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Bible passage: Matthew 22:34-40
Background: Here Jesus sums up the kingdom of God in two short commandments. They are easy to say but much more challenging to put into action. We may have wrestled with these commandments ourselves, but what do they mean for younger children? On the face of it, children might easily access Jesus’ words, but for those who are only just learning to share and socialise with others there are some immediate challenges we can help children address.
Welcome the children to your circle, by name if you can. Share out any refreshments you have brought and chat together about what you have experienced this week. Share any stories from your own life, as appropriate. Ask the children what they have done to show that they love someone (perhaps at home, at preschool or at nursery). Give an example if they need a bit of prompting.
You will need: soft toys; dolls; small-world people such as Playmobil or Duplo
Share out the toys, dolls and small-world people, and encourage the children to play with them in whatever way they wish. They can play in groups or on their own. Join in the children’s play, allowing them to lead you rather than directing the play. As you play together, explore the idea of love and how we can show love to others: both those we know and like, and those we don’t know (or don’t like). Allow the children to play for as long as they like, or as long as time allows. Observe the children showing love to each other – for example sharing or helping others – and compliment them on doing so.
You will need: a Bible
Ask the children to come up with actions to help you tell the story. You will need to have actions for the words ‘love’, ‘God’, ‘heart’, ‘soul’, ‘mind’ and ‘neighbour’. You might need to explain some of the meanings, but let them take the lead in coming up with actions. Encourage them to be as lively and energetic as they want to. Make sure all the children in the group are able to take part in the actions; don’t let anyone be excluded because of difficulties with movement. Practise your actions together.
Once you are happy with all your actions, read out Matthew 22:34-40, encouraging the children to perform them as they hear the relevant words. Repeat this so the children become confident about when to do which action.
Go on to read the passage one more time, but miss out some of the words. Can the children still do all the actions at the right time?
Ask the children these questions, giving everyone a chance to answer if they would like to. Try not to guide the children’s answers too much or to say that one answer is right and another is wrong. Let them start to draw their own conclusions in terms of what Jesus is saying about love.
- What do you like about this story?
- Is there anything you don’t like about it?
- When has someone loved you?
- How can we love God?
- Who do you think Jesus meant when he talked about our ‘neighbour’?
- Who do you love?
You will need: EITHER the ingredients for a simple biscuit recipe; baking sheets; rolling pins; cookie cutters; icing and other decorations; access to an oven; a cooling rack; gift bags and labels; cover-up and clean-up equipment OR A4 card; A5 envelopes; art materials
Help the children think about loving others by making something to give away to those around them. Choose whether you would like to make biscuits or cards (what you do may depend on the time and facilities available).
If you’re making biscuits, make sure the children wash their hands before they start, and check for any allergies (even though you’re going to give these away, you don’t want any of your group to inadvertently eat something they shouldn’t as they make them). Make the biscuit dough together according to the recipe you have chosen and use different cutters to make shapes. Bake them, then when they’re cool you can decorate them with icing and whatever ingredients you have brought along.
Decide who you’re going to give the biscuits to as you work. Pack them into gift bags, write a label and secure the top. Discuss with parents and carers when the children will be able to give away their biscuit gifts.
If you’re making cards, show the children the different art materials you have brought. Ask them to think about who they would like to make a card for and why. As you work, chat about how nice it is to receive a card. Help the children write what they would like to say to the person they’re making it for inside the card.
Once everyone has finished, put the cards into envelopes and discuss with parents and carers when the children will be able to deliver their cards. You could even find out the relevant addresses and post the cards yourself.
You will need: children’s praise music and the means to play it; ribbons and flags; tambourines and other child-friendly musical instruments
Before the session, choose some songs with lyrics the children in your group will find easy to sing and can understand. Alternatively, choose music without words for them to dance around to.
Give out the flags, ribbons and instruments. Say that one way we can tell God we love him is to sing songs to him. Play your music and enjoy singing the songs together and dancing. Every so often encourage the children to shout: “I love you, God!” if they would like to.
If the children can remember their actions from ‘Bible story’, encourage them to do the actions for ‘love’, ‘God’, ‘heart’, ‘soul’ and ‘mind’.
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