God’s Strength: Paper Challenge

This idea was inspired by something I read in a great book by Heno Head Jr: Simple Science Object Talks. I would totally recommend the book as it has some amazing ideas to help children to connect with God and to explore the meaning of Bible stories.  I’ve used this activity in primary school assemblies but it would work just as well in an all age service or in a children’s group.

IMG_3272

You will need: I sheet of A4 paper per child, sellotape, toilet roll tubes or kitchen towel tubes, mugs or books.

Challenge children to use 1 sheet of paper to make a construction that will hold the mug or book off the floor. DO NOT show them the tubes!

Invariably, the children will find this an impossible task!

Now take a sheet of A4 paper and bring out the paper towel tube.  Wrap the paper tightly around the tube and sellotape the edges to make a paper tube covering the card tube.

Show how the mug will balance happily on the tube, but admit to the fact that you are cheating because you used tube and you didn’t let the children use one!

Now take the paper tube carefully off the card tube and ask if the children think that the paper on its own will hold the mug.  They will probably say no.  Put the mug on top and it will balance.

Talk to the children about the fact that when things are hard and we try to do it by ourselves, sometimes we don’t get far and things seem to collapse around us. When we ask for help, we can do things we never thought possible.  Think about the verse from Philippians 4: 13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” As Christians, we can ask Jesus to help us and nothing is impossible to him.  Share times when you have asked Jesus for help and pray for people who are faced with difficult situations.

Christmas Assembly or All-Age Service Talk (With Sweets!)

Here is the talk I did today at a school Christmas concert.  The children loved it because it involved sweets! I tried to get them to predict the contents of parcel 6 and had some random ideas but also some very sensible suggestions such as “Milky Way’ or ‘Mars’ because “God Made them.”  They were definitely paying attention!

love-hearts

You will need: A big box filled with 6 wrapped and numbered parcels. Each parcel contains one of the following- A Galaxy chocolate bar, ‘sour’ fizzy sweets, Love Hearts, Jelly Babies, Starbursts, Liquorice Allsorts (see order below), another gift bag filled with enough sweets for every child to have one.

Ask the children who has presents under the tree already.  Who is expecting to get or give a present this Christmas? For Christians, Christmas is about the most special present of all (open the big box and give each parcel to a different volunteer child.  Tell them not to open them until you ask).

So let’s see what’s in our presents.

(Ask the child with present 1 to unwrap it and tell you what they have. Give the explanation and then move on to parcel 2. Repeat until all parcels are open!)

1- Galaxy- God made everything- the world, the stars, space, the Galaxy, the whole universe
2- Sours- I’m not keen on sours- the don’t taste like sweets should, in my opinion!  Things in God’s world weren’t going as they should, either. There was war and hatred and sadness. People needed someone to come and give them hope, to help them and show them a new way to live
3- Love hearts- God loved us so much that he decided to send someone very special- his own son who had been with him since the beginning of everything
4- Jelly babies- so God sent a baby- and Jelly babies were originally called peace babies so this reminds us that one thing Jesus came to do is bring us peace
5- Starburst- God sent a star to shine over the place where Jesus was born so that people would know where to find him

(At this point I tried to get the children to suggest what would be in the final parcel…)

6- Liquorice All sorts- I don’t like these at all, but some people love them and that’s the point! These remind us that Jesus came for all sorts of people-everyone. The hope and peace he brings is God’s gift to us all.

BUT… at the moment, the only people who have sweets are the people who opened the presents.  Who thinks that’s fair?   Jesus came to give hope and light and peace to everyone, so no no one will be left out (give the bag full of sweets to a teacher or, if with a smaller group give the sweets out).

Merry Christmas!

Worry Assembly (The Exodus story: Wandering in the wilderness)

This assembly works well with years 1-6 and is quite interactive- especially if you have a willing teacher who doesn’t mind taking a risk!

You will need: A retelling of the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness and being given manna by God, a sealed plastic ziplock bag 2/3 filled with water, sharp pencils or pens

We told the story of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness and worrying about where they would get food and drink and also about where they were going.  A great retelling can be found in this book:9780745964331

Talk to the children about what worries them and then talk about the way that God helps the people in the story.  They don’t need to worry because He has got it covered!

Invite a teacher to come out to the front (we had a very willing head teacher who we had prepared beforehand!).  Sit them in a seat and hold a ziplock sandwich bag filled with water (and sealed!!) above their head.  How worried do they feel now on a scale of 1-10?  Then bring out a pen or a sharp pencil.  What if I threatened to push this pencil into the bag? How worried would you be then?  Stick 2015-09-01 19.15.09the pencil ALL THE WAY THROUGH the plastic bag in one steady move so that the pencil is poking out either side of the bag.  No water will come out!  Repeat this twice more.

Emphasise the point you knew that no harm was going to come to the teacher even if they were worried.  You had it covered.  When we are worried, we know that God has it covered and will look after us.  We can tell Him anything we are worried about.  Who can the children talk to if they are worried?

Say a prayer, thanking God for people who help us when we are worried and thanking Him that we can talk to Him about our worries too.

All Age: Christmas Gifts Talk

This is a talk that can be easily used in an assembly or for an all age service and focuses on the idea of Jesus being an unexpected gift.

You will need: 4 items to wrap as gifts.  One should be really easy to guess (e.g. a book), a couple should be quite difficult to guess (I used sunglasses and a duck shaped door stop!) and one should be an ordinary looking, quite boring container with chocolate coins hidden inside.

Ask the congregation what their favourite thing about Christmas is.  Gifts are bound to come up! Talk about why we give gifts- to show people that we love them and care for them.  Ask everyone to try and guess what is wrapped up in your gifts.  Start with the easy to guess gift, proceed onto the harder to guess gifts and end with the box containing chocolate coins.  Each time, after guesses have been made, reveal what the gift is.

Explain that sometimes we know immediately what we’ve been given but sometimes it’s harder to work it out and we even get gifts that aren’t what they first seem on the outside.  Talk about the fact that Jesus is Immanuel ‘God with us’.  God came down as a baby, the first Christmas gift,  but like the container with chocolate in it, he wasn’t what we expected!  On first sight he would have been just an ordinary human baby, but actually he was a treasure worth more than we can imagine.  He was a gift that meant we could be brought closer to God and, through him, God could show how much He loves us.   Share out the chocolate and as you eat it, pray that we will all come to see How much God loves us this Christmas.

Basic Assembly Structure

After years of doing assemblies, I have finally hit upon something of a formula.  This may or may not work in your particular context, but hopefully will be of some use!

Timings are obviously very approximate.

5 mins Hellos and game (based on the theme of the assembly) for one or two children to participate in up front

Click here to see a Pinterest board of game ideas

5 mins Storytelling e.g. acting out with the children, using props or from a good storyteller Bible
5 mins Short talk about the assembly with an illustration if possible (including an example from my own life where appropriate)

Click here to see a Pinterest board of object lesson ideas

2 mins Short prayer (or reflection time if not a church school).  Generally this works well with a lit candle.

Here are some assembly examples following this structure:

David and Goliath (Good to be me)

Abraham (Changes)

Abraham Assembly (Changes)

This assembly is based on the story of Abraham being called by God to leave his homeland and journey to a distant land (Genesis 12) and fits with the SEALS theme of ‘changes’.

5 mins  Game-get 10 yellow ball pool balls, 5 red and 5 blue and share them out as follows into 3 baskets spaced out across the front of the hall:

Left basket: 5 yellow balls, middle basket 5 red and 5 blue balls, right basket 5 yellow balls.

Get two volunteers to stand by the left hand and right hand baskets.  Shout ‘go’ and get the volunteers to run backwards and forwards between their basket and the middle basket, changing their balls one by one until the left basket has 5 red balls and the right basket has 5 blue balls and all the yellow balls are in the middle basket.  The first to change all of the balls in their basket is the winner.  This introduces the idea of ‘change.’

5 mins Talk about God calling Abraham to leave everything behind to journey to an unknown place (mirroring what would happen after the summer when Y6 move to secondary school). Invite a child up to the front to become ‘Abraham’ and give them a rucksack and a map as if they are going on a journey.  Then take the map away and gave them a blindfold to wear and lead them around following only the direction of your voice.  This is hard because they really have to trust!

Then talk about Abraham having to trust God when everything he knew was changing and how we have people we can trust to help us when things around us are changing.  Share with the children who some of your trusted people are

5 mins  Object lesson- check out the original idea here on this blog of object lessons using natural laws.

Stand about 10 feet away from ‘Abraham’ and aim an inflated but untied balloon at him.  Let go and the balloon will go a little bit crazy in the air as it deflates.  This is like us when we get stressed about things and don’t let others help us.  Next, blow up another balloon (still without tying the end) and sellotape it to a piece of straw with a long string running through it (see picture).

Get ‘Abraham’ to hold on to one end of the string and you hold the untied balloon/ straw at the other end.  Let go and the balloon will fly straight to its destination at the end of the string (Abraham)!   This shows us how, if we trust God or those around us to help when things are changing and we are worried then, like the string, they will help to keep us on track!

2 mins  Light a candle and ask the children to think of all those people in their lives who they can trust to help them when changes are happening- the people who will keep them going in a straight line.  Say a brief thank you prayer for those people.