MEETING AIM: To explore James’ thoughts about the tongue and think about how we use our words well.
BIBLE PASSAGE: James 3:1-12
BACKGROUND: The book of James was written by Jesus’ brother (whose name was actually probably Jacob). In the years after Jesus death and resurrection he was one of the leaders of the church in Jerusalem – mostly made up of Jewish Christians. His writing is like a letter but it’s not to specific people, more like a summing up of his teaching and wisdom in several distinct sections. He uses lots of metaphors to encourage Jesus’ followers to live well as they love God and one another. His teaching on the ways we use our words is very reminiscent of Jesus’ own teaching on the same subject in Luke 6:43-45.
James focuses on the negative ways our words can impact others. However, try encourage children to think about how their words can build others up as well.
As you begin the session, invite the children to sit together in a circle and pass round a simple object. When a child has the object they can share their response to the question. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a sand timer so that you have time for each person to share if they want to. If a child doesn’t want to say anything they can just pass on the object. Ask the children to give a compliment to the person next to them.
You will need: a collection of random objects such as a shoe, a doorstop, a box, a piece of wood
Split the children into smaller groups and give each group one of your objects. Ask the children to come up with as many ways of using their object as possible. They should include lots of things that it wasn’t designed to do!
For example, a shoe could be a wasp killing device; a doorstop could be a fingernail protector for a giant; a gift box may be a bed for a sleepy kitten. Make the point that lots of things can be used for many purposes.
You will need: large sheets of paper; marker pens; video clips of each of the examples below in action
Give a little bit of background to the group on James chapter 3: James (Jesus’ broth- er) is writing down lots of his ideas on how to live as a follower of Jesus. He has plenty to say about the way we use our words. In order to help his readers understand what he’s saying, he uses metaphors or word pictures to illustrate what he means. Give out some huge sheets of paper and marker pens and as you talk through each idea, invite one or two volunteers to help you draw a picture of each thing.
In verse 3, talk about how the bits in horses’ mouths work. You may need to explain this to the children if they don’t have any experience of horses. If you have the facilities, show a clip of some Olympic show-jumping to help children get the idea.
In verse 4, draw a picture of a ship’s rudder. Again, you might need to explain what a rudder does if the children don’t know. Show a clip of someone operating a rudder if possible.
In verse 5, chat about forest fires. Show a clip if you can, but be sensitive to the fact that some children may be scared by this.
In verse 7, talk about the tongue, about the good and bad it can do. Show videos of people shouting angrily at people and then say positive things together other. What’s the difference?
In verse 9, draw a person saying two opposite things. What is it like when someone does this? How do you feel?
Talk about the fact that God wants us to use our words well – to be positive, encouraging and loving, not destructive and unkind.
Ask the children these questions, encouraging everyone to take turns to contribute:
- Why does James use word pictures to talk about how we use our words instead of telling people just to be nice?
- Which word picture do you like best?
- Can you think of times when people have used words badly?
- Can you think of times when people have used words well?
- What are the ways that our society encourages us not to use our words well?
- How might we be more aware of the words we use?
You will need: card, felt-tip pens; alphabet stickers (optional)
Before the session, cut a bookmark-sized piece of card for each person. Invite the children to write the word ‘THINK’ vertically down the bookmark (perhaps using stickers or fancy lettering) and then add the rest of the words like an acrostic: True; Helpful; Inspiring; Necessary; Kind.
As you create together, talk about how we always have these choices to make, every time we open our mouths. When someone says bad things to us, how should we respond? How might Jesus respond?
Encourage the children to take their bookmarks home; each morning they can look at the words and consider how they can be all those things during the day in the way that they use their speech.
You will need: speech bubbles (cut from paper or shaped Post-it notes); pens; large sheet of paper
Give each person a speech bubble and invite them to write a prayer about the way they want to use their words this week.
Once everyone has finished, invite the children to stick their prayer to the large sheet of paper. Finish with a short prayer asking God to help use our speech as Jesus would this week.
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