Make sure to check out Large Group for ideas that weren’t used or that would be fun to do again in a small group setting
"As we give thanks to God for how God created everything in nature, I want to hear what your favorite animal is. Maybe it's a specific animal like your pet goldfish, or maybe it's your favorite kind of animal, like monkeys."
Take some time to let kids have a conversation about this. Gathering time is a great way to get everyone comfortable with each other and form a sense of belonging. Creating an environment where kids know they belong is a way you are enacting the gospel for them!
Highs & Lows
"Before we jump into our activities for today, let's go around and share a high and low from last week."
In addition to this being a great way to create a sense of belonging, it's also a great way to check in with kids and get an idea of what's going on in their lives. From this, you can check in with them on a more personal level if you see them outside of class. The more kids know that children's ministry is a place where people really care about them and ask how they are doing, the more they can trust you if there's ever something really wrong that they need to tell a safe adult about.
Telling the Story
Spark Story Bible
There are two stories to read today, found on pages 8-13 and 14-19.
Two Truths & A Lie
"In our story, Adam and Eve wanted to have all the knowledge of good and evil, just like God had. But with that knowledge of good things and bad things also came the understanding of how to make good choices and bad choices as well! This story is a way we explain why there is suffering and hardship in our lives, and that suffering often comes from people's bad choices and not because God is mean.
We are going to play a game where we will both get more knowledge of each other and also show that we are able to make bad choices as we lie. Lying is not a good thing to do of course, but in this game, it's okay because we'll reveal the truth at the end of each turn."
To play, give everyone a moment to think about 2 things that are true about themselves that others may not know, as well as one thing that is not true about them. You'll then have the first person tell their two truths and one lie and everyone will have to make a guess as to which is the lie. When everyone has guessed, they can reveal which is really the lie and who, if anyone, was correct. Go around so that everyone has a turn.
"The fact that God made everything in the world is amazing. But perhaps even more amazing is how God created ecosystems and how things evolved to need each other to survive. The more we learn from science about the natural world, the more we can wonder at the amazing work of God!
We are going to watch a five minute video that shows how scientists have seen the way wolves change rivers."
'How Wolves Change Rivers' by Sustainable Man
Follow this link to the video (if you do not have a wifi connection, download it ahead of time):
Taking time to meditate with scriptures is a great way to teach kids how to connect more deeply with God and the Bible. Plus, today more than ever, it's so good to teach kids how to meditate and calm themselves down and practice breathing techniques every week. I would encourage you to incorporate Story Meditation each week. You can either show the video to the kids and have them do this meditation with me, or you can watch it ahead of time, learn it, and be the leader in person yourself. The prayer in it will change each week to fit each story lesson.
Craft: Animal Bookmark
What you'll need:
Construction paper, cut out into small squares (see link) plus extra for animal features
"Animals are one of God's greatest creations! To celebrate animals, we are going to make animal bookmarks that go on the corner of your book."
For an instructional video, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARvzPYYnLV8
Animal Guessing Game
"We are going to play a game where we all think of an animal and then we'll each take turns acting like that animal. Show us how that animal moves and what it says, but don't tell us what the animal is - we'll all guess! If we aren't sure right away, we can ask a question like, 'do you live in the ocean?' or 'what color are you?'"
If any child is too uncomfortable doing this, please don't make them or draw attention to it. Just have fun and begin to help kids get used to participating and contributing.
Challenge them by seeing who can think of the most interesting animal to pretend to be, or make it into a game by seeing who can stump the other kids.
If your group is too self-conscious to act out their animals, make it into a Yes/No question game: Have one person think of an animal and then everyone has to ask them yes or no questions to try to figure out what they are thinking of. (You can remember this game for future situations, too!)
Serve With Love
What you'll need:
Menu, printed for each child
"God made us partners in taking care of the earth and this is a really important job for us today! One of the biggest ways to help protect the environment is by eating less meat and trying not to waste the food we buy. Today for our service project we are going to think about different options for meatless foods that we can eat with our families. A fun thing your family could try this year is something called 'Meatless Mondays' where on Mondays you try to eat all your meals with no meat in them."
Go through each of the foods on the menu and ask kids if they have ever eaten them before, if they sound good, and if they think their family would like them. You can also ask them if they have other ideas to add to the list and if they know anyone who intentionally reduces the amount of meat they eat each week.
Discipleship Take Away
"Does anyone know what a disciple is? We are going to hear that word a lot after Christmas. (Pause for any responses) A disciple is someone who learns from a particular person. We are all learning how to be Christians by learning from Jesus, so we are all disciples of Jesus. Each week, we will learn how the story of the day teaches us as disciples of Jesus. But the stories we are going to hear before Christmas all happen before Jesus is born, so how will we learn how to be Jesus' disciples from stories he isn't in? (pause for any responses) Jesus was with God even before he was born at Christmas, so when we learn about these stories before Christmas and learn about God, we are also learning how to be disciples. Last question. Does anyone know what all the stories in the Bible before Jesus is born are called? The Old Testament. Everyone repeat after me: Old Testament. Good job!
Today we are going to go outside and take a moment to look at some things that God made. Being grateful for what God has made is a way to give thanks to God. As disciples, we are called to give thanks for what God has made and be connected to the earth because we are to help God take care of."
Have them go in a line and make sure they know to be nice and quiet so everyone can focus on looking at the beautiful creation God made.
Faith Story Prompts
At some point, you can tell them a faith story of yours related to this story of creation. Hearing about your faith each week is a way for you to witness to the gospel, giving them examples of what faith looks like as it is enacted in and affected by life. Here are some ideas:
How does the natural world affect your faith?
What are you most grateful for that God made?
How do you feel when you are out in nature? How do you think that connects to how God created us?
Questions for Conversation
Did God first create the world to be full of goodness or full of suffering? (Goodness!)
What does this story of creation say is the reason there is hardship in the world? (Because Adam & Eve ate the fruit that gave them understanding of good and bad things - now they can make good choices and bad choices, too.)
What are some ways we help God take care of God's creation? (Lots of possibilities! Recycling, buying less, reusing things, walking instead of driving when possible, not wasting food, composting, turning lights off when not in the room, switching to wind or solar power, reducing meat consumption, etc.)
What do you think about this story? What jumped out you because it was interesting, strange, confusing, awesome - any reason! (You can use their answers to spark any further conversation)
Make the sign of the cross in the air in front of each of them as you look them in the eye and say, "You are God's beautiful creation."
"Let's close our eyes and close our hands and pray,
thank you for everything you created! Help us to stay connected with the natural world and to be good partners with you in taking care of it. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.