Tiny Big Gift

Pentecost Proper 26

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture Reference: Mark 12:41-44

Preparation: Bring two bags containing stickers or some other kind of prize or treat. One bag should contain just a few items, the other, many items. Have extra items yourself to give to the helper with the meager prize-bag. 

I have two bags of prizes with me this morning. I’d like two volunteers to help me hand them out. (Pick your helpers and give them each a bag.) As you can see, one of the bags is more full than the other. I’d like my helpers to start handing out prizes. They have to take turns, though, as they hand out their prizes. First one person will give out a prize, then the other person will give out a prize until everybody has been given a prize. Then, after everybody has gotten a prize, these two helpers get to keep for themselves whatever is left in their bags. We can help by counting as they hand them out. (Let the volunteers begin. Try to make sure that the one with the meager bag has few or no prizes left when finished.) Does everyone have a prize?

Which one of these two helpers gave out the most prizes? (Let children respond.) They handed out about the same number, didn’t they? But one has very few prizes left and the other still has a bag full. So they may have handed out the same number, but which of these two do you think was the more generous? (Children may answer.) The one with just a few prizes to begin with gave away almost all that she had. The one with lots of prizes still has plenty left. (Give your extra prizes to the helper with the empty bag. Then have the two helpers sit down with the rest of the children.)

Something like this happened when Jesus and his disciples were sitting at the temple, watching people drop their money in the offering box. As they watched the crowds come by, they saw many rich people put in large amounts of money. It was an impressive offering the rich people gave. Then along came a poor widow. She put just a small amount into the box. But Jesus saw her, and he said to his disciples, “This poor widow has given more than all the others have given. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has” (Mark 12:43-44 nlt).

When we give our offerings of money or time or talent to God, he doesn’t compare our offerings to those of other people. Some of us have more time or more money than others to begin with. God looks at what we have to start with, and God looks at the attitude we have about giving. When we give with a generous and thankful heart as much as we possibly can, God is very pleased and happy.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, help us be generous in sharing all the gifts that came from you in the first place.

The Greatest

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Pentecost Proper 24

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture Reference: Mark 10:42-45

Preparation (optional): Bring in a low stool that you can cover with a rich-looking robe or piece of fabric. You may even bring a crown for the servant royalty.

This morning I’d like to set up a royal kingdom here. I’ll need a king, queen, princes, princesses, dukes, and duchesses. And I’ll need a servant to wait on all the royal people. Are there any volunteers to be in our royal court?

(Choose volunteers for the royal titles. Using the child’s own name, announce their roles: King Alec, Queen Laura, Princess Elsa, etc. Have the children stand in a line at the front of the church with the king and queen at one end. Announce each member of the royal court with appropriate pomposity.)

We have a very fine court here this morning. We have a king, a queen, princes, princesses, dukes, and duchesses. Do you know what we’re missing? We need a servant to wait on all of these important people. Will someone volunteer to be the lowly servant? (Wait for a volunteer or, if necessary, choose a likely candidate from the “royals” to stand at the end of the line.)

Can someone tell me, in the eyes of God, who of all these people is the greatest? Is the king the greatest? Is one of the dukes the greatest? (Wait for answers.) In the eyes of the Lord, the servant is greatest of all. I’d like for our servant to come up here to the top step to stand above everyone. (Have the servant come to the top step at the front of the church or provide a stool draped with a rich-looking cloth for the servant to step onto.) In God’s kingdom, the lowliest servant is the greatest.

Could the entire royal court, including any lowly servants, come and sit down again? I have something I’d like to read to you. These verses are from the book of Mark, chapter 10. Two of Jesus’ disciples, James and John, wanted to be very important people in heaven. They wanted to sit right next to Jesus by his heavenly throne. The other disciples grew angry with them. Why should James and John have the best seats? So Jesus had to explain something to them.

“Whoever wants to be great must be a lowly servant,” Jesus explained, “and whoever wants to be first must be a slave of all. For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a payment for many” (vv. 43-45 author’s paraphrase).

Jesus is the Almighty King, but he didn’t come to earth to demand that people serve him. Jesus came to be a servant to all and to give up his life, so that we might have eternal life.

I hope that all of you will become great in God’s kingdom by serving others with all of your heart!

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, thank you for leaving your throne in heaven to come here to earth

World Community Communion

Children’s Message on World Communion Sunday

Scripture Reference: John 13:2 – 17;

12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.”

Preparation: Cut from cardboard tubes or create from stiff paper enough elbow sleeves to accommodate at least a couple of volunteers. These segments of tube will be slipped over the children’s arms to help illustrate the sermon. 

Makeshift Elbow Tube

Makeshift Elbow Tube

You know what “communion” means, right? When the congregation comes together to have bread and wine and to remember how Jesus gave his life for us, it is called communion. Today is World Communion Sunday but it doesn’t just mean the communion meal in church. The word “community” is a lot like “communion.” On World Communion Sunday, we remember that believers all over the world are part of our church community.

For a community to be healthy, all of the people in that community must take care of each other. We must learn to serve each other. On the evening of Jesus last supper with his disciples, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. This washing of the feet was usually the job of the lowliest servant in the household, but Jesus himself did this for his disciples to show them that this humble way of serving one another was the best way.

I brought something with me today to show you how community works, but first I need two volunteers. (Choose a couple of children whose arms will fit the cardboard sleeves you have made, and slide the sleeves onto their arms so that they can no longer bend their elbows.) Now that your “community sleeves” are in place, you can both enjoy a snack. (Place a bowl of round crackers in front of them and help instruct them in finding a way to eat the snack.)

You will notice that you can no longer feed yourself. In a community, if people are only concerned with feeding or helping themselves, the community will not be healthy. Some will be hungry or lonely or left out. But if you concentrate on feeding or helping the other first, then it works. (Encourage the volunteers to feed a cracker to each other.) When we help each other, everyone in the community will be fed.

In most churches, communion is given by the worship leader directly to the person receiving communion. In some cases, the bread is placed directly on the tongue of the person who is receiving communion. This is done to remind everyone in the congregation that it is God who has done the saving. It is not our own doing. God provided us with salvation through Jesus. God has given us so much, it is only right that we serve others in the community that is our whole world.

(Optional:) I’d like everyone to take a snack, but don’t eat it yourself. Serve your snack to someone else as a reminder that we live in a community that needs to help each other.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for showing us the way of servant. Give us the strength and honesty and humility to serve others in our world community in your name.

Giving Up the Grudge

Children’s sermon from August 2015 at Lake Nojiri:

Swatting vs. Sympathy

Children’s Message on Prejudice vs. Sympathy

Scripture Reference: 1 Peter 3:8 – 9  

Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”


From panoramio.com

Preparation: Bring a fly swatter and an example creepy crawly with you to illustrate the sermon.  

Have any of you ever been scared by an insect or an animal? (Let children respond.) What is your reaction if a moth or a grasshopper or a spider lands on your arm? If you are nervous or frightened of the creature, you shoo it away or go find the swatter and kill it. (Here you may share your own story of an encounter with a creepy crawly. My example follows.) The other night, I was climbing the steps of our cabin to turn the light on at the top of the stairs, when my shin brushed a spider web. I stopped and looked down to see that a spider had built a large web across the top of the staircase. This spider was huge! It seemed like it had built the web just to trap me and wrap me up. Compared to me, of course, this spider was small, but because I was scared, I still felt intimidated. I went back downstairs, grabbed a swatter and finished off the spider before it could scare me again.

We don’t like to feel scared. Some things that scare us, are just living their lives and not trying to scare us, but we sometimes react by wanting to hurt the thing that frightens us. If we are not scared of something, like butterflies, for example, we tend to leave them alone.

If I were a spider myself, would I want to go around killing all the spiders like me? Probably not. I would understand spiders better and consider spiders to be beautiful.

In 1 Peter 3:8, the Bible says, “be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.” To be sympathetic or to have sympathy, you must understand another person and share their feelings. If you have sympathy, you will feel sad if you see someone else crying. If you have sympathy, you will no longer be afraid of another person. Perfect love casts out all fear.

God wants us to first understand the person, to first love the person, and then to share the Gospel. Although we might want to make another person more like ourselves so that we would no longer fear that person, God does not want us to make clones of ourselves. God wants to make each person more like Jesus. God wants a direct connection with each individual. Each person is very different, but God loves each individual for who they are.

Spiders have a job to do that is different from the job that I am meant to do. They are very different from me, just as many people in this world are very different from me. God calls us to be sympathetic; to humbly put ourselves in another person’s place.

So, think about swatting vs. sympathizing. Which is the best way to share God’s love? If I swat a spider, do I learn anything about spiders? Do I learn what they eat or why they build webs or how they are good for our environment? No. I just learn that I can kill a spider by swatting it. If I never listen to someone that is very different than me explain why they are the way that they are, do I ever learn anything about that person? If I swat them down with my words when they try to talk to me, will they listen to me when I tell them that Jesus loves them? Probably not. Sympathizing is better than swatting. Jesus sympathized. He did not swat. Jesus listened and loved and shared the Good News of God’s love.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for listening and loving. Teach us not to swat at those who are different than us. Help us instead to sympathize and love and listen. Help us to be humble witnesses for you.

From Abraham to Jesus

Children’s Message on the Genealogy of Jesus

Scripture Reference: Matt. 1:1-17  Jesus_Genealogy

Preparation: If your meeting space has a balcony or choir loft, you may make use of it for this message.

Do you know what a genealogy is? It’s a long list of names of people in a family. The very first verses of the Gospel of Matthew contain a long list of 42 generations. These would not be easy verses to memorize; lots and lots of names, but this list is important because it introduces us to Jesus.

In order to help us imagine what a genealogy is like, we are going to make a long line of people, holding hands, stretching down the middle of church. We need as many people as we can get. (Here, you may want to send a volunteer with a big voice up to the balcony or loft to be the eyes from above and answer questions later.) The first person in line just has to be themselves. That’s easy. The next person has to pretend to be the first person’s mom or dad. They represent the next generation. And you have to hold hands because this shows the connection between the generations. The next person after mom or dad, has to pretend to be the grandma or grandpa. (And so on, until you have a long family line stretched out as an object lesson.)

Now, with everyone lined up straight, and without stepping out of line, I’m wondering if the first person can see the last person in line? We are all stuck in the present time. We can see our moms and dads, our grandparents, and sometimes even our great-grandparents, but we can’t see much farther than that. We can’t jump back in time to meet our great-great-great grandparents, but they are really there in our genealogy. Can God see all of them? (Here you can have the person in the balcony be an example of how God can see all the generations at once. Ask the observer how many generations they can see.) God can see our whole family of faith, connected by birth and connected by our love for Jesus. Even though we can’t see the whole picture of God’s plan for our lives and for our family, God can see it.

Matthew starts out his Gospel with a long list of names that begins with Abraham and ends with Jesus. These people are not all perfect people; far from it. God works through people that make mistakes. God works through people like us. Even though we are not perfect and we do not always say and do things out of love, the message of God’s love gets passed along. God is faithful from one generation to the next. God connects us and loves each one in our family.

Prayer: Thank you, God, for being the strong connection of love that is passed down from one generation to the next. Help us to teach each other the important lessons of love. Amen.

Career Change

Gail Tromburg liked this post

Pentecost Proper 10

From “Sitting on the Rainbow”

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Scripture Reference: Amos 7:12-15

Preparation (optional): You may bring paper and a marker to write down some careers that the children list during the sermon.

What do you want to be when you grow up? (Let the children respond; you may write their ideas on the paper.)

Our ideas about what we want to do or be probably will change as we get older; but they may not. Some people decide at a very young age what they want to do as an adult, and that desire stays with them. They end up doing the very thing they had always planned on doing.

The Old Testament lesson today is from the book of Amos. Do you know what job Amos had? He was a herdsman and took care of cows all day. He made sure they had enough water and food, and he protected them from wild animals. He also was a tree trimmer. If there was a big tree growing next to somebody’s house with a big branch hanging right over the roof, he might be asked to trim that branch back so that it wouldn’t fall on the house and smash the roof. Do you think that’s a job that you’d like to do?

Amos worked as a herdsman and a tree trimmer, but God had other plans for him. One day, God told Amos to go and speak God’s messages to the people of Israel—to be a prophet. This was not Amos’s idea. He never dreamed of being a prophet. A prophet told the people what God wanted them to do and how to live. It was a very important job. I’m sure that when Amos was standing out in the field with his cows he had no idea that one day he would be a prophet.

Amos had probably gotten used to being a herdsman and a tree trimmer. He might have been nervous about taking on the job of speaking God’s words to the people. What if the people didn’t listen and laughed at him? But God didn’t let Amos down. He taught Amos what to say. God was with Amos the entire time, and Amos was a good prophet.

It’s okay to make plans for our lives and to start thinking what we’d like to do when we get older. In fact, it’s a very good thing. But sometimes, suddenly, God will change our plans. This change may be surprising; it may make us nervous or even scared. But you know, God’s plans for us are always for good. And whatever it is God has for us to do, he will also show us how to do it and make us strong enough to do it.

No one can know for absolute certain what they’re going to do when they grow up. But I know one thing for sure. Each one of you always will be a child of God. Even when you’re all grown up, you’ll still be a child of God. That will never change. And that is a very, very good thing to be.

Prayer:  Dear God, as we grow up, help us decide what jobs we will have. Help us to learn your will for our lives. Thank you that we will always be your children.


Long Fuse

For the Sunday after the Fourth of July

(from Barefoot in the Snow)

Artwork by Elsa Ingulsrud

Biblical Reference:  Neh. 9:17  “You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and full of unfailing love and mercy.

Preparation: Make a firecracker prop out of some of string and a cardboard tube. The entire tube, including the ends should be covered with colorful paper. A 20-foot piece of string should be inside the tube with a short end of the string sticking out the top.

We recently enjoyed a holiday that is often celebrated with fireworks, flags of red, white and blue, and firecrackers. Can anyone tell me what that holiday is? (Let children respond.) Yes! The 4th of July is the day that we celebrate our country’s independence.

Today, I brought along a pretend firecracker. If you were a firecracker and someone lit your fuse, what would happen when the fuse had burned all the way down? (Children can answer.) You would go “Bang!” Let’s try it. We’ll all pretend to be firecrackers. (You can act out a fuse disappearing and then yell “bang” a few times with the children.) Continue reading Long Fuse

Loss or Gain

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

From “Barefoot in the Snow”

From weddingsoon.co.uk

From weddingsoon.co.uk

Scripture Reference: Mark 8:27-35
Preparation: (Optional) Bring in a large gemstone or glass cut to look like a gemstone. You could have smaller glass gemstones to hand out to the kids at the very end of the message to remind them that their lives belong to Jesus.

Have any of you ever lost something? (Let children share their stories.) If you lose something, is it gone for good? You may never find it again, but sometimes something that we’ve lost does come back to us, doesn’t it? It feels pretty good to find something we thought was lost forever.

Imagine that each of us has a beautiful, precious jewel. It is our most prized treasure. We polish it every day, we admire it, and we keep it with us all the time. (Invite children to pretend to hold a precious jewel in their hands.) This jewel is our life. The jewel is a treasure that we dearly love but each of us knows that it has been given to us by God. One day, Jesus asks us to give the jewel back to him. Would you give Jesus your precious, sparkling jewel? Would it be difficult to do?

When we give up something that we dearly love, it is called a sacrifice. It may be very hard to do, but let’s pretend that each of us is able to give up our jewel. We give it to Jesus, and we are happy to give him our very best. (Have children offer their “jewels” to Jesus by raising their hands up to heaven.) Do you know what Jesus has to give to each of us in exchange for that one precious jewel? A crown of jewels awaits each of you in heaven. (Reach up and make a circle with your hands, representing a crown, and place the ‘crown’ on your head. Invite children to do the same.) God loves each one of you so much and wants to give you more than you can imagine.

Jesus once said, “If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the good news, you will find true life” (Mark 8:35 nlt).

The jewel that you treasure and want to keep is your life and the plans that you have for your future. Your life is very special and unique. Each one of you shines like a jewel. Jesus asks each of us to live for him and to give up our lives for him. But when we lose our lives to Jesus, what do we find? We find that Jesus gives back to us a life full of joy and love and thankfulness. For a single jewel, we have been given a splendid crown of many jewels. When you give your life to Jesus, it is not losing, it is gaining.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, we return to you what you have first given us. Use our lives to help others and tell people about your love.

Connected to Divine

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Scripture Reference: John 15: 1 – 8 vinebranchgrapes
Preparation: Bring in a tree branch with leaves or a picture of a fruit tree branch. You could also bring in a bunch of grapes to share with the children at the end of the message.

Does anyone know what this is? (Show your branch or your picture of a branch with leaves or fruit on it. Let children respond.) Yes, it is a plant that bears fruit. If I cut the branch off of the tree, will the branch keep producing more fruit? No, it will eventually wither and die.

In the book of John, chapter 15, Jesus tells us that he is the vine and we are the branches. It order to be truly alive and in order to do great things with our lives (which is like producing fruit) we need to be connected to Jesus. We need to be praying and reading the Bible and listening to God. Jesus is holy. Another word for holy is “divine.” It’s easy to remember that word, because He is divine and we are “de branch.” But we need to stay connected to the holy or “divine” if we want to be really alive.

I have a game that we can play that helps show the importance of being connected. Sometimes this game is called “Ooh-Ahh” and you’ll see why. First we have to hold hands in a big circle. Once we’re all connected, I am going to squeeze the hand of the person on my right and I’m going to say, “Oooh!” As soon as they get that “Oooh” they have to pass it on to the person on their right. If we’re all connected, the “Oooh” should travel around the circle all the way back to me. Let’s try it! (Send the “Oooh” around the circle to your right.” Then you can try sending an “Aaah” around the other way. If your group is very attentive, they can handle both sounds at once in opposite directions.)

Now, would this work if we weren’t connected? If we refuse to connect to God, or to listen to God, can we hear what God is trying to say to us? It’s important to stay connected to the vine, to Divine, to Jesus.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help us to always stay connected to you, and to listen to you and to bear good fruit for you.