The week had come to explain to how Jesus solved our sin problem. We had spent weeks laying a solid foundation for our kids: God created a good world; mankind blew it; in His mercy and justice, God revealed a beautiful rescue plan. In the large group lesson I explained that Jesus willingly hung on the cross. I showed in a tangible way that my sin was transferred to Jesus. There was absolutely no way for me to get rid of my own sin. Jesus had to take it and conquer it as only He could.
Then the kids went to their small groups. The small group lesson was written to reiterate the point that there is nothing we can do to get rid of our own sin. The small group opened with the leader pausing for a moment to mention how thirsty she was, and to very intentionally take a swig from a bottle of Coke. As expected, the kids started to say, “I want some!” The leader was to spend a moment talking about how delicious a freshly opened bottle of Coke tasted. Then the leader was supposed to spit in the Coke. As in, “Oh, you like Coke? What if I did this? (*SPIT*) Would you still want a sip? Of course not! A little spit ruins the whole Coke, just as any amount of sin makes my life imperfect. What if I added more fresh Coke? Would that remove the spit? No! The spit can’t be removed by adding good Coke any more than good deeds will remove the sin from my life.” You get the picture.
After the small groups were finished and we had worshipped together and kids were released to their parents, I noticed one of my leaders still carrying her Coke. I made a comment like, “Eww–don’t you need to throw that Coke away?” And much to my dismay I heard, “Oh, I didn’t really spit in it.” I stopped dead in my tracks. WHAT? (Maybe I am a little over the top on this, but it fills me with anxiety just typing it.)
“Why didn't you spit in it?" I asked. ("Why on earth didn’t you spit in it?” I thought.)
“Oh, that’s gross,” she said.
Oh my. That’s the point! What do you think kids will remember a year from now? Hearing a mild-mannered leader saying the words, “What if spit in it?” or actually seeing a juicy glob of saliva running down the side of a bottle into a beloved soft drink, that they were dying to drink just moments before? Which one gets the point across? Which one captures the attention of an easily-distracted 2nd grade boy? Which one will they tell a friend about? Which one gets to the heart of how abhorrent our sin actually is? Which one leads their young minds to connect a physical illustration to the spiritual reality? And which one will remind them of truth every time they reach for a Coke?
In that moment I saw my own failure. This leader had missed our training and I had not followed through properly. The big take-away from that day was: Train your leaders to always go the extra mile. Train them to make maximum impact. Look like a fool if that is the best way to teach the kids. Do the gross thing, be uncomfortable, think like a child. Do whatever it takes to engage them. I am not a silly person; silly is really hard for me. I don’t use gimmicks simply to entertain. But, by all means, if driving across town to rent a live sheep gets the point across better than words or pictures, I will drive across town and wrangle that sheep back with me. I could tell a hundred stories of the crazy places I’ve gone and the ridiculous things I’ve brought into my home. My family starts to ask what’s going on, then they stop themselves and laugh because they know it's for the kids at church. It might not be convenient, but it is most definitely worth it.
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