When my oldest children were preschoolers, we attended a largish church in Oregon. They remember that church fondly, and some of their favorite memories revolve around the "Playdough Lady" - their name for their preschool Sunday school teacher, who set her classroom up with play dough for the early arrivals to play with, until it was time for Sunday school to start.
She would allow the children to free play, and always had a number of interesting cookie cutters or accessories. As the children played, she listened, and sometimes talked, and generally got to know each of the little ones in her class, in a very special way. They loved it.
It dawned on me the other day, as I was putting together the lesson for the week, that I could be our church's "Playdough Lady". Happily, the classroom I have, has been set up with play dough in mind, and has linoleum, instead of carpet, under the table. The last church we were in was completely carpeted, and the janitor had posted "No PlayDoh" signs in every classroom.
Now, with freedom to play, I packed up several cans of dough as well as a few cookie cutters (from what I'm sure you know is a good sized collection) to take to class. I tried to pick cutters that could lead us into review of the last few lessons - sheep for David, a small and large gingerbread man for David and Goliath, the bear that David had to protect the sheep from, and a few hearts as a lead in to our week's verse - God will always love me Psalm 107:1.
I had a hard time at first deciding on color choices, but I've worked it out now, and the colors I've chosen are not by accident, but rather follow the colors of the Wordless Book - a simple Gospel presentation for children...
...because as I've been thinking about teaching the preschool Sunday school class, I was reminded that it was a preschool Sunday school teacher who first told me I was headed to hell!
Looking back I'm not sure if she was trying to share the good news of the Gospel with me, or just put the fear of God into me, so I'd sit still. Either way, I headed straight home that day, very upset, to tell my mother what the teacher had said. Mom explained, that it was true, not just for me, but for everyone. We were all going to hell unless we asked Jesus to forgive us for our sins.
We used to talk more about hell, fire, and brimstone in church, than we do now, so it wasn't so much shocking, as it was enlightening. Up to that point, all I'd heard about God in my three years of church going, was that He loved me - I had no idea I might not be acceptable as I was. It was a relief to hear that no one could be good enough for God, and to find out that Jesus had already paid for my sins and all I had to do was admit I was a sinner - that I had done things I knew were wrong, and be forgiven. At least, that's how I understood it then.
As much as I'd like the children in my class to remember a teacher who listened, and talked to them, and had play dough to play with, what I really want them to remember is the truth of I Timothy 2: 3-6,
This is good and pleases God our Savior, for he longs for all to be saved and to understand this truth: That God is on one side and all the people on the other side, and Christ Jesus, himself man, is between them to bring them together, by giving his life for all mankind.
This is the message that at the proper time God gave to the world. (TLB)