Sitting here in the autumn sunshine, looking out at the glorious colours the leaves have turned, I realise that I had better share with you what we did at Kids’ Club near the beginning of the school term. While summer was coming to an end and the leaves were starting to put on their autumnal colours, the children were gathering conkers from underneath the big tree on the corner of the school grounds. The inspiration for a Kids’ Club session came to me and I thought of what Jesus said in the Bible,
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bears good fruit. Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn-bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” – Luke 6:43-45
There’s a lot to think about here, but with the current group of children at Kids’ Club, because of their younger age, it is necessary to keep things simple and to the point. I was trying to find a fun game to engage them. They could all relate to gathering conkers from the school playground, and have come across different fruit. So, in preparation for a quiz, I went foraging for conkers and some big leaves from the conker tree (horse chestnut) with the “help” of our new puppy (who’s occupying a lot of my time and hence the delay in writing posts!). I also went round to the other group leaders Arthur and Rita’s to ask for some twigs and fruit from their fruit trees – apples, pears, and tomatoes. From my own garden, as it’s so overgrown with weeds, I found plenty of brambles with blackberries! I also had some elderberries from the elderflower bush, some blueberries (shop-bought) and a small branch from my blueberry bush. Continue reading “What fruit tree are you?”
Last week at Kids’ Club, Arthur read to the kids from the Children’s Bible about Ascension Day – when Jesus went up to heaven 40 days after Easter Sunday. We usually ask the children to listen carefully because at the end of the story there would be questions, and if they answered correctly there would be a reward (usually involving sweets). You would have thought that the promise of rewards would help the kids concentrate and listen well, but where the enthusiasm was there and they all raised their hands to answer questions, the responses were often pure guess work. Needless to say, they received a lot of hints from the helpers – God forbid that anyone should miss out on a sweet!
This made me think that perhaps as grown-ups we are not any better. You see, when Jesus was with his disciples, he told them what was going to happen – that he was going to be killed and then raised to life, and that he was going away. Right up to the moment that all these things happened, and even a bit afterwards, the disciples hadn’t taken it in. If they heard what Jesus said, they hadn’t processed it. I imagine that the disciples loved being around their Teacher, and they can be forgiven in wanting Jesus to remain with them forever – life was going to be so good when the kingdom of heaven comes. After all, Jesus did teach about the coming kingdom an awful lot. Perhaps much like we dangle the carrot at Kids’ Club with the promise of sweets if correct answers are given, and the children know that they will be rewarded anyway. Who isn’t excited by that thought?
To me, the Ascension speaks of God being a loving and wise parent. Let me explain – Jesus always carried out God the Father’s plans, which reach far beyond the here and now. He wasn’t there only for his disciples whilst he walked on this earth, as he clearly stated that he had “other sheep that are not of this sheep pen”. (John 10:16) Jesus’ ascension meant that God could send the disciples the Holy Spirit, without whom they would not have been empowered to preach the gospel. Like a good parent, Jesus prepared ahead for the time when his followers would have to cope without him being around physically. He said, “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18) But he also said, “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7) . Continue reading “What does the Ascension mean for us?”
When I was thinking about what to do for the first Kids’ Club session after the Easter break, several stories in the Bible came to mind. I thought that what follows on from Jesus’ resurrection would be his appearance to his disciples, and I wanted to tell the children about doubting Thomas. As I was churning over in my mind how I might make the short passage in John’s gospel (Chapter 20) more memorable, somewhere in my subconscious surfaced this illustration, and whether it connected the dots for the kids or not, I was determined to use it. It went something like this:
“Hello kids! I’ve not been feeling that well lately, and I thought I should try something new for my diet.” I took out a tin of dog food from my bag and continued, “You know how they always advertise that these branded dog food would give your dog energy and make their coat look shiny and silky. It’s great tasting and full of vitamins… Well, I thought I could do with some of that.”
At this point I opened the tin by pulling on the ring-pull and started scooping up the contents into my mouth. The children gasped and made disgusted noises, even commented that it smelt vile. Continue reading “Kids eat dog food!”
Did you know that the Easter Tree is nothing new? I thought it’s a novel idea, but apparently it’s a European tradition and our American cousins have had Easter Trees for a while. Anyway, that’s the activity Arthur had prepared for us on the last session of Kids’ Club before school broke up for the Easter holidays, but first of all we had to talk about the Easter story. The children were keen to show off their knowledge, so we had a Q&A time.
It turned out that a fair bit of prompting was needed, so we had a quick recap of Jesus’ death on the cross on Good Friday, and then how on the very first Easter Sunday, Jesus’ disciples and Mary Magdalene went to the tomb only to find his body gone. Two angels told them that Jesus was not there. He had risen from the dead! Much to Mary’s surprise, Jesus himself appeared to her in the garden where the tomb was, and her grief was turned to joy. Jesus also appeared to his disciples later, but that’s for another time. We wanted to focus on Easter Day in the session, and what it means to us.
To help with the explanation, Arthur had brought in a willow “tree” from his garden, or rather, a slender branch he had stuck in a pot of compost last year because it looked dead. He looked after it all winter, and a few weeks ago it showed signs of new life – fresh young green leaves sprouted from the twigs. So he thought it would be very apt to use it to illustrate the message of Easter – that of new life.
Talk of Easter to anyone and what excites them about it, and people think of Easter eggs, especially the children. So we asked our Kids’ Club children what the eggs have to do with Easter and with new life. At first they couldn’t move past the thought of chocolate eggs… Continue reading “Kids’ Club joins in new craze of Easter Egg Tree”
To tie in with the Mothering Sunday’s activities, we had to have a story about mothering, or a mother in the Bible. Mary the mother of Jesus obviously came to mind, so did Hannah who prayed earnestly for a baby and Samuel came along, but I decided on Moses’ mother Jochebed again.
The original Moses basket
I read the kids the story of Moses, how he was born at a time where Pharaoh the king of Egypt wasn’t at all well-disposed towards the Israelites. He ordered that all the male babies be thrown into the river Nile and be killed. Moses’ mother clearly didn’t want to do that, but how can you defy the king and get away with it? So she made a basket from reeds, waterproofed it with tar, put it in the river complete with baby Moses. Anything’s better than letting your child be killed, even having to part with your baby, not knowing whether he’ll live or die. But you have to take that chance when you know that keeping him would mean certain death for the baby and perhaps disaster for the rest of your family.
Moses’ sister Miriam hung around by the river to see what would happen. Lo and behold, Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe, found the baby and wanted to keep him as her own son. Miriam, seeing that the princess showed kindness and compassion towards her brother, suggested to find a nurse to look after him. Miriam ran back to get her mother, so Moses’ mother got to take care of him until he was old enough to be taken to Pharaoh’s daughter to adopt him.
Some interpretations of the story have it that Jochebed Moses’ birth mother had it all planned out, that it was jolly clever of her to send Moses in the basket down the river towards the place where Pharaoh’s daughter was going to bathe. Now I’m not so sure if Jochebed really thought it all out. How could you predict what Pharaoh’s daughter would do? I think that she wasn’t sure at all if she’ll ever see Moses again… Continue reading ““Let Go, and Let God” Mothering”
So last week I was thinking, what activity should I do with the children at Kids’ Club… Mothering Sunday is coming up, but it’s a week and a half away. Perhaps the usual making Mother’s Day cards and parcelling up a few fun-sized chocolates would be ideal. What Mum wouldn’t appreciate that? We’ve done that several times before, what could go wrong?
I cut out all the cards and folded them the right size, got boxes of fun-sized chocolates, found the colouring pens and pencils. Ah! And I’ve recently found some bargain mini stamps and mini ink pads from Hobbycraft. That brought back happy memories of me as a little girl stamping all over to make pretty pictures (or so I thought anyway) – so easy and quick, and nowadays you can get so many bright colours. Continue reading “Mother’s Day Crafts”
I hope that we all had plenty of pancakes on Pancake Day, aka Shrove Tuesday, which was on Feb 28th this year. That, of course, was followed by Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent – the 40-day period leading up to Easter (not counting Sundays). I remember that when I was at school, all the girls were interrogating each other about what we’re giving up for Lent. The answer was usually chocolate or pudding, without really giving thought to why we’re giving up these yummy things. If truth be told, it was just an excuse to go on a diet to look more gorgeous, which isn’t really in the spirit of Lent.
So, what is the spirit of Lent? In order to try and explain that to our Kids’ Club kids, we take a look at Jesus:
Jesus in the desert
After being baptised in the river Jordan but before starting his public ministry of preaching and healing in Israel, Jesus goes into the desert to fast for 40 days and 40 nights. (Hmm… that is so drastic, but I guess that’s where the giving up of food during Lent comes from.) He needs to get away from the crowds and the distractions in order to find out exactly what God the Father wants him to do and say.
There is nothing to do out there in the desert, unless you’re David Attenborough with a camera crew. You’re alone with your thoughts, and you have no one to talk to but God. Perhaps we talk to ourselves, and argue with ourselves. At least there isn’t anyone else we can blame, and we’re forced to face our own demons. Continue reading “Temptations in the Desert”