early experiences have a dramatic impact
on our understanding - or image - of who God is, and how He either
relates, or doesn't relate, to us. At some point in our recovery
journey, most of us will struggle with our understanding of God, and
the distorted images we have used in the past to try to connect with
Him. As adults, it can be a long, agonizing process to disconnect with
those distorted images and reconnect with the reality of who God is
and all He can be in our lives. As parents and teachers, the next
question becomes, "How do we help our children connect with the
reality of God in their lives and avoid the distorted images?"
Here are a few points that can help:
- Banish spiritually abusive
language from your lives. "God will punish you for
lying," "God is so disappointed in you when you act that
way," "Go to your room and ask God to forgive you for
your bad attitude," or, "God wanted you to have an
alcoholic father to build character in you," are all examples
of spiritually abusive language. If you grew up with such
messages, you may be passing them on to your children, or allowing
others to pass them on to your children, without even realizing
it. In addition to checking out your own messages, do not allow
other family members or well-intentioned friends communicate in
such a way to your children. You may want to ask to sit in on your
child's Sunday School class occassionally, too.
- Use stories to offer your
children a rich smorgasbord of healthy images of God.
Because the Bible uses the language of God as our father most
frequently, we have often overlooked the many other images used to
describe the reality of God in our lives. Jesus used many images
to help the people of his day understand God, and communicated
them through stories. Using these stories with your children is
one way to help them build healthy images of God. I have a clear
memory of being deeply touched by the picture of Jesus holding a
little lamb and hearing the story of the Good Shepherd - when I
was only 4 years old! Looking back, I now realize that that image
has sustained me throughout my life much more than the image of
God as my father. By offering them many images children will be
able to choose the images most helpful to them. Remember, stories
are powerful means of communication; let the stories speak for
themselves and resist the urge to sermonize about their meaning.
The activity box below contains one way to help children connect with
powerful Bible stories. This activity is especially helpful with
pre-school children, and can be adapted to any story. Older children
can act out stories for other family members and friends, or make
story books to share with younger children at home, church or in the
In addition to the story listed below, here are a few other suggested
stories to get you started:
- The Good Shepherd - Luke 15:1-7
- Jesus and the Children - Luke
- Jesus Assures Thomas - John
ACTIVITY: Story Box: The Loving Father - Luke 15:11-24
You will need:
Use the clothespins, pipe cleaners and
fabric scraps to make people: the father, sons, and one or two
townspeople. Mix a small amount of dirt and water to make mud for the
pigpen, and place it on one end of the story mat. Put the pigs in the
mud. If you have popsicle sticks, use them to make the father's house
and put it on the other end of the story mat. Let children use the
clothespin figures to tell - and re-tell - the story as Jesus told it.
When they are done, wash out the "pigpen" and store all
figures in the shoebox. Keep it in a place where your children can get
it out whenever they wish.
- A shoe box
- A 12"x18" piece of
felt or fabric for the story mat
- 5 roundheaded clothespins
- 5 small pieces of clay or Play-Doh
- Scraps of fabric, felt, yarn and
- A small container in which to
- Small plastic pigs, as from a
- OPTIONAL: Popsicle sticks and
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by Linda Kondracki in STEPS Magazine.
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