dreaming vs planning

Teaching Children about Dreaming vs. Planning

This object lesson uses a glob of play dough to show the difference between wanting something and putting a plan into action. It’s great for back to school time when everyone is setting their sights on reaching new dreams and learning God’s way for obtaining them.

Household Object

• Glob of play dough


Roll the play dough into a ball and using a blunt object, draw a smiley face on it.


Hold the glob of play dough in front of the children. This is Steve. Steve is a fairly happy guy. He has lots of friends. He has plenty to do on Saturdays and Sundays because he plays on a traveling soccer team. He gets invited to lots of birthday parties. He has a great Dane named Harley, who sleeps on his bed at night. Steve is never lonely.

He gets scared sometimes, looking at his parents and his big brother Robert. His parents are each about a hundred pounds overweight. His big brother Robert was average sized until he turned twelve, and then he started putting on weight. Steve could see that time coming up on him, and this year, he did notice his clothes fit tight around the waist, and when he wore a t-shirt, you could see the line where his belly hung over a bit.

Granted, Steve’s house was not a great one to be in if you want to stay in shape just naturally. His parents had a real thing for junk food. The bread drawer contained more chips than bread. His mom bought giant bins of licorice and Smarties at Sam’s Club. His dad loved snack cakes, and there was always an assortment of at least three different kinds.

Steve felt a little bit trapped. He could see himself gaining a little weight—following the same traditions as everyone else in his family. He loved soccer and did not want to be clogging his arteries or ruining his game with too much poundage. And yet…

Start putting pressure on Steve’s head so that his face gets a little wider, like a pumpkin. …And yet he had a huge family tradition of weight gain and poor eating habits to stare down if he wanted to change.

One day, Steve read in John 14:14 where Jesus said, “Ask anything in my name, and I will do it.” Great! He thought. I want to lose a little weight.  “In the name of Jesus,” he prayed. “Please help me lose weight.” He kept waiting. But it seemed nothing was happening. In fact...

Put a little more pressure on Steve’s head, so that now he looks like a pumpkin.…  In fact, Steve gained a couple more pounds.

What Steve didn’t realize is that if you want something from God, you have to step out in faith. And faith means action - forming a plan and believing that God will work with you. It means you step out in courage, that’s when God steps in.

Start to skinny Steve up. You’re going to make a real boy out of him with arms, legs, and a head. So don’t be afraid to roll him around and pull him apart a bit. As you are doing this, continue.

First, Steve had to talk to his mom and dad about their eating habits. “Instead of all these chips and cupcakes, I need carrots and celery and some nuts.” It really helped Steve’s mom that he was specific in what he needed. Since she wasn’t used to shopping that way, she would not have thought of it otherwise.

“As for the candy,” he told his mom, “I wish you would take it and hide it in your bedroom—somewhere where I can’t find it.”

“By the way,” he told his dad, who was usually home after school as his mom worked nights, “I won’t be watching our favorite shows with you on the days I don’t have soccer. I’m going outside to ride my bike. Or I’m going to walk Harley for a half mile. If you’d like to come out and throw some balls around with me, too, that would be cool.”

Show the students at this point that the smile has been either rubbed or smooshed off Steve’s face. While Steve is being transformed by his own plans, his smile got rubbed out. That’s okay. Change is not easy.

Some days Steve wants that candy and he thinks if he sees another carrot he’ll turn orange! And where is the Lord in all this? Didn’t Jesus promise to deliver something? It looks like Steve is doing all the hard work, and God is just sitting back.

One day, Steve actually sneaked into his parents’ room. His licorice cravings were out of hand. He wanted a few pieces. All of a sudden he got a text. “Hey! Wanna come out and play baseball?” It was his friend Katrina from next door. He was so distracted from the licorice that he could hardly remember why he went in there.

One day, he just collapsed in his old spot on the couch, feeling like he had zero energy. It would turn into an afternoon of TV watching, he just knew. There was his dad, standing in the doorway. “What are you doing?” he asked. “Get up! I just got this strange craving to go out and throw some balls with you.”

With his dad’s help, Steve got moving.

Sometimes God provides a miracle. But usually, He provides these little encouragements, like Katrina having it in her heart to play ball, or Steve’s Dad wanting to get outside, too. God wants us to step out in faith and courage. He wants us to develop the character that comes with persisting through struggles.

At first, Steve merely wanted something. Then he got his game plan. He set goals, got rid of bad food, and started exercising more.

Hold the new Steve up on the table. Steve quit wanting and started doing.  That was God’s plan for him. It is His plan for most of us.

If there’s something you really want to become this year, write down goals. Then write down daily plans and weekly plans. Then pray that God will do for you like He did for Steve—help you become the type of person who can change.

What are some things you would like God to help you change this school year? What goals can you set? What plans can you put in place so that you stop wanting and start planning? Let’s make that the focus of our prayers this week.

Copyright 2014 Mary Kate Warner