This formed a discussion with primary pupils about the nature of Parables. It held their attention well and created space for them to share their thoughts and comments. It would work equally well with church children’s groups too.
If you were to tell someone about Jesus what are some of the things, we might say about him? (allow pupils to share their responses)
One of the ways that Jesus taught people was by using stories. These are often called parables.
(Give a brief outline of a parable like the lost coin or prodigal son)
One thing about parables is that the stories don’t need to be true, but they contain a truth. They reveal something about God, or they reveal something about how we ought to act.
Take the opportunity to share some modern-day parables. I used The Red Flower with the Green Stem and the Cookie Thief.
The Red Flower with the Green Stem
Once upon a time there was a little boy who studied at a big school.
One morning the teacher said “Today we’re going to draw.”
“Good” thought the little boy. He liked to draw lions, tigers, chickens, trains and boats. He got his colour-pencils and started drawing.
“Wait!! Don’t start yet.” said the teacher. She waited until all the students were ready and then said … “We’re going to draw flowers.”
The little boy started drawing beautiful flowers with his pink, orange and blue pencils.
“Wait” said the teacher. “I’ll show you how to do it.” And the flower she drew was red with a green stem. “Ok” said the teacher “now you can do it.”
The little boy looked at the flower the teacher had drawn , looked at his own flowers and liked his best. He couldn’t say that so he turned the sheet of paper over and drew a flower just like the one the teacher had drawn – red with a green stem.
Another day the students were having class outside and the teacher said … “Today we are going to play with clay.”
“Great” the boy thought. He liked to play with clay. He could make things like elephants, mice, cars and trucks. He started to take some clay in his hands and make a big ball.
Then the teacher said … “Wait ! Don’t start yet.” She waited until all the students were ready. “Now” she said “we’re going to make a plate.”
“Good” thought the little boy. He liked to make plates of different sizes and shapes.
The teacher said … “Wait !! I’ll show you how to do it.” It was a soup-plate. “Ok” she said “now you can start.”
The little boy looked at the plate the teacher had made, looked at his own plate and liked his best. He couldn’t say it so he got his plate, made it into a big ball and started it again. He made a soup-plate just like the one the teacher had made.
And since early in his life he learned not to do things by himself but to wait for a model.
And then the little boy went to another school.
This one was even bigger than the other one. One day the new teacher said … “Today we’re going to draw.”
“Good” thought the little boy. He waited to see what the teacher would draw.
The teacher didn’t draw anything. She only walked around the room.
Then the teacher approached the little boy and asked “Don’t you like to draw?”
“Yes” he said “but what are we going to draw?”
“I don’t know” said the teacher “draw whatever you want.”
“How can I do it?” he asked. “Any way you want.” said the teacher.
“But what colours should I use?” he asked.
“You choose. If everybody makes the same drawing with the same colours how can I know which drawing is yours?” she said.
“I don’t know” answered the boy. And he drew a red flower with a green stem
As you read the modern-day parables, ask the pupils to identify what they think is the moral truth or lesson within the story. Like Jesus’ parables, we can listen to a story and each take something different from it.
I shared the story of The Red Flower With the Green Stem because you’re pupils in a school, with a teacher that tells you want to do, so you could relate to the boy in the story. It also draws us into the story, and we can easily think about how we feel if we were one of the characters. But a pupil might respond to the story differently compared with a teacher, for example.
The Cookie Thief
A woman was waiting at an airport one night, with several long hours before her flight. She hunted for a book in the airport shops, bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.
She was engrossed in her book but happened to see, that the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be. . .grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between, which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.
So she munched the cookies and watched the clock, as the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock. She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by, thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”
With each cookie she took, he took one too, when only one was left, she wondered what he would do. With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh, he took the last cookie and broke it in half.
He offered her half, as he ate the other, she snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother. This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude, why he didn’t even show any gratitude!
She had never known when she had been so galled, and sighed with relief when her flight was called. She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate, refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.
She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat, then she sought her book, which was almost complete. As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise, there was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.
If mine are here, she moaned in despair, the others were his, and he tried to share. Too late to apologise, she realised with grief, that she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.
One of the things that Jesus tried to do with his stories and parables was for them to be familiar and reflect every day life for the people who would be listening.
Q: Has anyone ever taken something that belonged to you? How did you feel?
Q: Have you ever taken something that belonged to someone else? What happened?
The parables that Jesus shared spoke to people’s every day situations, and they can relate to our lives too.
Share an animated version of a Biblical parable and invite pupils to think about:
1. What the lesson is contained within the story?
2. How it would have felt to be each of the characters at different moments in the story?
3. Do you relate to any of the characters? Why?
4. If you were one of the characters what would you do differently to change events?
5. And how might the story relates to our everyday lives?
An animated version of The Good Samaritan can be found here
If time allowed a fun activity would be to encourage the pupils to develop their own parables. Help them to identify the lesson/truth they want their story to convey, the characters in the story, and the situation they find themselves in.