Children and Youth Activities
Activity 1: Changing Futures
To help children understand how giving to One Great Hour of
Sharing helps create better futures
of lemon juice mixed with water, small cups, sugar or sugar substitute
sufficient to turn the drink into lemonade, mixing spoon
painting of a tree under a sun-filled sky, but with no grass around the
base of the tree; blue paint in a clear container; yellow paint; paint
circles about 8” in diameter, scissors, long paper to make a poster,
Recount the scripture story of John 21:1-17:
The last time Jesus was with his
disciples, he fixed a breakfast of grilled fish and bread and shared it with
them. After they finished eating, he talked with Simon Peter. Despite the
exciting life Peter had had being one of Jesus’ disciples — traveling,
learning, meeting new people, helping folks, watching Jesus — after Jesus’
death, Peter went back to his old job of fishing. Jesus asks Peter, “Do you
love me?” Peter does and says, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus
says, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus didn’t own any baby sheep, but the Bible sometimes
calls people “sheep” and God and Jesus “good shepherds.” So, Jesus was telling
Peter to spend his time taking good care of people. In fact, Jesus told Peter
three times to do it. We know from another book in the Bible, The Acts of the
Apostles, that Peter did exactly what Jesus told him to do. Peter got really
fired up and spent the rest of his life sharing Jesus’ story and love with
everyone he could. He never went back to being a fish catcher. Jesus not only
changed Peter’s future, but think of all the lives Peter changed because his
Talk with the children about what they want their future to
be like. What kind of jobs would they like to do? Where would they like to
live? Do they want to have children of their own some day? Etc. Then ask them
to imagine what the future would be like without school? food? seeds to plant
for crops? job for adults? clean water? medical care? a home? Note that is the
future faced by many people in the world after a natural disaster like a
hurricane, earthquake, or tsunami; or during a war; or just because they are
One Great Hour of Sharing addresses those needs. Jesus told
his followers to feed his sheep, to care for people, which we do through this
offering. That care changes lives. Our gifts sent with love provide people help
which makes a better future happen.
Choose an illustration to demonstrate how adding a new
ingredient into the mix changes the outcome. Draw the parallel that One Great
Hour of Sharing money changes the outcome of people’s lives.
each child a small cup of the lemon juice mixed with water. Invite them to
taste it. You may not even need to ask for their reactions amid a
spontaneous chorus of “Yuck! That’s awful!” Ask each child to add a bit of
sugar or sugar substitute into the pitcher. Stir and, if needed, add more.
Offer the children a new cup of drink. Help from One Great Hour of Sharing
adding blue-colored blades around the tree in your nature painting. If
none of the children comment that you are using the wrong color for grass,
ask if anything about the painting looks like it shouldn’t. Discuss what
color grass should be. Ask for two helpers, one to pour in the yellow
paint bit by bit, and the second to stir until the paint has turned from
blue to green. Finish putting green grass in the picture. Help from One
Great Hour of Sharing changes the color of people’s lives and helps make
their future look more like what God intended it to be.
Invite children to show the congregation how futures are
changed when we show our love for Jesus by feeding Jesus’ sheep. Give each
child two paper circles. Help them fold each in half three times. Ask them to
cut one “snowflake” using the tough times pattern and the other snowflake using
the smiling pattern. A hole punch can be used to make the eye holes.
tough times pattern
Unfold and glue the tough times snowflakes on the left side
of the poster. Have one of the children write in the middle, “When we feed
Jesus’ sheep through One Great Hour of Sharing, the future gets better!” Unfold
and glue the smiling snowflakes to the right side of the poster. End with
prayer, thanking God for God’s lambs, including us, and that we can help take
care of Jesus’ sheep through One Great Hour of Sharing. Hang the poster where
it can be seen by many in the church.
Activity 2: Coin Box
One Great Hour of Sharing coin boxes
or other coins
Talk with the children about how the Bible often draws a
word picture by calling people “sheep.” Sheep
are lovable, valuable creatures who give much back to those who care for them
(milk, wool, meat). But they don’t have much common sense and do some pretty
unwise things at times. Shepherds and sometimes sheep dogs help keep them safe
and guide them to the places the sheep need to go. Share some sheep/shepherd
scriptures such as Psalm 23, Matthew 18:10-14, Revelation 7:15-17. Ask why they
think God and Jesus are called the Good Shepherd.
When Jesus was with his disciples for the last time, he
asked them to feed his sheep. He was talking about taking care of people. Invite
the children to look through the magazines and cut out pictures of people who
need help and care, people who Jesus would want us to try to help. These might
include pictures of the aftermath of storms, hungry folk, injured people, etc.
Put the coin boxes in several places around the room. Explain that soon
families in our church will bring gifts of money for One Great Hour of Sharing.
Discuss how not only bodies need feeding, but also minds and spirits. One Great
Hour of Sharing offerings bring food, seeds, water, tools, and medicines to
help feed bodies; schools and job training to help feed minds; friendship,
comfort after trauma, and evidence of Christian love to feed spirits. Have each
box represent one aspect of the offering’s focus (disaster relief, refugee aid,
development work to meet basic needs and help build strong communities). Invite the children to
sort through their pictures and put by each box the ones that illustrate people
needing that kind of help. Give each child a handful of coins and invite them
to practice feeding Jesus’ sheep by feeding coins into the coin boxes,
distributing the coins among the boxes as they choose. Afterward, ask why the
children made the choices they did. How does it feel to help take care of
Jesus’ sheep? End with prayer, including thanking God for the wonderful sheep
of God’s flock and for the opportunity to help take care of them.
Activity 3: Turning the Table and Feeding Others
To help children experience the work and joy of feeding
God’s sheep and connect that with the One Great Hour of Sharing offering
of time, arrange with a senior citizen in the congregation or the
community who would be open to receiving a meal made and delivered by the
children. Note dietary restrictions and talk through a proposed menu.
nutritious meal items children can easily prepare (e.g., apples, bananas,
tuna fish becoming tuna salad, refrigerated dough for crescent rolls or
biscuits, salad items)
Welcome the children! Explain that the congregation will
soon receive the One Great Hour of Sharing offering, money our families give
which will help hurting people throughout the world get healthy food, clean
water, safe homes, doctor and nurse care, tools, seeds, and schools that they
need. People everywhere are really important to God; Jesus asks us to help him
take care of each other.
Retell a condensed version of the story of John 13:36-38,
18:12-27, and 21:1-17:
The last time Jesus was with his
disciples, he fixed breakfast (grilled fish and bread) and shared it with them.
After they finished eating, he talked with Simon Peter. On the night Jesus had
been arrested, Peter had been very scared. Three times when people asked him if
he was a follower of Jesus, he said, “No.” On one of the roughest nights of his
life, when he was put on trial and soldiers beat him up, Jesus didn’t have
friends stand up for him. Now, after his death and resurrection, Jesus asks
Peter, face to face, “Do you love me?” Peter truly does, even if he messed up
badly when Jesus could have really used a friend. Peter says, “Yes, Lord; you
know that I love you.” Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus didn’t own any baby
sheep, but the Bible sometimes calls people “sheep” and God and Jesus “good
shepherds.” So, Jesus was telling Peter to take good care of people. Jesus
asked Peter again, “Do you love me?” Peter answers the same way, “Yes, Lord;
you know that I love you.” Jesus told him, “Tend my sheep.” Then Jesus asks
Peter a third time, “Do you love me?” Peter feels hurt; does Jesus not believe
him? Peter says, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” And
Jesus tells him one last time, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus knows that Peter loves
him. But it is really important to Jesus that Peter show that love by taking
loving care of other people, people who Jesus loves like he loved Peter. It was
so important, Jesus told him three times! (Do your parents/guardians ever tell
you to do something several times, so you will remember it and do it for sure?)
Ask the children who provides food for them. Do they see a
parent/guardian physically feeding a younger sibling or an elderly grandparent?
One of the delights of being a Christian is that sometimes we get to care for
other people as tenderly and kindly as God cares for us. We get to tend Jesus’
sheep, as he asked Peter to do. Explain that the congregation’s One Great Hour
of Sharing offering will help tend God’s sheep all around the earth, even
places very far away where we cannot visit. Today, we will help tend one of
God’s nearby “sheep” in our congregation/community.
Give some details about the senior citizen who will receive
the meal the children will make. If applicable, talk about how it is harder
these days for that person to plant and tend a garden, get out to the grocery
store, and/or cook their own food. They are a sheep in God’s flock, and today
we get to help by preparing a meal for them.
Help the children prepare a simple, nutritious meal. Make
sure each child participates in the preparation. The senior may also enjoy
pictures the children have drawn, included with the meal. Have the children
join you in blessing the meal prepared.
If possible, arrange for the children and some parent/guardian
chaperones to go with you to deliver the meal, so the children can meet in
person the senior they are helping.
Youth Activity 1: Scripture Exploration
Through Bible study, to gain understanding of what Jesus’
wanted of us when he said, “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.” and to connect that
with the work of One Great Hour of Sharing.
paper and pencils
several newspapers or news magazines, and/or
computer with internet access, and/or video recording equipment
In many places, the
Bible uses the metaphor of shepherd to describe God’s care for humans. Sheep
are lovable, valuable creatures who give much back to those who care for them
(milk, wool, meat). They are also among of the dumbest animals on earth. They
generally lack common sense and good judgment. Throughout history, flocks have
relied on shepherds and sometimes sheep dogs to provide them security and
As a group, read
John 21:15-19 (this year’s One Great Hour of Sharing theme scripture, “Do you
love me? Feed my sheep.”) and several of the following scriptures. Invite
participants to jot down phrases or words that they find particularly striking in
the readings. The group might also be divided into small groups to read and
discuss the passages, reporting back later to the full group through words,
drawings, a skit, a computer presentation, or a video their chief discoveries
- Deuteronomy 22:1-4 (You may not ignore a
straying sheep or withhold your help.)
- Psalm 23 (The Lord is my shepherd; I
shall not want.)
- Jeremiah 23:1-4 (Woe to inadequate
shepherds. With God as shepherd, the sheep shall no longer fear or be
- Ezekiel 34:1-19, 25-31 (False shepherds
seek their own comfort, rather than the sheep’s. God seeks the lost sheep,
strengthens the weak, and feeds them with justice.)
- Matthew 18:10-14 (Parable of the lost
- Matthew 25:31-46 (The Son of Man
separates nations into righteous sheep and cursed goats, based on how they
treated “the least of these who are members of my family.”)
- Mark 6:34-44 (Feeding of the 5,000)
scriptures through discussion, using these questions as starting points:
- What phrases or words stick out in your
mind from these scriptures?
- How does the shepherd/sheep metaphor
help us understand our relationship with God?
- Sometimes we fit the “sheep” role, and
sometimes we are called to tend the sheep. How do we live both those
roles? How do we balance and intermesh the varying responsibilities and
- Jesus told his disciples to tend and
feed his sheep, that is, to actively care for people, those whom Jesus
loved deeply and sacrificed everything for. Given the descriptions of
“sheep care” in these scripture passages, what responsibilities and
behavior would Jesus expect of his followers?
- Looking through the newspapers and news
magazines or doing an online search, what “sheep” around the world
especially need tending now?
- How can we live into Jesus’ expectations
to tend his sheep? What specifically can we do as youth? What are we
already doing? What might we encourage our congregation to do? How might
Jesus’ expectations of us change as we get older?
Especially with the
last three bullet points, use the work of One Great Hour of Sharing to
illustrate specifically how the church energetically, creatively, and
persistently follows the scripture directives.
End with prayer,
including the resolve: May we increasingly open our hearts and lives to your
presence and feel your love ever more completely, so the love in our hearts
bubbles up in loving action and caring for your people.
Youth Activity 2: Day of Prayer and Fasting
To learn about food security; to get a small taste, in a
controlled and worshipful manner, of the hunger that daily besets many people
One Great Hour of Sharing helps; to pray for the One Great Hour of Sharing offering
Preparation and materials needed
fasting is not part of your church’s tradition, or if you have not fasted
before, prepare yourself through research (e.g., an internet search of
“fasting as a spiritual discipline” will yield articles from many faith
communities), prayer, and trying a dawn-to-sunset fast yourself. If you
have any health concerns, consult a physician first!
written parental/guardian permission beforehand for youth to participate
in the fast.
out actual times of sunup and sundown for the day the group will fast.
Check at least one morning before the fast to determine the approximate
time when the pre-fast meal should conclude. A long-standing tradition is
to finish eating by the time a black thread can be distinguished from a
white thread in the natural light of the coming day. That can be 30 to 45
minutes before sun-up.
a small group of youth to prepare a service of worship, to be held during
what would ordinarily be lunchtime on the day of the fast.
for parents/guardians or other church members to prepare elsewhere and
bring in a light meal of soup, fruit, vegetables, and/or bread for eating
together after the fast has ended.
foods for the pre-dawn meal, such as oatmeal, fruit, whole grain cereals
and breads, dried apricots, dates, and almonds
juices, nuts, and dried fruit on hand and out of sight, in case someone
physically needs to break the fast before sunset
markers, and fasteners to create the “scrawl wall”
of water, glasses
and pencils for note taking
games, music CDs, pertinent videos about hunger
Secure written parental/guardian permission beforehand for
youth to participate in the dawn-to-sunset fast. Have a short meeting a week
before the experience to talk with parents/guardians and youth. Explain that
fasting as a spiritual discipline has been practiced throughout the centuries
by faithful people, including Moses, Queen Esther, Jesus, Dorothy Day, and
Cesar Chavez. This will be an abstinence-from-food-only fast; water will be
available throughout the day. Share some of your research about and experience
with fasting. A strong body and mind are important precursors. Among those who
should not fast from food are youth under age 12, the elderly, those with
physical conditions and illnesses that would be affected by not eating,
pregnant women, and nursing mothers. If people have concerns, they should
consult their physician before participating. There will be some discomfort.
Suggest participants abstain from caffeine for several days before the fast;
withdrawal from caffeine can cause headaches. Explain publicly that all are
welcome. Youth who wish to participate but who should not fast should bring
with them (preferably non-odorous) foods to be kept in a separate area. When
they need to eat, they may slip away from the group, quietly eat in a place out
of sight of the others, clean up the food remains, and then rejoin the group.
Also explain that the motivation for the day of fasting and prayer — to
experience in a small way, in a context of worship and prayer, the hunger that
daily besets many of the people whom One Great Hour of Sharing helps, to pray
for all who need God’s sustenance, and to pray for the One Great Hour of
Sharing offering — is central. It is not a loss of face if someone cannot
continue with the intended fast; bodies are different. Fruit juices, nuts, and
dried fruit will be on hand in case they are needed.
A rough outline of events is suggested below. The specific
content and flow of the experience is really up to you. Come prepared with
plenty of ideas and planned activities so youth don’t get bored, but be
flexible. Especially assess energy and attention from afternoon onward as the
physical effects of the fast become more evident. Revise your plan accordingly!
Have a “lock-in” for the youth beginning the evening before
the fast. Enjoy time together in prayer, preparation for the fast, and fun. Try
not to overindulge on food as that may make the next day harder. The purpose of
being together before the fast is so that all may wake up and together eat a
healthy meal before sunrise. Finish the meal and clean-up before dawn. Post an
easily accessible “scrawl wall” (large sheets of paper) and markers. Invite
participants to record there any time during the day how they are feeling and
their thoughts and questions. Restate the parameters of the day (no food or
chewing gum till after sunset, water always available, etc.) given at the
meeting the prior week.
Gather as a group and read aloud John 21:1-19 (from which
the offering theme comes) and Ezekiel 34:11-16, 25-31. Name and commit the
intentions of the fast to God. Ask for strength and guidance to persist through
the fast. If possible, go outside to watch a beautiful sunrise and to listen to
the sounds of the beginning of morning.
During the morning, focus on learning about hunger and food
security. Defined in U.S. Department of Agriculture materials as “access by all members [of a household or a
community] at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life,” food
security is a critical problem for many people throughout the world.
Have the youth investigate the issues, using either materials you provide or by
traveling to and using the computer resources of a library or school to
investigate on the internet. Excellent resources include:
(Bread for the World is a
collective Christian voice/organization working to end hunger and poverty in
(background and creative activities on poverty and the problems it causes,
including hunger. The youth may enjoy doing some of the activities during the
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Striking visuals are
the food security maps at http://www.fao.org/faostat/foodsecurity/FSMap1_en.htm.)
(The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s briefing room about food security in the U.S.)
After a time for research and “input,” invite participants
to share what they have learned. Include a morning break for physical activity
and games; participants may not feel like doing such later in the day.
Intentionally turn to God during what would ordinarily be
lunchtime. Spend an extensive time in worship, with prayer, music, the Word,
and creativity. Reading the story of Jesus’ fast after his baptism (Luke
4:1-15) may be helpful. Include prayer for all who hunger and for the One Great
Hour of Sharing offering and thanksgiving for the blessings of God. Ask for
God’s strength to sustain the fast.
During the afternoon, focus on the work of One Great Hour of
Sharing. Consult www.ucc.org/oghs for specific
information. Consider using the ”Bringing Stories to Life” activity with the
offering’s “Feed my sheep” map. Talk about hopes for the offering, what it will
accomplish, and ways to promote the offering in the congregation. Perhaps talk
through other work the youth could do to alleviate local hunger. A USDA
makes great specific suggestions for growing a garden and giving away the
produce, adopting an elderly person or shut-in who has difficulty meeting their
nutritional needs, and holding a food drive to benefit local food banks.
The afternoon might also include Bible study (see Youth
Activity 1), videos about hunger or areas of the world where One Great Hour of
Sharing works, quiet time for reflection, skits developed by the youth based on
their learnings about hunger or fasting, music and songs, board games, etc.
Some suggestions for videos can be found at http://www.churchworldservice.org/Film/index.html
(Church World Service’s library of videos, which are free to borrow) and http://www.pcusa.org/hunger/downloads/videos.pdf
[an annotated list from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Hunger Program]. The
last few hours before sunset may seem to crawl. Remind youth to record their
feelings and thoughts on the scrawl wall.
Just before the natural light begins to decrease, discuss as
a group their observations about hunger. Given all that has happened during the
day of fasting and prayer, what new connections can they make to the work of
One Great Hour of Sharing? As dusk falls, gather outside if possible to watch
the sun set and to hear the sounds of the day’s end. When the sun (finally!) is
fully down, lead the group in saying, “Amen.” Come inside and break the fast
gently with juice and a piece of fruit. Then gather in worship, thanking God
for God’s presence and strength for all who hunger and lifting up those who
will continue to be hungry. Join together at Jesus’ table with Holy Communion. Pray
for the work of One Great Hour of Sharing, alleviating suffering throughout the
world and showing our love for God. Read again the scriptures of John 21:1-19
and Ezekiel 34:11-16, 25-31. Then recess to a light meal prepared by other
To share the experience and learnings of the day with the
wider congregation, perhaps arrange for youth speak about it during a worship
service, write about it for the church newsletter, share a skit they developed,
or, with youths’ prior permission, post the scrawl wall, with a bit of
explanation, where it can be seen by many.
To help people think specifically about the needs of
disaster victims, refugees, and developing communities; to generate interest in
what help One Great Hour of Sharing provides people in need; to experience the
joy and fun of giving and receiving
Introduce the activity by explaining that the Bible often
uses the metaphor of sheep and shepherd to describe the relationship between
people and God. Have volunteers read one or several scripture selections: Psalm
23, Psalm 28:8-9; Psalm 100:3; Isaiah 40:9-11; Matthew 9:35-38; Matthew
18:10-14; John 10:10-11; Revelation 7:13-17.
[Do the next part of the introduction almost as if one were
a stand-up comedian.] I’ve always been puzzled why “sheep” were used as an
illustration for people. Maybe it is because we sound like sheep. Say “baa”
everybody. [Coax the people to “baa” several times. Then shake your head.] No,
that’s not it.
Well, “sheepish” means to look embarrassed because you know
you have done something wrong. Maybe the Bible calls us sheep because we look
like sheep. Everybody, do your best imitation of looking sheepish. [Invite
folks to check out each other’s sheep imitations.] Hmm, that’s not the reason
we’re called sheep, either.
What else could it be? Sheep are valuable, lovable, and
often do some pretty dumb things. Ah! Now we’re onto something! I bet that’s
why the Bible calls us sheep! Valuable, lovable, and often do some pretty dumb
things — that does sound like us!
In the theme scripture for this year’s One Great Hour of
Sharing offering, Jesus uses the metaphor of sheep to talk about people. [Have
someone read John 21:1-17.]
“Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.” That is
Jesus’ metaphor, a picture made from words, to tell us to care for God’s
people, and everybody is part of God’s people. Since the One Great Hour of Sharing
offering is coming up, I thought we should practice giving. No monetary gifts
today, but imaginary gifts, gifts that we will pretend to give each other.
[Divide the participants into groups of eight to twelve people each. Make sure
each group intentionally includes a mixture of age and gender. Invite the
younger participants to act like shepherds or sheep dogs to get their group to
stand in a circle facing each other.]
Look around the circle and see our dear church friends.
Consider: if you could give anything in the world to the person on your left,
what would you give them? It might be a silly gift; it might be serious. One
person in the circle will begin by turning to the person on their left. They
will pretend to hand that person a gift and will say, “I give you this gift of
_____.” While everyone else in the circle listens, the recipient takes the
gift, expresses thanks, and describes the gift or explains what they will do
with the gift. The first recipient then becomes a giver, turning to the person
on their left and offering a different imaginary gift to that person, saying,
“I give you this gift of _____.” The process of receiving and giving gifts
continues on around the circle. [Invite the circle’s shepherd or sheep dog to
decide who starts the process.]
When all groups have finished, note that participants were
able to imagine themselves both as giver and as receiver. That will be needed
in the next rounds as well. Invite participants to imagine they are living in a
beautiful place somewhere in the world, where green trees and plants abound.
They are surrounded by good friends and neighbors. Now imagine a great
hurricane has come through with devastating winds that shredded the landscape
and homes, with hours of slashing rain followed by fierce flooding. One Great
Hour of Sharing tends Jesus’ sheep by helping people in those situations. What
specific gift would you want to give someone whose home and community were
destroyed by a hurricane or by an earthquake? Follow the same process as
before. The giver begins with, “I give you this gift of _____.” The recipient
takes the gift, expresses thanks, and describes the gift or explains what they
will do with the gift.
When all groups have finished, repeat the circle process
having participants imagine they are refugees. Describe how their family had to
flee during the night to get away and left almost everything behind. They can’t
go back to get anything. They may never get to go back. It is unsafe. They have
lost not only material things, but have also lost much of their identity as
their past is inaccessible. What would you give someone in this situation?
The final time, help participants imagine they live in a
very poor village or large city slum. Dependable sources of nutritious food,
clean water, adequate housing, access to healthcare, schools, jobs — all these
are questionable. What gift would you give someone in this situation? This
time, after the recipient describes the gift or how they will use it, the
recipient tells the giver, “The peace of Christ be with you.” The giver
responds, “And also with you.” Ask the circle to remind the recipient and giver
to say these words if they forget, before the next pair begins their turn.
After the groups finish, tell participants they can visit www.ucc.org/oghs to learn more specifically how One Great Hour
of Sharing helps people in need. End the experience with prayer, thanking God
for God’s abundant gifts to us and for God’s mercy in times of trouble. May our
One Great Hour of Sharing offering extend those gifts to others in their times
of trouble. When Jesus asks, “Do you love me?”, we earnestly mean it when we
say, “Yes, Lord. You know that I do.” We take seriously and joyfully the
upcoming opportunity to feed your sheep.