What is an Object Lesson?
An object lesson is the use of objects - insects, fruits, vegetables, animals, coins, thermometers, tools, weapons - to teach intellectual and spiritual truths. More than just a visual, it draws a truth from something you are showing or doing. Real objects, places and happenings can make learning come alive for children, youth, and adults.
The Bible Is Full of Object Lessons
The potter's house, the fig tree and sheep were used by God to teach his people truths in ways they could understand, remember, and share with others. Lessons can be found not only the things of nature, but in the sacrificial service and observances of the Bible. The Scriptures themselves were given to reveal God. All of nature reveals the thought of God, but we often fail to see him through his creation. (Romans 1:20)
Jesus' Use of Object Lessons
Jesus often used the things at hand around him to teach people about God and His Kingdom. When he was by a well, He used water. After He fed 5000 people, He taught them about the bread of life. When He was on a fishing boat, He said the Kingdom was like a fishing net. He told his listeners to consider the lilies, the sparrows, and the hairs on their head. Jesus referred to a fig tree, a mustard tree, yeast, salt, a vineyard, money and other things from everyday life to reveal spiritual truth. When He spoke of a vineyard, He was probably by a vineyard. When He said, "consider the sparrows," there were probably sparrows flying around.
In Christ's teaching, the unknown was illustrated by the known; divine truths by earthly things, the spiritual by the natural, the difficult by the simple. He used the things with which the people were most familiar, the things of the earth to teach them the things that were unfamiliar, the things of heaven. Object lessons speak to the eyes and other senses so that they are received into the heart. In fact the more senses that are involved, the greater the learning that takes place. Christ's teaching using object lessons was targeted at adults, not children, but everyone can learn truths from a simple lesson involving the senses.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Object Lessons
- Objects attract and hold the attention of observers
- Objects can help simplify complex ideas and concepts.
- The high interest level extends to all age groups even though they are usually used with children.
- Retention is very good due to the high interest as well as the identification of the truth with the object.
- Object lessons turn people's "eyes into ears." Because people think in terms of words and images, objects help them recall what is taught.
- Object lessons are fairly easy to use in a class and elaborate equipment is not necessary
- The student is given first-hand experience by coming into contact with the object
- Because of nature of object lessons, the teacher will develop the habit of graphic, colorful portrayal of truth which will make all teaching more powerful.
- The time is usually short so must be used as a part of a class. Usually as an introduction or an illustration or conclusion.
- Thinking of object lessons is very hard for many people. Keep your mind open to possible object lessons in your everyday life.
- Objects may obscure the truth rather than clarify and simplify.
- Small objects do not work well with large groups.
- There is a danger that students may become more interested in the object than the lesson that is being presented.
How to Use Object Lessons
- Choose the idea you want to illustrate and find an object that can represent that idea.
- Plan every step for using the object lesson carefully in advance. * Make an outline of the required steps. * Keep the demonstration simple. * Do not digress from the main ideas.
- Practice using the object to illustrate the truth until it is smooth.
- Rehearse your demonstration with a "guinea pig" if possible. Try to find someone around the same age as the intended audience.
- Tell a story the listener can relate to along with the object lesson. Stories have an emotional impact on the listener and provide a means by which younger children, who think in very concrete terms can identify with the truth.
- Be sure every member of class can see demonstration.
- Check frequently to make sure the demonstration is understood.
- Keep summarizing as you go along.
- Don't hurry the lesson or drag out the lesson.
- Keep the punch line to the very end and build the suspense if you can. Make sure your draw the connection between the object and the idea.
- Resist the temptation to explain all the deep symbolism you've been able to uncover. The power of an object lesson is in its simplicity. One of the quickest ways to ruin an object lesson is try to make it more than it is. Make just one truth visible to your students - that's enough. Be sure that all details are authentic.
- Remember that it's the Holy Spirit, not your object lesson, that instructs and changes students. Never use a visual aid because you are caught short. They must work for you, not instead of you. Remember: They are a means to an end, not an end in themselves
You can find a large selection of object lessons and children's sermons at www.Creativeobjectlessons.com.Creative Object Lessons
Ken has been actively involved in youth ministry for almost 20 years and has been writing youth Bible Study materials since 1988. He has written for numerous Youth weekends and summer camps around the world. He also does training workshops for youth leaders and teachers in Asia and is recommended by others for his creativity and for his passion in mentoring youth. For more creative ideas see his main website at http://www.CreativeYouthIdeas.com