BIBLE PASSAGE: Ruth 1
BACKGROUND: Unsurprisingly, the book of Ruth focuses on the eponymous character: Ruth. Yet her story was not lived out in isolation. The choices she made involved others, most notably her mother-in-law Naomi. This story begins with Naomi being left with nothing and facing a life of loneliness without the family she once had. The reading and this session explore what it means to stand with those who are alone as they struggle with grief or loneliness.
As you begin the session, gather the children together in a circle. Invite them to share refreshments together and talk about their recent news or experiences. Ask the group to think about family members and friends. What does it mean to look out for someone? Who looks out for you? Who do you look out for?
You will need: pictures of famous double acts
Before the session, print out pictures of well-known double acts (each person on a separate card), such as Batman and Robin, Wills and Kate, and Kim and Kanye. As the children arrive, give each one a card and challenge them to find their partner.
You will need: a large road map; six play figures (such as peg people or Playmobil figures)
Gather the children together and ask them to sit in a circle around the road map on the floor. The places shown on the map are unimportant; it is simply a tool to demonstrate the travelling and a sense of being away from home. Decide which two points you will use on the map to represent Bethlehem and Moab, and begin by placing four figures in ‘Bethlehem’. Then begin the story:
Long, long, long before Jesus was born, here in the town of Bethlehem there lived a family. Elimelech, his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion. One year their harvest failed, so they decided to move to Moab to start over. Move the figures on the map.
They lived here for many years and experienced the ups and downs of life. Elimelech died here. Remove his figure. Their sons grew up and got married to two women from Moab named Ruth and Orpah. Add the two extra figures. Then, sadly, both Mahlon and Chilion also died. Remove these figures.
Naomi had seen so much change in her life. She had gained two daughters-in-law but had lost her husband and sons. When she heard that the situation back home had improved, she decided to travel back to Bethlehem. The three women packed up everything they had to travel together, but Naomi didn’t want Ruth and Orpah to be stuck with her. She wanted them to be free to find new husbands and begin their lives again. Orpah agreed to return home to her own family. Remove one figure. But Ruth wouldn’t leave Naomi’s side.
Naomi was still grieving for everything she had lost. She was sad and lonely, and it would take a long time for that to heal. But the two women travelled together back to Bethlehem, where they were welcomed back to Naomi’s home. Here they could start again and build a new life.
Ask the children these questions, encouraging everyone to take turns to contribute:
- How do you feel about this story?
- How would you have felt if you were Naomi?
- What would you like to say to Naomi?
- What would you like to say to Ruth?
- What challenges you about this story?
- What do you want to say to God about Naomi’s situation?
You will need: a selection of coloured cards and envelopes; a wide variety of craft materials
Set out all the craft materials so everyone is able to access them. Explain to the group that we probably all know someone who is struggling like Naomi. Perhaps they are dealing with the death of someone they loved very much, or perhaps they have moved to a new area and don’t know many people yet. Or perhaps they are feeling lonely, even though there are lots of people around them.
Invite the children to make an appropriate card to give this person to encourage them and to let them know they are close by, just as Ruth was there for Naomi. Encourage the children to use the resources in whatever way they wish rather than creating carbon copy cards. Help them find appropriate words to write in each card as a message.
As they create their cards, give the children the opportunity to discuss the issues raised by this session, talking about the friends and family members they can support. They may also open up about their own struggles with loneliness. Take time, as you create together, to address any issues raised.
Gather the children together in a circle and invite them to hold hands if they are comfortable doing so, or perhaps to link elbows, as a symbol of what it means to be together in community and not alone. Pray aloud over the group:
“Lord God, you are always with us. You are there when we are happy and life is going well, and you are there when we feel down, sad and alone. Help us to remember that you are always with us. Today, we remember our friends [encourage the children to name in their minds the friends they have been thinking about]. Help us to be a Ruth to them, standing by them in their struggles. Amen.”
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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