Rotation.org Writing Team
Kingdom Parables: Seed, Leaven, Treasure, Pearl
The "Cinnamon Roll Parables" (Cooking) Workshop
Summary of Activities
Students will prepare and bake "30 minute start to finish" cinnamon rolls where the ingredients and assembly process are taught in such a way as to teach the four Kingdom parables.
Scripture for the Lesson
- Parable of the Mustard Seed - Matthew 13:31-32
- Parable of the Leaven (Yeast) - Matthew 13:33
- Parable of the Treasure in the Field - Matthew 13:44
- Parable of the Pearl - Matthew 13:45-46
Additional Scripture: "What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it?" Luke 13:18 (NRSV)
See the Bible Background at rotation.org for this set's complete list of objectives.
Notes about the Recipe & Process
There are many recipes for cinnamon rolls. The recipe we've chosen from "Pop Sugar Foods" can be assembled, baked, and ready to eat within 30-35 minutes. It also comes with a helpful instructional video showing you the entire process. By using ready-to-bake crescent roll dough, you don't have to wait for the bread to rise. We are adding plumped raisins to the recipe to visually and tastily represent the mustard seed and pearls from the parables.
One can of crescent dough makes eight cinnamon rolls. Using this calculation, you could allow each student to make their own batch of three or four rolls in a smaller foil tin, or baking dish, so that they have a greater sense of "my Kingdom Rolls." Or, you could bake several batches which students could share outside the classroom.
If you do not have time or the facilities to bake the rolls, place them in foil tins to be baked at home. In lieu of baking, mix the topping and scoop it into sealable sandwich-sized bags to go home with the unbaked rolls. Include a note about the "Kingdom Rolls" and baking time. (Smaller batches in foil tins will bake faster.)
Important Cooking Workshop Note:
In the Rotation Model's Cooking Workshop, sometimes it is the assembly process that has a teachable moment related to the scripture, and sometimes it is the ingredients or final result that serve as talking points or scripture memory "hook." This lesson has a little of all three. It really depends on the teacher to make the connections as they feel the need, and as the age of their students might allow.
*It will be extremely helpful if the teacher "making the connections" has an assistant to handle the ingredients and utensils, otherwise, the teacher will get distracted by the "process." We also suggest you have a volunteer who is solely responsible for the yeast prep and demonstration.
Taste and smell are powerful memory making senses. Make the most of them to hang your lesson on. For more info, see the Rotation.org article on the Cooking Workshop.
Preparation and Materials
- Read the Bible Background and scripture.
- Watch the video clip explaining how to make the cinnamon rolls.
- Collect the ingredients listed in the recipe at the END of this lesson. Have all the packages opened and ready to use.
- Utensils Needed: Baking dishes for the rolls, hot pads, spray oil, a clean surface to lay out the dough, mixing bowls, spoons, measuring spoons.
- Plates, forks, and napkins to enjoy the fruits of the Kingdom.
- Hand sanitizer.
- See the Yeast Demonstration section and print the yeast experiment from Sciencebob's website. BIG TIP: It takes 20 minutes for the yeast to inflate the balloon. So have one of your assistant's start one bottle off to the side at the beginning of the class.
- Two small bottles, several small balloons, packets of sugar, packets of yeast.
- Arrange for two assistants (see note* above).
The following lesson steps and suggested "what to say" assume you know the recipe and have all the ingredients, utensils, and workspace ready to go. See the recipe at the end of this lesson.
The teacher will be saying the four parables OUT LOUD as they lead students in the preparation of the buns. If you want them to read from the Bible, you can save this for the baking time, as you don't want ingredients smeared on the Bible.
Welcome your students. Tell them about today's topic and explain how today's lesson will unfold. Double check that your ovens are pre-heating.
"The Cinnamon Roll Parables"
You will be walking your students through the recipe, pausing to make parable connections and ask questions as their age and attention allows. If you miss a point, come back to it during the Baking Time or "Taste and See" conclusion.
Here is a suggested "script" of things to say as you direct the assembly of the recipe. Think of it as a "table top re-telling" of the parable, and the ingredients as the parable props.
As students help unroll the dough...
Jesus talked a lot about the coming of God's Kingdom into the world. And in fact, he said it was already here —IF you knew what to look for. Our dough is like the world.
As students insert plump raisins into the dough...
Jesus told many stories called parables to describe the Kingdom. One of parables said that the Kingdom was like small mustard seeds that were being sown into the world. And those tiny Kingdom seeds would grow into a large tree that birds could safely nest in. Our raisins are like a small mustard seed sown into the dough which represents the world.
As students spread the butter on the dough...
Then Jesus said that the Kingdom was kind of like a woman who mixed yeast (or leaven) into bread dough to make it rise. We'll learn more about this parable of the yeast while our cinnamon rolls are baking.
As students mix and spread the cinnamon and sugar onto the dough...
Then Jesus told another parable saying the Kingdom was like a treasure someone had hidden in a field. Let's spread our treasure onto the dough.
As students rolls the dough...
The Kingdom was hidden in the field, kind of like we're hiding the cinnamon sugar in the dough. Not everyone believed in God's Kingdom. They didn't think God was real. They ignored the idea that God was around them. But then one day, someone like you stumbled upon the treasure, and knew it was the most important thing in the whole world. So you bought the cinnamon rolls, I mean "field."
Cut the roll into slices, and put the slices into a greased baking dish.
As students add either a raisin "pearl" or extra bit of cinnamon/sugar/butter to the middle of each roll...
Jesus also said that God's Kingdom was like someone who bought and sold pearls, but was always looking for the BEST pearl ever. And then one day, the pearl merchant FOUND the Kingdom of God, I mean –great pearl, and gave up everything they owned to own that pearl. I think what that means is this: when you find God and find God's goodness and mercy, you want to give your whole life to it.
Now let's put our Cinnamon Parable into the oven.
During Baking Time
Depending on your oven, and the number of rolls you put in it, you will have about 10 minutes for this demonstration, plus a few minutes for clean-up. It might be a good idea to assign this demonstration to an assistant to prepare and teach it.
A Leaven (Yeast) Demonstration
Because we used pre-made dough, and because many children have never seen bread being made, the concept of "leaven" may be new to them. This simple demonstration helps them think about the Kingdom as "that which lifts up, expands, and provides a tasty flavor and texture."
Use the "Yeast Inflates Balloon" printable experiment from Sciencebob.com
BIG TIP: It takes 20 minutes for the yeast to inflate the balloon. So start one bottle off to the side at the beginning of the class. Set up another bottle during the Baking Time, saying the following things to make the lesson connection, and then pull out your first bottle to show the results. The second bottle will inflate by the end of class time.
What to say: Yeast is a good microbe that converts sugars in the dough to carbon dioxide and flavors (among other things). The air is trapped by baking the dough as it fills with the air, and the microbes are killed off. The chemical process also imparts that delicious bread flavor. ("Wiki" it for more info.)
After a minute or two in the bottle of warm water, pass the bottle around and let students smell the yeast. It will smell a bit like baked bread.
What to conclude: Jesus is saying that God's Kingdom is the unseen ingredient that is expanding and changing things for the better. It's what lifts us up, helps us rise above the bad, turns us into "bread" for the world. Etc etc. And let's keep in mind that Jesus mentioned the woman who works the yeast INTO the world, into our lives. Who is that woman? Could be God. Could be you. Could be Sunday School. Could be anything that helps us grow towards God and do good things.
O Taste and See (a conclusion)
Make a quick glaze of sugar using the recipe and give students spoons to scoop it and drizzle it over their warm cinnamon parable.
As students taste the results of their parable, reinforce key points and add any additional thoughts. Remind them that SHARING is also a HIDDEN MEANING in Jesus' four Kingdom parables.
- The Kingdom Mustard Tree shared a place for the birds to nest.
- The woman's leavened bread would have been shared with others.
- The treasure would have been used for unselfish purposes.
- And the pearl would have been shown to all to teach them about the Kingdom.
(These kind of "story extensions" are part of the power of parables. They make you think, ask new questions, and have new insights.)
Save some cinnamon rolls to share with others, and close with prayer.
The following recipe makes 8 cinnamon rolls. Multiply based on the size of your class and desired number of rolls. It is based on the "30 minute cinnamon roll recipe" at Pop Sugar Food's website.
1 package crescent roll dough (makes 8 cinnamon rolls)
The Cinnamon Spread
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 packed cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Raisins to represent seeds and pearls (plump in a bowl of warm water 15 minutes ahead of time)
Sugar Glaze for 8 Rolls
2 tablespoons soft salted butter
2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
2 to 3 tablespoons of lemon or orange juice (adjust to thin the glaze)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar to sprinkle over the finished rolls (if desired)
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Spray baking dish.
- Unroll the crescent dough on board or parchment paper.
- Lightly brush dough with 1/3 of the melted button.
- Spread the cinnamon mixture spread all around the dough, leaving 1/4" around edge free of spread. Drizzle last amount of butter.
- Roll up the dough, sealing final edge to dough.
- Cut dough log into 8 slices and place rolls in baking dish.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.
- Glaze and enjoy!
For Younger Students: Have extra helpers.
For those with a Short Class-time: Pre-make a dish or two of rolls and pop in the oven at the beginning of class, so that they're ready to eat when the students finish making their own. Have the students make their own rolls, and then divide up the rolls into three or four rolls per student to place in a lightly greased FOIL DISH, to seal and go home with baking instructions.
Pop Sugar Foods website.
Written by Neil MacQueen for the Rotation.org Writing Team
Copyright 2017, Rotation.org Inc.