There are many creative ways to explore the Bible. Often overlooked is science. God has created an incredible world full of fascinating laws and elements. Use science to illustrate and bring your lessons to life.
Here are four simple experiments to get you started.
Elephant toothpaste: Small things make a big difference
Even though two substances have everything required to create a third, they may not have the ability to combine because energy is required. That’s where a catalyst comes in. Adding a little of a third substance causes a major change to occur. Making “elephant toothpaste” illustrates this well and uses inexpensive ingredients you may already have. To a mixture of soap and hydrogen peroxide (and food coloring if you wish), add a little dry yeast that has been activated in warm water. When you do combine them in a bottle, the result is a tube of warm bubbles that looks a bit like toothpaste for an elephant. This video has all the instructions you need.
Use the “elephant toothpaste” to illustrate how being faithful in the small things to which God calls us can make a huge difference in our world — how a faithful shepherd boy became a great king or how 12 disciples began a movement that transformed the lives of billions.
Particle/Wave duality helps explain the trinity
Begin with a simple explanation of the difference between a particle and a wave. At the most basic level, when a particle hits a piece of paper, you see a dot; if a wave hits the paper, it makes more of a line. However, when it comes to the tinier bits of creation — like photons (a particle of light) or electrons — they push the boundaries of what we can imagine. When put to the test, each of these tiny particles will show themselves as two completely different categories of substance. Tested one way, they will appear irrefutably as particles; but change the test slightly and the results show them to be waves.
So which are they? Are they particles or waves? The answer is both. This seems counterintuitive, but somehow, these two unique substances are bound together into a single tiny piece of creation. This can help us explore (or at least illustrate) the fact that the Trinity is three unique beings while being a single being.
If you want to do the experiment yourself (or with a small group), you’ll need a laser pointer, some black electrical tape and some small floral wire or any thin wire. There’s a great video showing the homemade version of the experiment, and another that explains the science behind it. The experiment may be best suited for a small group setting, or if it looks too hard to recreate, you could always show a short segment of the latter video to get the point across. Your science nerds will love it.
Breaking surface tension and fleeing from sin
We have all seen the advertisements that show the magic moment when the newest dish detergent hits a greasy pan, and it becomes sparkling clean. While the ads exaggerate, the result is not far from what actually happens. Water’s molecular structure causes it to have something called surface tension. That tension makes water pretty poor at washing anything by itself because all the dirt will simply sit on top of the water. If, however, you add some soap, the soap breaks the tension and the combination removes the grease.
Illustrate this by filling a bowl or plate with water and pouring a little pepper on top. Then, dip the tip of your finger in your dish soap of choice and touch the center of the pepper-covered water. This simple surface tension experiment is striking. All of the oil will move away to the edges of the water.
Scripture talks similarly about sin. Just as the water cannot remove the grease entirely, we do not have the power to cleanse ourselves of sin. If we work hard, we might be able to do a little, but we can never deal with it all. However, as we surrender our hearts to God, the Holy Spirit (like the dish soap) empowers us to flee from sin and live holy lives.
Purple flowers and the abundance of our hearts
Beautiful flowers are directly affected by the water in which they are placed. This is best seen by using a white flower like a carnation. If you take fresh flowers and put them in colored water, the water will move up the stem and eventually begin changing the color of the flower.
Jesus says that people are the same way. If we allow ourselves to be surrounded by sinful things and continue to take those things into our hearts, they will be reflected publicly as well. Or, as Jesus puts it, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
TIP: Since this one takes a bit of time, it can be a great way to add continuity between two weeks with placing the flower in the water the first week and seeing the transformation the next.
We stand in a long line of people who were willing to engage with science. John Wesley valued observation to support hypotheses. Having fun with teaching is key, and making it interactive is even better. Whether you create elephant toothpaste or try to explain the Trinity through the particle/wave duality, we hope these science illustrations will help you connect the people of God with the message of hope.
When Jeremy and his wife are not playing with their four children, he oversees youth and college ministries and leads the evening worship service at Christ UMC in Mobile, Ala. Jeremy is an author of several books and resources that you can find at JeremyWords.com or follow him on Twitter!