Lessons

Methodist History in a Bag: Amazing Teaching Tool for Confirmation

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Making history fun and engaging is difficult, but with such na rich history as Methodists, it’s absolutely essential to find ways to help our students understand and interact.  This tool takes a bunch of props and matches them with important moments from our shares history as Methodists.  Enjoy!  The idea is that you place all the props in a bag, and as you pull each one out you tell more of the story of the Wesleys and the people called Methodist.

Band Aid:
John was a sort of renaissance man, trying his hand at many different things. He wrote several books of medical remedies, though he had tried only ‘some’ of them. Some of his remedies made sense, while others were useless and random. Later, an actual doctor warned people about “this quack Mr. Wesley.”

Lighter:
John survived a house fire when he was six. He spent the rest of his life thinking he survived for a reason — God expected big things from him. Many of his brothers and sisters did not live past their first birthdays. June 17, 1703. John was 13th or 14th child, but only 7th to live past his first birthday.

Tassel:
John went to Oxford University, Christ Church. He wanted to become an ordained priest of the Church of England, like his father. He was working on advanced degrees when his younger brother came to college. John thought his brother should be more serious about religion. Charles remained unconvinced until the university encouraged tutors to teach the Articles of Religion. Then he and some freinds began to gather as a club to read Scripture and discuss. John encouraged them and met with them as well. They earned the derogatory name “methodists.” The group was also very involved in service, visiting inmates, etc.

Diary:
John kept an “exacter diary,” a diary for recording everything he did. He made entries for every 15 mintues. The code was a secret for many years, until an accidental discovery of a cheat sheet for the abbreviations. John kept as many as three different diaries at a time in his life.

Peaches:
John and Charles went to the American colonies (Georgia) as missionaries. They wanted to convert the Natives to Christianity. Though many things that happened during this time had a major impact on his life and understanding of Christianity, this was one of John’s biggest failures. Not only did the Natives hate him, but so did many of the colonists. He had to leave town quickly to avoid a lawsuit.

Heart:
John was very unsucessful in love. The woman he loved during his time in Georgia, Sophie Hopkey, betrayed him and married another man — while she was dating John! He was crushed, refused her communion, and was run out of town. The next woman he loved married another man — at Charles’ request! Finally, John did marry Mary Vazeille, but their marriage was never happy. He never had children, but Charles was happily married with kids.

Book of Common Prayer:
John was an ordained priest in the Church of England until the day he died. He never meant for Methodism to become a new church, merely a movement within his church. His biggest problems with the church? They weren’t pious enough in following the BCP, and no one cared about the common people. Religion was for show.

Boat:
On his sea voyage to America, there was an awful storm. John was scared to death. On the ship was another group of missionaries, the Moravians. They were not afraid, but in fact sang through the storm. John asked them about it, and they said their faith was so strong they weren’t afraid to die. John was a fair bit jealous of their faith and vowed to have a stronger faith.

Lighter:
John survived a house fire when he was six. He spent the rest of his life thinking he survived for a reason — God expected big things from him. Many of his brothers and sisters did not live past their first birthdays. June 17, 1703. John was 13th or 14th child, but only 7th to live past his first birthday.

Tassel:
John went to Oxford University, Christ Church. He wanted to become an ordained priest of the Church of England, like his father. He was working on advanced degrees when his younger brother came to college. John thought his brother should be more serious about religion. Charles remained unconvinced until the university encouraged tutors to teach the Articles of Religion. Then he and some freinds began to gather as a club to read Scripture and discuss. John encouraged them and met with them as well. They earned the derogatory name “methodists.” The group was also very involved in service, visiting inmates, etc.

Diary:
John kept an “exacter diary,” a diary for recording everything he did. He made entries for every 15 mintues. The code was a secret for many years, until an accidental discovery of a cheat sheet for the abbreviations. John kept as many as three different diaries at a time in his life.

Peaches:
John and Charles went to the American colonies (Georgia) as missionaries. They wanted to convert the Natives to Christianity. This was one of John’s biggest failures. Not only did the Natives hate him, but so did many of the colonists. He had to leave town quickly to avoid a mob.

Heart:
John was very unsucessful in love. The woman he loved most, Sophie Hopkey, betrayed him and married another man — while she was dating John! He was crushed, refused her communion, and was run out of town. The next woman he loved married another man — at Charles’ request! Finally, John did marry Mary Vazeille, but their marriage was never happy. He never had children, but Charles was happily married with kids.

Heating Pad:
Charles told John about his experience one night when he felt absolutely certain of God’s presence and love for even him. John, ever tentative about his own relationship to God, was jealous of his brother’s faith. A few nights later, while walking down Aldersgate Street, John had his own experience when he describes that “his heart was strangely warmed.” 

Running Shoes:
Not everyone liked John’s attempt to reach the common people. He often found himself in the wrong places and was swarmed by mobs of angry people. He was also so short that people who tried to punch his face would occasionally completely whiff. John tells of one violent mob in which he only prayed to defend himself. One of his attackers was so impressed with this that he protected John until they could get to safety.

Church:
It was considered proper to have services in a church only. John followed his friend George Whitefield who had begun preaching outside — again, to reach the common people. Because he did this, sometimes confliciting with and competing with ‘proper’ services, preachers didn’t like John. They refused to let him preach in their buildings. Once, John went back to preach at his father’s church. John had worked there for a short time. The preacher was so angry, the only place John could safely preach from was standing on his father’s gravestone.

Penny:
As Methodism grew, they formed “societies,” which were essentially unofficial churches. But John worried about people who didn’t have small group support for their faith. So they formed “classes.” Classes consisted of 12 people, generally based on geography. The leader was responsible for turning in 12 pence a week, one per person. But if someone in the class couldn’t pay, the leader had to contribute for them. Class membership was not voluntary. For those who did want even more small group time, there were “bands.” These groups had 5-10 people and were homogenous: women’s bands, men’s bands, married bands, etc. This was as intense as it got.

Keys:
Since the Methodist movment was attracting a lot of people who were not welcome in church, and since they needed a place to meet during the week, they purchased their own buildings and formed groups classed “societies.” Since this was not a church, John still encouraged them to go to church to receive the sacrament (communion).

Bible:
From the beginning and throughout his life, this is where everything stopped for John. Scripture was the most important consideration in everything. He was “a man of one book.”

Horse:
In the early days of American Methodism, there weren’t enough clergy to go around. Rather than making the people travel long distances, the clergy rode around on horses. They were called Circuit Riders. Periodically, Asbury would reassign the clergy to trade circuits.

Yellow Scarf:
Women were first given full clergy rights in 1956. Prior to that, women had been allowed to teach and to exhort, but not to preach. Exhorting was like preaching, except instead of starting with Scripture, they had to start with a story from their lives.

Cross and Flame:
The Methodist movement has split and merged in many different combinations over the centuries. The most significant merge was in 1968 when the Methodist Episcopal Church merged with the Evengelical United Brethren. Their new name was The United Methodist Church. Their symbol, the cross and flame, represents two churches together in one flame.

Chains:
The Methodist movement has split and merged in many different combinations over the centuries. The most significant split was over the issue of slavery. The church was greatly conflicted around this issue for some time, in great part because no one wanted the church (or its assets) to be divided.

Grape Juice:
In the 1920s, America witnessed a movement to abolish alcohol. The movement was largely led by women who were tired of dealing with their drunken fathers, husbands and brothers. The Methodist church also played a large part in this Prohibition movement. As a symbol of their comittment, the Methodists began serving communion with grape juice instead of wine. This tradition continues to this day. Welch, of Welch’s juice fame, was a Methodist. He wanted to find a way to make grape juice keep longer.

American Flag:
John Wesley did not want to see The Colonies secede from Britain, and he was opposed to the Revolutionary War. After American independence, the Anglican Church was invited to leave the country. There were no more priests to offer sacraments to the Methodists. John decided to resolve this crisis by ordaining two men as the first American Methodist bishops (though he really had no authority to do so). These men were Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury (Cokesbury, get it?). They then had the authority to ordain new Methodist clergy, and eventually even bishops. This is one of the reasons more traditional denominations find us questionable. We do not have the lineage of Apostolic Succession.

After 10 years of serving as pastor in local churches, Sharon now works on Conference Staff in Wisconsin. Her primary areas are camps, young people, and Safe Sanctuaries.

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