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People are fond of saying, "If God can use (fill in the blank), He can use anything!" I'm putting Him to the test: I'm making a ministry of model railroads.

I've found that a model railroad is filled with object lessons that I can use to teach children about God. My first attempts didn't work well, because I hadn't learned a basic lesson: if the trains are moving, the kids will be focusing on them and will pay zero attention to what I say. But now I stop the train when I'm talking, and can communicate truths like these:

An unfinished layout is still useful — trains can still run on it.We can be useful to God even though we're not finished (perfect) yet.
Cars follow the engine — they stay on track, they don't have to know where they're going, and they will get there.We follow Jesus — we stay on the right path, even if we don't know where we're going.
A car that won't stay on track gets set aside until it can be fixed.If we keep on sinning, God can't use us — we don't lose our salvation, but He will set us aside until we repent.
Different kinds of freight cars for different kinds of cargoes.Different gifts for different functions in the church.
If the train hides in the tunnel or building, it doesn't fool us — we know where it is.We can't hide our sin from God — He sees everything.
Mismatched coupler types — cars can't couple together.Unequal yoke — Christians & non-Christians as close friends or business partners.
Some structures were built from a kit, some from parts, some from scratch.God created everything out of nothing.
Switches — some lead to good paths, some lead to dead ends. To know which is which, you need a map.We make choices; some are good, some are bad. To make good choices, we need to read the Bible.
Bumpers keep cars on the track."Thou shalt not's" keep us out of trouble.
Electrical switches turn off track so a train can't run into trouble.God closes a door to keep us out of trouble.
Grain elevator — fills up, then empties. If all it does is fill up, it becomes useless.We learn and grow, but if we don't share what we've learned, we become useless.
The "boxcar" that's really an engine inside.Just because someone says he's a Christian doesn't make it so.
"Identical" tank cars are really different, but you have to look closely - road numbers are different.Some people look and sound just like they're Christian, but if you look carefully, you'll see that they are not.
Kids don't listen if the trains are moving — they get distracted.If we don't pay attention to what God is telling us, we could miss something important.
The steam engine is old, but it can still pull cars just fine.Don't let anyone tell you the Bible is an old-fashioned book that's not for us today.
Two-train operation works as long as each train stays on its own track. If they overlap, trouble follows.God gives us things to do. If we do our own work, that's good. If we try to do other people's work, that's bad.
Some boxcar doors open, some don't. There's no use forcing them.Some people are open to the Gospel, some aren't. There's no use forcing them.
The bridge is the only way across the upper level.Jesus is the only way to Heaven.

The reason the lesson works is that it takes no effort to make the kids think about the object lessons. Everybody loves trains!

I've already tried this lesson twice in my own junior-church class, at a friend's Royal Rangers meeting, and in the junior-church class of a church I visited on missionary deputation. One reason I keep a portable layout is so I can present the lessons anywhere. This "model railroad ministry" is available to any church that asks me to bring it. You who are reading this are welcome to use any of my ideas if you find them useful for your own life and ministry.

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