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Bible passage: John 3:16-21
Background: This most famous of passages is central to our faith, yet it contains mysteries that younger children will struggle to understand. However, it is enough at this stage of faith development to discover that God loves them a great deal. Some children will come from families full of love, while others will live in less loving homes and may struggle to get a glimpse of a God whose love is unconditional. Be sensitive as you lead this session and help the children respond to God’s love.
Welcome the children to your circle, by name if you can. Share out any refreshments you have brought and chat together about what you have experienced this week. Share any stories from your own life, as appropriate. Ask the children if anyone has done something for them this week that showed them they are loved. Give an example if they need a bit of prompting.
You will need: soft toys; dolls; small-world people such as Playmobil or Duplo; hospital and doctor play equipment
Share out the toys and encourage the children to play with them in whatever way they wish. They can play in groups or on their own. Join in the children’s play, allowing them to lead you rather than directing the play. As you play together, explore the idea of looking after other people, both medically and in families. How do people show that they love you? (You could carry on your conversation from ‘Circle time’ as you play.)
Allow the children to play for as long as they like, or as long as time allows. Chat about what it feels like to be looked after and loved.
You will need: toys from ‘Intro activity’
Ask the children to choose two of the toys from ‘Intro activity’ to take part in your retelling of today’s Bible story. Sit everyone in a circle and tell the story using the toys the children have chosen:
One night, a man called Nicodemus decided he was going to talk to Jesus. Place one of the toys in the centre of the circle. He didn’t want anyone to know what he was doing. That’s why he went at night.
He walked from his house to where Jesus was. Walk the toy around the circle. Children could take part, walking the toy in front of themselves before passing it to the next person in the circle. Don’t rush this; let the children take as long as they need.
Eventually, he found Jesus. Place the other toy next to the first so they look like they’re talking to each other. He had so many questions! Jesus told him all about God’s plan to help his people. And then he said: “God loves everyone in the world so much! He sent his Son…” Jesus was talking about himself! “…so that those who believe in him can live with God for ever.”
Shall we think about that for a minute? God loves us so much! He sent Jesus to show us how much God loves us. Place the Jesus toy in the middle of the circle. Jesus told his friends all about God and what he is like. God wants us to be with him. Pick up the Jesus toy and pass it around the circle. As you hold the toy, try to think about being loved by God. Then pass it along to the next person and say: “God loves you so much!”
Ask the children these questions, giving everyone a chance to answer if they would like to. Try not to guide the children’s answers too much or to say that one answer is right and another is wrong. Let the children draw their own conclusions about how much God loves them.
- What do you like about this story?
- Is there anything you don’t like about it?
- What do you know about God?
- If you could ask Jesus anything, what would you ask?
- How does it feel to be loved?
You will need: black paper; pencils; child-safe scissors; tissue paper in different colours; PVA glue; clear cellophane gift wrap
Give out sheets of black paper and encourage the children to draw a large heart in the middle. They should leave a border of 5cm around the heart. Help the children cut out the heart, making sure they leave the border intact.
Give everyone a piece of cellophane gift wrap the same size as the black border and help them stick the border onto the cellophane, leaving a clear heart-shape in the middle. Share out the tissue paper and show the children how to tear small pieces and stick them onto the heart to create a stained-glass mosaic effect. As you work, talk about what Jesus said to Nicodemus and what it means that God loves us. It might help the children to hear what this means to you.
Once everyone has finished and the glue is dry, stick the hearts up against a window so you can see the light shining through. At the end of the session, encourage the group to take their hearts home and put them up on a window. Every time they look at the heart they can think about how much God loves them.
You will need: battery-operated candles / tea lights
Give each child a battery-operated candle / tea light. Show them how to switch it on and then place it in front of them. As they look at the light, ask the children to think about what they want to say to God. Leave a moment of silence for the children to do so. This might not be very long, depending on how restless the group is, but make it last as long as you can.
Say: “Thank you, God, that you love us so much.” Then encourage the children to add in their own prayers. They could copy yours or say their own.
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