Short Talks and Object Lessons

From time to time, those who are involved in Sunday School ministry (and others) may be required to give a short talk or object lesson - perhaps as part of a service for all the family. In this area of our website we have compiled a few ideas suitable for this purpose, and we hope to add others in the near future. Please feel free to use these ideas, and adapt them as required to suit your particular circumstances.


The Swiss Army Knife

Relevant texts: 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Ephesians 4:11-16

Have you ever seen one of these? (show the knife closed). What's it called? What makes it different from an ordinary penknife (pocket knife)? It is special because of all the different tools you find inside it. (Show three or four different tools and ask what each would be used for). Each of the tools has a special use that is different from the others. For example this one (show the bottle opener) is no good for cutting with, but it's great for removing bottle tops. The scissors (show them) are good for cutting paper, but they wouldn't be any use for opening a can - you'd need this one (show can opener) to do that. They are all useful, all important, and all different. But the really great thing is that all those tools are joined together in one small device that you can keep in your pocket, to use whenever you need it.

In a way, it reminds me of the what bible the bible says about a church like ours. A church is composed of believers - people who love the Lord Jesus Christ. They are all different, and each one is able to serve God in a special way, because God has given them all different gifts - different abilities for serving Him and helping others. For example God has given some people the ability to be good teachers, and some may be good at making things. Others may have a completely different ability that God wants them to use. Each person has an different part to play and each one is needed. It wouldn't be any good if I needed to use the bottle opener in my Swiss army knife, but discovered that it was missing. In the same way every member in a church is important. It's sad when someone goes missing because then their abilities can't be used.

So remember the Swiss army knife, and remember that each church member is important, and has special abilities that God wants them to use for Him.


3 Things you may have Overlooked

This is an evangelistic talk that works best with adults and teenagers, but can also be used for older children (it may not work very well with young children). It is based on an idea once used in a business/marketing course.

If you know your alphabet and can count from one to ten then, in theory, you shouldn't have much difficulty carrying out the simple task I'm going to give you. In a few moments I'm going to use the overhead projector to put a short sentence on the screen. You will have ten seconds to read it through, and count the number of times the letter "F" is used in the sentence. Don't say anything while the words are on the screen, and don't tell your answer to anyone else - keep it to yourself.

At this point the sentence shown below is projected onto the screen. The words must be printed and arranged exactly as shown for it to work (use a simple bold font such as "Ariel" and include the box around the text). After ten seconds the overhead projector is switched off.

Now here's the interesting part. You all counted the number of times the letter F appeared in the sentence. Remember, don't tell anybody else your answer.You may have a different answer than other people, but keep to the number you counted. Raise your hand if you counted just one letter F (probably nobody). Now raise your hand if you counted two (maybe one or two). OK so how many counted three? (at this point the vast majority should raise their hand). OK that's good! By the way, is there anybody who thought they saw four? . . . five? . . . six? . . . seven? (It is possible that a few may raise their hand for four, five or six, but don't stop - just pass quickly on). OK, one or two have different answers, but I think it's clear that almost everbody agrees there were three."

Now let's look at it again (switch on the overhead projector). I want everybody to keep silent while we go through it. I'm sure everybody spotted the first letter F (point to the first letter of the sentence). And here's the second one (point to the letter F in "FILES"). But there is a third one, here at the end of the second line just before the hyphen (point to it). So most of you think you got it right? But what about this one? (point to the letter F in the first "OF" in the second line) and how did you miss this one? (point to the letter F in the second "OF" in the second line) or this one? (point to the letter F in the word"OF" in the last line).

So nearly all of you got it wrong You counted, three but missed the other three!! Don't feel too bad about it though - it's a trick - a clever piece of psychology, deliberately designed to make you miss three out of the six. You know it reminds me of a verse in the bible (2 Corinthians 4:4) which tells us that the god of this world (who is powerful and subtle and clever) has blinded the minds of people, so that they completely miss things that are of vital importance. In fact I want to suggest that there are three things that you may well have overlooked.

From this point the talk can be used as a launch pad for any suitable short three-point gospel message. The following is given only as a suggested outline:-

  1. The seriousness of sin. In today's world it is trivialised. But God never trivialises sin. One day we must all give account to Him. Sin is serious, because the penalty is death - "The wages of sin is death" (Rom 6:23) and that doesn't just mean physical death, but eternal separation from God.
  2. The Gift of God. That verse from Romans goes on to say "but the Gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" Jesus left the glory of heaven and went through the agony of Calvary, dying to pay the penalty of sin on our behalf, so that God could offer us the gift of eternal life. Suppose you were to save for months to buy a present for somebody, but when you offered it to them they just ignored you. Most people do that with God's priceless gift. They fail to see the seriousness of sin, and so they overlook the gift of God.
  3. The Need to Act. Each of us needs personally to admit our sin and turn to Christ in repntance and faith.

Many of you failed to spot three letters tonight. I wouldn't loose too much sleep over that. But what if you should overlook three of the most important things you will ever encounter. The seriousness of sin - your sin. The gift of God, paid for by the blood of his own dear Son, who laid down His life so that you could be forgiven. How sad if you should see the first two but fail to see the third - the need to act, personally, and trust Christ while there is still opportunity.


The Amazing Flying Machine

This is a short talk arguing for the existence of God from the design found in nature. It is ideal for a mixed audience of adults and children.

For the last few decades millions of dollars have been poured into aviation research. In Europe millions were spent developing Concord - a commercial aircraft that could fly faster than sound. In the USA a huge team of scientists and engineers developed the space shuttle - what an amazing piece of technology that was! Another team developed the stealth bomber that is specially designed to be invisible to radar systems.

But did you know thereís a flying machine that incorporates such amazing technology, that is advanced way beyond anything they have developed with all those megabrains and megabucks. This machine can take off and land sideways on a vertical surface. In terms of manoeuvrability thereís nothing to touch it. It can take off with such astounding acceleration, and has such a sophisticated early warning system, that if it senses an enemy attack while on the ground it can take off and be out of range within in a fraction of a second. I managed to get a picture of one these things to show you. Would you like to see it? (show picture).

Did all that technology - way beyond anything our science has developed, come into being by accident - random processes triggered by a big bang?. Itís a crazy idea, and yet that's what many people believe. But surely anybody with an ounce of sense, and an open mind, should be able to see that the amazing technology found in nature is clear evidence of the God who designed and created everything.


Billy the Balloon

This is a very effective way of presenting the story of the rich fool found in Luke 12.

Preparation: take a round balloon and blow it up to about two thirds of full size and, holding the neck closed, draw a face on the balloon using a permanent marker. Making sure the ink has dried, release the air from the balloon. Take a drawing pin (thumb tack), hold the flat head against the inside of the middle finger on your left hand (or right hand if you are left handed), and attach the pin to your finger using two or three turns of sellotape, allowing the pin to pierce the tape. The purpose of this is that you can suddenly pop the balloon without any risk of losing or dropping the pin.The photographs below show Billy as a baby, and nearly fully grown, and the drawing pin taped to the middle finger.

The presentation is in three stages:-

1. A brief summary of the story in Luke 12, stopping short at the point where God said "you fool"

2. A short story in which Billy the balloon replaces the rich fool.

3. A brief application.

Typically it would be presented as described below. The details of the balloon story story can be varied to suit individual circumstances. The idea is to make the story as relevant as possible to the people listening.

In the 12th chapter of Luke's gospel Jesus told a story about a rich man who left God out of his life, and was only concerned about himself. He was a successful farmer, whose crops grew so well that he had to pull down his barns and build bigger ones to store all the grain. Eventually he made so much money that he didn't need to work any more, so he decided to retire and enjoy himself.. But then God spoke to him, and said to him . .. . .I'll tell you what God said to him in a few minutes.

But before that, I'd like to tell you story about someone else - here he is - (blow a small amount of air into the ballon and hold it so that the audience can see the face). Billy the balloon was born at a very early age, and his mum and dad were very proud of their new baby, and everybody who saw him said "O what a cute little ballon". As he grew into a toddler (blow a bit more air into the balloon) it soon became clear that young Billy was going to be a clever balloon. When he was older (more air) he went to the school in balloonville and started to think about what he would like to be when he grew up (more air). He did really well at school, and then went to university where he got a degree in balloonology (blow more air into the balloon to make it the final size, but avoid making it so big that there is a danger of bursting it prematurely). When he left university he set up his own business. Then Billy met Brenda, and fell in love and after a while they got married and had some little balloons. Billy's business was going really well and making loads of money, although he didn't seem to have much time for anything else. But then one day, when the little balloons had all grown up, he said to Brenda "Let's go on a world cruise. Then when we come back I'll retire I don't need to work any more we've got enough money - we can enjoy life." And Brenda was very pleased about that. The day of the cruise came. Billy watched as the taxi cab arrived to take them. The suitcases were all ready, and then . . (at this point burst the balloon suddenly without any warning).

You know what it was that God said to that man in Luke 12? "You fool. This night your soul will be required of you" Some of you may have realised that Billy was just like that man in the story that Jesus told.

Application: None of us can be certain about tomorrow, and we mustn't take it for granted.Most important of all, we mustn't leave God out of our lives. We must get right with Him while we still have an opportunity, and love Him and serve Him.


What Comes Out?

Relevant texts: Matthew 15:11, James 3:1-10, Colossians 3:8

Earlier today I went into the garden to see what I could find. I collected a few things here in this margarine tub (Show the tub without revealing the contents. Pull out the following items from the tub one by one, saying a few words about each to make sure evrybody knows what it is, and then puting it back in the tub. The items don't have to be exactly as in the list, as long as they achieve the same objective. Occasionally shuffle things around in the tub as if searching for something).

"Isn't it exciting what you can find when you really search around?"

(Now pull out a half eaten chocolate or boiled sweet). Look at this! what is it? I think somebody might have had a bite and then thrown it away because they didn't like it. Or perhaps the worm has been nibbling at it! Anyway, no use letting it go to waste - who would like to eat it? (hopefully no response!). You've been good (speaking to an older child) you deseve a reward - loo, I'll blow some of the dirt off for you - would you like the chocolate? Why not? (draw out the answer that the chocolate is dirty, and s probably contaminated with germs. Ask two or three children "Would you put this in your mouth?", hopefully getting the answer "No!" each time).

We're very careful about what goes into our mouths aren't we? But are we as careful about what comes out? Jesus spoke about that in Matthew 15:11. What comes out of your mouth? Swearing? Lies? Cheek? Unkind words?. It's right to be careful about what goes into our mouths. But the bible tells us that we have to be even more careful about what comes out.


Post-It Notes (success from failure)

Equipment (keep each item hidden until required):-

  1. A ball point pen with a clear barrel, from which the refill has ben removed
  2. A cheap alarm clock from which the hands have been removed
  3. A small bottle (or better still, a test tube) half-filled with water
  4. A "Post-It Notes" pad

I've got some amazing inventions to show you. Look at this pen - can you see what's special about it? It never runs out, because it hasn't got any ink in it. Don't you think that's wonderful? Look at this next invention - a special clock. Can you see what's different about it? It never needs adjusting because it has no hands. Are you impressed?. Now how about this next one - a "wonder" glue. If you get it on your fingers it will just pull off because it doesn't stick to anything very well.- Don't you think that's an amazing sort of glue? Would you say these inventions are a success or a failure? A pen that doesn't write, a clock that doesn't tell the time, a glue that doesn't stick very well - they all seem like failures. They remind me of somebody in the bible. Somebody who was supposed to be a follower of Jesus but, when under pressure, denied even knowing Him. Who was that? (Peter). Yes, at that particular moment Peter seemed like a failure didn't he? Have you ever felt like that? But I didn't finish my story about the inventions.

There was once a research scientist called Dr. Spencer Silver. His job was to improve the adhesives used in the products sold by his company. One day he somehow managed to make a glue that didn't stick to anything very well - it was very easy easy to pull off, and he noticed that when peeled off it stayed quite sticky. To most people that might have seemed completely useless. However Dr. Silver felt sure that his unusual adhesive must have a use, but he couldn't think what. He spent next few years trying to get the other people in his company interested in his special adhesive, but nobody could think what it could be used for. One of those people was a man called Art Fry. He was intrigued by Dr. Silver's glue, but like everyone else couldn't think of a good use for it. Art Fry sang in the choir at his church, and used to put bits of paper in his hymn book so that he could find the right page for the next hymn quickly. But sometimes those bits of paper fell out (demonstrate), and he lost his place. He thought: "If only I had some bookmarks that stuck like magnets to the pages without damaging them". Suddenly he remembered Dr. Silver's adhesive, and at that moment one of the most successful office products of the last 50 years was born. Does anybody know what it was? The company was the 3M Company, and the product was "Post-It Notes" (show the pad). When 3M's made the first ones, people didn't seem too interested. But 3M's sent free samples everywhere, and once people had tried them, they wanted more of them and orders came flooding in. The product was first sold in 1980, and ten years later "Post-Its" were named one of the top consumer products of the decade. But it all started with something that seemed a complete failure, until one man with a hymn book saw that it could be used in a wonderful way.

Again that reminds me of Peter. What a failure! And yet God took Peter and turned him into a wonderful and courageous preacher. Sometimes people think "I'm no good - I'm just a failure - How could God possibly use me?" But God can take even a failure and change them, and use them to achieve something wonderful. So if ever you feel as if you're a failure, remember Peter, and remember the story of the "Post-It" Notes.


The Gyroscope

Does anybody know what this is called? (Hold up the gyroscope). It's not just a toy, but a scientific instrument - and quite an amazing one as well. What do you have to do to make it work? (start it spinning by pulling the string). What happens if I stand it on the end of this ball-point pen? (demonstrate). It stays upright, and doesn't fall over - even if I tilt the pen slightly (demonstrate). In fact whatever position I put the gyroscope in, it tends to stay there. Watch the gyroscope carefully and see what happens! (Start the wheel spinnning with the gyroscope on its side - i.e. with the wheel in a vertical plane - and place it on its edge on a hard-back book which are holding in your other hand - you will need to keep tilting the book very slightly to keep the gyroscope in the middle. Now holding the book flat, rotate it quite quickly first clockwise and then anti-clockewise. Only turn the book once or twice, because imperfections in a toy gyroscope will cause its position to drift slowly but, with practice, you should be able to demonstrate the point successfully). Did anybody see what happened? When I turned thr book, the gyroscope just kept pointing in the same direction. That might give you a clue to answer my next question. Does anybody know where a gyroscope might be used?" The gyroscope principle is used in a special type of compass used on a ship. It's called a gyro-compass and it's very important. What would happen if there were no compass:? The ship would go off-course. The same principle is used in the other navigation systems as well - it's used for aircraft, for the space shuttle, and for rockets, and missiles. All of these things need to keep going in the right direction, and that's why the gyroscope is so important. Without it the ship, or aircraft or rocket would go off-course and might even crash.

As Christians we need always to live in a way that pleases God. We need to make sure that our lives are always going in the right direction. There are many things that can knock us off-course. Just like the aircraft or rocket needs a gyroscope, there are things that every Christain needs in order to stay on-course. Can anybody suggest some of the things that every Christian needs in their life, to keep them heading in the right direction?

The Bible: The bible is the word of God. Through it we learn all about God, and how He wants us to live. It's important to read it every day. Prayer: It is through talkng to God in prayer that we become really close to Him, and He is able to work in our lives through His mighty power. It is through His power in our lives that we are able to overcome sin and stay pure as Christians. Fellowship: When we are together, encouraging eachother, praying for eachother, we are able to strengthen each other, and help keep each other on-course. That's why it's a big mistake to stay away from church, just because we may not feel like going.

Well I hope you'll remember all about the gyroscope and how it helps ships and aircraft to keep heading in the right direction. But even more I hope you'll keep reading your bible and praying every day, and coming along to church every week - because it's through these things that we keep our lives on-course, and live as God wants us to.

Toy gyroscopes suitable for this talk can be obtained from http://www.gyro-scope.co.uk (The same website also incudes a lot of useful information about the gyroscope).

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