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Bible passage: Genesis 4:1-16
Background: The Bible doesn’t explain why God preferred Abel’s offering to Cain’s, and the key verse (4:7) is very difficult to follow in Hebrew. The writer of Hebrews says that “by faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did” (Hebrews 11:4). Perhaps the difference lay in the men’s hearts and intentions.
Cain’s murderous reaction suggests sibling rivalry, and this offers a way into the story with the children. The following session begins by inviting them to consider how they compare themselves with others. It leads them to explore how they are each unique and special to God, and that the best thing we can offer him is ourselves.
Welcome the children as they arrive and chat about who we compare ourselves with and why. Friends at school? Siblings? Celebrities? Friends on social media? How does it feel when we compare ourselves with other people?
Put the children into pairs to play competitive games using just their hands, for example ‘rock, paper, scissors’ or thumb-wrestling (for a fun version, see Jane McGonigal’s ‘Massively multi-player thumb-wrestling’ on YouTube). Talk together about how it feels to win or lose.
You will need: face paint or eyeshadow; a body outline marked out on the floor in chalk or masking tape in one corner of the room; a bag of cheap potatoes of various sizes and shapes; a toy lamb
Explain that you’re going to tell this story back to front, starting with the last thing that happened. Choose a volunteer and mark their forehead with face paint, then send them to the other side of the room. Wonder together about what the mark means and why this person has been sent away.
Then say that you’re about to see what happened just before this. Gather your group around the body outline on the floor. Wonder together about what this shape means. What might have happened here? Gather some feedback from the children. Then explain that you’re going to tell the story from the beginning to find out how these things came to be:
You remember Adam and Eve, the first people? They had two baby boys who grew up into very different men. Cain was a farmer and his brother Abel was a shepherd. Move back to the centre of the room and choose two volunteers. Give them the lamb and the potatoes.
Abel did herding, feeding and lambing; Cain did digging, sowing and harvesting. One day, the two brothers made an offering to God. Choose someone to be God, and invite your volunteers to present the offerings as you tell the story.
“Lord, this is for you,” said Abel, giving God his best lamb. His brother gave God some things he had pulled out of the ground that morning. Perhaps they were potatoes like these. “Here you are, God,” said Cain.
Now, God gladly accepted Abel’s gift, but he paid no attention to Cain’s offering. In fact, God completely ignored Cain. Encourage the God volunteer to respond accordingly to the brothers, for example by shaking Abel’s hand and turning his back on Cain.
Cain was furious! God said: “Why are you so cross? I’ll accept the best you can offer me, but watch out that your worst side doesn’t get the better of you.”
Cain turned to Abel and said: “How about a walk?”
The two brothers went off together across the fields.
Much later, only Cain came back. God said: “Where’s your brother?” and Cain shrugged. Gather your group around the body outline on the floor.
Everything was quiet, but out in the fields there was blood on the ground, which spoke loud and clear. It said: “MURDER!”
God said: “Cain! You’ve killed your brother! Your punishment is that you’ll find it difficult to grow anything from now on, and this is no longer your home. You’ll always be on the run.”
Cain cried: “But then I won’t belong anywhere! Anyone could kill me!” Summon the marked volunteer.
But God made his mark on Cain to protect him from harm. Then Cain left his farm, his home and God, and went a long way away. Send the marked volunteer to the other side of the room.
Ask the children these questions, making sure everyone has the chance to contribute:
- Which bit of the story can you imagine most clearly?
- I wonder why God liked Abel’s offering but not Cain’s…
- What would you write in thought bubbles for Cain and Abel?
- What do you think about Cain’s punishment?
- What questions would you like to ask God about this story?
You will need: small boxes or cardboard tubes; paper; pens; scissors; sticky tape; shiny gift wrap; ribbon
Remind the children that Cain offered his crops to God, while Abel offered his best lambs. What could we offer God? Encourage responses by asking questions. Does God want our electronic devices? Our money? Or something else? What can we give? What could we do for God? Allow plenty of time for the children to reflect on what they could offer God, then write it down and gift-wrap it in a parcel addressed to him.
You will need: the potatoes from ‘Bible story’
Give everyone a potato. Allow time for them to study their potato closely and discover something unique about it. Go around the circle with each person introducing their potato and explaining what is special about it.
Say that each of these potatoes is unique and special, and they are only spuds. Think how much more wonderfully God has made each of you! Explain that you’re going to ask God to help everyone see how unique and special we are in his eyes:
“Lord, help me to see why I am special. Show me how to offer the best of myself to you.”
Pause for a moment, then invite everyone to offer their prayers by building a potato prayer cairn. Say “Amen” together at the end. As a final challenge, can the children spot their own potato in the pile?
Supporting documentsClick link to download and view these files
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