You may have taken part in or planned an immersive Bible experience for young Bible students in the past. While they are the best way to take young Bible students “back in time”, they take a lot of time and money. There are easier and less expensive ways of doing something similar in a regular Bible class setting.
Here are some of our favorite ways to introduce young people to Bible times in hands-on ways.
- Reproductions of objects. It is fairly easy and inexpensive to find replicas of ancient clay lamps, shofars, mezuzahs and other objects from Bible times on etailer websites like Amazon.
- Biblical foods. Yes, you can find edible locusts/ grasshoppers for young Bible students to try. Dried dates and figs, rustic multigrain breads, pita, lentil stew, quail and other foods mentioned in the Bible may be unfamiliar to your students. (Check for allergies.) Other foods, like manna, we don’t have recipes for, but people have made recipes they believe probably taste close to the original food.
- Participating in every day activities mentioned in the Bible. Making unleavened bread or mud bricks, grinding grain or spices, weaving and other tasks are unfamiliar to your students and give them a sense of every day life.
- Photos and drawings. While the actual buildings are ruins now, several Bible museums have built full scale replicas of everything from Noah’s Ark to the Tabernacle and every day houses. If you can’t visit the replicas, showing photographs can help students visualize places in the Bible. If you can’t find photos online, you can usually find detailed drawings. For things like pyramids that are still standing, search for photos of what the buildings looked like originally. Many things that are plain now were actually originally very colorful and decorated.
- Sounds. What did scripture sound like when read in the original language? What might the Psalms have sounded like when sung in Bible times? What does a busy marketplace sound like? Adding authentic sounds makes Bible stories come to life.
- Smells. Throw a cheap cut of beef on an electric indoor grill outside of your classroom and you have the smells of a sacrifice. The exact formula for the incense used in the Tabernacle is unknown, but people have developed one they believe is close and it can be purchased. Smells are one of the best memory triggers, so attaching a smell to your Bible lesson can make it more memorable.
- Costumes and dramas. Many churches have simple “Bible” costumes children can put on over their own clothes as they wonder about in the “wilderness” of your church property, drinking bitter water and eating manna and quail. The costumes can be used for having students see what it might have felt like to be the people in various Bible stories and parables.
- Live animals. Okay, this one isn’t as cheap, but actually riding a donkey when studying a donkey story or having someone be a “shepherd” for a couple of live sheep makes a Bible story memorable. We even had a Christian at an animal group that normally goes to schools come show our young people various unusual animals and talk about the ways they might have cared for them on Noah’s Ark.
- Museum field trips. This takes a little more effort, but many museums have artifacts from Bible times and places on display. From real Baal idols to mummies (Jacob and Joseph were mummified), it gives your Bible students an opportunity to see the “real thing”. Know someone with a collection of coins from the Roman Empire times and your kids may even be touching the same coins people in the Bible touched.
Making the Bible come to life takes a little more money and effort than a normal Bible class might, but it adds so much additional educational value, it is worth it. (If you manage a children’s or youth ministry, consider having a “library” of some of these things that any Bible class teacher can check out and use in class.)