Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16)
This is likely to be a surprising choice after everything I’ve just said about developmental appropriateness. How could the story of the first murder be an example of developmental or or pastoral appropriateness? So I don’t suggest this for preschoolers, but as older children may see far worse examples of violence in the media they consume, this story can be important and revealing because God expressly forbids any act of vengeance against Cain after the murder. This can’t therefore be a helpful story, when used appropriately, for generating conversations about revenge, punishment, and even forgiveness.
Abraham and the Three Strangers (Genesis 18:1-15)
Our focus in this story is naturally drawn toward the promise of Sarah’s miraculous conception and her laughter at that promise. But that miracle is meant to bless Abraham’s act of hospitality toward the three strangers that arrive unannounced at his camp, and whom he serves graciously. This can be a good story to help children think about the meaning of hospitality, and what blessings it might bestow hosts.
Jonah at Nineveh (Jonah 3-4)
The story of Jonah often is taught to children, mostly because it involves a whale and a fantastical sea voyage. The more important aspect to the story in terms of teaching empathy to children, however, has to do with Jonah’s eventual arrival at Nineveh, the city of his enemy. God’s promise to love even those Jonah hates, and God’s command that Jonah serve God’s beloved, even if they are Jonah’s enemies.
God wants us to love (Hosea 6 & Micah 6)
Narrative passages of the Bible will tend to work better than didactic ones, since they generate discussion in more imaginative ways. But upon occasion you might want to look at scriptural texts that speak more directly, especially when discussing what it means to love God. Hosea and Micah, who see love of neighbor as the truest expression of love of God, can be very useful in the classroom.
The Widow's Mite (Mark 12:41-44)
The story of the widow’s meager offering and how it exceeds the rich man’s gift could be use to encourage discussions of wealth, worth and thankfulness.
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)
Stories will generally be more imaginatively useful in your classroom for generating discussions, and there are plenty of stories of Jesus and stories by Jesus to fill your precious hours. But the Beatitudes are such a startling teaching if you think about it. They turn our expectations so completely upside down, and so firmly undergird so much of Christian teaching that they are a useful tool of instruction for Christians of any ages.
Recommended Book List
God Gave Us Love, Lisa Bergren
If Jesus Lived Inside My Heart, Jill Lord
Precious Moments: Little Book of Prayers
All the World, Liz Scanlon
The Golden Rule, Ilene Cooper
Love Your Neighbor: Stories of Values and Virtues, Arthur Dobrin
Maybe God is Like That Too, Jennifer Grant
Red: A Crayon’s Story, Michael Hall
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Grace Lin
Feathers, Jacqueline Woodson
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, J.K. Rowling
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