Once again my wife reflects upon one of our passions – how to present gospel stories to children.
The story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. (John 13:1-17)
Traditionally, we concentrate on Jesus, the teacher, humbling himself to wash the feet of his disciples. However, to a young child, this would not seem unusual at all. Their experience is normally one of adults caring for them; teachers and childcare providers, parents, and grandparents. It would be strange to them if the disciples had washed Jesus’ feet!
So how could we tell this story?
Often Bible storytellers try to interpret the stories. We want to be sure the child understands the meaning and the lesson. In short, we tell the child what they should think.
I’m wary of this approach.
I believe that when we impart God’s Word to young people the Holy Spirit is present and active in their hearts and their heads.
We need to trust that He will guide them as they hear our stories.
Our aim should be to facilitate worship in children.
The lives of children are full of friends, family gatherings, travelling, food, and identity. This story has it all. Jesus plans a meal together with his friends. They all travel to an upstairs room in a house. They probably walked along dusty roads to get there. When they arrived there were probably hugs and kisses all around. The table had an array of food and drink, lovingly prepared by others in their circle of friends.
Most importantly, Jesus was with his friends: they identified themselves (and the community recognised them) as His followers.
So, as you tell this wonderful story, touch on these points of contact.
Children will also visualise the story as you tell it. They will “see” it using their own experiences. Therefore a table full of food will be their family’s dining table.
Enrich the story for them by telling them the colours, the smells, the icky ness of the dirty feet, the warmth of the water in the basin, the gentleness of Jesus hands, and the softness of the towel.
When we tell stories in this fashion we help a child take it into their heart. The story will resonate with them.
And finally, give the child a way to respond to what they have heard. Wonder with them, sit quietly and ponder, provide art materials, sing. Follow their lead as they follow the Holy Spirit.