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.
DIY Story Bible
What you’ll need:
Coloring page for this week
Three-prong folder (that they already have)
Make their own story Bible this year! Each week have kids color a page that matches the story. When you print copies of the coloring page, make sure they are three-hole punched along the side. When they are finished coloring their page, put it into their three-prong folder (tip: Just have them put the pages in order into the pocket until the end of the year when you can help them put the pages into the prongs. That way the prongs don’t get worn out before the end). When you have extra time over the next few weeks, have kids work on coloring the covers of their story Bible folders.
Alternatively, you can just let them color it as a coloring page to take home with them each week.
Did God Make It?
What you'll need:
Objects from nature (rock, a bit of dirt, wood chip, water, leaf, etc)
Manmade objects (book, pencil, mobile phone, etc)
Bag to put them all in
"Today we are learning that God made everything in the world! Pretty amazing, right? But did God make this building that we are standing in? (pause for responses) No, God didn't put everything together to make the building, but God did make the basic materials that people used to put this building together. Let's play a game where I'll show you something and you tell me if God made it or if people made it. Ready?"
Go through each object, pulling each out of the bag one at a time and have them say if God made it or if people did. When it's something that people made, still point out the basic materials that were made by God that people then used to put the object together. It's okay if you don't know exactly what it's made of, just make some guesses - the point is for kids to see that God made everything, and even though people put things together to make new things, we still use the basic materials that were made by God.
"God made a lot of amazing things, and people make some amazing things out of it all, too. How are people able to make all this out of the materials that God made? (pause for responses) Because God made really smart brains for us! Remember in the story how God invited people to be God's helpers? God is really serious about it and gives us smart brains so we can be God's helpers in the world."
Midway through your time together, I'd recommend giving your kids a chance to get up and move around. Here are some suggestions for you to choose from, depending on your class and how they're feeling this week:
Dance to Christian music! (Get a CD or download a Christian Dance music playlist onto your device. If you have a wifi signal, you can also play music videos off of your computer. Just do a google search on 'Christian kids dance music' and you'll get some options. You can also mix this one up by stopping the music here and there and when you do they have to freeze otherwise they have to sit down.)
Yoga! (Cosmic Kids Yoga is a great place to start with younger kids, though there's a lot of choices out there on YouTube. CosmicKids is not affiliated with any religion, but learning yoga and calming our bodies helps us to live from a place of action and not reaction, allowing us to love our neighbors better.)
GoNoodle! (Search YouTube for GoNoodle videos. Just a fun way to get them moving!)
Freeze Dance Game by the Kiboomers! (Also just a fun way to get them moving. They have holiday themed ones as well)
Craft: Puppy Puppet
What you'll need:
Construction paper for dog features, either cut out ahead of time or just traced for them to cut out in class
Ahead of time, you can either cut out the ears, eyes, nose, tongue, and spot for each child's dog, or you can trace the features onto construction paper for the kids to cut out in class. If you are cutting them out ahead of time, when you are done, put them in each individual paper bag so it's easy to keep everything together. Make sure to make a few extra in case you have extra kids sign up the first morning of children's ministry. Make your own ahead of time so that they can see what they are making.
"One of the things I'm most grateful for that God made are pets. So, today we are going to make a puppy puppet to celebrate God making us animal buddies."
Hand out a bag full of features to each child and show them your finished puppy puppet. Have them cut out the features if they aren't already and then they can glue each feature on their paper bag to make the puppet. They can also decorate their puppy puppet with markers if they'd like, as well.
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.
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. They can also color their menus.
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.