Use one or both of these questions to introduce the lesson:
1. What are some of your favorite children’s stories? Include ones that you remember being told and stories or books you read to your children or grandchildren. Why do you think storytelling is one of the most common teaching methods for children?
2. What stories have you been asked to read repeatedly? In your experience, does understanding the point of a story grow after repeated readings, or as the hearer grows older? Explain.
Read Mark 4:24, 25, 33, 34.
1. What is the difference between listening and merely hearing? Try to paraphrase verses 24 and 25 to explain what is being measured, given, and taken depending on how carefully we hear the teachings of Jesus. What seems to matter more to Jesus—our intellect or our interest? Defend your answer.
2. Tell about a time when you felt overwhelmed by the amount of information you were receiving all at once. Referring to verses 33 and 34, how did Jesus keep his disciples from suffering information overload? How can we imitate Jesus in that way when we teach others about him?
Read Mark 4:26-29.
3. Imagine having a job in which your boss demanded big results but gave no further direction. How successful do you think you would be under those circumstances? Review this parable and explain God’s plans for his growing kingdom.
4. President John F. Kennedy is remembered for admonishing Americans, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” The growing seed parable of Jesus focuses on these same two points for citizens of God’s kingdom. From this parable, list our responsibilities and God’s responsibilities for kingdom growth.
Read Mark 4:30-32.
5. Jesus spoke about founding a worldwide kingdom with a handful of followers in a small nation occupied by an imperial army. How does the mustard seed parable address the questions Jesus’ followers would have had?
6. The Roman Empire, like other human empires, conquered nations and made them servants. Notice what Jesus said about providing a shady spot to perch. How would God’s kingdom differ from other kingdoms regarding its subjects?
7. These two parables use agricultural terms. Try to retell either parable with other terms. For example, how would you retell a parable to a baker, a musician, or a sports fan?