Wednesday, May 10, 2017

DIY Foldable Bible Flashcards for Story Telling

Remember the old saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words."? Well, maybe you don't and I am really showing my age, but the point is truer than ever today. This generation is by far the most visual there has ever been. Whatever the cause is, the fact remains, you should use visuals when you teach.

A visual can be a simple prop, pictures, power point, puppets, a film clip or even (gasp) flannel-graph. Pictures are especially important in helping children to understand Bible stories, because the context is often so foreign to today. Do they know what the tabernacle is, or the arc of the covenant or a ram's horn? Of course not.

I have a whole pinterest board with ideas on how to visualize Bible stories. In this blog I want to focus on making your own pictures for flash cards. In another blog, I will show you how I animate Power Point Bible pictures to make them come alive for the kids.

If you have under 20 kids in your program, I recommend using tactile visuals rather than digital when possible. Studies are beginning to show that tactile aids are retained better than digital ones. Don't believe me? Just google something like "touch versus digital" and check out the results. Here is just one article, Paper Beats Digital.
Sweet Publishing has 370 illustrations just from the book of Genesis.

First, you need a good site to obtain your visuals. There are many out there that offer free pictures, but the two I go to most often are Free Bible Images and Bible Illustrations from Sweet Shores. Most of the pictures are the same on both sites, but there are some stories that I can only find on one or the other, so I use both sites.

I prefer Free Bible Images simply because you can download each Bible story by Power Point. So I can get all the pictures I need in one shot. There is a wide variety of slide shows on this site, including photo stories, bobble head Bible characters (so dubbed by my kiddos), and Lambsongs by Jill Kemp

I make 11x17 pictures for my flash card stories. Our printer will not take that size paper (ledger), so I trick it. I use narrow margins and use the portrait setting. It takes 2 pages to make one picture. You are going to blow the picture up until it is 11 inches tall. This one came out about 11 inches tall by 14.5 inches wide.

After you blow the picture up to about that size, paste the left 1/2 of it on page number one in Publisher.

Take the same picture and paste the right 1/2 of it onto page number 2 in Publisher.

Then print both pictures, line them up, tape them together and viola, you have an 11x17 visual. (Or at least an 11x14.5 in this case.)

I use white card stock for printing.

You can slit the tape on the back (watch the instructable below), and fold these pictures up for easy storage in manila file folders.

Flashcard stories work with smaller groups of children. If you have over 20 kids, I recommend going to Power Point.

Storage of ledger size flash cards. from Joan Eppehimer on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

His Love Never Gives Up - Hosea for Kids

I had a seminary professor who said if he ever went back into the pastorate he would preach through the Bible chronologically. Well, today many of us are TEACHING through the Bible chronologically, which recently brought me to the book of Hosea...for kids. And I couldn't have been more thrilled with the truths I discovered in the book...for kids.

First off, I don't think there is any need for kids to understand what a prostitute is. All they need to know is that Hosea married a women who left him for other men. It is the unfaithfulness part that is critical to the lesson.

Secondly, they need to understand that this was a giant object lesson to show Israel what they were doing themselves. So you can use the pictures below to demonstrate this. All of the pictures came from Free Bible Images.

I started with Hosea marrying Gomer. Exhibit A. What did this represent?

It represented, Exhibit B - Israel agreeing to follow God at Mount Sinai. They entered into a relationship with him in which they agreed to follow and obey him.

Then we add the picture of Gomer leaving Hosea for another man. Of course the kids all think this is terrible. Let that sink in and then add the picture which shows the Israelite's doing the equivalent.

While this is all sinking in, I added the following phrases below the pictures.
I used a giant equal sign as photographed. I put my pictures in a pocket chart and then added the equal sign and the phrases underneath. You could also use an empty bulletin board or a magnetic board.

Thirdly, you need to transfer the unfaithfulness concept to today for application. How are we unfaithful to God? Pocket charts or white boards are great for this type of teaching.
I had some ideas already typed up like sports, video games, and friends. The kids came up with lots more. Then we talked about what it looked like to be faithful to God.

  1. Time - you take TIME to relate to him
  2. Money - you give to his work
  3. Will - you ASK God what he wants you to do. Yield to his will.
To conclude, we sang, You Never Let Go, which sums up the steadfastness of God's love.
And that's how you can apply just some of the truth from the book of Hosea to children.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dunkin In the River with Namaan

Any Bible story with a visual "change" in it is candidate for a magic "change" bag. Namaan's leprosy is a perfect match. Here's how I told the story.

First, I made some cardstock figures. You can back these with flannel and use a flannel board. I simply used a pocket chart to save the extra work of backing them. These printable Bible character figures are free at

They didn't have a set for the Namaan story, so I chose appropriate figures for what I needed and colored over the names with colored magic markers. I copied, cut and pasted the Gideon figure into Publisher and added a text box so that I could write Namaan on him. I thought Gideon looked like a soldier and commander, so he worked well for Namaan.

I printed 2 copies of my Namaan figure. On one I made red spots with a magic marker.

I told the story up to the point when Namaan is told to dip in the Jordan River 7 times. I showed the kids a picture of the muddy Jordan and we talked about how unappealing it was, and why Namaan may have been insulted to go wash in it.

Naaman & the change Bag from Joan Eppehimer on Vimeo.

After we "straightened" Namaan out on why he should do this anyway, I got out the change bag which already had a "clean" Namaan in the hidden pocket. I dunked the Namaan figure up and down and we counted 7 times - and then I made the switch and pulled out the clean Namaan. I am no expert at this, but I did all right because they wanted to see how I had done it. If I can do it, you can too.

A change bag is about $25 at this writing. It is a nice prop to pull out once in awhile for teaching purposes. It just changes your lesson up a little - which is always a good thing. I ordered mine from a website called Kidhelper Resources.

After the story, we went over these four points about God's will and obeying him.
  1. Method - God's ways are not always our ways. Isaiah 55:8-9 (Naaman thought it was dumb to go dunk in the Jordan River - he had expected God to heal him by sending Elisha out to do it.)
  2. Humble - NOT "My way is right or best." Willing to follow. (Naaman had to be willing to follow the instructions he was given even though they were not the way he thought it should be done. Obedience to God begins with humility - we have to believe that God's way is better than our own.)
  3. Obedience - follow God, do it his way
  4. God's ways are always best.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

How to Showcase Your Children's Ministry

Sunday School 2016 by Julia from Joan Eppehimer on Vimeo.

We made this video last year to show in church as a way to keep the children's ministry before the congregation. As many of you know, you never know how many children you will have on any given Sunday. This was a great way to let people see the whole picture.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

How to Make a Giant Fish for the Story of Jonah

Jonah and the giant fish is one of my favorite Bible stories to act out. You can do it without a lot of props - as long as you can make a big fish that the kids can get into. I have seen many different ways to make a fish- from a table covered with cloth to the doorway to a classroom decorated to look like the mouth of a fish. Here, I used a simple pop-up tent (one of the greatest investments I ever made - especially since my neighbor gave it to me for free years ago).

I took the pop-up tent and covered it with black tablecloths I have on hand. You could use plastic ones from the dollar store if you don't have these or dark sheets.

I made 2 giant eyes out of felt. The felt sticks to cloth, so if you do have sheets or tablecloths, it is easy to put together.

I made my original tongue out of red tissue paper. This time around, I added red wrapping paper we had on hand.

I made a tail by twisting a rectangular piece of black cloth and taping it to the wall with black duck tape. I hung "seaweed" inside of the fish - just green crepe paper taped to the tent seams.

For an added effect, I covered the wall directly behind the fish with blue paper and some fish we had left from Bible school.

DIY Giant Fish for Jonah from Joan Eppehimer on Vimeo.

I wrote a simple drama based on the book of Jonah. You can access that here.

We added a ticket counter (the window in our unfinished stage) and signs for the "city gates" of Nineveh to create a little atmosphere. Here's the link for my signs.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The 2 Commandments that Everything Hinges On

I love it when complex truth gets distilled into pure simplicity. Jesus was a master at this. The Pharisees and religious leaders were always taking Jesus on, and he was always taking them down. In Matthew 22:34-40, those tricky Pharisees come to Jesus, and they pick a lawyer (go figure) to ask Jesus, "What is the greatest commandment in the Law?" I love Jesus' answer - especially when he gets to the end and he tells them, "All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments." Wow!

So just what does the word "hang" mean? Well, you could think of it as coat hooks on a wall and everything is suspended from them. OR, you could thing of the hinges that a door hangs on. Those hinges support the whole weight of the door, and it turns on those hinges. That's how important these two commandments are.

To demonstrate this, I used a door, of course. The two commandments are #1 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and #2 Love your neighbor as yourself. We put the words LOVE GOD on the door by the top hinge and LOVE PEOPLE on the door by the bottom hinge.

Hanging the Commandments from Joan Eppehimer on Vimeo.

To make it more interesting, I had printed up, cut apart and hid the 10 commandments. I hid them so well, we never found one of them. We let the kids each read the commandment they had found, and then we decided whether it went with the LOVE GOD hinge or the LOVE PEOPLE hinge. It was a simple way to help them see how each commandment related to one of these two principles.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Incarnational Relay Race

"If an alien in a titanium spaceship landed in New York would that be a big deal? Jesus, entirely alien from anything we know, landed on earth in Bethlehem" over 2000 years ago, and he didn't even use a spaceship. We call this the incarnation, and according to Alan Root who penned that quote, there is no bigger miracle than God visiting our planet in an earth-suit (so far anyway!).