BIBLE PASSAGE: 1 Kings 19
BACKGROUND: For most of this story, Elijah is a strong, brave, faithful and slightly scary prophet of God. In the chapter immediately preceding this passage, he and God have defeated the prophets of Baal and Elijah has put them all to the sword. Yet a death threat from Jezebel sends him running into the desert, ready to give everything up. From the outside this seems an overreaction, but anyone who has had a mountain-top experience will know that the aftermath can be very difficult. Self-doubt, exhaustion and anxiety often follow. This service will help people recognise this and explore how God supports us through these times.
OPTION 1: How do you feel?
You will need: various emojis (drawn or printed out); pens; Post-it notes
Before the service, stick your emojis around the entrance of your worship area. As people arrive, give them a few Post-it notes and pens. Ask them to think about a really good time they have had in the last week (or over the past few weeks). Encourage them to write these things on their Post-it notes and stick them to the most appropriate emoji.
They should do the same with any bad times they have had recently. Make sure younger children get the help they need to take part.
OPTION 2: Creative prayer
You will need: various stimuli for prayer, such as stones, shells, candles, holding crosses and sand
Spread out your creative prayer resources before the service, and as people arrive encourage them to explore the resources and use them to talk to God about how they are feeling. You may need to have people on hand to help those who are struggling to know what to do in a practical, non-patronising way.
Alternatively, you could include this activity as part of the opening section of the service.
You will need: maps from youthandchildrens. work/links; emojis (see ‘Welcoming activities’ option one)
Show the first of the maps and explain what has just happened to Elijah, summarising the events of 1 Kings 18 in your own words. Introduce the service’s story by reading 1 Kings 19:1-2.
Show the second map and read 1 Kings 19:3. Point out that it was 120 miles from Jezreel to Beersheba, so it would have taken about six days to get there (but less time if Elijah ran all or part of the way). Elijah got about as far as he could from Jezebel! Invite some volunteers to choose an emoji that they think reflects how Elijah was feeing.
Read 1 Kings 19:3-5a and invite more volunteers to choose an Elijah emoji. Read verses 5b-9a, then show the third map. It was about 250 miles away, but the terrain was far rockier and more difficult to cross. Mount Horeb is another name for Mount Sinai, where Moses met with God. (You might also want to point out the importance of ‘40’: the number of years the Israelites spent in the desert, the number of days Moses spent on Sinai and so on.)
Read 1 Kings 19:9b-14 and invite more volunteers to choose an emoji that represents how Elijah was feeling. Finally, show the fourth map and read verses 15-18. Choose a final emoji, then use all the chosen emojis to reflect Elijah’s emotional rollercoaster journey.
You will need: copies of the questions below; Bibles
Break into small groups made up of one or two families, or of different mixed-age groups. Give each group a copy of these questions and a Bible:
- What is the most important part of the story for you?
- Have you ever felt sad after a big success? Why do you think that was?
- How did God help Elijah? What do think of God’s help?
- What do you do when things feel like they’re getting too much?
Give the groups time to chat about these questions, referring to the Bible passage if they need to.
You will need: roving mic (if needed) Ask for feedback on questions two and three from ‘Small groups’, using a micro-phone to hear people’s contributions if your meeting space is large.
Set up the three activities below in different parts of your meeting space. Explain what each one is and encourage people to go to the one that will help them process what they have discovered most effectively.
OPTION 1: Emotion pictures
You will need: paper; art materials
Set out lots of paint and sheets of paper, and encourage people to create a piece of artwork that reflects something of what they have discovered about Jesus today. What is God saying to them through the story? What difference will whatever they have learned make in their lives?
OPTION 2: Reflection
You will need: bread; cups of water; cushions and rugs; Bibles
Set out the cushions and rugs in a quiet area of your space. Spread the Bibles around the space and open them at 1 Kings 19. Set up plates of bread and cups of water. Invite people to rest, eat some bread and drink some water. As they do so, encourage them to read 1 Kings 19:3-7 again and reflect on what they immediately need in their lives.
Even though he faced big problems, God knew that Elijah first needed rest.
OPTION 3: Discussion
You will need: volunteers to facilitate discussion; paper and pens
Gather people together in small groups, each with a facilitator, and challenge them to think about the difference whatever they
have discovered today will make in their lives. Help everyone share their ideas. The stories of mature Christians will build up those with little experience or knowledge, while the fresh ideas of those new to the story will inspire older Christians.
Bring everyone back together and ask if anyone would like to share what they did, thought about or discussed during the response time. Thank everyone for taking part and say an appropriate blessing to close the service.
CREATIVE WORSHIP SUGGESTIONS
Play quiet, reflective music to enable people to reflect on how they are feeling and what they want to say to God. Sing one or two songs about God caring for us.