"Children respond, “Hallelujah!” and quickly lift the parachute overhead to launch the soft objects in celebration."
The Sign of Jonah in a Parachute!
Over a decade ago, for my very first time teaching Sunday school, I was asked to teach kindergartners about Jonah. Having been a kindergarten teacher, I instinctively picked up a parachute and led the children through movement as we read the story. Since then I have moved from volunteer to church staff member and have continued to use parachutes to engage children with Bible stories.
8 Parachute Activities for Teaching Bible Stories
The following activities can be used with multiple ages and varied group sizes. I recommend using Children of God Storybook Bible by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as the stories are brief and use child-friendly language.
Noah’s Ark: Genesis 6-9
Children sit in a circle as the story is read. Shake the parachute gently to represent the water covering the earth. When the story reaches the verse about the rainbow, have children stand up, raise the chute over their heads, step forward, place the chute behind their backs, and sit down. The chute will fill with air and form a colorful dome above everyone inside the parachute. The timing may take some practice!
The Voice From the Burning Bush: Exodus 3-4
After reading the story, play this game where children take off their shoes. Have children stand in a circle holding the parachute. Divide the children into groups based on the color of the section of the parachute they are holding. When the leader says, “(Color) you are on holy ground,” children take off one shoe and gently toss it under the parachute. Then, on the count of three, everyone raises the chute over their heads. The designated group goes under the parachute to find their shoes, returning to their places before the parachute falls.
Jonah and the Big Fish: Jonah 1-4
This works best if you read portions of the story between each action. Children sit in a circle with legs straight in front of them, holding the parachute with both hands. Choose one child to be the big fish. Make the storm by shaking the parachute quickly. Have the children raise the parachute above their heads while remaining seated when the leader reads that Jonah is thrown overboard. The child who is the big fish should crawl under the parachute while it is raised.
Have children make gentle waves, holding the parachute at chest level. The big fish crawls under the gentle waves and touches the toes of each child. When their toes are touched, children let go of the parachute, crawl underneath, and hold still. (Anticipate that the parachute will shift; the leader should adjust the parachute to cover the children.) After all of the children are under the chute, the leader reads the remaining parts of the story. When the big fish 'burps,' the leader lifts the parachute off! Then the leader reads the ending.
God Shelters Us Children’s Message: Psalm 27
Begin by introducing the Psalms, saying: "Psalms are wonderful poems and songs. The psalms are about all the different ways we people feel. They also tell us what God is like. Today’s Psalm is Psalm 27. Nod your head if you ever feel scared or worried. Me, too. This is a good psalm to read or remember when you feel scared or worried. It says: 'God will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent.'"
Pray under the parachute. Say: "Let’s pretend to make a tent together with this parachute. When I give the direction, we will gently raise it over our heads, then put it behind our backs and sit down underneath to form a big dome. Then we are going to say our really short prayer under the tent. Ready: raise up, step in, sit down. Let us pray: Gracious God, You are wonderful! You keep us under your tent always. Thanks be to God. AMEN!"
Jesus Goes Fishing: Luke 5
In this game, children are reminded that they are disciples, too. Children begin by standing in a circle holding the parachute. Gentle ripples are made until the children hear the leader say, “calling disciples…” Then, children raise the chute and the leader quickly says the names of two children. The children who are called quickly switch places, running under the parachute.
Jesus Feeds the Crowd: John 6
For this game you will need 2-3 dozen soft items (foam balls, inflatable fish, e.g.) to represent the loaves and fishes. Have children stand in a circle holding the parachute. The teacher reads the story. When you reach the verse in which Jesus blesses the 5 loaves and 2 fishes, the leader raises 7 soft items and places them in the parachute. Children then 'pass' the soft objects around the parachute by shaking it, being careful not to let the 'loaves and fishes' fall on the ground. After the children have had time to play, the leader reads the final part of the story about the leftovers and adds the remaining soft objects (the more the better!). To end, the leader says, “God provides enough for everyone.” Children respond, “Hallelujah!” and quickly lift the parachute overhead to launch the soft objects in celebration.
Easter Children’s Message - Unpacking the Alleluias: Luke 24 and John 20
If you have the tradition of packing up the alleluias for Lent in your church, use this Easter day children’s message to unpack them. Slips of paper with “Alleluia” written on them work for the parachute activity. Check beforehand to be sure that you have enough room away from the candles, etc. to safely use the parachute in your sanctuary.
Read, “Jesus is Alive” from the Children of God Storybook Bible, asking the children to consider how Mary, the women, and the disciples must have felt at different points. Then say: "Imagine how happy and excited they were to see Jesus! In church we have a word when we are happy and excited and think God is amazing. We packed up that word six weeks ago. But today is the day to unpack our word. Today is the day when we remember that Jesus is alive! Clap your hands if you are excited, too!”
Take out the parachute and have the children stand in a circle. Place the unpacked alleluia’s in the center of the parachute. Pray the following prayer and lift the parachute quickly to launch the unpacked alleluias when you say “Alleluia!” "Thank you God for Jesus Christ who loves us. We are so glad the tomb was empty on Easter. We praise you! You are amazing! Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen"
The Coming of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2
Children are seated in a circle, holding the parachute. The leader reads the story. When children hear the words “wind” or “Holy Spirit,” they shake the parachute to create a breeze. At the end, pray while gently lifting the parachute: “Fill us with your Spirit,” (lift and pause while letting the parachute gently fall down.) The leader repeats, speaking more softly each time, until the room is nearly silent. This is a good transition to quiet time or an end-of-class activity.
Find more thoughtful, engaging, and free faith-forming activities at ChristineVHides.com. The website is organized with helpful categories; so you are sure to find something for your home or ministry.
Christine V. Hides is the Director of Ministries with Children and Youth at Northbrook UMC, Content Manager for Christians Engaged in Faith Formation, a mother of two, and a certified deacon candidate in the United Methodist Church. She writes about Christian education at Bless Each One.
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