Have you ever thought about using Google Earth when telling a bible story to kids in Sunday School or other children’s ministry programs? Google Earth allows kids to actually see in 3D imagery the geographical features of the land where Jesus walked.
All good story tellers set the stage by first talking about the surroundings and what is going on before ever starting to tell the story. This is turn brings bible stories to life and makes them even more exciting to children. Of course, images from Google Earth are current 3D satellite images yet many biblical landmarks and locations from bible times still exist.
The country of Israel is the main focus of most bible stories. If you ask elementary church kids today to find Israel on the map, they usually struggle. Before introducing Google Earth, consider utilizing a regular world wall map and a globe. Ask kids to find where they live and then to find the country of Israel. Talk about the great distance between where they live and Israel. This reinforces the geography of the earth as you begin to focus on the lands of the bible.
The goal is to get students to realize that Israel is a country just like the United States is a country and that Israel was where Jesus lived on the earth for 33 years. Showing a video clip of Israel in the news is another way to reinforce the concept that Israel is a country.
At this point, I introduce Google Earth and give the kids a quick tutorial. I demonstrate the basics of the Google Earth and let them “fly to” different places to practice using the software and its features. One of the best features is the ability to create placemarks (bookmarks). Creating placemarks as part of preparing to teach the lesson will allow you to “fly” straight to a location when telling the Bible story.
The pictures users have uploaded of the actual sites are an added bonus. Some great places to “fly to” and incorporate into a bible story include the
- Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on water
- Garden Tomb where Jesus was buried
- Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went to pray before he was crucified
- City of Nazareth where Jesus was born
- Temple Mount in Jerusalem where Jesus and his disciples worshiped
- Western Wall or Wailing Wall (remnant of the ancient wall that surrounded the Jewish Temple’s courtyard and the site of Jewish prayer and pilgrimage today)
- Cities of Paul’s missionary journeys
- Coliseum in Rome, Italy (when talking about persecution of Christians)
Google Earth allows searching by country, state, city, zip code, specific geographic landmarks, specific address, and latitude and longitude. Virtual tours of multiple locations can even be created and saved for later use.
Users can choose to see any or all of the following layers:
- panoramio photos
- borders and labels
- 3D buildings
- Wikipedia entries
Google Earth is a free download available for almost any hardware platform. Google offers video tutorials for learning Google Earth at http://www.google.com/earth/learn/beginner.html. If you are new to Google Earth, you may want to check out the “Navigation” and “Placemarks and Tours” videos first.
I hope this has given you some ideas and helps you spread the good news of Jesus Christ in your children’s ministry program!