Category Archives: The LITTLES Sunday School Class

Another Sunday with the Littles

I got to spend time with The Littles at our country church in Slower Lower Delaware this morning.  The class has the same four children, but this morning I looked into their faces and saw how much they have grown up in the four short months that they’ve had another teacher.  Katie and Judah have a new baby brother, which got discussed thoroughly and delightedly.  Jamison, far more verbal than he was four months ago, joined in the conversation with feeling and much expression.  Charis, the oldest, was thoughtful and participant, but the only one without a brother (or even a sibling for that matter) was quieter than usual.

We sang the song that we had used to open class time last year, and they all remembered and helped along.  My heart warmed to hear each of their four voices soar in the familiar words and tune.  The story we were covering today was the story of Jesus coming to John the Baptist for baptism, and I laid the background of what John’s mission was, and desert lifestyle and diet and his message to the people of his time, and there were appropriate expressions of disgust at the garment of camel’s hair, and talk of “throwing up” over the locusts and wild honey.  (Especially the “grasshoppers” business.)  And then we got to the part about Jesus being baptized by John.

The teacher’s manual provided a cutout that made a dove “spinner” to emphasize the dove that descended upon the head of Jesus, and each of them had their own spinner and a chance to try it out.  Also suggested was using ribbons for blessing and praise.  I had made each of them a “Blessing Stick” by attaching ribbons to a 12″ dowel stick, and after speaking a blessing over each one of them, I told them that we were going to use the sticks with singing a song.  They gathered, excited and gloriously distracted and yet eager to sing.  We sang an old children’s song that I learned many years ago, using the sticks in different motions for the two different phrases.

Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah!  (Shake sticks in front of you)
Praise ye the LORD! (Wave in a wide arc over head)
Hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelu-, hallelujah!
Praise ye the LORD!
Praise ye the LORD!
Hallelujah!
Praise ye the LORD!
Hallelujah!
PRAISE YE THE LORD!

About the third or fourth time through it they really got into it, and there was much waving about of the ribbons and the words were intelligible and they even got the standing up and sitting down motions that we were using.  But time was getting a little short to finish everything up, so we went back to the table to get the coloring pictures and take home papers and one last activity from the home papers.

“Pra-a-a-a-i-i-i-i-s-e-e-e   y-e-e-e-e-e–e–e–e—e the L-o-o-o-r-r-r-r-d” warbled Charis in a vibrato mode as she pulled her chair back up to the table. “Ha-a-a-l-l-l-e-e-e-e-el-u-u-ujah!”  She was really putting her soul into the music as she sang with pronounced showmanship.

After a time or two of this, Katie looked at her with puzzled disdain.  “Charis,” she said with a hint of annoyance, “why are you singing that song like a goat?”

Charis looked at her pityingly.  “That’s opera!” she said and resumed her song.  It went on and on.

“Charis,” I interrupted.  “Do you like opera?”

“Oh, yes!  I love it!” And she resumed her song again.  I listened as she sang and could hear the “opera” in her rendition.

“I think you could be an opera singer some day,” I told her.  “You seem to have the voice for it.”

“Really?” She asked excitedly.  “I would really love that!”

“I think you could,” I told her, “but you would have to study hard and get a trainer and all of that.  But I think for now, maybe we’ve had enough opera.”

“Okay,” she said agreeably, bent her head to her papers, and started to sing again.  Then stopped.  “Oh, dear!” She said impatiently.  “Now I got that song in my head!”

I think we all did.

And I smiled to myself as I thought about this class of LITTLES.  They are growing so big and it’s happening so fast.  Life is moving right along and the happenings of our world are impressing themselves on their minds and hearts.  They live in a world that is divided by hate and bigotry and mixed messages and uncertainties and so much division in the Family of God.

And I’m trying to sing a song to this old world.  It’s the Story of Jesus and His Love.  I would like it to be vibrant and full of harmony and joy and hope and love.  I would like it to catch on with the people around me.  I would like it to stick in their minds and I would like them to wave banners of light and beauty and blessing.  I would like them to “jump out of their chairs” at the right moments and I’d like them to do it with unity and peace and courage — but mostly to bring His Love to the rest of the world.

I’m singing it the best I can.  I’m singing it with all my heart.  I’m singing it when I’m thinking about it, and I’m singing it when I’m not.  Because it’s stuck!  Not only in my head but also in my heart.

And it’s my fervent prayer that no one wonders why I’m trying to sing like an old goat. I do make mistakes in the music.  I sometimes jumble the words.  I sometimes even forget them.

But the basic melody of JESUS, friend of sinners, hope of the world, SAVIOUR — This, I pray will be heard.  And whether the listener likes opera or classical or modern or country, may it fill their ears, stick in their heads and find its way to their hearts, inviting them, drawing them into The Family.

“Oh, LORD JESUS!  May it be so!”

 

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Sunday Morning with The LITTLES

They came into the classroom, full of joy and smiles and LIFE. I looked into their eager faces and mentally reviewed my morning. It was going to be busy, to say the least. And lately, they’ve been so talkative. (Which I absolutely cannot resist. No matter how hard I try to stay on the subject, if I think there might be something one of them needs to say, or some sort of childish wisdom or insight, I cannot bear to shut it down.)

We gathered around the table, and sorted out the chairs and who got which one.  There was an extra again this morning, so the routine of “who sits where and on which color chair” was disrupted a bit, but finally, everyone was settled and ready.  A few months ago, as I was considering the whys and wherefores of Sunday School for these children, I realized that what was most important was that they have a sense of GOD in THIS PLACE, and so we’ve been talking about the fact that “God is here, in this classroom!  He sees us and He loves us.  He is our friend!”  And we follow that by singing the old song that my first and second grade teacher, Sadie Bissey, taught us so long ago:

Into our class
Into our class
Come into our class, Lord Jesus
Come in today
Come in to stay
Come into our class, Lord Jesus

So, this morning, as we were sitting around the table, I asked them the question that I’ve been asking them over the last few months.  “Who is here in our class this morning?” I asked them.  “Who is right here with us today?”

“Jesus!”  “God!”  The answers chorused around the table.

“That’s right,” I smiled at them.  “God is right here with us today.”

He was sitting at the end in his usual spot, and he looked around curiously.  “He’s not here today!” He said with a note of disappointment.

“Ah, but He is!” I told him.  “He’s right here with us!  Even when you can’t see Him, God is with you.  He’s here.  He’s with you when you are in trouble.  He’s with you when you have work to do and helps you.”

“We did lots of work,” he told me earnestly.  “We had to to do really hard work pickin’ up stuff in the yard.  And God didn’t help us at all!”  He shook his little head sadly.  He obviously had some feelings about this.

I pondered a bit and then suggested, “Maybe He did!  Maybe you just didn’t realize –”

“Nope,” he said decisively.  “He didn’t.  We did it all by ourselves!”

Oh, Lord Jesus!  How often have I been so sure that I was alone trying to do jobs that seemed big and hard?  And when I got done, I was sure I had done it “all by myself” when, in fact, I was under the protective oversight of a loving parent, who enabled and gave strength and tempered the job to my abilities.  Thank you for the reminder through one of my LITTLES that we don’t know the half of how your presence surrounds and enables and LOVES us in our “hard work” and never leaves us until the job is done.

Hebrews 13:5b-6a (NCV) “. . . God has said, ‘I will never leave you; I will never abandon you.’  So we can be sure when we say, ‘I will not be afraid because the LORD is my helper’. . .”

For this promise, for my LITTLES, for shelter on this stormy Delaware evening (and so much more!) my heart gives grateful praise.

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The Kingdom of Heaven is like . . .

Matthew 13:33:  “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”(NLT)

I looked at the proposed lesson for my LITTLES and wondered what in the world I could do to teach this lesson in a way that would help them remember the gist of the lesson.  There were two parts to the scriptural background; the verse about the yeast, and also the two preceding verses about the mustard seed. The word pictures and the activities that were suggested were good activities, but how do I use up a whole class period discussing “The Kingdom of Heaven” with children this young?

And just what is the Kingdom of Heaven in our lives, particularly as it would relate to these verses?  A  small seed, planted, growing into a great bush?  Or yeast, leavening a large measure of flour, completely losing its identity as it bonds with the other ingredients, yet it affects the whole batch of dough, and effects change in unmistakeable, cognitive ways.  What does this mean to me, for Heaven’s Sake?  And how can I make it real for my LITTLES.  I mean, they totally missed the lesson about the sparrows, and this is far more obscure than that.

So I thought and thought, and finally decided to bake some bread with them.  From scratch.  I would ask them what they thought the Kingdom of Heaven was, and we would talk about what it means to do things the way Jesus would do them, and how when we are kind and share and obey and tell the truth, how that “grows” inside our hearts and makes us happy.  I would ask them how it made them feel when other people were kind to them, and shared with them.  What it looked like when other children were disobedient or told lies or were mean, and whether that made them want to be their friends.  And we would bake bread and this time, I would constantly talk about the Kingdom of Heaven and what it means, and how it is like the yeast.  And maybe, this time, they would remember.

So we started out class period by meeting in the basement, and donning our aprons.

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We had two extra children, but that was just fine.  And everyone entered into the discussion before getting to the actual mixing of the ingredients.  But once we got started, there was no turning back!

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Most of the ingredients, I had pre-measured, so they each got a chance to add something. Here, we are softening the yeast in warm water.

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Here Victoria stirs the yeast while we get ready to put the sugar in.

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Judah dumps in the salt.

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The boys watch the yeast to see if it’s growing.  They get a good understanding of what it smells like, too.  (I don’t think anyone spit, coughed or sneezed in it, but I can’t prove it.  I can say with a great deal of confidence that it did get breathed on!)

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And then we stirred . . .

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and stirred . . .

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and stirred!

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The yeast had been rising all this time, and now it was time to add it to our bowl.

Then it was time to talk about what that yeast was going to do to that bowl of dough.
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(And they all listened carefully!)

And then it was time to add more flour and stir some more!

Then we finally got it pour out onto the table


. . . and every child got a chance to work the dough.  For videos of each child, go to https://www.facebook.com/maryann.yutzy and scroll down.  This was one of the best parts of the whole morning!

And then it was into the pans to rise.  Of course we had to check on the progress!  Sure enough, the dough was rising!


And then it was into the oven:  Whew!  That’s HOT!  But if you put your little hand on the outside of the oven after it was shut, it wasn’t hot at all.  That’s pretty exciting!

 

And then they waited and waited, and finally, the bread was brown enough and we took it out of the oven.

 

Oh, so exciting!  They each got to choose a loaf that was “theirs” and then they buttered the tops and lined up so protectively by the one that was “theirs.”


By that time we had survived the singing of the “blessing song,” when we sang to each child and during which I put my hands on each head when we say their name.  It was when I was doing that,  that we found a tick on one of the children’s heads.  Well, that caused it’s own excitement while Mom and a nurse and eventually Dad came to assist in the removal.  This tamed the excitement somewhat, and eventually, long past the ringing of the bell marking the end of Sunday School, we talked one more time about how the Kingdom of Heaven was like a small amount of yeast that we put into a measure of flour (and salt and sugar and shortening and milk) that made the dough grow and grow until it was enough for nine loaves of bread.  We stood together on  the tile floor in the Gathering Place of Laws Mennonite Church and gave thanks.

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“For all good gifts, thy Grace imparts–
We thank thee, LORD, with humble hearts!”

After the church service, they came to claim their loaves, and to gather bread for giving away and thus ended another morning of teaching my LITTLES about The Kingdom of Heaven!

Will they remember?  I don’t know for sure, but I think they just might!
If not now, then maybe someday.

And I pray God that it might be so!

Photo Credits:  Christina Yutzy Bontrager

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Jesus, The Sparrows and The LITTLES

 

We’ve been having some wonderful times in the big, sunny classroom in the upstairs right hand corner of Laws Mennonite Church.  The LITTLES and I have been working our way through the Spring Quarter of the Shine Curriculum that has been produced by MennoMedia for early childhood.  I have enjoyed the ideas and lessons put forth there, but often it is a spring board for my own take on the lesson, or ideas as to what we can do with the particular lesson that is proposed for a given Sunday.

Two weeks ago, we had the lesson about the birds, and how God cares for the birds.  Part of the lesson was what Jesus said in Luke 12:6: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”  I looked into their open, beautiful faces after we had sung our opening prayer, and I told them the story of God’s wonderful care over the birds.  We talked about how five sparrows were sold for two “pennies,” and I asked them why they thought that someone would sell sparrows.  Of course, they had no idea.  And so I told them that in Jesus’ day, people were terribly poor, and they would buy sparrows to eat.  And they could get these five sparrows for only two pennies and it would give them a little bit of meat for their hungry tummies.  And then I went on to emphasize how God said that He noticed each one of those sparrows, though they were worth so little money, and how he noticed when even one of them died, and that Jesus said that we weren’t to ever be afraid or think we weren’t important, because we are worth MANY sparrows.  And He watches over us and cares so much for us.

I had made them each a sheet of paper with the cutout of an outline of a child on it, had gone into my photos, printed out a picture of each child and cut out the face to fit on each paper and had printed, “I am special to God”  at the top with their names on the bottom.  Middle Daughter and I had come up with a bag of fabric scraps that I took along to class.  And so, we talked about how special each child was to God and they each picked out some fabric and we cut out clothes for each child’s outline and glued the clothes onto the picture.

And what a mess that was!  Second Oldest Girlie wanted a dress, Oldest Girlie wanted a shirt and jeans.  Oldest Boy was observant and chose carefully, but then scribbled his face into obscurity while Youngest Boy didn’t much pay attention to anything except to use his glue stick indiscriminately over the whole thing.  Then Oldest Girlie got way too much glue on her paper, and made a terrible mess, Youngest Boy wanted to get up and find something more interesting to do, and it was pretty wild in there for about 15 minutes.  All the while, I kept coming back to the lesson, about how special they were to God, and how God cared for birds, but He cared even more for them!  (There was much exclaiming and goings on about this principle while I tried valiantly to stay ahead of each child’s requests for help and to finish in time.)

And then the first bell rang.  “What about my snack??!!??” Wailed Oldest Boy, looking in dismay around the cluttered table.

I took a deep breath, looked at where we were in finishing up, and said, “Okay, kids, let’s get things put away and you can have a quick snack.  We don’t have much time, but if we help each other, we can get this all done!”  And they helped remarkably well.  (When there is a snack coming, it’s easy to be motivated!)  And before I knew it, things were cleaned up, they were munching on fruit snacks and pretzels and drinking their juice.  It was a good time to review the lesson.

“Okay, kids,” I said cheerfully, sure that they would easily remember the lesson.  I mean, I HAD been reviewing all morning.  “What was our lesson about this morning?”

My question was met with blank stares.  They looked at me, they looked at each other and then there were shrugs and general dismissal of the question.  But I didn’t want to let this go.  We had an important lesson and I thought they should remember!

“Can you think?” I asked, just as brightly.  “What about the sparrows?  What did Jesus say about the sparrows – – – ?” I left the question hanging in the air expectantly.

And then a hand shot up.

“Oh, I know, I know,” said Oldest Girlie.  “The poor people ate’m!”

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“They Called Him Laughter”

It’s been a wild ride in the Sunday School Class that I call The LITTLES at Laws Mennonite Church.  When December rolled around and it was time for Christmas, I was so behind in the curriculum that it wasn’t even Christmas in the lessons.  There were numerous reasons for this — sickness, schedules that precluded a separate class for the children, and my deep desire to not “waste” any of the already purchased study aids and lesson plans.

But I cannot bear to not have a good celebration of the birth of our LORD, so I set about the first of December to write my own lesson plans, find crafts that  were pertinent and to wing my way through.  The thing I didn’t remember was that December 1st began the new quarter in our Menno Media’s SHINE series.  So as December hurried to its end and the New Year loomed, I realized that I was without new material and that I needed to get stepping.  So I did some thinking and praying and decided that I was going to start with Genesis 1 and tell stories from Genesis until March 1st when the new quarter would begin, replete with Easter appropriate stories and activities for my small fry.

And we’ve had a blast.  I purchased some big beautiful pictures from friend Karen’s bookstore and looked online for child friendly crafts that were not copyright protected and set to work.  We went through the story of Creation, the story of Adam and Eve and the fall of man.  We covered the story of Cain and Abel and then the story of Noah and the flood.  We touched briefly on the Tower of Babel and then marched Mr. Abraham right  on out of Ur of the Chaldees to Canaan and talked about The Promise made.  In today’s lesson, we were talking about the birth of Isaac, how it takes patience to wait for things to happen, and about how God keeps his promises. Children love to talk about babies and they love the idea of old people having babies.

“What would you think,” I asked Katie Burkholder this morning, “if your Great Grandpa Millard and Great Grandma Lura (Benner) had a baby?”

She paused to consider.  “I would think,” she said carefully, “that THAT would be really funny!”

“And Charis,” I said, “What would you have thought if Grandma Yoder had had a baby?”

She laughed out loud.  “That would have been really, REALLY funny!” she said.  And giggled again at the thought of it.

“Why would that have been so funny?” I asked.

“Because they are so OLD!” was the chorus.  (Nobody feel insulted, here.  I’m regularly reminded by this group that I’m really old, too!)

And so I told them that Mr. Abraham was older than any of those people.  He was a hundred years old!  No one could think of anyone who was a hundred years old.

“Why do you think you don’t know anyone who is a hundred years old?” I said.  They looked very thoughtful and then one of them said, “Maybe because they are already in Heaven?”  And of course, that was a good answer.

And so we began the story of Isaac and how Abraham had to wait so long to get his little baby.  “Have any of you had to wait a really long time for something you wanted?” I asked them.  They were ready with the usual “My birthday,” and “Christmas.”

“Anything else?” I questioned.  “Anything else that you had to wait really long to do and your thought you just couldn’t wait?

“Yes,” said Charis.  “I had to wait and wait to be born!  I really wanted to get out of there!”

“Me, too,” said Katie.  “I had to wait so long, too.  It was so long and I was uncomfortable!  I wasn’t born until August Twelff and that was a long time!”

“Grandma Yoder was so lucky,” chimed in Charis, getting tuned in to that thought.  “Her birthday was on the first day of January.  The rest of us have to wait way longer in the year for our birthdays to get here!”

Yes, well. Now you know.

Back to the subject of Isaac we went and we had some projects to complete and the story to finish.  My LITTLES did so well, catching on quickly to why his name was “Laughter” (after first thinking that it was because he was a happy baby and laughed a lot).  They helped to make an instant pudding snack while we talked about how hard it is to wait for something to happen.  The vanilla pudding was divvied up into four containers with lids and they worked on other projects while we waited for the pudding to firm up.

The bell rang before  we were ready, just like it usually does, and there was a mad scramble for the coloring papers and projects and snack bags and out the door the four of them tumbled on their way back downstairs to their parents.  I looked around the room, all in disarray with crayons and markers and glue sticks and cutouts and stars and snack remnants all lying askew about.  It made this Delaware Grammy smile,  and I heard “Isaac” lingering in the corners and all around the cheerful, well equipped classroom.

This Delaware Grammy, short on grandbabies, and at an age when most gals have enough little ones in their lives, finds it to be soul satisfying to have these precious four LITTLES each week, entrusted to my care, to learn to know their hearts, their individual personalities, to hear their observations and to listen in on their thought processes. Each of them fills a different spot in my heart, and they and their families and especially their parents often find their way into my prayers.  Such a happy privilege is mine!

Thank God for the laughter!

 

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