Children and Youth Activities

Activity 1: Changing Futures

 

Purpose

To help children understand how giving to One Great Hour of Sharing helps create better futures

 

Materials needed

  • pitcher of lemon juice mixed with water, small cups, sugar or sugar substitute sufficient to turn the drink into lemonade, mixing spoon
  • homemade 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 brush
  • paper circles about 8” in diameter, scissors, long paper to make a poster, marker, glue

Activity

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 new work!

 

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 poor.

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.

  • Pour 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 sweetens life.
  • Start 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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

           smiling 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

 

Purpose

 

Materials needed

  • Bible
  • news magazines, scissors
  • several One Great Hour of Sharing coin boxes
  • pennies or other coins

 

Activity

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

Purpose

To help children experience the work and joy of feeding God’s sheep and connect that with the One Great Hour of Sharing offering

 

Materials needed

  • Ahead 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.
  • Simple, 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)

 

Activity

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

 

Purpose

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.

Materials needed

·         Bibles

·         paper and pencils

·         several newspapers or news magazines, and/or computer with internet access, and/or video recording equipment

 

Activity

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 guidance.

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 and thoughts.

  • 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 dismayed.)
  • 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 sheep)
  • 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)

Engage the 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 attitudes?
  • 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

 

Purpose

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

  • If 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!
  • Secure written parental/guardian permission beforehand for youth to participate in the fast.
  • Find 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.
  • Invite 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.
  • Arrange 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.
  • Slow-to-digest foods for the pre-dawn meal, such as oatmeal, fruit, whole grain cereals and breads, dried apricots, dates, and almonds
  • Fruit juices, nuts, and dried fruit on hand and out of sight, in case someone physically needs to break the fast before sunset
  • Newsprint, markers, and fasteners to create the “scrawl wall”
  • Pitchers of water, glasses
  • Paper and pencils for note taking
  • Board games, music CDs, pertinent videos about hunger

 

Activity

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:

http://www.bread.org/learn/hunger-basics/ (Bread for the World is a collective Christian voice/organization working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and abroad),

http://www.pcusa.org/hunger/downloads/presbyterian-cws-poverty.pdf (background and creative activities on poverty and the problems it causes, including hunger. The youth may enjoy doing some of the activities during the afternoon.)

http://www.fao.org/ (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.)

http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/ (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 publication (http://www.fns.usda.gov/fsec/FILES/wecan.pdf) 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 church members.

 

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.


Intergenerational Activity

 

Purpose

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

 

Material needed

Bible

 

Activity

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.

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CONTACT INFO



Ms. Phyllis Y. Richards
Program Associate
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115
216-736-3215
richardp@ucc.org