When our daughter was in her middle school years, my husband and I agreed to teach Sunday School. No other teachers came forward, and since we wanted our daughter to have a good experience in Sunday School, we volunteered. So for two entire years, we taught every single Sunday. I took the lead in teaching, and my husband was the disciplinarian. Keeping 5th, 6th and 7th graders in line was far more challenging than teaching them.
I learned quickly that they respond well to food. I remember two wonderfully successful classes where the means to communicating the lesson involved food. On a particular Sunday, the basic lesson had to do with "gifts of the Spirit": see 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 for the full text.
I wanted to convey to each child that no matter what he or she might excel in, all their gifts blend together to the greater good. So, I passed around a bag of fruit. In the bag were individual pieces of fruit--apple, banana, grapes, peach, pear, orange, and lemon--only ONE of each. The bag passed from student to student around the circle. Predictably the lemon was left to last.
After each child had a piece of fruit, I asked what they could do with their fruit. Well, eat them, they all said, except the kid with the lemon. So, I then suggested we could do something for everyone if they would let me work with the fruit. I then began to peel and cut up the fruit, saving the lemon for last. I took the lemon, cut it in half then squeezed the juice over the entire cut-up fruit, now in a large bowl. Of course, I mixed it all together--and pronounced it FRUIT SALAD. Then, we all had a good size helping. I think the "different gifts" got through.
Another time, the message was focused on how important it is for us to care for the poor. That Sunday, we brought all the items for breakfast along: small cereal boxes, milk, orange juice, and bananas. Then we gave each child an envelope containing play money. We had divided the class into a mini-world. Arbitrarily, we had one child be rich, several children be "middle-class" and one child be poor.
We had put prices on each of the food items. The "rich" child could buy ALL the items, the "middle-class" children could buy one or another of the items. The "poor" child did not have enough to buy anything. He was crushed. So, with a little prompting, the children figured out that if they redistributed their money, even the "poor" child could buy breakfast.
The final food lesson came out of a different setting. I was the stewardship chair for our church's annual giving program. Now, if there's one thing I HATE to do it's ask for money. I just have a really hard time. But I did light upon a way to illustrate the need to give. When I gave my main stewardship talk from the pulpit, I had ten apples lined up. I said--God gave me ten apples to use as I needed, and only asked that I return one apple to God--a tithe. So, I put 4 apples aside to pay for my house, I put one aside to buy a car, I put another 2 aside to buy clothing, I put 2 aside for food. Then I looked at the remaining apple. It was a beautiful nice shiny red apple. I turned it around in my hand, and then said--I will just take a small bite out of this apple. So I took one, then another, then another. Finally, I was left with just the apple core. Then I said--I don't have one apple left to give to God, so I will just give God this apple CORE. And then I sat down and stopped talking.
No other words were needed to convey the point.
Food--it's a great way to communicate a message.