To encourage pupils to check things out for themselves before making a judgement about God, the Bible and Christianity
You will need:
A tin of (fake) dog food (see preparation); 3 plastic spoons
For your fake dog food, you will need the label from one tin of dog food; another tin of food of the same size as the dog food (ideally with a ring pull at the top); enough chocolate muffin to fill the tin; orange jelly; and, sellotape.
Carefully take the bottom off your tin of food. Empty the tin of its contents and wash it out. Make the jelly (ideally slightly thicker than the instructions) and cut up the muffins. Place the muffins into the upturned tin until full, and pour in the jelly to fill up any spaces. Leave the tin in a fridge over night to set. When set, carefully place the bottom of the tin back in place, and use sellotape to keep it in place. Now carefully remove the label from the tin of dog food and attach it around your tin of fake dog food with the sellotape. Try to do this as carefully as possible so people won’t notice the join. You should now have what looks like a sealed tin of dog food with a sealed lid and ring pull intact!
*Please note, this is not an original illustration, but has been used in many situations.
Introduce yourself and thank the school for having you. Then look at your watch before pretending to panic a little. Try to look a little embarrassed as you explain that you’re on a new diet and it’s important that you eat at certain times. Look apologetically at the staff as you take your pre-prepared tin of ‘dog food’ out of the bag. Hold the tin at the bottom with the seam of the label towards you. Make sure the label is clear for the pupils to see, but the false bottom is covered by your hands.
Talk as you slowly open the dog food. Comment on the fact that you’ve seen the adverts and the dogs always look so fit and strong; that they never seem to be carrying extra weight. Mention how shiny their hair is and how healthy their teeth look. Include something about how there must be something good about it. Over sell it! You can even add a comment about trying cat food, but it being too fishy for your tastes.
Now start to open the tin and take your time as you put the fork in a lift the food out, ready to eat. Have a little sniff of the food – and comment on how appetising it smells. Savour a mouthful. Comment on things like the contrast between the jelly that just slips down the throat and the meat which is so satisfying a chewy.
By this stage you will be getting a lot of odd looks and sounds of disapproval. Be aware of keeping the place calm! Pretend to notice their disgust for the first time. Ask them what’s wrong and comment on how they shouldn’t judge without having tried it. See if there are a couple of pupils who want to give it a go… There are usually a one or two. Check they don’t have any food allergies or religious restrictions, because you can’t guarantee what’s in the dog food! Using the spare forks, give them a mouthful and just ask them if they like it – try not to give them a chance to say what it is.
Now explain to the pupils what is really in the tin and how you swapped it. There will be a lot of relieved faces – not least, amongst the staff!
Ask about why so many of them pulled faces at you and made disapproving sounds when you started eating? Presumably it was because they saw the tin and the label and assumed you were going to eat dog food! And then, when the lid came off and they saw the jelly and the brown chewy looking stuff, it reaffirmed their preconceptions. They were probably thinking something along the lines of ‘this person’s a little odd’; ‘steer clear’…
Talk about how they made a judgement without being aware of all the facts. They didn’t know that the tin wasn’t in fact, a tin of dog food, but a tin of cake and jelly… But that didn’t matter. They had already made up their mind and most of them weren’t going to try it. One or two brave individuals did, and their view was changed!
Explain how sometimes you have to experience something before you can truly make a judgement about it. Talk about how, if there is a new film out, there will be lots of reviews about it, and they can choose to believe what others say – and that might convince them to either watch it or not – but, they will never know for sure whether it really was any good or not, unless they watched it for themselves. Sometimes you just have to experience something before you know the truth!
Say that that is pretty much what the Bible says about God. ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’ (Psalms 34:8) is what it says in a part called the Psalms. Talk about how, in your experience, a lot of people make assumptions about God and the Bible without ever trying it out for themselves. Others have told them that God doesn’t exist; or that He’s irrelevant; or that Christianity is boring; or whatever it is… To be honest, often the people who tell them these things haven’t even tried it!
Leave them with a challenge – to check things out for themselves. To experience something before making a decision. Who knows, they may find they’re pleasantly surprised by what they discover… Just like if they’d tasted your ‘dog food’!
Tell them you’re going to take a moment to reflect: Suggest they close their eyes and consider whether there are things they have made a judgement about without actually experiencing for themselves. Ask them about their view on God? Has that come from experience? Or an assumption made from a distance.
Ask the pupils if they want to join you in a short prayer… Dear God, help me to check things out for myself before making judgements about people, their beliefs and You. Help me be open to new things. Amen