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Bible passage: John 3:16-21
Background: Many of us, children included, need a reminder of the sacrifice God made in order to show his love to the world. We can easily minimise and take it for granted. Allow time for the children to explore God’s sacrificial love in this session and provide opportunities for them to understand how they can show this love to others.
Welcome the children to your group by name and chat together about the past week. Share in their triumphs and disasters and divulge something from your own life. Ask them to think of a film, book or food they love the most without telling anyone else. They can then mime this (charades style) to the rest of the group.
You will need: two large hearts made out of thick card; clothes pegs; string; bucket
Before the session, hang up the two hearts at opposite ends of the room. Attach ten pegs to each one. Put some pegs into the bucket and place it in the centre of the room.
Divide the children into two teams and stand each team in front of one of the hearts. At the signal to start, the teams must attempt to add pegs to the other team’s heart either by taking them from their own and attaching them to the other team’s heart or by taking from the bucket. They must also defend their own heart to prevent others from attaching pegs. The team with the fewest pegs on their heart at the end is the winner.
Give the teams three minutes to play the game. Monitor the game carefully to ensure that the children play fairly and safely. Play as many times as the children would like to, or as time allows.
You will need: an ornate-looking plate (from a charity shop – don’t use an actual family heirloom); a well-used plastic plate; Bibles
Before the session, prime a helper to interrupt you with the tatty plastic plate after you have shown the ornate plate to the group.
Show the group the ornate plate and explain that it is an antique–a precious family heirloom. You could even tell them that you took it on Antiques Roadshow and found out it was worth £5,000! You have to be very careful with it because it’s so special. Big up the plate as much as possible.
Your primed helper interrupts you by presenting the tatty plastic plate. Pretend to completely fall in love with the plastic plate and make a show of all its qualities. Your helper should explain that you can have the plastic plate in exchange for the antique plate, under one condition. You have to break the antique plate.
Have a hands up vote. What would everyone do? Keep the antique plate or break it in return for the plastic one? Dither for a while, then drop the antique plate and smash it on the floor.
Explain to the children that this is what God did for us. He sent Jesus, his precious and much-loved son, to ‘break’ and die for our less than perfect world. Why? Because he loves us, just as you loved the plastic plate, and wants to know us.
God did this because he loves the whole world.
Give out the Bibles and help everyone find John 3. Read verses 16-21 and ask the children if the plate illustration helped them understand what Jesus is saying in these verses. (It will have helped some but not everyone, so don’t try to over-explain it to those who didn’t find it helpful.)
Ask the children these questions, encouraging them to take turns to contribute. You could do this in small groups, or all together if you don’t have many children:
- What do you think of what Jesus says here?
- How can we know how deep God’s love is for the world?
- Who does the Bible mean when it talks about ‘the world’?
- How can God use us to show this kind of love to others?
- What do you want to say to Jesus?
- What do Jesus’ words tell us about God?
You will need: seven paper plates; felt-tip pens; laptops or other devices; access to the internet
Divide into seven smaller groups or pairs. Give each group a paper plate and a continent: Europe, Asia, Africa, Antarctica, Australasia, North America or South America. (If your group is small, give each group more than one continent and plate, or do this activity together.)
Ask the children to do some research about their continents by going to websites such as Open Doors (opendoorsuk.org) or Operation Mobilisation (om.org/en). Encourage them to decorate their plates with the following:
- The name and a rough picture of the continent.
- How many people live there. • How many people in that continent are Christians.
- What can we pray about for them.
You will need: plates from ‘Creative response’; John 3:16 written out for children to read and use
Dot the plates around the room. Encourage the groups to go and pray for the different continents and read John 3:16 over each continent. They can use the declarations below or say their own prayers:
“For God so loved [insert the name of the continent] that he sent his one and only Son, that when people from [continent] believe in him they will not die but will have eternal life.”
“We declare God’s love over [continent] and pray for them to know how deep and strong and high and wide this love is, so that they might believe in him and have eternal life.”
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