How to Teach When Things Go Wrong

Leadership / Teaching Techniques //

I am the main storyteller during our children’s church service. This means, that more often than not I get to share God’s Word with a large group of children each Sunday. I love the chance to do this – it’s an awesome job to be used by God to make His story come alive.

Each year, we walk through the Big God Story each year using a curriculum published by David C. Cook. While they do a great job in framing the stories I usually take the story in a different direction. I do this because we use their Sunday School curriculum as well which also tells the same story (in a different way) and many of the children attend both programs.

Last Tuesday as I read through the scripture and the curriculum I decided I would tell it pretty much as David C Cook did. It was the story of the paralyzed man being taken to Jesus by his friend. The idea was to use a sheet to carry a child, some books or bricks to talk about the weight of sin and a few other nifty ideas to use as object lessons.

This weekend was also a parent summit so after I put the lesson plan down, I spent the remainder of the week preparing for the summit. I through about the story now and again, but never looked back at the lesson plan.

Sunday morning as I left the house I made sure that I had the lesson in hand. I’d read through it during the Sunday School hour as a refresher and be ready to go.

As often happens in the life of a pastor, I was sidetracked and never got to the lesson during that time.

Our children’s church begins with a time of play and moves into a time of worship through song and prayer before moving into the story time. As kids were playing I thought to pull out the plan and refresh what object lesson I had prepared.

Uh, Oh. I needed a backpack, some heavy objects, painters tape and a sheet – I knew what I was going to teach but hadn’t actually readied anything. Time for prayer and a change of gears.

Since I had read the story and the lesson plan and had prayed over the lesson, I knew where God wanted to take us. The objects could certainly help, but the Holy Spirit would help more.

As the last song ended we started with a question. As the children shared with one another I grabbed two tables, flipped them on their side and used them as the walls of the house – the one where Jesus would be teaching. I then called all of the children into the ‘house’ as I began to walk them through the house. It was crowded and quickly became hot – other kids couldn’t get in, the ‘walls’ were less than stable. I think this is how the house really felt.

We moved out of the house and continued the story.

If you remember, for men had a friend that couldn’t walk. We talked about how they would have had to carry him to the house, how disappointed they must have been, and how hard it would be to get him onto the roof.

Then we started talking about what it was like in the house again.
In that area of the church, we are next to the roof. A flat roof. The roof is separated from us by a tiled drop ceiling that, if I jump, I can jiggle the tile.

So, I jumped, hitting the tile, to show how the dust might have started falling.

Not enough dust.

So I jumped again. This time the tile didn’t jiggle – it completely dislodged falling from the ceiling, hitting me on the head and falling behind me in two pieces.


As a storyteller, this is a pivotal moment – it’s a make or break time. So, with the kids now wide-eyed, the story continued – they hung on every word. I talked about the expectation of the Pharisees and the perfect nature of God.

As shared about Jesus forgiving sins, I turned to see the broken tile.
I explained that when we lie, it can never be undone. When we steal, we can never again say we’ve never stolen. We can return to tell the truth and we can return what we’ve stolen, but we’re still broken.

Picking up the two pieces of ceiling tile, I sought answers of how to return it to it’s original condition – a perfect ceiling tile. Tape, glue, a mud mixture were all suggested but in the end, the kids knew the crack would always be visible. Finally a few began to say that it should just be replaced – discarded.

Perfect! So in turn we talked about the boys and girls in our group that have been marred by sin. Alex is broken – discard him. George has been marred – let’s replace him. It was a powerful moment as the children were repulsed by the idea of separation and embraced hearing how Jesus came to restore our relationship with God – to make us whole again.

What an honor to be hit in the head for the sake of the Gospel.





About the Author

Jesse and his wife, Teri, will celebrate 20 years of marriage in May of 2012 and are raising two growing sons, Kevin and Alex. After moving from the DC metro area in 2008 they adopted a mastiff named Book and slobber became a way of life. In his spare time, you may find Jesse enjoying photography, biking, or simply watching a movie or reading. Jesse is a graduate of Cohort K from Bethel Seminary’s CFM program and serves as the Children and Family Pastor at the Evangelical Free Church of Wauconda.