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BIBLE PASSAGE: Psalm 23
BACKGROUND: Younger children’s lives are full of the unknown. They are constantly coming across situations that they have never experienced before, and it can be difficult as adults to remember what that feels like. What is ordinary to us can seem insurmountable to a 4-year-old. While younger children are unencumbered by the worries of adulthood, they still have real worries and anxieties. Give them space during this session, to voice these worries and to engage with the idea that God is with them. 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 times when they have felt sad or anxious.
Why did they feel this way? Younger children can be anxious about things that seem insignificant to us, but are very real to them. Take all the children’s suggestions seriously, even if they don’t seem important. If appropriate, share a story from your own life or ask another leader to do so.
You will need: white balloons; small brooms or plastic hockey sticks
Blow up lots of balloons and place them in the middle of the room. Create a sheep pen out of chairs or whatever furniture you have in the room (that you can move safely).
Give each child a broom, a plastic hockey stick or something similar, and get them to work together to ‘herd the sheep’ into the pen. Then move the pen and play again, perhaps with different groups of children having a go each time.
If your space doesn’t allow for this game, put several ping-pong balls in the centre of a table and build a pen out of books or matchboxes. Give each child a paper straw and encourage them to herd the ping-pong balls into the pen by blowing through the straw. This might be a good option if you have any children in your group who are scared of balloons.
You will need: a large sheet of paper; felt-tip pens; a Bible
Gather the children together and read the psalm to the children from your preferred translation. Ask if any of them recognise it. Perhaps they remember singing it. A psalm is a bit like a poem or a song. This one was written by David, a man who used to be a shepherd, so he knew all about how much looking after sheep needed. (You might need to explain that shepherds are people who look after sheep.) Go on to tell this story:
The Lord is my shepherd. Draw a large shepherd’s crook on your piece of paper. I have everything I need.
He takes me to green fields with water to rest. Draw some green fields with a blue pond or river.
He leads me in the right way to go. Draw paths for the sheep to follow through the fields.
Even if I must go through the Valley of Death, he will protect me and I will not be scared. Colour in a dark grey space next to the fields.
He lays out a table and feeds me in front of my enemies. Draw some food on the other side of the grey ‘valley’.
He blesses me and gives me more than I can hold. He will be with me always, and I will live in his house for ever. Draw a house next to the food.
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?
- What do you do when life gets scary?
- Who can you talk to when you are scared or anxious?
You will need: drawing from ‘Bible story’; toy sheep; art materials
Give each child a toy sheep and let them walk their sheep through your landscape, taking the journey for themselves. Talk about how the sheep feel at different points. What might be happening to them? Help them make the connection that God will look after them in hard times, that they do not need to be scared, and that when people are mean he will show his love for them.
Show the children the art materials you have gathered together, encouraging them to create something that reflects what they have taken away from today’s story. As you work, chat about what they are creating, but don’t ask them leading questions. Let them express what they are doing themselves.
It may be that the children produce work that doesn’t seem entirely connected with what you have been doing, or that doesn’t make sense. Don’t worry about this. The work will have a very personal meaning for the child; a meaning that might not seem evident at first. Congratulate the group
on what they have done, and listen to any children who might want to talk about their works of art.
You will need: the toy sheep from ‘Creative response’; music and the means to play it Gather the children together and encourage them to wave their sheep in the air. Then say this prayer:
Thank you, God, that you love us the way that a shepherd loves his sheep. Thank you that we never need to be scared because you are with us, and you will be with us for ever. Amen.
Then play some music and encourage everyone to dance around with their sheep as a way of saying thank you to God.
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