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Bible passage: Luke 19:1-10
Background: This is a story of wonderful surprise and incredible transformation. When Zacchaeus met Jesus his life was turned upside down and inside out. The man who was lost in his own world of selfishness and greed was found by Jesus, who noticed him and called him by name. This session explores what it means for us to encounter Jesus and be given the opportunity to let him transform us into the people he has made us to be.
As you begin the session, invite the children to sit together in a circle and share out your refreshments. Invite the children to talk about something that has happened that caused them to change. It could be something like the birth of a new sibling, or moving house or school. Or it could be a moment, as it was for the person we will meet in this session, when he realised he had to change something about himself and the way he was choosing to live.
You will need: trees
If you have the opportunity, take the children somewhere you can safely climb trees together, or use a climbing frame if no trees are available. If you are not able to get outside, why not provide a selection of cardboard boxes and tubes, and challenge the children to make the best free-standing sculpture of a tree that they can? You could organise this as a contest, perhaps placing a teddy in it to represent the tree-climber as a test of strength. Risk-assess this activity before the session.
You will need: a set of cards with the following words written on (words are in pairs, so write ‘good’ on one side and ‘bad’ on the other): good / bad; see / meet; horrified / delighted; keep / give; wrong / right; guilty / forgave; lost / found
Gather the children together and stand or sit in front of them, with the cards ready for you to access as you tell the story. As you say the relevant words, place the card in front of the children and turn it over to reveal the transformation that occurs.
Zacchaeus was not a good man. In fact, he was known to be a bad man. He would take more money than he should just to make himself rich.
Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was in town. As well as not being good, Zacchaeus was not very tall. He climbed a tree just so he could see Jesus walking past. Jesus didn’t walk past. He looked up into the tree and called Zacchaeus to come down. He didn’t just want to see Zacchaeus; he wanted to meet him.
Jesus told Zacchaeus that he wanted to go to his house for tea. The crowds were horrified, but Zacchaeus was delighted.
That day, everything changed for Zacchaeus. Until he met Jesus, Zacchaeus had wanted to keep all his money for himself, but after meeting Jesus he wanted to give it away! He no longer wanted to do wrong. He wanted to do what was right!
Zacchaeus realised that he was guilty of doing much wrong, but Jesus forgave him. Jesus told the crowd: “This man who was lost has now been found.”
Jesus turned Zacchaeus’ life upside down and inside out.
Ask the children these questions, encouraging everyone to contribute:
- What do you think the crowds thought about Jesus spending time with Zacchaeus?
- Why did Jesus choose to spend time with Zacchaeus?
- What surprises you most about this story?
- What does it mean for us to be found and forgiven by Jesus?
You will need: speech bubble shapes cut from card in two different colours; marker pens; BluTack; background music
Explain to the children that you want them to think about what they would say to Jesus if they had the opportunity to talk to him, as Zacchaeus did. On one coloured speech bubble write the things you would like to say to Jesus and on the other colour write the things you think Jesus wants to say to you or to others in the group.
Play some music softly in the background as the children complete their speech bubbles, then put them up on display for the whole group to see. When the group has had enough time to complete their speech bubbles, draw everyone together to talk through some of the comments that have been written down and take the opportunity to address any ideas and issues raised, as appropriate.
You will need: playdough
Give each child a small lump of playdough and ask them to form a shape from it that represents something they want God to change in their life, just as Jesus transformed Zacchaeus’ life. Explain that there may be a behaviour they know they shouldn’t do, but they can’t seem to stop, or a friendship that isn’t as good as they want it to be. Invite them to create a shape and hold it in their hands as you pray, asking Jesus to change each of these situations, just as he changed Zacchaeus and the way he was living.
Now invite the children to squish up their playdough before forming a new shape to represent the change they want to see. Remain in the quiet for as long as is appropriate and offer to talk with and pray for individuals after you have brought this time of prayer to a close.
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