Run, Joseph, Run!

The story of Joseph is an exciting tale with twists, turns, and great character development. Start with Genesis 37 and keep reading until the end of the book, even if this is a well-known story. It’s good to remember the details! When we’re teaching children, we often need to simplify scripture for understanding and age-appropriateness. However, when combined with over-familiarity, this can begin to erase parts of the story from our minds, robbing us of the rich blessing that comes from the completeness of God’s holy Word. While we are earnestly devoting ourselves to teaching kids, we can’t neglect our own spiritual health!

Diving into Joseph’s story finds us swimming in various themes. We have a lot to learn from Jacob’s favorite son. One common take-away is that, through all the ups and downs of Joseph’s journey, God remained in control. The Lord guided each step Joseph took, leading him to a place where he could be the Lord’s instrument to deliver people from famine, as well as to the reconciliation of Joseph’s own family. Each trial and victory took Joseph to the next phase of his life, maturing him and blessing people around him. We see God’s direction in other lives in scripture. Jonah was taken toward Nineveh by way of storm and big fish. Ruth followed Naomi and ended up in Boaz’s field. Paul’s travels spread the news of Jesus exactly the way God intended. Our lives are similarly guided by the Lord. Proverbs 16:9 reminds us that “in their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”

As he established Joseph’s steps, he establishes ours. There is great comfort and encouragement there! As adults, we cling to this truth, and it’s important that we know it from a young age. It’s never too soon to understand that God is in charge, leading us down the path he designed for us before we were born. So, after hearing the story of Joseph, our church kids reviewed a memory verse that has become familiar through song:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your path straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

(Sing along here!)

Of course, the concept of God directing an entire life is a lot for young minds to comprehend. Let’s break it down into something easier to understand and have some fun!

We created marble runs out of cardboard tubes from toilet paper and paper towels. Just like we made a path and directed our marbles, God makes our path and directs us in our lives. Here’s how we did it.

1. Collect a BUNCH of cardboard tubes. We put a box in the church bathrooms with a note asking for empty toilet paper tubes for children’s ministry. Soon, church members were bringing tubes from home and we had plenty of supplies for our project!

2. Grab some foam core boards (poster board size- we have them at our local Dollar Tree!) and rolls of masking tape. This project works well in small groups of 3-4 kids, so make sure you have a foam board and roll of tape for each group.

3. Cut the tubes in half length-wise to make u-shaped channels for the marble to travel. Some tubes can be left whole as tunnels, but it helps to see your marble make its way down the run!

4. Decide how you’d like your marble run to go, keeping in mind that it must always take a downward path thanks to the rules of gravity. One simple way is to make a zig-zag of downward sloping tubes from top to bottom. There’s a lot of room for creativity, and some of our kids moved the course out three-dimensionally from the board, while others attempted stair-steps, funnels, and spirals to move their marble!

5. Use the masking tape to attach the tubes to the foam board and create your path. Occasionally test your progress to troubleshoot problem areas as you go.

6. When you’ve completed your architectural wonder, release your marble and watch it take the path you made!

Not only is this a fun illustration of a Biblical truth, it’s a great STEM project that encourages cooperation and teamwork. Together, we’re thinking creatively and making stories and principles memorable for all ages.

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