In order to understand an idea it is sometimes useful to see it. Here are three ways to use props to teach texts.
First, the Bible is replete with metaphors, picture words and illustrations. If a text mentions something you have in your house bring it to class and use it to explain the text. For example, James uses the metaphor of a mirror:
22 But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does (James 1:22-25).
Bring a mirror to class and use it to talk about the meaning of the text. Show the mirror to your class, telling them to look at themselves. Then explain that the Bible is like a mirror – it tells you what your new nature looks like. To read and obey the word is not merely to carry out an order, but to get a vision, a clear mental picture, of who you really are. James says that you should live in accordance with who you see in the mirror and not forget who you are. The fool, as James tells us, is one who sees himself as he is described in scripture, but then forgets.
Second, students might understand a narrative better if they can see it. This works well with a scene like Adam and Eve in the garden. Try giving your students modeling clay and ask them to create the scene of the serpent’s temptation. They need to create a tree, apples, a serpent, Adam and Eve (appropriately attired with leaves) and the river. Rather than merely listening to the story, students have to reconstruct the story and will have a better grasp of what is happening.
Finally, some ideas can be illustrated using a physical symbol. This is especially useful in helping students understand something that cannot be seen, a concept or idea. Although the effects of sin are seen in particular actions sin is also a concept or idea. I once brought a cup filled with a mixture of black paint, dirt and water into class and dumped it on a table. I asked them to imagine what they would do if such a substance came out of their taps in their homes. This formed the basis for a discussion about sin – its origin, its cause, its effects and its solution.