Coloring Jesus

At a recent meeting, one of the leaders in my congregation recounted a conversation where she asked her daughter what she liked best about coming to church.

After thinking for a moment, her daughter replied, “I love being with my friends and coloring Jesus.” I wasn’t surprised to hear the reference to friends, but the phrase “coloring Jesus” brought me up short. I don’t think I had heard those two words together before. What did she mean? The young girl’s mother explained her daughter often brought home pictures from Sunday School that depicted Bible stories about Jesus. While the class learned together about Jesus, her little one loved to color those pictures of Jesus in action healing people, teaching his disciples, or holding children.

I love the image of a room full of children “coloring Jesus,” bringing life to stories that can seem old, distant, and confusing. In the hands of these children, Jesus becomes a real person, with clothes and hair and feet. The scenery around him takes shape. His friends and followers have personality. I also love that no two pictures will look alike. Jesus’ skin, robe, eyes, and surroundings will differ depending on the imagination of the child (and the available crayon). This isn’t to suggest that Jesus is what we make of him but rather to acknowledge that multihued images of Jesus reflect the beauty of the diverse Body of Christ. I especially love how the task of coloring immerses the kids in the story, turning a quick read with a life lesson or moral into an unhurried encounter with time and room for questions, opinions, and connections.

I’m considering passing out crayons and Sunday School sheets during my next sermon. As a preacher, I am always looking for ways to bring the stories of Jesus to life and connect with the experiences of a diverse body of followers. I wonder if people would participate, and if so, if it would invite them into a deeper experience with the Word of God. Then again, if we’re at our best as preachers, would we need the crayons?