Growing up I read stories of the good Samaritan and prodigal son in the colorful Arch Books series (I grew up in the 1970’s). Theses curious images of distress and compassion had a strong influence on me.
I didn’t realize just how powerful Jesus’ parables were until I was in college and began studying Biblical interpretation alongside literature and filmmaking. As I read the parables as a student, I was struck with how spiritually penetrating they were as a result of their carefully intricate dramatic construction. Surely, I thought, these are the most incredibly complex stories ever told – but how can people today truly understand the depth of their power?
It was in college that I first had the idea of creating a series of short films on the parables that would actually explain the story through the elements of film.Could the parables be translated in a way that any age person from any background be able to watch and feel exactly what Jesus was trying to make His first-century audience feel?
The result was Modern Parables. This unique Bible study combines films, pastors, and readings to create a new experience with the parables. It’s been seen by tens of thousands of people of all ages all around the world. One of the things that has made me happiest about it is that children love it.
How do you teach children parables?
First: Read the original parable and discuss. Try to keep it in context (for instance, if Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, then mention that and don’t just jump into the parable). Ask questions about specific things inside the story: who is a Samaritan?Why did he stop? Why was the hidden treasure so important? What do you think it was? You may not have all the answers yet – but it’s good to look into the text and think about what it really means.
Second: Watch the parable film. The films vary in length from 13 – 21 minutes. Once it finishes, ask questions as to how it related to the original story Jesus told. Why were certain things used in the story? What did things mean?
Third: Read the teaching materials. If your children are younger, you may want to read these first and then discuss. It will help tie together all the intricacies in the original parable to the realities of our daily lives.This process helps show that the Bible is a book that must be studied to be understood – always remember the Bereans and what Paul said about them.
Fourth: Discuss practical application. Talk about how the parable applies to their lives. Jesus’ parables were meant to drive us toward action and understanding in our own lives, whether it’s about loving our neighbors as ourselves or valuing the Kingdom of God.
Modern Parables only covers six of the almost 40 parables of Jesus. If you’d like to to study more about them on your own, I recommend the following excellent books:
Watch Modern Parables: The Sower