How do I use visual aids to teach the Tabernacle to children?

Tabernacle Sunday school class

The tabernacle of Moses can be a difficult subject to teach, especially to children. How do you explain the meaning of this seemingly obsolete structure, its strange furnishings, and all the complicated priestly rituals related to it?

Pam*, a children’s ministry director at a California church, found that with the help of the free Sunday school lessons and painting guide downloaded from GoodSeed, her first-to-fifth-grade Midweek Group was soon absorbed in the great visual aid God gave the Israelites that points to Christ.

I love Old Testament history, and I wanted the children to understand what I understood about the tabernacle,” she says.

She ordered the tabernacle model kit and had her class of nine put the model together themselves–from threading the fence posts to painting the intricate details on the high priest’s breastplate. Each child chose to participate according to his or her ability.

“We’re like the tribes of Israel!” they said enthusiastically after Pam mentioned that this was also how the Israelites contributed to the tabernacle construction.

“every skilled person to whom the LORD has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary [is] to do the work …” (Exodus 36:1)

Each week, as the children put another part of the tabernacle in place, Pam taught about it with the help of the Sunday school lessons. “It was excellent material,” she says. “The program was amazing. It was easy for the children to understand–even the younger ones.”

Learning about the tabernacle brought out Old Testament truths that are still relevant today. The children gained an important insight when Pam explained that the gate was always on the east so the Israelites faced west when they entered–a direct contrast to the pagan sun worshippers of the day. “The children came to the understanding that God wants us to do the opposite of what the world wants us to do,” she says.

The rich meanings behind the tabernacle were made clearer as the children painted and handled each item.

The children’s biggest insight came during the lesson about the high priest, who had to take blood into the Holy of Holies year after year. “They saw that, in contrast, Jesus died for our sins once and for all.”

Pam also recalls a little girl named Shelley who had difficulty with the idea of sacrificing animals. “She thought taking the blood of the animals was so mean. The animals did nothing wrong, but yet they had to die.” So Pam took Shelley back to the beginning, where God killed innocent animals to clothe Adam and Eve after they sinned.

Learning about animal sacrifices reminded her that one cannot be with God without purity,” Pam says. “In the same way the innocent animals died, Jesus, who was pure and innocent, shed His blood to cover our sins.”

As understanding dawned, Shelley grasped more clearly that “it is the blood of Jesus that covers my sin!”

Taking on the daunting subject of the tabernacle proved fruitful as Pam wrapped up the lessons. “These children wanted to know truth, and the visual aid made it so clear for them. After class, they were asking the adults at the church what they knew about the tabernacle and how it related to Jesus!” she says.

She continues: “Not only did the children learn; I learned too. I firmly believe that, to fully understand what Jesus did in the New Testament, you have to understand who He was in the Old Testament. The tabernacle is a powerful visual aid pointing to Christ, and teaching about it is the perfect way to bridge the Old and New Testaments.”

(*Name changed as per GoodSeed policy.)