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Bible passage: Mark 6:30-44
Background: The feeding of the 5,000 is one of the most famous of Jesus’ miracles. Mark’s account tells us a story of Jesus and the disciples wanting to get away from the people because they were tired, but by the time they cross the lake in their boat a crowd has gone ahead and found them. Their faith and passion for Jesus is tangible, and Jesus has compassion on them and stays to teach them. When this crowd becomes hungry, Jesus performs a miracle.
This story demonstrates that Jesus’ power and action was for the hungry. There is still much to learn from the story today: that Jesus is surprising, and that he has great power and compassion.
Welcome the group with refreshments. You could continue the fish theme in your snacks, for example fish-shaped crackers or sweets. Chat together about the week the young people have just had.
You will need: a pack of cards
Go Fish is a great go-to game with a youth group as it’s quite easy and there is room for many players!
The object of the game is to win the most groups of cards. The dealer deals four cards to each player. The first person (left of the dealer) can ask any other player if they have any cards of a particular type (ie a nine or a queen). If the player has any of these cards they have to give the asker all of them, and then the asker gets another turn. If not, they reply: “Go fish!” At this point the asker has to take a new card from the pack and the turn passes to the next person.
Once a player gets all four of a set they can put the group of cards down. The game ends when all the groups of cards have been collected and the player with the most groups wins!
You will need: Bibles; pens and paper
Read the passage together, then break the group into smaller teams. Give each team one of the characters from the story. They should look at the story from that character’s point of view and make notes if necessary. Each group then nominates a volunteer to be interviewed by the rest of the young people as their chosen character. Assign these characters to the groups: Jesus; an adult in the crowd; a child in the crowd; a disciple. Invite the rest of the group to ask them questions about the story as these characters to explore what it would have been like for each of them.
Bring the group back together and ask the following questions:
- Why were Jesus and the disciples heading off in a boat in the first place?
- Have you ever felt like you wanted to head away somewhere to escape all the demands on you?
- Why do you think the crowds were so desperate to hear what Jesus had to say?
- What do you think it means that the crowd were like sheep without a shepherd? What was it about this situation that made Jesus have compassion on them?
- How do you think you would have felt as one of the disciples if Jesus had asked you to take five loaves and two fish around the crowd?
- What does this story tell us about who Jesus is?
- Who do you think the ‘sheep without a shepherd’ are in our world today? Who are the crowds of people who are hungry for what Jesus can give them?
You will need: a large piece of paper; marker pens
The passage tells us that Jesus had compassion on the followers who wanted more time with him and were hungry. Jesus and his disciples were tired, but he was still moved to action by the hungry crowd. The great miracle was that it only took five loaves and two fish for Jesus to feed the crowd.
This is both an inspiration and a challenge to us today! Sometimes we feel as though we aren’t enough, or that don’t have enough to even begin to help a world full of need.
Ask the group to think about the people Jesus would have compassion for today. Write a list of the people they suggest on the left side of the paper, and leave space on the right side to write down ideas they come up with of ways to support them. As a group, suggest ideas and make some plans of ways that you might provide for people with needs as a group
You will need: a basket; bread and fish shapes; pens; music and the means to play it (optional)
Jesus had compassion on the crowd. They were hungry in more ways than one, as they also wanted the words of life Jesus had to share.
As a group, you’ve discussed the kind of people Jesus would have compassion on today and ways to support them. As Christians, we believe that another way of supporting people in need is to pray for them, asking the God who could feed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fishes for help.
Remembering Jesus’ power and compassion, ask the group to spend some time praying for the people who need Jesus’ provision today. Give each person a pen and some paper loaves and fishes. Put a basket in the middle of the group and ask them to write down the names of people they want to pray for. You could play some music as they do this. Something like Graham Kendrick’s ‘Beauty for brokenness’ would be a fitting worship song.
At the end of the prayer time offer up a prayer for all the people whose names have been written down and placed in the basket:
“Jesus, you were tired, but you saw a crowd in need and had compassion for them. They were hungry and you fed them. Jesus, there are still people who need you, and we pray that you would provide for them. Amen.”
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