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Bible passage: Mark 2:13-17
Background: In this passage, Jesus boldly confronts the religious leaders and reveals to them the reason why he has come: as a doctor to the sick, to invite the sinners to follow him. This session explores what it means for us to be invited to follow Jesus and how we can extend that invitation to those we love.
As you begin the session, invite the children to sit together in a circle and invite them to share their news from the past week. Save any refreshments you have brought until the intro activity this week. Ask the group: “What is the most exciting invitation you have ever received?”
You will need: a table and chairs; simple party decorations; party food
Work together with the children to set up the party table rather than setting it up in advance. As you lay the table, prepare the decorations and set out the food, talk about the children’s own experiences of hosting or attending parties. What makes them so special? How can we enjoy this mini party as a group? Sit together at the table and share the party food. Encourage an atmosphere of party or celebration as you do so (you can talk about this later in the session).
You will need: simple costumes (optional); the party setup from ‘Intro activity’
Divide the children into two groups and explain that one will play the part of the sinners and tax collectors, while the other will play the part of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. If you have a supply of simple costumes, such as those used for a nativity play, make these available for the children to dress up appropriately. Sit the children in their groups and begin the story as follows, discretely directing the children in acting out their roles as you get to each part of the story.
Jesus was in Galilee, surrounded by crowds of people. Sit down among the sinners and tax collectors. He noticed a man called Levi. Jesus said to him: “Come with me!”
Later, Jesus shared a meal at Levi’s house. Sit down at the table and gather the same group around you. Many tax collectors and sinners had become followers of Jesus and were guests at Levi’s house.
Some of the religious leaders of the day noticed what Jesus was doing. They were shocked! They asked Jesus’ disciples what on earth he was doing. Encourage this group to look shocked and ask: “What is he doing?”
Jesus heard their criticisms and answered: “Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I came here for the sinners!” Encourage both groups to think about how they might react.
Ask the children these questions, encouraging everyone to take turns to contribute:
- What do you like best about the story?
- Which bits are more difficult to understand?
- What do you think happened when Jesus spoke to Levi?
- Who did Jesus come to help?
- Why was this so hard for the leaders to understand?
- Why do you think Jesus invited this particular group of people to follow him?
- What does this mean for us? Where would we be in this scene?
You will need: cards; a selection of craft materials or a laptop and printer
Jesus explained in this story who he had come to invite to follow him. We are given the job of extending the invitation to those around us, so that they also have the opportunity to respond to Jesus. This activity would work particularly well if you have a specific event coming up that the children can invite their friends to, such as a community event, a special group session or a church service.
Ask the children to work together to create some invitations they can then give out to their friends. You could either do this by using a selection of art and craft materials or electronically on the laptop. It would be particularly poignant for the children if they could be involved in planning the event itself, thinking about the message they would like to share and the opportunities they would like to give their friends to respond.
Remind the group that it is not our task to decide who Jesus has come for, or to decide who is ‘good’ or who is ‘bad’. Elsewhere in the Bible it teaches us that all of us have sinned and fallen short, and that Jesus died for us all to have the opportunity to be forgiven. Our task is to share Jesus’ invitation as widely as we can.
At the end of the session, remind the children to take their invitations away to distribute to their friends.
You will need: a table and chairs
Gather the children around the table again, but this time leave one empty chair. Invite the children to think about who might be missing from the table. Who would they like to invite to discover Jesus for themselves? Lead the children in prayer, firstly thanking God that he invites us to spend time with him and to follow him ourselves. Then turn your attention to the empty chair and invite them to pray aloud for those who are not yet followers of Jesus. Pray that they would have opportunities to invite their named friends and family members to discover Jesus in ways that are meaningful and achievable.
As you draw the session to a close, challenge the children to continue to pray for the person or people they will be giving their invitations to, that they will be received well. Follow this up at a later stage as your group prepares for the event your invitations relate to, and also after the event. Help the children explore what it means to be involved in this process of invitation, sharing their joys and frustrations along the way.
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