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Bible passage: Mark 6:30-44
Background: In this session, Jesus multiplies the limited resources of the disciples to serve the crowd, both physically and spiritually. This session explores how he invites us to give the little we have so that he can multiply it.
As you begin the session, invite the children to sit in a circle to share your refreshments together. Ask the group if they can think of an event they have been to recently that was so good they didn’t want to go home.
You will need: several numbered large jars or clear containers filled with sweets or other small objects; paper and pens; a small prize
Before the session, prepare a number of large jars or clear plastic containers with small sweets or other small objects. Count how many objects are in each jar and record this somewhere so you can refer to it at the end of the activity.
As you begin the session, give each child a piece of paper and a pen, then invite them to guess how many objects are in each of the numbered jars. When everyone has had a go, tell the children the correct answers and award a small prize to the person who most accurately guessed the number of items. Explain that in this story we will be working with really large numbers that can be hard to visualise.
You will need: a roll of paper; marker pens
Spread out the large roll of paper so everyone can access it, perhaps along the floor or attached to a wall. Tell the group you are going to need their help as you retell this story, and give each child a marker pen. As they hear you tell the story, they should listen carefully to the detail and work together to draw a large picture of the scene you describe. You may find it helpful to start in the centre of the picture by drawing Jesus yourself.
Tell this story:
Jesus had been teaching those who would listen for hours, so he and his disciples tried to slip away to get some rest. Encourage the children to draw the twelve men who were closest to Jesus. However, the crowds followed. Jesus could see that they were hungry to hear what he had to say, so he continued to teach them.
Many, many crowds gathered. There were at least 5,000 people, and that was just the men! Challenge the children to begin drawing as many stick men as they can as you continue the story.
Jesus could see that the crowds were hungry for physical food and for the things he was teaching them. The people needed to be fed, but they were miles away from anywhere. The disciples had brought no food with them and they certainly couldn’t feed everyone!
They asked Jesus to send the crowd away, but he said: “You give them something to eat.”
The disciples were surprised. They didn’t know what to do! All they had was five loaves of bread and two small fish. As you continue, the children should add the relevant details to the picture. I wonder how the disciples must have felt to show this meagre supply to Jesus. Nervous? Anxious? Embarrassed?
Jesus barely batted an eyelid! “Gather the people together in small groups and make them sit on the grass,” he said. All the people sat down in groups of 50 or 100.
Then Jesus raised the food to heaven and thanked God before he started to distribute their lunch. The disciples couldn’t believe it; the food just kept on coming! More and more! There was more than enough for everyone! In fact, when everyone had eaten enough there were still twelve baskets of food left over to be collected up.
So that day, Jesus took twelve tired disciples and multiplied the little energy they had to satisfy more than 5,000 hungry hearts. He took one tiny lunchbox and multiplied it to satisfy more than 5,000 hungry tummies.
Ask the children these questions, encouraging everyone to take turns to contribute:
- What is your favourite part of this story?
- What questions would you like to ask about it?
- What do you discover about Jesus here?
- Where do you picture yourself in this story?
- What can you give to Jesus that he could multiply?
You will need: either a loaf of bread, tuna and spread, or ingredients to make soda bread
How you choose to respond to this story will depend on the facilities available to you. You will need to check for food allergies before you begin.
You could work together to make tuna sandwiches, perhaps to share with the wider church if appropriate. Or you could follow a recipe to make soda bread, which shortcuts the kneading and rising process to save time. One example recipe is available here: youthandchildrens.work/links. As the bread bakes, talk about the way the bread rises or ‘multiplies’, and how Jesus multiplied the small meal that was shared.
You will need: a basket or lunchbox; small slips of paper and pens
Give each child a small slip of paper and a pen, and place the basket in the centre of the group. Remind the children that the disciples gave the little energy they had to Jesus and he multiplied it to serve the crowd. They also gave the little food they found and Jesus multiplied that to feed the crowd.
Ask them what they have that they could give to Jesus. Perhaps it’s a particular gift or skill they have (you may find it helpful to give some examples here). If they want to respond in this way, invite the children to write this down on the slip of paper and put it in the basket.
Pray together over the gathered slips, asking Jesus to multiply these things so that each of us can serve him more fully.
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