(see this graphic novel version of the parable here)
Background: As we respond to scripture in this season of Easter, one question we keep asking is, “what is the way of the kingdom that Jesus is proclaiming?” Parables help us to imagine God’s kingdom, and help us to grapple with the ways that God invites into it. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be reading parables in Sunday School. A short excerpt from Jerome Berryman’s description of parables follows, a description that helps to orient me as I read these parables:
“A parable is a kind of riddle that uses short fiction to reference a transcendent symbol, which in the gospels is generally the kingdom of Heaven or Jesus.”
As we tell these stories, it will be important to allow the parables to remain riddles for the children, to allow them space to work at “solving” the riddles, just as we continue to work at “solving” them. Over time, parables come to carry various meanings for us. As you teach, bear in mind that there is not a single “right answer” to any parable riddle. Many interpretations (certainly, interpretations we haven’t even thought of!) will be edifying for God’s people as we seek to follow Jesus into the kingdom. With the parable of the sower, consider leaving some aspects of the parable open-ended for continued reflection.
(1.) Children will name the four types of soil, and what happened to the seeds in each type of soil.
(2.) Children will reflect on what meanings Jesus may have wanted to convey by telling this parable about seeds and soil.
(1.) Re-tell the story: Here are large story pages that you could print and use to re-tell the parable. Younger children may enjoy the challenge of putting the pages in the right order after the story.
(2.) Plant some seeds: There is topsoil in the Sunday School closet. Plant easy to grow seeds in paper cups and water them. Make a paper “wrapper” for the cup which highlights a verse from the parable.
This website has some helpful activity suggestions (a seed sorting activity among other things) and a video well-suited for younger kids.
(3.) Parable Object Lesson: Read Matthew 13:3-9 with your students, and then show them four containers of soil. Put rocks and a little dirt in one container. Put hard-packed, dry dirt in container two. Put weed-infested sod in container three and loose, moist topsoil in the last. Place paper next to each container. Ask the students to list what each container represents. Take time to reflect on what Jesus might have meant as he spoke about different types of soil.
Then, transform the containers. Pick the rocks out of container one and add dirt until it looks like container four. Add water to container two and mix until it is pliable and loose. Add water to container three and use a hand trowel to remove the weeds. Explain that God can change lives from unhealthy soil to good soil.
(4.) Make a story scroll: Take a large piece of butch paper from the craft closet, cut it in two (lengthwise) and divide it into sections. Invite your class to illustrate different scenes from the parable. Roll it up as a scroll, and use it to re-tell the story.
(From: 1001 Rhymes and Fingerplays by Totline)
(Tune: ‘Row Your Boat’)
Dig, dig, in the ground. (Make digging movements.)
Plant seeds in a row. (Pretend to plant seeds.)
A gentle rain (Flutter fingers downward.)
And bright sunshine (Form a circle with your arms.)
Will help your flowers grow! (Squat down and gradually stand up.)