A Sister, Brother, and the Gospel Report Card

One Sunday at our church, we taught a lesson entitled “Jesus at the Temple” from Luke 2:22-52. The lesson materials taught the stories of Mary and Joseph presenting Jesus in the Temple and also Mary and Joseph losing Jesus at the Temple when he was a 12 year-old boy together as one lesson. The emphasis of the lesson was Jesus’ perfect obedience. Mary and Joseph presented Jesus on the eighth day to fulfill the law (v. 22, 27). Even later on when his parents were upset about losing him, Jesus was in his Father’s house following his Father’s will (v. 49). And afterward he returned to Nazareth where he was obedient to his parents (v.51) and grew in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man (v. 52).

The lesson emphasized Jesus’s perfect obedience.

During a mid-morning service, there as a near disaster that turned into a gospel opportunity. On this day, a sister and brother struggled to sit and listen well during the large group lesson. Later we discovered that the older brother had taken his little sister's toy just before the assembly began. She was angry and began to pinch him. One of our team members separated them and talked to the little sister about how the way she was responding was not Christ-like. But every time we thought there was calm, the girl would sneak back over to where her brother was sitting and begin to pinch and grab at the toy again. When she was kept from antagonizing her brother, she got very angry and had to be restrained. Her classroom teacher took her aside with a leader until she could calm down and we could understand the situation better. 

When the large group lesson was over, we transitioned to our classroom small groups, and the kids calmed down a bit. That’s the time that classroom teachers review the story with the kids and begin to talk about personal application. Pete, the classroom teacher for these siblings, took out the God Report Card, and object lesson our team adapted from chapter 2 of Jack Klumpenhower's book, Show Them Jesus. Here’s how that object lesson works. The teacher has 2 manilla envelopes with “Report Card” written on them. Inside each envelope, there is a report card. On one, the word “Me” is in the name line, and on the other, “Jesus” is in the name line. Kids are asked to imagine that this is their report card that they will show to God. But instead of earning grades in math and science they will earn grades in subjects like honesty and generosity.

It was simultaneously my most stressful and most meaningful experience serving in children’s ministry.

By this point in the class, the sister and brother who fought earlier were feeling some shame and guilt over their sin. They didn’t give themselves very good grade. But Pete explained that it’s worse than we know. Because God demands perfection, we earn all Fs. When Pete pulled out the second envelope with “Jesus” written on the name line, the brother and sister sat with rapt attention as Pete explained that Jesus got an A+ in every area—obeying his parents, generosity, honesty, and even forgiveness. Then, Jesus put his report card in our envelope. When we talk about Jesus taking our sin to the cross, it means that He traded His perfect life with our imperfect one. It was like Jesus taking home a report card full of F’s to God the Father and then giving us his A+ life. Those two siblings were amazed that Jesus would give his report card—his perfect obedience—to us. 

I debriefed the discipline situation and the lesson with Pete on the phone later in the week. He told me that Sunday was "simultaneously his most stressful and most meaningful experience serving in children’s ministry." We learned that a difficult time of classroom management can be an invitation to share the good news. Pete was excited about coming back the next week to share the gospel again with those kids. I'm excited about it too.