God has children

Has God also thought of animals? - A path through the bible with favorite animals. Station work for primary school children

Preliminary considerations on the subject

A look at the covers of children's Bibles answers the eponymous question: Of course God thought of animals; One pair of each was allowed into the ark. And yet the question is more complex. According to the Bible, people are allowed to feel at "you" and "you" with God, e.g. when they pray. The Psalms make it clear. And the animals? God shows himself to people, speaks to them, makes them responsible and promises them blessings. This can be seen in the stories of Moses and the Parents. And what about the animals? In Jesus people experience God's closeness; they dream with him of a kingdom of heaven in which God and man have shalom together. And what about the animals?

This is what drives children who love animals: They ask about the whereabouts of animals in war and ruin, ask about a baptism for animals and about a heaven for animals, pets and cuddly toys. Very elementary: Whoever loves me also loves what I love, right? Absolutely plausible, I thought when I was confronted with such questions and expectations in the children's church service - and set about looking for evidence.

Now it is like this with the Bible: I always find and - thinking a bit around the corner - for almost everything, even for very contradicting theses. In other words - more seriously and theologically - the Bible is a book of reconciled opposites. It gathers a tremendous wisdom in life; Above all, she knows what I think people have to learn again: The important thing in life has two poles that belong together like ying and yang (well, that's a different tradition, of course!):

Man is good and angry; God is far and close; Jesus is god and Man, died and risen; Nature is precious and profane. Animals are God's blessed creatures like humans and were created on the same day (Gen 1: 24-28) - and: Animals are subordinate to humans (Gen 1.28). Animals are meant to be companions to humans (Gen 2.19) - and they are not permanently sufficient for him as a counterpart (Gen 2:20). Animals are not intended to be human food (Gen 1:29), and: He may eat them with reservation (Gen 9: 3f.). Animals are sacrificed according to God's direction (e.g. Gen 22:13); and: God would rather be a sacrifice to have mindfulness, affection and loyalty (e.g. Hos 6,6).

There are many places where the Bible speaks appreciatively of animals, gives them active roles, or respects their passivity. There are places in which animals are used as images, for humans as symbols or models. And there are places where animals simply don't count - in war, destruction, annihilation; these are the same places where human lives don't count. And Finally, there are passages that show that there is also a story of God with animals, one in which humans do not appear. This becomes clear when God's creative and regulating actions are told: through God (see Psalm 104) or from God's own mouth (see Job 38f. 40f.). A special relationship can be sensed there, which the human being does not touch.


Didactic considerations

Children's Bible literature likes to emphasize the good relationships between God and humans, humans and animals. You know children like it. Sheep and dove, hoopoe and donkey are used as narrative animals - or the turtle, because children are used to this from other children's literature, because it fits their cuddly toy world and their need for closeness. Animals form a natural bridge between the world of the Bible and the world in which we live (and that is theologically correct!).

In the educational context of schools, however, it can be “a little more”. Addressing children, yes - but at the same time: taking them further responsibly, into the imagery of the Bible and into experiences of the human (and animal) friendliness of God. I looked for passages in the Bible where the image or example of an animal tells something about God and especially about God's relationship to his creation. The fact that the animal examples often serve as a background in order to be trumped by God's relationship with humans does not make them any less informative. And these are my findings:


God cares for animals (and for people)

1. God, you make water well up in the mountains, so that all the animals of the field drink and the game quench its thirst ... You make grass grow for the cattle and grain for the people (according to Psalm 104: 10.11.14).

2. No sparrow falls from the tree without your Heavenly Father seeing it. And you? Don't you think that you are more valuable than sparrows (according to Mt 10:29)?

3. Why do you care about your food? Look at the birds under the sky; they do not sow, they do not reap, and yet your heavenly Father nourishes them (according to Mt 6:26).

(The lost sheep could also be thought of here, but that's a different topic.)


God gives animals important tasks (in the interests of humans)

4. But the Lord brought a large fish to swallow Jonah. And the fish hid Jonah in his body so that he would not drown (according to Jonah 2: 1).

5. The dove came to Noah in the evening and behold: It had broken off an oil leaf and carried it in its beak (Gen 8:11

6. The angel said to Balaam, Your donkey saw me three times and avoided me. Otherwise I would have killed you (according to Num 22:33).


God builds his kingdom for animals and people

7. There the wolves will dwell with the lambs and the panthers will lie down with the goats (Isa 11: 6a) and: A little boy will drive calves and young lions together to pasture (after Isa 11: 6b).

8. The mustard seed grows into the tree so that the birds come from under the sky and dwell in its branches (Mt 13:32).


God gives humans animals as models

9. God says: An ox knows its master and a donkey the manger of its master - but my people have no idea about me (according to Isa 1,3)!

10. Be wise as snakes and without falsehood as doves (Mt 10:16).


Comparisons of God with animals

11. He will cover you with his wings and you will have refuge under his wings (Ps 91: 4).

12. The story of Jesus' baptism is told: Heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God come upon him like a dove (Mt 3:16).

(Of course, the "Lamb of God" should also be considered here, but that is a topic of its own!)


On the practice of teaching (building blocks)

The finds encompass a variety of learning opportunities: about the occurrence of animals in the Bible, about biblical ideas of God, about the (pictorial) language of the Bible. The students discover birds and fish, land animals - large and small, quadrupeds and reptiles, grass-eaters and carnivores, wild and tame - appear in the Bible; Compared to Gen 1: all of animate creation.

Theologize the students; for example:

• God looks out for sparrows. People are closer to him. God really pays attention to people.

• Ox and donkey know God. People are smarter. People can above all Know god.

• are wolf and lamb natural Predators. God's love can reconcile them. In the artificial Human wars are a matter of life and death. God's love can above all Make peace.

In doing so, they learn something about God's will for shalom on all levels as well as about biblical language: that it tells stories and relates stories to one another; that biblical stories often have a punch line at the end and that this punch line often concerns the relationship between God and man.

Annotation: Elementary school children do not learn such a thing theoretically. All developmental psychological expertise speaks against this. But they can learn it intuitively and concretely. In listening and telling and in use. It's all worth it. How to do this is shown in the following three lesson proposals, which can be combined in various ways:

a. Occupation with some of the finds (from grade 2)

b. Telling a story of God and man from an "animal perspective" (Grade 3/4)

c. Station work in which the students themselves initially practice thinking about theology and biblical language. (Grade 4, with groups that are used to independent, cooperative and independent creative work; possibly with offers of help).


a. Animal verses as red threads

Again and again there are suggestions to network the “island knowledge” of the students in the subject of religion, e.g. B. with recurring Bible verses. In terms of content, the twelve animal verses represent a good cross-section of important theological topics. It is therefore advisable to make all twelve verse / verse pairs visible together in the classroom (M 3, M 4) and from time to time to consider one of them (M 5 to M 16; The "reading" and "brain teasers"). Making it visible can be done in the manner of the Advent calendar: The verses are hidden behind flaps with corresponding images of animals, for example. If you also have the children copy the verses and design them as decorative cards, there is a familiarity effect and a beautiful product at the same time. In the morning circle a child chooses one of the animals or one of the sayings. It is read, considered and discussed - possibly a prayer of thanks is said.


b. narrative

Since the verses combine so many important theological aspects, it is possible to work them up into an overall narrative (M 1). The students listen with the task of memorizing the animals they are talking about - and then using the animals to recapitulate content. The narrative can be used in many ways, e.g. B. also for processing in the hands of the students.


c. Station work

The students find stations where they work in small groups. A routing slip (M 2) helps with the organization and securing results. In the full form there are five stations with two to three Bible passages each, which are equipped as follows:

• a poster strip with the name of the station (M 3),

• the Bible passages in easy language, (M 4),

• Animals according to the biblical passages (e.g. toys, picture cards, animal books),

• Handicraft material (if it is not offered on a material counter),

• For each biblical passage a reading, thinking and action card (M 5 to M 16).

The Reading cards form the basis. They put the Bible passage in a comprehensible context. When it comes to prayer or sermon, it's relatively easy to understand; if, however, as with Jonah, Noah and Balaam, a longer story is in the background, “rough traits” must suffice - here the students may need to be encouraged to speculate. (But it is also conceivable that one or the other will come up with previous knowledge.)

The Thinking cards should motivate a conversation. Often the students believe (shaped by questionnaires in other subjects) that they do not know a “correct” answer; But when they first discover that speculations are okay and (especially in a group) continue to do so, they become more courageous. Important thoughts should be noted down, possibly on a "tablecloth", that is, a poster that is on the table.

The Action cards encourage play or design - usually as a collaborative task. Some ideas require special material. Please read the cards in preparation and have the necessary items ready.

The groups decide whether to continue working with a thought card or an action card or both. The groups also decide which scripture to study.

Of course, it is also possible to use just some of the scriptures suggested here - or any other that you can think of. Then develop other tasks accordingly.