Real Life Heroes
Television and other media often exalt sports starts, super-models, and Hollywood celebrities. Nearly every child today idolizes these heroes and wants to emulate the rich and famous.
Jesus could have established a cult-following. He could have basked in His popularity and His power. But Christ’s mission transcended the lures of wealth or status. The greatest people in God’s kingdom are those who serve others.
Throughout history, countless ordinary people lived extraordinary lives that today’s church needs to hear and remember. These stories provide children with a framework for “what is possible” in the Christian faith. Through real examples, children see the Christian life modeled. They need to see what this lifestyle looks like so they can internalize it and hunger for a life of service themselves.
Even if the student never intends to be a missionary, pastor, nurse or teacher; stories of ordinary people obeying God radically can show what becoming a leader and servant of God looks like. It humanizes the process and gives examples of how God prepares, calls, and empowers believers to carry out His purpose for their life.
As a child I was an avid reader. The first biography that I ever read was the story of Brother Andrew in his account God’s Smuggler. Though the book was written long before I was born, the book captured me and instilled faith in my young heart. Brother Andrew changed from a rebellious youth to one of the greatest missionaries of our time, smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain to Christians in communist countries. His book read like a spy novel, and was riddled with stories of God blinding the eyes of border workers, providing miraculously, initiating divine appointments, and obeying Christ.
Brother Andrew’s story and journey became an example to me of someone who was willing to say “yes” to God. While I wavered through my own rebellious youth, this story planted a seed that bore fruit in my early 20’s. As I internalized my parents’ faith and chose Jesus from my own deep conviction; I knew life with Christ was not meant to be ordinary, comfortable, or about me! I desperately wanted to be a key player in God’s story on the earth. I did not want to look back and see that my life had been lived for self-serving purposes. This perspective began with the story of Brother Andrews’s life that captured my heart at a young age.
When sharing stories from history to children, consider these techniques to engage the imagination of your students.1
- Storybooks: Read stories from an illustrated storybook.
- Story and biographical pictures: Piece together the testimonies and written accounts from a figure from church history. Use pictures of the person, his or her family, and relevant settings to help children picture the story.
- Props and/or costumes: As you tell the story, add a simple hat or artifact to relate your story. This can often help the listener focus.
- Storyboarding: After you share the story, review the main ideas by piecing together simple drawings of each major event. Use a whiteboard and poster markers, to draw stick figure summaries of each main idea.
- Group Storytelling: After hearing the initial story, invite the children to break into groups or pairs to re-tell the story to each other.
- Interactive Storytelling: Have the children actively participate in telling the story through background sounds, impromptu acting, or standing in as a character.
- Videos and Films: Use animated or acted versions of the story to share with the children. The Torchlighter series is a great tool.
Feature a missionary to give students a consistent framework of Christian Heroes and Christian Missionaries. Whether you are incorporating stories from your curriculum or having a special event, the event ideas below will enhance your ministry to children and families.2
- Community/Family Movie Night: Host a Community Movie Night at your church building. These are especially good during the summer, where you can show them outside on a big screen or sheet. Provide snacks and extra information about the missionary or hero you are highlighting.
- Missions Highlight: During Sunday morning or a midweek program, host a missionary highlight day. Use one of the storytelling techniques above to share the story. Decorate your room according to the theme or country. You can also choose students who come to class prepared with information about that area or, if your church has missionaries in a similar area, highlight their location and area of service.
- VBS: Include missionaries or heroes as a theme for Vacation Bible School or Camp. Utilize the Torchlighter missionary videos for a week-long program.
- Character Events:
• Bible Giveaway: Share the story of William Tyndale to elevate the importance of having the Bible in the English language. Then provide Bibles for a community-wide Bible giveaway.
• Pilgrim’s Progress: Share the story of John Bunyan and read the children’s version of Pilgrim’s Progress.
• Olympics: Share the story of Eric Liddell, and play Olympic-style games. Highlight the game of a torch relay, emphasizing the need to pass on the Christian faith to others. Adapt familiar sports to competition options that work with your audience. You may want to provide ribbons or medals.
Stories are powerful vehicles that convey the emotional, relational and spiritual skills needed to be a person who follows God wholeheartedly. Stories and testimonies build faith and encourage us to keep running the race marked out—and to pass this faith on to the next generation.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
1 Storytelling tips adapted from www.history.org and the expertise of the living history experience of Colonial Williamsburg, VA.
2 Incorporating missions is adapted from www.torchlighters.org and their expertise with creating animated movies about historical figures. These videos are available on DiscipleLand’s website.