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Bible passage: Mark 4:35-41
Background: In this session, we explore the well-known story of what happened the day Jesus and his friends found themselves in a storm at sea. It is worth noting that when we pick up this story by looking at only these few verses we miss the teaching Jesus delivered to the same disciples just before getting into the boat. It is well worth taking a look back to discover the message Jesus spoke to his disciples about what it meant to have faith in him.
In this section of the passage, Jesus shows them just how much they still have to learn about this faith he is urging them to grow. This session explores what it means for us to live with true faith in the authority of Jesus, who can address all circumstances on our behalf.
As you begin the session, invite the children to sit together in a circle. Encourage them to share your refreshments and talk about their recent experiences. Ask if any of them have ever been on a boat ride. What was their experience? Was it a calm crossing or has anyone ever been on the sea in a storm?
You will need: plastic bottles; a jug of water; blue food colouring; baby oil; funnels
This activity can be done as a whole group or in pairs, but it will have the greatest impact if each child has the opportunity to make their own sea storm bottle so they can all have hands-on experience.
To create a sea storm bottle, half fill a plastic bottle with cold water. Add a few drops of blue food colouring. Then fill the bottle with baby oil to the very top and seal the lid securely. Give the children time to ‘play’ with their bottles by shaking, tipping or swirling them to see what effects they can create. A calm sea? Surfer waves? A tremendous storm?
You will need: wide blue floristry ribbon cut into similar lengths
Arrange the children so they are sitting in a circle on the floor. Spread the floristry ribbon strips around the circle so they cross over and fill the space in different directions. Ensure that the children are holding on to each end of the pieces of ribbon, perhaps holding more than one end each. Begin the story, as follows:
One evening, after Jesus had spent many hours teaching people about God’s kingdom, he went out in a boat across the lake with the disciples. Jesus was very tired, so he took himself to the back of the boat and settled down to sleep. While he was sleeping, a sudden windstorm struck the lake. Waves started splashing into the boat, and the disciples were worried that it was going to sink. Prompt the children to create ‘waves’ with the ribbons, getting steadily larger and larger.
They woke Jesus, saying: “Teacher, aren’t you worried that we’re going to die?”
Jesus calmly stood up and said to the wind: Quiet!” Prompt the children to still their ribbons. Then he turned to the disciples: “Why were you afraid? Don’t you have any faith?”
The disciples were stunned: “Who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey him!”
Ask the children these questions, encouraging everyone to take turns to contribute:
- How does this story make you feel?
- What questions does this story raise for you?
- How do you think you might respond if you were with the disciples?
- What does this story tell us about Jesus?
- How does this story challenge us as disciples?
You will need: access to YouTube and the means to play clips, or printed examples of artwork on the theme of ‘a storm at sea’; Post-it notes and pens
How you choose to respond to this story will depend upon the facilities available to you and the way you feel is best to share this with the group.
You could select a clip or two of real-life RNLI lifeboat rescues from YouTube to show the group. As you watch, talk about the different emotions they see in the reactions of those who are being saved.
Alternatively, display a selection of artwork on a ‘storm at sea’ theme and talk about how the art communicates this theme.
Distribute the Post-it notes and pens for either activity. Invite the children to write on separate notes how they would respond to the images. What emotions do they feel during the storm and during the rescue? Gather the Post-it notes together where everyone can see them and talk about common themes that have been noted. Ask the group what experiences we have that can relate to these emotions. We may not be in a physical sea storm, but when do we feel anxious and long to be saved? Use this time to talk about any issues raised.
You will need: floristry ribbon strips from ‘Bible story’; marker pens
Gather the children together and give each one a length of floristry ribbon and a marker pen. Invite them to write on the ribbon a situation that is making them feel anxious or scared. If they prefer they can write the name of someone they know who is struggling in this way.
Explain that you are going to pray for Jesus to calm these real-life ‘storms’ and bring his peace into their lives. As you do so, they should hold the ribbon between their hands and smooth it out, reflecting on what it would mean for Jesus to breathe peace into their circumstances right now. Remind the children that Jesus has authority over all things, and that nothing is beyond his control.
As you draw the session to a close, make yourself available to talk through any specific situations that may need further practical support.
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