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BIBLE PASSAGE: Matthew 5:38-48
BACKGROUND: Children will be familiar with others being mean to them, just as they might be mean to others from time to time. At this age they are just learning to play together, share and be with others, so the idea of retaliating for something someone has done to them will be part of their life. Encourage the children to consider how they can react if someone is mean or unkind to them, either in school, at church or at home. If we are to love those who aren’t nice to us, what does that look like in their lives? Make sure you follow your church’s policy if the children raise any safeguarding issues.
As the children arrive, welcome them by name and invite them to sit together in a circle. Share out any refreshments you have brought. Encourage them to share stories from their week, and celebrate any birthdays or special events. Ask the children about their friends. These could be friends at church, nursery or school. Do they sometimes do unkind things to each other? How easy is it to say sorry and make up? If appropriate, share a story from your own life or ask another leader to do so.
You will need: pictures of children in different situations (from magazines, the internet or hand-drawn)
Before the session, gather some pictures of children in different situations. Look for pictures of them playing together, but also ones where they do not seem to be getting along or where someone is perhaps being unkind.
Show the pictures to the children and ask them to sort the images into those who are good friends and those who are not friends. Encourage them to talk about what makes a good friend and which types of behaviour are less kind.
You will need: a picnic blanket
Spread the picnic blanket out on the floor and sit the children around it. Explain that Jesus often taught his friends. On one occasion they all climbed a big hill and sat down together. Jesus started to teach his friends about how God wanted them to live. Go on to tell this story:
Jesus looked at his friends. He started to speak in a loud voice: “The world says that when someone hurts us we should hurt them back.” His friends nodded. This is what they had been taught. But what Jesus said next surprised them.
“I’m telling you not to do that!” Jesus’ friends were shocked! “If someone hits you, don’t hit back,” he said. “If someone takes your things, give them more. Be servant-hearted. Give to those who ask and go further than you must to be kind.”
The people who were listening to Jesus started to mutter to each other. “What’s this all about?” they wondered.
Jesus went on. “The world says to love your friends and hate your enemies, but I’m telling you to love your enemies, too.”
“What? We have to love those people who don’t like us?” Jesus’ friends had never heard anything like this.
Jesus hadn’t finished. “I want you to pray for those who are mean to you. It’s easy to love our friends but harder to love those who aren’t kind to us. But for you to stand out as a child of God you need to love everyone. Love everyone the way that God loves you.”
“Wow,” said Jesus’ friends. “This is amazing! We have to love everyone just as God loves us!”
Continue exploring the story by discussing these questions:
- Which is your favourite part of the story?
- What didn’t you like?
- What does this story tell you about God?
- Is it easy to be nice to those who are unkind to you? Why? Why not?
- Have there been times when people were unkind to you?
- Have there been times when you were unkind to other people?
You will need: paper in the shape of a heart; crayons or felt-tip pens; string; garden canes; sticky tape
Ask your group the following questions. Who loves you? How do you know? What does love look like? How can we show love to people we don’t like?
Depending on the age of your group members, encourage them to write or draw these ideas on their paper heart shapes. Help any children who are struggling or aren’t yet able to write. Encourage the children to decorate the hearts. As you work, keep chatting about the way Jesus calls us to love others. Is it easy to be nice to someone who has been mean to us?
Make the hearts into a simple mobile by attaching them to a garden cane with string (tape the ends to make them less rough). The children can hang these up at home to remind themselves to love everyone.
You will need: heart mobiles from ‘Creative response’ (optional)
Have the children hold their heart mobiles or form heart shapes with their fingers to give them a focal point while you pray:
Dear Jesus, thank you for coming to earth to teach us how to live. We pray for our enemies, for people who aren’t kind to us and for people we don’t much like. We know they are God’s children, too, so help us to show them love. Amen.
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