Starchasers: Sessions Archive

This page lists a summary of all Starchasers sessions, ever. Well since we started taking a record of them in about 2008.

To return to the main Starchasers page click here.

Jesus: Countdown to Easter

This term we’ll be looking at Jesus’ last few weeks before His death as told in John’s gospel. We’ll be seeing how Jesus is in control of the whole situation and is preparing his friends and disciples for what lies ahead. Jesus shows them He has the power over life and death by raising Lazarus from the dead. He shows He is control by predicting His death and the events around it. He prepares His disciples for what lies ahead and prays for them. And finally Jesus show His power and glory in his death and resurrection.

12th March – John 18-20
Theme – Jesus’ death and resurrection
We started the session by looking back at what we wrote down 2 sessions ago. The Hot and the Cool team made a note of the predictions that Jesus made at the Last Supper to His disciples. We focused on four of these:

  1. One of Jesus’ friends will betray Him – Judas
  2. Peter will say 3 times he doesn’t know Jesus
  3. In a little while the disciples won’t see Jesus…
  4. … but in a little while they will see Him again.

(There were others in there like the disciples grief turning joy but we focused on those four).
We then read from John 18-19 while looking at a video clip from The Miracle Maker. As we heard John’s words the kids were looking out to see if those things that Jesus said would happen did come true. We saw Judas betraying Jesus by leading the temple guards and soldiers to Jesus (1). While Jesus was on trial with the priests Peter was outside and 3 times he told people he didn’t know Jesus (2). And we saw Pilate hand Jesus over to be crucified and Jesus being killed on a cross and put in a tomb (3 – Now the disciples could no longer see Jesus, He was dead).
These events happened just as Jesus said they would happen. Even though Jesus was killed He showed that He and God the Father were in control, this was all part of God’s plan. But what about the fourth one?
We then acted out the events in John 20 – Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene at the tomb, Jesus appearing to His disciples without Thomas in a locked room and Jesus appearing to His disciples with Thomas in a locked room. The disciples all saw that Jesus have risen from the dead and was alive. Just as Jesus had said – in a little while they would see Him again!
Even though the Easter story can be sad, upsetting and even scary we know throughout it that Jesus was in control that this was all part of God’s plan.
Given we’d just seen what God could do it felt appropriate to end with our song for the term – ‘God can do anything!’.
And as it was the last Starchasers of term we had the Big Star Count and prizes.

26th February – John 14,15,17
Theme – Jesus prepares His disciples
We did things a little differently at Starchasers today. We each got a soft cushion or wedge and made ourselves comfortable reclining on the floor. Then we read together Jesus’ words preparing His disciples for what was going to happen next.
We read in John 14 that Jesus promised to send them a Helper, a Protector – the Holy Spirit. And we read in John 15 that Jesus told His disciples to remain in Him and to love each other as I have loved you. It was unusual for us to read so us of the Bible in one sitting but we took the time to go through each passage twice to hear what Jesus wanted to tell His disciples.
We saw that Jesus was preparing His disciples to carry on God’s plan even after He went back to Heaven.

12th February – John 13,16
Theme – Jesus predicts what will happen
We started the session by showing some videos and asking the kids a simple question “What happens next?”. They didn’t do a great job of guessing that “a snake invades the airport” or “woman pulls a kitten from her pocket” and it can be hard to predict the future, to know what is going to happen.
But in today’s story Jesus does just that. Last time we looked at Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem which took place on the Sunday and now we fast forward to the Thursday when Jesus is gathered together with his disciples to celebrate the Passover meal with them. They don’t know it yet but this would be Jesus’ last meal with them before his death.
We sat around the table with some wine (well blackcurrant juice) just like Jesus disciples gathered round to eat the Passover meal together. And we listened to hear what Jesus told them in John 13 and 16. We got one person on the Hot team and one on the Cool team to be a scribe during the meal and they had to write down all of Jesus’ predictions to see what would happen later.
As we read from the Bible we heard Jesus predict that Judas would betray Him, that Peter would deny knowing Jesus, that in a little while they would see Jesus no more and then after a little while they would see Him and that the disciples grief would turn to joy. As we read through the passage we also acted out how the disciples were feeling. A mixture of confusion, sadness and worry.
After the meal we had a quiz to see how closely the ‘disciples’ were listening to Jesus and to see if they remember what He predicted would happen. We held onto the pieces of paper the scribes wrote to see what would happen to Jesus and see if His predictions came true.

22nd January – John 12
Theme – The Triumphal entry
We began by thinking about how various people might arrive in London. What if it was someone very famous who everyone wanted to see? Justin Bieber, Usain Bolt, Beyonce? How would they enter? Perhaps by helicopter, limo, private jet?
And how might someone who people wanted to arrest arrive? Secretly? At night? In disguise?
At the start of today’s story people were wondering about Jesus coming to Jerusalem for the Passover. Would he come at all? Would he sneak in quietly? Would he come in like a king?
We read through the story of Palm Sunday, pausing to act out the scenes as we go. We learnt about Jesus sending his disciples to find a young donkey, a colt. About Jesus riding the colt into Jerusalem. About the crowds cheering and shouting as Jesus he came into the city. About the crowds throwing their cloaks and branches onto the road in front of Jesus. Jesus didn’t hide away from the religious rulers but he did come into the city in a very unusual way, riding on a young donkey. Why?
We went back hundreds of years, way before Jesus was born as a baby. And there we found the prophet Zechariah and heard what God had told Zechariah about a special king coming into Jerusalem. We find what God told him in Zechariah 9v9 and that Jesus came into the Jerusalem the way God said Jesus would hundreds of years before it happened!
All this shows that Jesus and God the Father are in control of the situation, not the religious leaders and not the people. Jesus and the Father will also be in control of the events that will take place over the next week.

8th January – John 11
Theme – Jesus has the power over life and death
This term at Starchasers our theme is ‘Countdown to Easter’. We’re looking at the last few weeks before Jesus’ death to see how this story unfolds. In it we see Jesus being in control of what is happening and preparing his followers for what is going to happen over the coming days.
To start the session we showed a few video clips of people we knew were good but then did something amazing that showed just how special they were. We saw Usain Bolt’s 100m final in 2008, David Beckham’s goal from the halfway line and Dynamo’s incredible card trick. Before then we knew these people were good but after something like this we really knew they were someone special. And in today’s story we see a similar moment for Jesus. Before then we knew He was incredible, better than Bolt, Beckham and Dynamo combined, but in today’s story Jesus did something that showed He was very, very special indeed.
Before the story we thought about some of the things we knew that Jesus had already done – heal the sick, feed thousands of people, make blind people see. Jesus’ followers and friends knew He was someone special but this was going to take things to another level.
We acted out the story in John 11 of a family in Bethany that Jesus loved – 2 sisters (Mary and Martha) and their brother (Lazarus). We heard how Lazarus got sick and a message was sent to Jesus. Instead of coming Jesus waited. Why? To bring glory to God and the Son of God. Then when Jesus knew Lazarus was dead He set off to Bethany.
At Mary’s and Martha’s house we see people mourning and crying for Lazarus. Both Mary and Martha think if Jesus had come sooner He could have healed Lazarus, but what could be done now? Jesus tells Martha He is the resurrection and the life, the person who believes in Jesus will live even though they die.
Jesus then goes to Lazarus’s tomb and asks for it to be opened, even though Lazarus had been laid in the tomb for 4 days already. Jesus prays to God the Father, thanking the Father that He has heard Jesus and asking that the people may believe the Father sent Jesus. Jesus then calls out to Lazarus and Lazarus rises and comes out of the tomb. And incredible event that showed Jesus even had the power over life and death.
We also looked at how people reacted to this event. Many believed in Jesus and followed Him. But the religious leaders, the Pharisees and chief priests plotted to kill Jesus.
We recapped the story with a quiz. We read through parts of the story in the Bible and then gave each team questions on what happened. Going through this story of how incredible Jesus really was.
And we finished with an easy to learn / difficult to master action song – ‘God can do anything!’. Reminding us again that God CAN do anything.

 

Elijah and Elisha: Standing out for God

This term we’re going to be looking at two great prophets of the Old Testament – Elijah & Elisha. When they lived it was a really difficult time to follow God because the king and queen had turned away from God and turned most of the people away from God. But we’ll see that despite all this God was still in control, He was the one true God.

11th December – 1 Kings 21, 2 Kings 9&10
Theme – God keeps His promises
Today’s session was all about waiting, waiting for God to keep His promises. We know that God always keeps His promises but they sometimes don’t happen right away. Sometimes we have to wait.
We wanted to find out what the kids were like at waiting, and rather than talk about waiting we made them wait. We promised them they’d get a treat when an Orange Sun appeared on the screen. The screen flicked between some symbols for quite some time. As it went on we asked if they still thought an Orange Sun would come up. Eventually it did but what was it like waiting? And in today’s story we’d see God keep a promise that the people had to wait 15 years for – Ahab’s family would be removed from the throne and Jehu would be king.
We flashed back to the time of Elijah and the promise God gave Elijah then, God’s plan would carry on after Elijah, Elisha would be God’s prophet and Jehu would take over as king from Ahab’s family. We also looked at the story of Naboth’s vineyard when Jezebel had Naboth killed so Ahab could take his vineyard. God was angry and promised the end of Ahab’s family on the throne.
Then later on we jumped forward 15 years. 15 years later the people of Israel were still waiting for God to keep His promise. Elijah had gone up to Heaven and Elisha was now God’s prophet and Ahab had died and his son Joram was king. We learnt of Elisha sending a prophet to anoint Jehu and Jehu going to Joram and Jezebel and getting rid of then, as God had promised. Finally after 15 years waiting the person God had promised was king – Jehu.
And Jehu started out okay as king. He destroyed the temple to the false-god Baal and Baal’s sacred stone. He was a better king than Ahab and his sons. But Ahab wasn’t a perfect king, he didn’t fully follow God and he didn’t fully keep God’s law. The people had waited 15 years for the king God had promised but Jehu wasn’t perfect.
The people would have to wait even longer for God’s perfect king to come – Jesus. We finished talking about Advent and waiting for Jesus to come, just like the people in Elisha’s day waited for God’s Perfect King to come and bring them back to God. The kids had a chance to decorate an Advent candle to remind them about waiting, waiting for God to keep His promises and waiting for Jesus to come.

27th November – 2 Kings 6v24 – 7v20
Theme – Elisha and the famine
For the themesetter we talked about Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for speaking out for girls’ right to an education. It was a horrible thing to happen but out of that came good things. 2 million people signed a petition in Pakistan for the right of everyone to have an education, the Malala foundation was set up to help poor girls go to school, and Malala survived and said that fear died the day she was shot and hope was born.
We then told the story using little wooden people and sound effects. We started with saying how the city of Samaria in Israel was under siege from the army of Aram. The people of Samaria were starving to death and this made them lose hope and look for someone to blame. The King of Israel blamed Elisha and wanted to kill him, because he thinks God has abandoned them. But Elisha never loses hope – he says that by the next day the siege will be over. That night God makes the army of Aram hear the sounds of horses and chariots and a great army. They’re so scared they don’t just leave – they flee, leaving all their things behind. The empty camp is discovered the next day by four lepers who go and spread the word. So Elisha’s prophecy came true – plus the abandoned camp was full of food, drink and money that the soldiers had left that the Samarians went and collected. God brought joy into the darkness.
We finished in small groups by reflecting on the story. What was our favourite part? Who was our favourite character? How did different people in the story feel while they were under siege? How did they feel after the siege ended?

23rd October – 2 Kings 2 v 1-18
Theme – Elisha carries on from Elijah
We began by recapping last time and that God had shown Elijah that God’s plan was bigger than just Elijah and would carry on after Elijah. God had told Elijah to call Elisha as his apprentice and for about 7 years Elisha worked alongside Elijah. Now Elijah was going to be taken up to Heaven and Elisha was going to carry on as God’s prophet in Elijah’s place. (Also in the 7 years Ahab had died and now his son Joram was king with Jezebel as the King’s Mother.)
We learnt about the 4 places in today’s story in a game Gilgal-Bethel-Jericho-Jordan, similar to North-South-East-West if you’ve ever played it. And then we acted out the story in 2 Kings 2 v 1-18. We had Elijah (with cloak, hairy coat and leather belt) and Elisha (with bald wig) going from Gilgal to Bethel and to Jericho. In Bethel and Jericho they met a group of God’s prophets who knew the LORD was going to take Elijah away that day. And in each place place Elijah told Elisha to stay there but Elisha promised as surely as the Lord lives and Elijah lives he would not leave Elijah.
Then Elijah and Elisha arrived at the Jordan River. We acted out Elijah taking off his cloak, rolling it up and striking the water. The water split in two and they walked over the river on dry land. Elijah asked Elisha what he could do for Elisha before he was taken and Elisha asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit – God’s Holy Spirit. Elijah said Elisha would get it if he saw Elijah being taken away.
Then a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared between the two and Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Then Elisha saw Elijah no more – a very unusual way for Elijah to go! Elisha saw that Elijah’s cloak had fallen and been left behind and he picked it up. Elisha then went back to the Jordan River, struck it with Elijah’s cloak and the river split in two and Elisha walked across on dry land. There wasn’t anything special about the cloak but it showed that God’s Spirit that was with Elijah was now with Elisha. The prophets from Jericho who saw Elisha cross the Jordan now knew God’s Spirit was with Elisha. And so God’s plan would carry on with Elisha now that Elijah had been taken up to Heaven.
And to finish the Hot and Cool team made their own chariots and horses of fire from cardboard boxes, wrapping paper, coloured card and tissue paper. We were even able to put an Elijah in each chariot!

9th October – 1 Kings 19
Theme – Elijah nearly gives up
We began the session with a blank face, the face of Elijah. We asked the kids to draw in the blank face how they thought Elijah would have been feeling after showing the people that the LORD is the real, true God on Mount Carmel. But when we look at 1 Kings 19 we see that Elijah is scared and feels like he can’t go on anymore. When we might have expected Elijah to be on a real high he’s actually feeling sad and down.
Queen Jezebel wanted to kill Elijah so he ran off in fear of his life. Elijah sat down under a bush and prayed that he would die. But God didn’t abandon Elijah, God encouraged Elijah in a number of ways. We told the kids to look for the ways God encouraged Elijah during the story.
We acted out the story to see what God did. We saw God sending an angel to Elijah with food and water. After this Elijah walked 40 days until he came to Mount Horeb and there he spent the night in the cave.
On Mount Horeb Elijah told God he couldn’t go on. The people had turned away from God and killed God’s prophets. Elijah felt he was the only prophet left and now they were trying to kill him! God told Elijah to stand on the mountain and He would pass by. We acted out the wind, earthquake and fire passing – and God wasn’t in any of them. Then we acted out the gentle whisper when God spoke to Elijah.
God showed Elijah part of his bigger plan. A prophet to take over from Elijah (Elisha) and a king to take over from Ahab’s family (Jehu). God also told Elijah there were 7,000 people in Israel who hadn’t worshipped Baal.
After this Elijah went to find Elisha. Elisha then left his family behind and followed Elijah and became his servant.
We finished by recapping the story and thinking of the ways God encouraged Elijah, such as:

  • Sending an angel, with food
  • Speaking to Elijah directly
  • Showing God’s bigger plan after Elijah with Jehu and Elisha
  • Showing there were still 7,000 people not worshipping Baal

25th September: 1 Kings 18
Theme – Showdown at Mount Carmel
We wanted to find out how good the kids were at finding out if something was real or not. We asked what test they’d come up with to decide if the following things were real – a banknote and a bottle of Coca-Cola. When then gave them a real and a fake banknote and a real and a fake bottle of Coca-Cola to see if they could work out which one was real. Their tests worked as they were able to find the real one of each right away. But what about gods? How could they find out which god was the real true God? That was what Elijah tried to do in today’s story.
We told the story in 1 Kings 18 with mini-figures of the two groups gathering on Mount Carmel, the 450 prophets of Baal and on the LORD God’s side, um just Elijah. The test was they’d get wood and a bull, cut up the bull and place it on the wood and pray to their god. The god that sent fire to burn up the bull was the real God.
The prophets of Baal went first and cried out to their god for hours and hours but there was no answer. Then Elijah went. He rebuilt the LORD God’s altar, covered everything in water then prayed. God sent fire down from Heaven that burnt up the bull, wood, stones and even the water! The people bowed down and cried out ‘The LORD is God’. And afterwards Elijah told Ahab the rain would come and then it started raining for the first time in 3 years!
In the story God showed that He was real by answering Elijah’s prayer and we asked how do we know that God is real today. This is the same LORD God Elijah prayed to so how do we know He’s the real God? We shared stories of the time that God has answered our prayers and when we knew that He was real.

11th September: 1 Kings 17
Theme – Elijah and the drought
We started with a ‘turn’ challenge. The aim was to get from one side of the hall to the other and touch the wall but if a leader shouted ‘turn’ then you had to turn round and try and touch the other side. After several goes we knackered the kids out and recapped the story in the OT from David to Ahab.
Last year we learnt about a great king of Israel, David. But after David things didn’t go great. We learnt about many of the kings coming after David turning away from God. God split the kingdom in two, Israel and Judah, and David’s family only ruled over the smaller part – Judah. We got a set of kings of Israel out and each one turned away from God so God took the crown from their families and gave it to another family. And eventually we ended up at King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. We asked if the kids thought whether Ahab was a good or bad king? The Bible says that Ahab was more evil than any of the kings before him! Ahab and Jezebel turned away from God, turned the people away from God and killed God’s prophets.
We also introduced the prophet of God who would stand up to Ahab and Jezebel – Elijah. Elijah followed God even when most of the rest of the country was against God. And one thing we know about Elijah is that he wore a coat of hair and a leather belt. (Our take home question was who else in the Bible worse a coat of hair and a leather belt).
We then acted out the story in Acts 17. Of Elijah telling King Ahab the rain would stop until Elijah said so. This led to a drought and meant water and food was in short supply. God provided for Elijah by telling him somewhere to hide beside a brook (small river) and sending ravens to bring him bread and meat (sliced loaf and sausages in our case).
When the brook dried up God sent Elijah to meet a widow who was just about to run out of flour and oil. She was about to bake one last loaf of bread for her and her son and after that they’d starve to death. Elijah asked her to give him some bread and then God would make sure her flour and oil wouldn’t run out until the rain came again. And that’s what happened, Elijah, the widow and her son had enough flour and oil for bread each day!
But then something really sad happened the widow’s son died. The widow was angry with Elijah but Elijah prayed for the boy. Elijah cried out to God and stretched out over him three times and the boy came back to life. The widow now knew that Elijah was truly a man of God.
We then played a rhythm game, one where you have to do a series of actions to music and change when everyone else changed what they were doing. One person was in control of the group and in charge but could you spot who was in control?
And that led into our reflection when we asked who was in control in today’s story. Was it Baal the supposed god of the rain? No it was God who was in control of the rain and He could make it stop. We also asked what else God was in control over in today’s story – ravens, flour & oil and even death. And then we ended by sharing some times in our life when we’ve seen that God was in control – when he’d answered our prayers in remarkable ways.

Esther & Ruth

This term we’ll be looking at two of the shorter books in the Bible, Esther and Ruth. We’ll see how God’s plans works for good for His people and our memory verse will be:
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29 v 11
(To see an archive of all of our sessions click here)

10th July: Ruth 2 to 4
Theme – Ruth and Boaz
When Naomi and Ruth returned to Bethlehem they had no land or money so Ruth went out to glean in the fields to find food. Glean is a word that means go behind the harvesters to look for stalks and grains they’ve left behind and pick them up. The Jewish law allowed for this so poor people had some way of finding food.
We started with a Word-Gleaning game. Each team had to find 17 words hidden around the hall and then put them into the story of Ruth 2 to find our what happened. When put together we learnt about Ruth’s gleaning and Boaz’s kindness to Ruth and how Boaz had heard about Ruth’s kindness to Naomi.
We then acted out the rest of the story. About Ruth telling Naomi about Boaz, Naomi saying Boaz was from her family so could be a Kinsman-Redeemer for them. That is someone who was a close relative who could rescue them from poverty. Naomi sent Ruth to approach Boaz and we acted out the scene in Ruth 3 of Boaz and Ruth at the threshing room floor.
We also acted out the scene in Ruth 4 where Boaz says there was a closer relative than him and approaches the other relative about redeeming Naomi and Ruth. The other relative was keen to buy the land but less keen to take Ruth as a wife so Boaz was free to be their Kinsman-Redeemer. They sealed the deal with a sandal! God blessed Ruth and Boaz with a son called Obed and Obed was the grandfather of a great king of Israel, King David.
And we finished by making cut-out sandals from paper to tell the story of Ruth 4.

26th June: Ruth 1
Theme – Naomi’s and Ruth’s sorrow
We set the scene for the book of Ruth by saying it happened around the time of the Judges in Israel. This wasn’t a good time as everyone did what they wanted and didn’t worry about hurting others. But the book of Ruth stands out, a book about kindness and caring for others against the bad and selfishness of Judges.
To show that good stands out against evil we gave each team 3 cups of lemon juice but in one cup we added sugar. The kids had to taste the cups and work out which one had the sugar in it and both teams got it right. The sweet sugar stands out against the bitterness of the lemon. And the kindness of Ruth stands out against the selfishness of Judges.
We then told the story in Ruth chapter 1 by acting it out. At various points we stopped the story and asked the kids how they thought Naomi and Ruth were feeling. The story of a family from Bethlehem in Judah, the husband and wife Elimelek and Naomi and their two sons Mahlon and Kilion. There was a famine in Judah so the family left and went to the nearby country of Moab. The father, Elimelek died. This was a sad, difficult time for Naomi. Then her two sons married Moabite woman, Ruth and Orpah. But there was more sadness as both of Naomi’s sons died, leaving her without a husband or her sons. This was a sad time for both Ruth and Naomi and also a difficult time as no husband or son meant it would be hard for them to earn money or get food.
Naomi heard that there was food in Judah so set out with Orpah and Ruth to return home. Naomi tries and persuades her daughters-in-law to return home to their own families, their own people and maybe find new husbands. Both agree to go with Naomi but after more persuasion by Naomi Orpah turns and goes back to her people. Ruth however refuses to go and promises to stick by Naomi no matter what.
When they arrive in Bethlehem the town recognised Naomi, although she now asks not to be called Naomi (meaning happy) but wanted to be called Mara (meaning bitter) because God had dealt bitterly with her.
After the story we got the children to reflect on it using the question ball. We sat in a circle and asked a question and whoever the ball is thrown to has to answer it. We asked the children for their favourite part of the story, the most important part of the story, why it would help Naomi to have Ruth stay with her and why it was difficult for Ruth to stay with Naomi.

12th June – Esther
Theme – Esther filming
This week we acted out and filmed the whole story of Esther. To see the finished video and hear more about Starchasers then come and join us at the Starchasers service in July:
Starchasers Service 10:30am, Sunday 3rd July
St. Andrew’s Church
All welcome!

22nd May – Esther 5-10
Theme – Esther’s acts to save her people
We started by looking at some characters the kids might know – Spiderman, Superman & Batman. We talked about what they were like and in particular that they were brave. What made them brave? What does bravery look like? Can you think of real people who were brave? We were going to see in today’s story how Esther was very brave.
We acted out the story of Esther going to King Xerxes. She put her life in danger to try and save her people. Thankfully the king was pleased to see her and reached out his golden sceptre to her which meant she would live. Esther asked the king for a dinner with Xerxes, Haman and her.
We then went to the dinner scene and at the dinner Xerxes asked Esther what it was she wanted. The king said he would give her whatever she asked for, even half the kingdom if she wanted it! Esther could have gone for things that would have helped her like money, jewels, land etc. but instead she told the king that her people were going to be wiped out and would he spare them. The king asked which person who would dare do such a thing and Esther said it was Haman. The king was furious and left in a rage. Haman begged Esther to spare his life and fell on her. The king returned to see what looked like Haman attacking Esther and the king ordered for Haman to be taken away and killed.
The king gave Haman’s position to Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and the king sent out a new order that would save all the Jews. So we again had the procession of bell ringers with a crier to read out the new order from the king – “Save all the Jews!”. This meant the Jews weren’t killed but instead were saved and they celebrated and rejoiced. This then became an annual festival for Jewish people called Purim.
At the end we got all the kids together and asked them some wondering questions about Esther. What was your favourite part of the story? What if Esther had been too scared to approach the queen? And did God have a plan for Esther?
During the morning we also recapped the first part of our memory verse:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.
Jeremiah 29 v 11

8th May – Esther 3 & 4
Theme – Esther’s challenge
We started our session with our song for the term ‘Our God is a great big God’ which reminds us that ‘Our God is a great big God’ and that it’s ‘wonderful to be a part of His amazing plan’. But what plan did God have for Esther? Why had this young Jewish girl become queen to the ruler of the whole Persian empire?
We went straight into the middle of our story today with some scary soldiers walking on with a scroll. They unfurled the scrolled and read it out; it was an order from King Xerxes himself! The order stated that on a particular day all the Jews in the Persian Empire were to be killed, all of them, men, women and children, young and old. We asked the kids how they would feel being a Jew and hearing this news and as you might guess they said, scared, frightened, angry and sad. In fact when the Jews in Persia heard this they went into mourning and so did we. We copied them by putting on sackcloth (well bin bags) and wearing ashes on our heads (well red tissue paper). And one of the Jews who did this was Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, who had raised her after Esther’s mother and father had died. He went to the king’s gate and there he mourned.
But what was going on? How had this law come about? What was happening? We told the second part of the story using a few shout-outs and actions for each character:
Haman – Boo!
Mordecai – Wailing and crying
Esther – You can do it queen Esther!
Servant – Stamp feet as if running
We learnt of Esther sending her servant to Mordecai and finding out what was wrong. Mordecai explained about the order to kill all the Jews. This had happened because of Haman, Haman was the top official in the empire, above everyone except King Xerxes (kind of like a Prime Minister). All the other officials knelt down and gave honour to Haman but Mordecai would not kneel down to Haman. This made Haman so angry that he didn’t want to just kill Haman but he wanted to kill all of Haman’s people, all the Jews! So Haman went to king Xerxes and persuaded the king to pass a law to kill all the Jews.
Haman sent word with the servant back to Esther to tell her to go see the king and beg for her people, the Jews. Esther was frightened to go because if you went to the king uninvited he could have you killed, even if you were the queen! Haman reminded Esther that she herself was a Jew and she would not escape the law either. And who knows you may have become queen for such a time as this.
This was Esther’s challenge, she couldn’t let her people be killed, wiped out but going to see the king meant she herself could be put to death. What was she to do? Esther sent a message to Haman to get all the Jews in the city (Susa) to fast for three days, she and her servants would fast too, and then she would go see King Xerxes. If she was killed, she was killed. And we left the story there, what would happen Esther? What would happen the Jews? We’d find out next time.
We learnt the first half of the memory verse to remind us that God had a plan for Esther and indeed God has a plan for us. And in small groups we made our own copy of the law that went out around Persian. We wrote it on parchment paper, used a seal kit to give it the official royal stamp, then rolled it up and tied it, ready to go out around Persia. This reminded us of the danger the Jews faced in today’s story.

24th Apr – Esther 1 & 2
Theme – Esther becomes Queen
As we’re going to be filming the story of Esther later in term we thought we’d act out the whole Esther story over the next few sessions. But first we set the scene. The book of Esther is set over 2,500 years ago and at this time the Persians are ruling over a vast empire. The Jews are one of the groups of people the Persians are ruling over and they are scattered across their empire.
We then met the King of the Persians, Xerxes, one of the more powerful people on earth. And from what we know of him in the book of Esther he liked a party! We acted out his 180 day party and then his 7 day party for the men in his empire. While Xerxes was throwing his party his queen Vashti also threw a party for the women. Xerxes was showing off his wealth to his guests and he wanted to also show off his queen. But, incredibly, Vashti said no to the king and refused to come. An incredible thing to say to someone as powerful as Xerxes. Xerxes’s wise men told Xerxes he should stop Vashti being queen and send her away. So that’s what Xerxes did.
Then we acted our the story in Esther 2 with beautiful young women from across the empire being brought to Xerxes for him to choose a new king. We held our own ‘Queen Idol’ competition and the one Xerxes liked best was …. Esther! A young Jewish girl whose parents had died when she was young. But why had Esther become queen? What was God’s plan for this young Jewish girl? We left the story on this cliffhanger and we’d find out more next time.
After the story we then asked some ‘wondering questions’, questions that don’t really have a right answer but get you thinking about the story. We sat the kids in a circle and threw around a foam ball. When a foam ball was thrown to you you answered the question. We asked – What was your favourite part of the story? What do you think was the most important part of the story? and What would you feel like if you were Esther in the story?
In small groups we then gave the kids some simple props – crowns, glasses, party blowers, no sign, lipstick and a Queen idol invite – and got them to tell us the story in Esther 1 &2. And to finish we made our own crowns to remind us of the crown Esther got when she became queen.

Jesus: I am…

This term we’ll be looking at Jesus’ “I am …” sayings in John’s gospel. We’ll look at the different ways Jesus describes Himself and see what they tell us about Him and His mission.

Here’s a summary of the sessions so far this term:
(To see an archive of all of our sessions click here)

13th Mar – John 11
Theme – I am the resurrection and the life
We started the session with a quiz recapping all 5 “I am …” statements we’d looked at so far. The kids scored an impressive 100% getting every question! (The leaders looked awkwardly at their feet…)
And our final “I am…” comes from John 11 and the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. We acted out the story with the kids. We had Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus, mourners, Jesus and His Disciples. We heard about word being sent to Jesus that Lazarus was ill but Jesus didn’t come, instead Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead before He left for Mary’s and Martha’s house. And when Jesus got there He did something incredible, He went to Lazarus’s tomb, got them to move the stone and ordered Lazarus to come out. Lazarus had been dead for four days but incredibly Lazarus came back to life and came out of the tomb.
During this story we say that Jesus told Martha “I am the resurrection and the life” and Jesus showed that He was someone with the power over life and death. This would then point forward to Jesus’ own death when Jesus Himself came back from the dead.
This is what Jesus offers us, new life in God with Him. We took the example of a torch to show what this new life was like. A torch on its own doesn’t really do much and doesn’t fulfil its potential – that’s like us without Jesus. But us with Jesus is like a torch with batteries, shining brightly doing what it’s designed for. That’s the new life Jesus offers us in God.
In small groups we look furthered at what the words “I am the resurrection and the life” mean to us by drawing, writing and designing on a blank cross on a sheet of paper. We looked at what new life in Jesus was like and the promise we have of resurrection on the last day.
And as it was the last session of term we ended with the big star count!

28th Feb – John 15 v 1-17
Theme – I am the true vine
We started the session by reading John 15 v 1-17 together. As someone read it we had to count the number of times Jesus said “Remain” and the number of times Jesus said “Fruit”. Remarkably both teams got it right with Jesus saying “Remain” 11 times and “Fruit” 9 times. Clearly Jesus wanted to get across the idea of us remaining in Him and us bearing fruit!
We looked at Jesus what Jesus said in this passage with a drawing. We see Jesus calling himself the vine. We might not see many vines here in London but a vine is a kind of fruit tree, a tree for grapes. So Jesus is saying He’s the trunk, the main part of the tree. Jesus also says that we are the branches. The branches need to stay attached to the trunk, they need to remain in the trunk otherwise they will wither and die. If they remain in the trunk then they can produce fruit. And the final part is the Father who is the gardener who prunes the branches and cuts off the branches that bear no fruit. Again the message that Jesus wants to get across is that He wants His followers to remain in Him and bear fruit. If we keep His commands we will remain in Jesus’ love. And as an example of the fruit we will have we mentioned the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
To finish each small group then made their own tree out of toilet rolls. We put several together to make the trunk and wrote Jesus on it. We then made branches by cutting up rolls and on them we wrote our names and the names of our family and friends and stuck them on the truck. Then on those branches we drew fruit and wrote a fruit of the spirit. A craft example of Jesus being the true vine!

14th Feb – John 14 v 1-14
Theme – I am the way and the truth and the life
At the start of the session we told the kids that somewhere in the school there was some treasure hidden, treasure we all could share. We asked them what questions they might ask about the treasure and the most common ones were – what is it and where is it. We told them that the way to the treasure was the red wool, the red wool was the way to the treasure. So we followed the red wool all round the school until we found it several minutes later by the mini-stage in the playground. (The treasure was a gold box with some silver chocolate eggs in it if you were curious).
With the treasure eggs we also found a toy house and a Bible. Because in today’s passage Jesus was talking about His Father’s House and we read about it in John 14 v 1-4. Jesus told His disciples that His Father’s House had many rooms, that He was going there to prepare a place for them and that He was coming back to take them there. This was something even more incredible and amazing that the treasure we were looking for and we asked the kids what questions they might have had for Jesus if He told them this. One of Jesus’ disciples asked Jesus about the way to His Father’s House and this is what Jesus said:
Jesus answered, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. The only way to the Father is through me. John 14 v 6
Later we looked at what it meant that Jesus was the way to God. Using some blocks and some rope we showed that at the start of the Bible God and humans were in relationship, we could be with God. But sin was a problem, sin cut us off from God. Using a rope trick we showed the sin (middle block) cutting our block off from God the Father’s block. But through the cross Jesus got rid of sin (the middle block) and that meant that God the Father and us could be in relationship again, we could live with God the Father. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection we can know God the Father and live with Him.
We then laid out the memory verse words on the floor and walked along the ‘way’ saying the words of John 14 v 6, first individually then as a group. And we finished in small groups with a maze and asking what we were most looking forward to about living in God the Father’s House.

31st Jan – John 10 v 1-21
Theme – I am the Good Shepherd
We asked if any of the kids had pets and Helen introduced her pet, Gordon the giraffe. We asked what sort of things a good pet-owner would do to take care of their pet and got all manner of suggestions from feeding it, brushing it, exercising it, playing with it and showing it love. And sometimes a good pet owner has to stop their pet doing what it wants as it might be bad for them e.g. not letting your pet play in the road or not letting your dog eat chocolate.
We split into pairs and acted out being pet-owners with their pet. Some of us were good pet-owners and some of us were bad pet-owners and the others had to guess whether we were good or bad. Thankfully it was easy to see who was a good and who was a bad pet-owner!
In today’s passage Jesus described him as the Good Shepherd. We may not get many shepherds in London today but in the same way a good pet-owner cares for and looks after their pet so a good shepherd cares for a looks after their sheep. We read from John 10 about what sort of things Jesus the good pet-owner does for us. A good shepherd knows his sheep and his sheep know him. A good shepherd calls and leads his sheep and his sheep follow. A good shepherd protects his sheep, even lays down his life for his sheep. We also looked at the hired hand and how he didn’t care so much for the sheep. When the wolf comes the hired had runs away as he doesn’t really care for the sheep.
We acted these two types of people out – the hired hand and the good shepherd. How they both were with the sheep and how they both acted when the wolf came. It was clear the good shepherd really cared for his sheep.
And finally in small groups we had a poster of Jesus the Good Shepherd. We stuck on it post-it notes with things that Jesus does for us, His sheep, written on them. And at the bottom we made a big sheep out of cotton wool. I mean we couldn’t go that long talking about sheep and not make a cotton wool one.

24th Jan – John 8v12
Theme – I am the Light of the World
We began the session by thinking about being in darkness. During the rules we blindfolded one team and carried on acting the rules out and guessing what was happening as normal. Halfway through we swapped which team was blindfolded so everyone got a chance at not seeing. We asked the kids what it was like not seeing, being in darkness and they used words like lost, confusing, scary and difficult. The Bible describes being without God, being away form God as like being in darkness. Being without God can be scary, confusing, difficult and like being lost.
We read today’s verse about Jesus being the Light of the World, Light was like being with God and Jesus helps us come to God, to be with God. We set up two sides of the room, one labelled Darkness and one labelled Light. We’d talked about darkness so now we talked about Light, what was it like. Light guides, light gives safety, light reveals, light is a better place to be. The Bible says being in the Light is like being with God. We also looked at Matthew 5 v 14-16 where Jesus says we are the light of the world. We can be filled with God’s presence and show others what God is like.
To finish we had a large tin-bath outside for the world and each took a number of tea-lights. We lit each tea-light from a big candle and placed the tea-lights in the bath. God’s Light came from Heaven to Earth in Jesus and God’s light spreads throughout the world through Jesus and us.

10th Jan – John 6
Theme – I am the bread of life
We started by thinking about things we might compare ourselves to. For example if you said you were ‘like ice’ you might be saying you’re cold. Or if someone called you a ‘cheeky monkey’ they wouldn’t mean you’re actually a monkey but that you’re playful and maybe a little naughty. We then asked the kids about what things the leaders are like, here’s what they said:
Helen – Dolphin
Shan – Bull
Naomi – Peacock
Steve – Owl
Comparing yourself to something is a way of telling you more about a person and what they’re like. This term we’ll be looking at John’s gospel where Jesus compares himself to many things. He says “I am…” on many occasions and these tell us more about what Jesus is like and why He came to earth. And the first one we looked at was Jesus comparing Himself to bread.
To help put that in context we told a little of what was happening at the time Jesus said that. Everywhere Jesus went huge crowds would follow Him. They would come out in to the countryside to hear and see Him. They would follow Him up mountains and down to the side of lakes. And one time there was a crowd of over 5,000 men (plus women and children) following Jesus and Jesus performed a miracle for them, the Feeding of the 5,000 because they were in a remote place, far away from places to buy food. We told the story of this miracle using this video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DE3CYADFg98
After the miracle Jesus went away by Himself again and still the crowd followed Him. We then looked at some of the things Jesus said to the crowd that followed Him and read them from John 6. Jesus told the people they only followed Him because they ate their fill of food! But this food, this bread, only helps for a short while, it rots and spoils. Jesus said don’t work for food that spoils but for food that gives eternal life. What was this bread, this food that gives something like that? Jesus said I am the bread of life! Jesus is the one who offers us eternal life. Bread is important and we need it to live, but it only helps us for a short while. Much more important was the bread of life that offers us eternal life – Jesus!
To finish in our small groups we got the kids to make a Jesus sandwich. They took a slice of bread, because Jesus said He was the bread of life, and added fillings that told them something about Jesus. We each then shared what our sandwich told us about Jesus. Some examples were:
Butter – Jesus has a soft heart
Cheese – Yellow, light like Jesus
Ketchup/Tomato – Jesus blood poured out for us
Ham/Beef – Jesus gave His flesh for us
Tuna – Jesus also used fish in feeding the 5,000
We prayed to thank Jesus for who He was then tucked into our sandwiches!

David – 1 & 2 Samuel

This term we’re looking at the story of David, a person chosen by God to be king over all Israel. David was by no means perfect but he kept on following and trusting God throughout his life.

13th Dec –2 Samuel 7, Luke 1 v 26-38
Theme – A kingdom that lasts forever
As it was the last Starchasers of term we had the Great Big David Quiz to find out whether the Cool Team or the Hot Team remembered the most about David. Turns out both teams remembered a lot!
We then looked back at the first story we learnt about David, when God promised David as a boy that one day he would be king. We recreated this scene of Samuel pouring oil on David’s head using Raphael as the boy David. We then fast forwarded several years to David being made king over all Israel and we recreated the scene of the elders pouring oil on David’s head to make him king over all Israel. In this scene we used Shan as the man David. God had kept His promise to David to make Him king.
But now God had an even more incredible promise to David and God sent His prophet Nathan to tell it to David. We read the promise from 2 Samuel 7 where God promised that David’s throne would last forever and David’s family would continue always before God. An amazing promise that David responded to by praising and glorifying God.
But how was God going to keep this promise. To find out we played a game of Pass the Parcel where each layer was the next generation in David’s family. We saw after David his son, Solomon, became king and Israel became even richer and more powerful. Perhaps this kingdom really could last forever? But Solomon and his son turned away from God and God took away most of the country from them and they only ruled over part of it – Judah. David’s family continued to reign though with some good and some bad kings. But as more and more of the kings turned away from God, God let them be defeated by the Babylonians and they were captured and taken to Babylon. With the kingdom gone could God’s promise ever come true? The people returned to Jerusalem during the time of Zerubbabel but David’s family weren’t kings, they were ruled over by the Persians, then the Greeks and then the Romans. Then finally we arrived at the last layer of Joseph and Mary. When we unwrapped that who did we find inside? Jesus as a baby.
We read from Luke 1 v 29-32 to hear the promise the angel gave Mary – that she would have a son, called Jesus, and His Kingdom would never end. God’s kept His promise to David in a way David may not even have been able to imagine.
And finally we made some Mobius strips together, a special type of strip that you never get to the end of. We coloured them in and on them was written the promises God gave David and God gave Mary: David’s throne will last forever – > Jesus’ kingdom will never end

22nd Nov – 2 Samuel 11&12
Theme – David and Bathsheba
Last time’s story was a very happy one, full of celebrating and praising God. But this time’s story was very sad and very serious. It involved David turning away from God and doing something very wrong.
We told the story in miniature using some figures, tablecloths and Jenga bricks. On one table we used a red tablecloth to show Jerusalem and in it, using Jenga, we built David’s palace and several other houses. We told of David going on the roof of his palace and walking around. He saw a very beautiful woman in a house and wanted to find out more about her. When he found out she was the wife of a man called Uriah he should have left it there but no, David brought Bathsheba into his palace. And this led to him wanting to get rid of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah.
We switched to a second table that was brown and this was where David’s army was fighting, attacking the city of Rabbah. And in David’s army was Uriah. David sent an order to send Uriah where the enemy was strong and for the army to pull back so Uriah would be killed. David’s commander did just that and Uriah was killed, along with some more of David’s soldiers, during the fighting.
Back in the city David then married Bathsheba, she moved in to his palace and they had a son together. The LORD was angry with David for what he had done and sent Nathan, a prophet, to David.
Nathan told David a story about a rich man and a poor man. We used a green table cloth to tell this story. The rich man had lots of sheep and lambs, we put sheep and lamb figures out all over the table. The poor man only had one lamb, we put his lamb in a tiny pen on the table. But the poor man loved this lamb like a pet, the lamb was one of the family. One day a visitor came to the rich man and he didn’t want to kill any of his sheep or lambs so the rich man stole the poor man’s only lamb, killed it and served it to his guests.
David was furious and said the rich man should be punished for what he did and pay back the poor man 4 lambs. Nathan said to David – the rich man is you! God has given you much – the palace, many wives, made you king – yet you stole Uriah’s wife and had him killed. David was very sorry for what he had done and prayed to God. God forgave David, even for something like this, but there were consequences to what David had done. David and Bathsheba’s son died and God promised the sword would never leave David’s family. And as we read on in 2 Samuel we find David’s sons fighting between each other and one son seizing the throne from David and David having to go into hiding.
We finished by thinking about David being forgiven. While this story was happening David wrote Psalm 51 and in it David asks for God’s forgiveness and compares being forgiven to being washed and made clean. We took a dirty penny, put it in some vinegar and read Psalm 51. At the end of the Psalm the penny was clean and shiny again, just like David was forgiven. And in small groups we each were given a penny. We thought of our sin that made us dirty like this penny. We prayed for God to forgive us and wash us while we dropped our pennies in the vinegar and at the end our pennies were washed and cleaned just like our sin was forgiven by God.

8th Nov – 2 Samuel 6
Theme – David brings the Ark to the Jerusalem
We started today by thinking of some of the things we do when we’re happy and when we’re celebrating and acted them out. We had shouting and cheering, jumping, dancing, singing, eating food, doing the bouncy and playing games. All ways of showing we are happy and celebrating. In today’s story we saw David and the people of Israel celebrating and praising God and we looked out for some of the ways they celebrated.
We acted out today’s story and heard about how after becoming king David captured the city of Jerusalem. Even though Jerusalem was well defended and on a hill David’s army was able to get inside by coming in through the water tunnel (luckily we had a tunnel on hand for this part). David then made Jerusalem his capital city, the most important city in Israel. And so David was going to move the most important thing in the whole of Israel to Jerusalem. Some of the kids remembered this important thing from before – the Ark of the Covenant, which showed God’s presence with the Israelites.
We got our large gold box (the Ark of the Covenant) and carried it with poles (because you weren’t allowed to touch it) and set off to Jerusalem with it – well from the small hall to the stage. After just 6 steps David sacrificed an ox and a cow, one of the ways people worshipped God then and celebrated. And on the way people played instruments, danced, shouted and cheered as the Ark made its way to Jerusalem. And as it went along David danced and jumped with joy as well, celebrating and praising the LORD.
When the Ark got to Jerusalem the celebrations carried on with David blessing the people, more sacrifices and David giving out food of bread, cake, fruit and meat to people. (Which we also acted out, well apart from the sacrifices). Lots of different ways the people celebrated and praised God, it seemed everyone was happy.
Well not everyone because when David returned home his wife Michal was upset (great annoyed faces from our Michal actor here). She’d watched David and didn’t think he behaved in a very kingly way. What he was wearing, his dancing and his being around servants while celebrating. Forget celebrating and praising God Michal was worried about what other people would think. But David wasn’t worried about what other people thought, he was more worried about what God thought and wanted to praise the LORD and celebrate. He didn’t mind if people thought he was being silly.
And we ended with our own time to celebrate and praise God. We thought about some of the things we could praise God for (e.g. our families, creating us, sending Jesus) and we danced, sang, listened to music and shouted them to God!

25th Oct – 1 Samuel 31 – 2 Samuel 5
Theme – David becomes king
We started the day with a sketch about someone keeping their promise. It was keeping their promise of being back at the time they told their mother. And it got us thinking about do we keep our promises, does God keep His promises?
The answer to that last one is very much yes and we read the story of God keeping His promise to David when David became king over Judah and then the whole of Israel. It was many years after God first promised David he would be king but if did happen, like God said it would.
We read out the story several times and each time there were key words in the story we acted them out. E.g. for David we did a heart symbol to remind us God looked at David’s heart and for Saul we turned around because Saul turned his back on God. It was quite complicated how David became king and took a fair bit of fighting but eventually it happened.
And in small groups we asked the children to draw what they thought the most important part of the story was. Many drew David being anointed king, some drew God’s promise to David and some drew lots of fighting with David becoming king in the middle of it.

11th Oct – 1 Samuel 24
Theme – David spares Saul
We picked up the story straight after last time’s story of David and Goliath. We got the kids to cheer for Saul and then cheer even louder for David after the battle, just like the people of Israel did after the battle. Saul decided to keep his eye on Saul and we learnt how Saul grew even more jealous of David. People said Saul defeated thousands of enemies (CHEER) but David had defeated tens of thousands of enemies (LOUDER CHEER). Saul sent David off to lots of battles and David came back victorious (LOUD CHEER). As Saul’s jealously grew he decided to kill David. We acted out Saul throwing a spear at David and Saul coming to David’s house to kill him but David had run off and left a statue in his bed to fool Saul. David had to go on the run in fear of his life. Would Saul ever stop chasing him? But then David had one chance to end it all…
We acted out the story of 1 Samuel 24 with Saul looking for David and then going to, ahem, relieve himself in a cave. And it turned out to be the cave David and his men were already hiding in. David’s men urged him to kill Saul but he didn’t, David instead cut a bit of Saul’s cloak to show he could have killed them but spared him. When David showed Saul, Saul broke down and cried at how David repaid Saul’s cruelness with kindness. Saul went off but had he learnt his lesson? No! 2 chapters later he’s back out trying to kill David again.
And we played a game that reminded us of the story. Could you do a David on Saul? I.e. sneak up and steal a bit of Saul’s cloak without him noticing.
Then we looked at why David didn’t kill Saul and in the chapter David says that Saul was still his king, chosen by God. Saul was the LORD’s anointed one. And David was going to let the LORD decide between him and Saul. David wanted Saul to be punished for what he was doing, he prayed to God for Him to punish Saul, but David was going to leave it to God to do that.
We also looked at what jealously did to Saul. And how sometimes jealously can be because we don’t see the gifts and talents God has given us or what God wants us to do. We looked at what God had done for Saul – Saul was king, chosen by God. David’s victories were in Saul’s army and they increased Saul’s kingdom. But Saul couldn’t see the good things he had or the good things about himself and be satisfied.
And in small groups we ended by writing good things and encouraging each other. We had a card for each child and the rest of us had to write in it one good thing about that person – what they were good at, what we liked about them at Starchasers, their gifts or talents or whatever. At the end the children got to read their cards. Yes there would be different things on each person’s cards and other people may be better at some things that us but there is something good about all of us. God has given each of us different gifts and skills. God has a different plan for each of us. There’s no need for us to get jealous.

27th Sep –  1 Samuel 17
Theme – David and Goliath
We set the theme for today’s story by getting the Hot team and the Cool team to stand and face off against each other. The Hot team were the Philistines and the Cool team were the Israelites and both sides squared up and shouted at the other. Then Goliath came out, represented in time honoured fashion by a kid standing on a chair (still about 1m short of actual Goliath height). Our Goliath shouted out his challenge to the Israelites to send someone out to fight him and see who would win. Terrified the Cool team / Israelites ran to the other side of the hall quaking.
For the game we had to put Goliath’s armour on a leader or more accurately cover a leader in as much toilet roll as possible. After a few minutes you could just about see the leader’s face and they were ready for battle.
So we came to David in the story. We chose a David and got them to act out fighting off bears and lions to protect their sheep and then told the story when David came to the Israelites camp, bringing food to his brothers in the army. David asked about the big, shouty man and said he would take on this person who was making fun of the armies of the Living God. The LORD was with David when he took on the bears and lions and David knew the LORD would be with him when he took on Goliath.
And then it came to the acting out of David fighting Goliath. We had our own homemade sling, stones (ping pong balls) and sword for Goliath (cricket bat). Put it all together and we got the story of David killing Goliath with his sling and cutting off Goliath’s head with his own sword.
In our small groups we made our own slings out of old socks and string that worked with varying degrees of success! And we looked at why David took on Goliath. Not because he trusted in his own fighting skills or for the big reward Saul offered. But because David knew the LORD would be with him and he wanted the whole world to know that Israel’s God was real (v46).

13th Sep – 1 Samuel 16 v 1-13
Theme – David is chosen as king
We began with a recap of what had happened since we last heard about the story of Israel last year. God had given the Israelites a leader named Joshua and Joshua had led them into the land God promised them. Thanks to God they were able to take the land and before Joshua died the people promised to keep on following and serving God. But the people soon turned away from God. We got the kids to turn around each time the Israelites turned away from then turned back to God in Judges. There was a lot of turning! The pattern of Judges was that the people turned away from God, they ran into trouble, they cried out to God, God choose a leader (judge) to lead and rescue them, they turned back to God, then the people turned away from God again. Repeat many times.
We joined the story when Samuel was a prophet in Israel and the people asked Samuel for a king. God warned them about a king but they wanted a king so God agreed to give them one. God would chose a king and Samuel would pour olive oil on his head to show he had been chosen by God. We acted out Samuel anointing Saul with olive oil and Saul becoming king. Things started well with Saul but over time Saul turned his back on God and went his own way, not God’s way.
And so we come to David. We acted out the story of God using Samuel to choose another king. Samuel went to Bethlehem to sacrifice to God and invited Jesse and his sons to the sacrifice. In turn each of Jesse’s 7 sons came to Samuel. Samuel presumed God would chose Jesse’s oldest son but God told him No – “People judge others by what they look like, but the LORD judges people by what is in their hearts”. And the same happened with the first six of Jesse’s sons. They came before Samuel and God told Samuel, no it isn’t him. Then it came to Jesse’s 7th son, he came before Samuel and God said… No! Samuel ask Jesse did he have any more sons and there was Jesse’s youngest and 8th son David who was out tending the sheep. When David came God told Samuel this is the one so Samuel poured oil on David to show God had chosen David as king. And from that day God’s Spirit came powerfully on David.
We looked at the verse “People judge others by what they look like, but the LORD judges people by what is in their hearts” using something called the heart bucket. A heart bucket is a bucket that represents our heart and shows how the things we put in our heart can affect us? Maybe our heart is like Saul’s heart? We start off well (added clean water to the bucket) but then we go our own way not God’s way (added thick, cold gravy) and our heart gets yukky. Perhaps like Saul we get jealous and that jealously eats away at us inside (added green goo). Perhaps like Saul we get angrier and angrier and that leads us to hurt and lash out at others (added red gunk). And as you can see this heart is full of bad stuff and not pleasing to God. Saul’s heart was hardened to God (added brick). We don’t want our heart to be like this.
We then took another heart bucket and thought about things we could put in it like David put in his. David followed and obeyed God (added water). David sang songs and wrote prayers to God (added sweet smelling water). David tried to do what God wanted not what he wanted (added more water). But David also did some wrong things, some awful things (added gunk). But David said sorry to God and asked God to forgive him and David knew that God could clean him and wash away his sins (used scrubbing brush and washing-up liquid to clean bucket). So David’s heart stayed soft and open to God (added heart-shaped sponge) We want our hearts to be more like this.
And in small groups each group for their our own heart bucket and we added to it bits of paper with things written or drawn on them we might want to put in our own hearts to please God.

Life in the Spirit

This term we’re going to be looking at the Holy Spirit and what it’s like to live as a Christian, filled with the Holy Spirit. We’re going to focus on the experience of what it is like to live in the Spirit, we know the truth in the Bible but how does that translate into my experience in my life. We want to encourage the kids to pray in the Spirit, to overcome their sinful nature with the help of the Spirit, to grow the fruits of the Spirit and know the foretaste of future glory the Holy Spirit gives you.

12th July: Ephesians 1 v 13-14, Romans 8 v 18-30, Revelation 21&22
Theme – The guarantee of future glory
We started the session with some acting. We split into four groups and acted out a short drama about keeping a promise. But as well as keeping a promise we had to add something to the drama about how we could be sure a person would keep their promise. For example we had someone borrowing a toy but leaving their own toy so you’d know they’d keep their promise to give their toy back. We also had leaving your wallet and leaving your bike as ways of being sure you would keep your promise. They were a guarantee that you would do what you said you would do.
And God has given His people great promises for the future but how we can be sure He’ll keep them? We read Ephesians 1 v 13-14 and saw that one way we can be sure was the Holy Spirit. It is our guarantee that God will keep His promises to us. Having God with us, having God’s power in us means we can be sure God will do what He says He will do.
So what promises has God given us for the future? To look at them we took a brand new beaker – straight out of the box. This beaker was like our world. At the start of the Bible it was perfect, God Himself described it as good. And our relationship with God was also perfect. But sin spoiled our world and broke it. So we took the beaker and broke it with a hammer. We thought about some of the things that spoil our world and mean it isn’t perfect. We had – bullying, pollution, shooting, illness and sadness amongst others. All these things show our world is broken and spoilt.
But God has promised that this heaven and this earth will one day be no more – gone. So we took the broken beaker pieces and put them in a goldfish bowl full of clear liquid. We then read Revelation 21 v 1-5 to find out about this new heaven and new earth God promises. A place with no crying, sadness, illness, pain or death. All the things that spoil our world will be gone. And our relationship with God will be perfect – He will live with us and we will be His people. God will make everything new. So we reached into the goldfish bowl and pulled out a brand new beaker that was perfect. God promises that this broken, spoilt world will pass and there will be a new perfect earth.
In small groups we looked at John’s vision of the holy city, the new Jerusalem, in Revelation 21 & 22 a little more. We drew in our Spirit notebooks what we thought the new city would be like and we also wrote some of the things we were looking forward too about the new heaven and new earth. This city was very special made of special materials (gold and jewels), contained special things (throne of God and the Lamb, river of life, tree of life) and featured a special number a lot (12).
This is what we as Christians look forward to and the Holy Spirit is our guarantee that God will keep this promise.
And we finished with the big star count for the term!

14th June: Galatians 5 v 16-26
Theme – Fruit of the Spirit
For our session we made a big paper tree and stuck it to the wall at the front. (It looked rather bare at this stage with no leaves or fruit on it). We asked the kids to guess what type of tree it was and we got a lot of different answers. Then we showed the kid some fruit that came from the trees – apples – and asked what type of tree it was. Everyone said an apple tree, the fruit told us what type of tree it was. And in today’s session we looked at the type of fruit that people have. Now we don’t have apples, oranges or plums sprouting out of us but what are the outward signs that show us what type of person we are – what we say, what we do, how we are with people etc.
We got out 2 kids to play the part of Sam and Alex. We told them that Sam was a great singer, always had headphones in and owned lots of instruments. Alex was super-fit, always wore tracksuit and trainers and had lots of balls and bats at home. Which one was the sporty person, which one was the musical person? The outward signs, the fruit, tell us what type of person they are. (I should say not all the kids guessed this bit right, many of them thought it was a “don’t judge a book by its cover lesson”!)
In the main session we brought on our Christian covered in Fruit of the Spirit (Big purple balloons). We took it in turns to take a fruit off the Christian, burst it and see what was inside. We worked our way through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. For each one we described it and acted out how we might show that fruit in a certain situation. If we are a Christian, if we’re living in the Spirit then these are the signs, the fruit that should tell us what type of person we are. And as we went on we covered our bare tree with the Fruit of the Spirit.
And finally in small groups we drew our own tree with the fruit of the Spirit on it in our Spirit notebooks. We also talked about which ones we found most difficult and would like God to help us with.
14th June: Galatians 5 v 16-26
Theme – Fruits of the Spirit
For our session we made a big paper tree and stuck it to the wall at the front. (It looked rather bare at this stage with no leaves or fruit on it). We asked the kids to guess what type of tree it was and we got a lot of different answers. Then we showed the kid some fruit that came from the trees – apples – and asked what type of tree it was. Everyone said an apple tree, the fruit told us what type of tree it was. And in today’s session we looked at the type of fruit that people have. Now they don’t have apples, oranges or plums sprouting out of them but the outward signs that show us what type of person they are – what they say, what they do, how they are with people etc.
We got out 2 kids to play the part of Sam and Alex. We told them that Sam was a great singer, always had headphones in and owned lots of instruments. Alex was super-fit, always work tracksuit and trainers and had lots of balls and bats at home. Which one was the sporty person, which one was the musical person? The outward signs, the fruit, tell us what type of person they are. (I should say not all the kids guessed this bit right, many of them thought it was a “don’t judge a book by its cover lesson”!)
In the main session we brought on our Christian covered in Fruit of the Spirit (Big purple balloons). We took it in turns to take a fruit off the Christian, burst it and see what was inside. We worked our way through love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. For each one we described it and acted out how we might show that fruit in a certain situation. If we are a Christian, if we’re living in the Spirit then these are the signs, the fruit that should tell us what type of person we are.
And finally in small groups we drew our own tree with the fruit of the Spirit on it in our Spirit notebooks. We also talked about which ones we found most difficult and would like God to help us with.
10th May: Romans 8 v 26-30
Theme – Praying in the Spirit
We read together verses 26 and 27 of Romans 8:
Also, the Spirit helps us with our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain. God can see what is in people’s hearts. And he knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit speaks to God for his people in the way God wants. (NCV)
The Spirit is our helper and helps us with our weaknesses, with the thing we struggle with. One of those things is prayer – we don’t know how to pray as we should. But should that stop us praying? No! Because the Spirit himself speaks to God for us and the Spirit speaks to God in the way that God wants. So when we pray we don’t need to worry about praying the right way, knowing the right words or understanding everything because the Spirit will take our words and speak to God for us, even beg God for us. And the Spirit will speak to God in the way that God wants.
We looked at 4 areas that we might find it difficult to pray for – Those who are ill, Nepal after the earthquake, Christians being persecuted around the world and those who are poor and lack basic things. For each one we set up a prayer station and the kids moved around the different stations. The prayers didn’t need to be complicated, just a short, simple prayer. And we know that Spirit would take our prayers and speak to God in the way God wants.
Those who are ill – We took a drawing of a bed and wrote on it the names of people who were unwell or ill. We prayed for each person and then afterwards put a sticking plaster underneath their name with the word ‘Jesus cares’ underneath
Christians being persecuted – We looked at 3 countries, Syria, Nigeria and North Korea and prayed for Christians there. As we prayed we plaited together a friendship bracelet to remind us our lives are woven together, we and them are part of the same body of Christ
Nepal – We had some Jenga bricks in a heap. As we prayed for the people of Nepal we took a brick and used it to make/rebuild a house.
Poverty – We had several envelopes filled with different things – food, soil, medicine, school report. These reminded us of some things many people in the world lacked. We opened the envelopes one at a time and the person who opened that envelope prayed for people who lacked the thing inside.
After going round the prayer stations we took our Spirit notebooks from last week and made a note of some of the things the Spirit helped us to prayer for. The kids drew some of the things we prayed for and some wrote prayers to God in the books.
Starchasers 26th Apr: Acts 2
Theme – PentecostFilled with the Spirit
We started by thinking about superhero stories, in particular the start of superhero stories when an ordinary, normal person is transformed and can do incredible things. We asked what thing changed these people:
Peter Parker to Spiderman (Spider)
Turtles to TMNT (Radioactive mutagen)
Ben to Several aliens (Omnitrix watch)
Of course those stories aren’t true but we were going to look at a true story. A group of ordinary people who were transformed and given the power to do incredible things for God. What changed them? The Holy Spirit. Jesus promised to send that to His followers after He went back to Heaven and this is the story we looked.
We told the story in Acts 2 using sounds. First the sound of wind growing louder and louder. Then flames appearing in the room. Then the disciples being able to speak lots of different languages (we tried saying ‘Jesus is Lord’ in lots of different languages). Then a crowd gathering outside and growing bigger and bigger.
Peter and the disciples went outside to the crowd and started telling them about Jesus. We asked the kids what they would tell a crowd of people about Jesus and they had very similar ideas to Peter. And from the crowd 3,000 people turned back to God, were baptised and had their sins forgiven. And they too were filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had just come and already incredible things were happening!
We then talked a little about the spread of the good news about Jesus and the Holy Spirit – just as Jesus had told His followers to do. Across the city, the country and the whole world. And down through the generations as well. So much so that us sitting thousands of miles away and thousands of years after this story we too can hear the good news about Jesus. And if we turn back to God and have our sins forgiven we too can receive the Holy Spirit. We too can be changed and have incredible power to do what God wants us to.
We finished the session by decorating our own ‘Spirit’ notebook. Throughout the term we’re going to record what we’ve learnt and discovered about the Holy Spirit and us. And hopefully relate some of these Biblical truths to our own experiences.

 

Who do you say I am? – Mark

This term we’ll be looking at the life of Jesus in Mark’s gospel. At the start of the book Mark claims Jesus is the Messiah & the Son of God and we’ll be looking at some of the events Mark records to convince us of that. As we go through the book we’ll be asking – Who do we think Jesus is.

Summaries of the sessions so far this term are below:

29th March: Mark 14-16
Theme – Jesus died & rose again
We told the Easter story using a single sheet of paper. If you want to try it for yourself here’s how:
1. Show the blank sheet of paper. Talk about Jesus in the desert and being tempted at the start of his ministry.
2. Holding it in portrait format fold a top corner down to the opposite side. Then fold the other top corner down to its opposite side. You should have a house shape. Although for now it’s a palm leaf, being flapped and waved to cheer Jesus as he enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.
3. Put the paper down on the table and show it’s a house shape. Shake the house shape from side to side to show Jesus shaking things up in His Father’s house – the temple.
4. Talk about a woman pouring oil on Jesus in a house in Bethany.
5. Fold the house shape in half lengthways and point to the top part of the house. It was in an upstairs room that Jesus and the disciples met for the Last Supper.
6. After the Last Supper Jesus was arrested. As you talk about Jesus being beaten, mocked, tortured etc. cut two strips off the paper (away from the fold)
7. Open out the sheet of paper to show a cross shape. Talk about Jesus death on the cross. Open out the other bits to reveal a spear shape (soldiers guarding him and one stabbing Jesus with a spear) and two small squares. Say the soldiers threw lots to see who would get Jesus’ clothes.
8. Jesus died and they took his body off the cross and placed it in a tomb, a hole cut into a rock. Fold the cross into a cuboid shape. Fold down the flap for the stone rolled over the tomb.
9. And there Jesus lay until Sunday morning when the women came to see Jesus. They found that the stone had been rolled away (fold away flap or tear it off). And inside the tomb was empty. Talk about Jesus being raised from the dead.
10. And because of what Jesus has done we need no longer worry about death. Death has lost its sting! Screw up tomb and throw away.
This surely shows that Jesus really was the Messiah, God’s anointed one. Jesus really was the Son of God.

22nd March: Mark 12 v 28-34
Theme – The Greatest Commandment
We started with a memory game. There was a rucksack with 15 items in it and the two teams had to see how many of them they could remember. As ever they were able to remember all of them – impressive stuff. The thing that connected all these items were that they were all things you needed to survive particularly if you were in the desert or the wilderness. Then we asked the kids which 2 items they thought were the most important to help them survive. It was a difficult choice and there were a lot of different answers across the group.
In today’s passage Jesus was asked a similar question, a teacher of the law asked him what was the most important commandment. Now bear in mind that in the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) there are over 600 to choose from that’s no easy task. What would Jesus choose? What would He not choose? Jesus told him the most important and the second most important but what where they? We kept everyone in suspense until after the game.
We read Jesus’ answer from Mark 12 v 29-31 talking about the Lord being the only Lord and that we should love God with all our being and love others as we love ourselves.
We looked at this passage a little more using a little cardboard person. We took our person and then pasted onto him/her a heart, a soul (well a little cloud) a mind (brain) and strength (muscles). This was to remind us of the most important commandment – Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. We also talked a little about what these different parts mean. The heart is thought to be our emotional side, where we feel; The soul is thought to be our spiritual side, where we connect with God; The mind is thought to be our mental side, where we think and Strength is thought to be our physical side, where we do. We are to love God through how we feel, our spirit, how we think and what we do.
And finally we added a few more people to our picture to remind us of the second most important commandment – Love your neighbour (others) as you love yourself. Of all the 600+ commandments Jesus said these two were the most important.

8th March – Mark 10 v 13-31
Theme – Blessing the Children & the Rich Man
First of all we got two people out, one to be a child (pretty easy for them) and one to be a rich, powerful person. We talked about how people would have treated each one in Jesus day. The rich person people would have been looked up to, people would have thought they were important and people thought they would have been close to God. The child? Well they’d be lucky if people thought much about them at all, they weren’t that important and not worth worrying about. Both these people met Jesus and how did Jesus treat each of them?
We read the story of Jesus and the children and saw a modern day video retelling of it. The disciples tried to stop the children ‘bothering’ Jesus but He wanted to see them. Jesus made time for them and blessed them. Even though others thought them irrelevant Jesus brought the children to Him. And He even said – unless you become like a little child you will not enter it.
We then acted out the story of Jesus and the rich man. Jesus made time for the rich man too but Jesus challenged the rich man on what mattered to him most – his money. And so the rich man went away unhappy. What? Wasn’t he meant to be very blessed by God if he was so rich? Jesus said it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.
In small groups we looked at the stories a little more especially those things Jesus said about the Kingdom of God – we need to become like a little child to enter it and it’s very difficult for a rich person to enter it. And we discussed if we would give up our favourite thing for God.

22nd February: Mark 9v2-13
Theme – The Transfiguration
We started by thinking about change and some things that change or transform. The Hungry Caterpillar and Transformers were on that list and in today’s story we were going to hear about Jesus being changed or transformed.
We acted out the story with Jesus starting in his dirty, normal clothes and his closest friends Peter, James and John. We couldn’t do full justice to the event on the mountain top but we tried by giving Jesus a very white cloak to wear, Moses and Elijah appearing, a large cloud behind them and a voice from the cloud. The disciples were so overcome by what they saw that they fell down on the ground shaking. Afterwards Jesus told His disciples not to tell anyone about it until after He had risen from the dead.
In small groups we made a two-sided Jesus with his ordinary everyday clothes on one side and his brilliant white clothes and shining face on another. We also talked a little bit about the story to reflect on why Jesus changed, why Jesus said to tell no-one until after He had risen from the dead and what this told us about Jesus.

8th Feb: Mark 8v1-13 
Theme – Jesus feeds the 4,000
Our session started with a debate to find out whether Helen or Ruth loved Taylor Swift more. They each said what they would do to go see her but would they follow her around for 3 days even if it meant they went hungry? Turns out they wouldn’t but that’s what the people who came to see Jesus did, they were with Him for 3 days and they didn’t have any food. Jesus felt sorry for the crowd because they were so hungry they might faint on the way home.
We acted out the story with the crowd and Jesus, sending the disciples off round the hall to hunt for food. All they could find were 7 loaves and a few small fish. We though this would barely feed 2 hungry people let alone 4,000. But Jesus thanked God, broke the food and then gave it to the disciples to give out. And the food kept coming, there was more than enough for everyone, even having 7 baskets left over. In a popular move we also acted out the crowd eating by giving out bread and smoked salmon to everyone.
Jesus did this because he cared for the crowd, He had the power to help them and He did. As well as all the healing he had already done!
In small groups we recapped the story and asked the kids what they thought about Jesus after hearing this story.

25th January: Mark 5v21-43
Theme – Jesus heals a woman and raises a girl from the dead
As a themesetter we split into our teams (Hot and Cool) and thought about who might be able to help us in certain situations. E.g. you need help with your homework, your house is on fire, you’re feeling sad and unhappy. Then we met two people and wondered who could help them. One was a woman who was ill and had been for a long time. The kids said a doctor could help but in her case doctors couldn’t make her better in fact after seeing the doctors she felt worse. Could anyone help her? The other person was a man whose daughter was dying and would soon die. Who could help him? Yes people could comfort him as he mourned but what he really wanted was his daughter back. Two people that it seemed like no-one could help.
And then along came Jesus. We acted out the story in Mark 5 of Jesus’ 2 miracles. We had one kid as Jesus and, as often seemed to be the case, crowds of people came to see Jesus, to hear Him, to be healed by Him. As Jesus was with the crowd a man came running in, a man called Jairus. Jairus’s daughter was dying and he asked Jesus to help him. Jesus agreed and off they went to Jairus’s house, with the crowd bumping Jesus and wanting to be close to Him. We stopped the crowd as Jesus asked ‘Who touched me!’ and saw the confusion as obviously a lot of people were bumping into Jesus. Then the woman who was ill admitted she touched Jesus and had been healed. A moment of happiness when this woman who’d been suffering for 12 years had been healed.
But the happiness didn’t last long when messengers came from Jairus’s house to tell him his daughter was dead. But Jesus still went to Jairus’s house and once there he went up to where Jairus’s daughter lay and brought her back to life! An incredible event, Jesus was able to bring this girl back from the dead. When it seemed liked no-one else could help Jesus could transform the situation.
To finish we brought out the Hot Seat (okay a seat with a cloth) and brought out a child at a time to sit on the seat and asked them to imagine what it would have been liked to have been the woman or Jairus in today’s story. We went through the story and asked them what they would have felt or thought at certain points. And we asked them what they would have thought of Jesus after this story. This incredible man who could help when no-one else could.

11th January: Mark 1 v 1-13
Theme – Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God
As it was a new term we thought it was a good chance to get to know the leaders better so each of them told us something about themselves. Helen said she could act out any animal we mentioned, Ruth sais she led music at Church on the Corner and Shan sais he could make and eat green eggs and ham. We then asked the kids if they thought these things the leaders said about themselves were true and they were very sceptical about most of the claims! We then asked them what they could ask the leaders to prove what they said was true. Perhaps the leaders could answer some questions or do something to show their claim was true. So we got Helen acting, Ruth playing the piano and Shan showed us, and ate, the green eggs and ham he’d cooked. More of the kids became convinced what the leaders said was true but by no means all of them!
We then read the first verse in Mark’s gospel where Mark says: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God”. Mark is making some big claims about Jesus, saying He is the Messiah (God’s Chosen One) and the Son of God, and in his book Marks tries to convince us these claims about Jesus are true. But what would it take for us to think that what Mark says about Jesus is true? What would we like to know or find out about Jesus to be convinced?
In our story we looked at one person who was convinced Jesus was God’s Chosen One – John the Baptist. We got Shan to be John the Baptist and found out about his crazy clothes (camel hair and leather belt), unusual diet (honey and locusts) and even weird places he preached (in the desert). We acted out John preaching to people telling them to turn back to God and John baptising people in the River Jordan. People began to think – maybe John is the Messiah – but John said no, someone greater than him was coming along soon.
And then Jesus came to John and asked to be baptised. We acted out the unusual events around Jesus’ baptism – the sky opening, the Spirit (like a dove) coming down and resting on Jesus and the voice saying “This is my own dear Son, I am pleased with Him”. God had told John beforehand that the person His Spirit would came down on and rest on was the Messiah so John was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, God’s Chosen One.
In small groups we recapped the story and thought about some of the things that convinced John that Jesus was the Messiah. We also asked is we were convinced Jesus was the Messiah? What else would we want to find out about Jesus to be convinced? All of this while making our very own dove from paper doilies.

 

Trust – Joshua and Judges

We’re following on from the story of Moses last year to look at Joshua and Judges. The key theme of the whole term is that we can trust God and trust the promises He has made. The Israelites could trust God’s promise that He would give them the land of Canaan. However, they were quick to forget what God had done for them and quick to turn away from Him:

Summaries of the sessions so far this term are below:

Starchasers: 14th Dec – Judges 13-16
Theme – Samson the Judge
As it was the last Starchasers of term we started with a recap of Joshua and Judges. It was an active recap that involved turning away from God (face the back), turning back to God (face the front) and either sitting or standing to try and answer the question about the story. Over the whole term we saw – The Israelites turned away from God under Moses. The next generation were led by Joshua and turned back to God, they entered the land God had promised them then. Over time the Israelites turned away from God, then they would cry out to God for help and turn back to God. God would send a leader and judge to rescue them but over time they’d turn away from God again. This kept happening throughout Judges and before Samson was born the Philistines were oppressing the Israelites. But God had a plan to rescue the Israelites.
We acted out the story of Samson, from an angel appearing to his mother and saying she would have a son who would rescue Israel (but he must not drink alcohol or ever cut his hair) through all the key events recorded in Judges. For example, tearing a lion in half, tying foxes’ tails together and using them to set the Philistine’s fields on fire and being pretty handy with the jawbone of a donkey. Samson was a complicated character but God’s Spirit was with Samson and gave Samson incredible strength. We showed this by giving our Samson a Superman t-shirt and a few balloons to show his big muscles.
And then came the story of Delilah. With a little help from Tom Jones we went through the different ways Delilah tried to find out the secret of Samson’s strength until eventually Samson gave in and told her he would lose his strength if his hair was cut. That night she got the Philistine’s to cut Samson’s hair and he lost his strength as God had stopped helping him.
But there was one final twist in the story. The Philistine’s were celebrating capturing Samson and brought Samson out to make fun of him. Samson prayed to God for strength one last time and he pushed down the columns of the building they were in and it collapsed, killing everyone inside including Samson.
Samson was a less than ideal character but God’s spirit was with him and God used Samson to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines.

23rd Nov: Judges 4&5
Theme – Deborah the Judge
We recapped where we got to at the end of the last session by having a leaders vs kids challenge. The leaders lost (quite badly) so if you’re a leader let me bring you up to speed. God had promised the Israelites the land and under Joshua they had entered the land, taken it and settled there. Before he died Joshua reminded the Israelites of all God had done for them and he asked the people to choose if they were going to serve and obey God and they said Yes! To remind them of this promise Joshua put up a standing stone. And after that Joshua died…
And then a generation later the Israelites turned away from God. They quickly forgot about God and worshipped other gods and so by Judges 4 God let King Jabin defeat the Israelites and oppress them for 20 years. The Israelites cried out to God for help and this is where we took up our story.
We acted out the story of Deborah the prophet who was leading Israel at this time. God told her to get Barak to gather 10,000 people to go fight Jabin’s army, commanded by Sisera. Sisera had 900 chariots so his army was very strong but after much play fighting we saw that God gave the Israelites victory over Sisera’s army.
But Sisera managed to escape and he ran off to the tent of a woman called Jael. Sisera went inside and Jael gave him some milk to drink. After that Sisera fell asleep and then came most of the kid’s favourite part of the story – Jael took a tent peg and drove it through Sisera’s head. God had given the Israelites the victory after they had cried out to Him. Even though they’d turned away from Him God still helped them. And after that battle the land had peace for 40 years.
Would the Israelites keep on following God after Deborah? We’ll find out next time!

9th Nov: Joshua 10-12 & 24
Theme – God gives the Israelites the land He promised
At the start of today’s story God had given the Israelites victory over the cities of Jericho and Ai and the kings of the surrounding cities were getting worried. So much so that 5 kings came together and attacked the city of Gibeon, a city that had made peace with the Israelites. The people of Gibeon sent a message to Joshua to come and rescue them.
We told the story in Joshua 10 in miniature scale using a sheet on the floor and a mini-city of Gibeon. On one side we put yellow toy soldiers who were the army of the 5 kings and on the other were green toy soldiers who were the Israelite army. God promised Joshua victory over the 5 kings and here’s how God did it. First God panicked the 5 kings’s army, then God sent large hailstones which killed more soldiers than the Israelite swords did and finally God made the Sun stand still in the sky so the battle could continue until Joshua and the Israelites had won. As the Bible says – The LORD really was with Israel that day!
We then went through all the kings and cities that God gave Joshua victory over – 31 in total! It wasn’t quite all the kings and cities in the land, they still needed to take over some parts of the land, but most of the land was now the Israelites. They were now able to live and settle in the land God had promised them.
And as we come to the end of Joshua’s life we looked at one of the last things Joshua did in Joshua 24. He called the Israelites together and told them about everything God had done for them. We asked the kids what Joshua might have mentioned and that included bringing them out of Egypt, bringing them through the Red Sea, bringing them into the land, giving them victories over the kings and cities and keeping His promise to give them the land. After Joshua reminded them of that he issued the people a challenge, a challenge we recapped in our memory verse:
“You must choose for yourselves today. You must decide whom you will serve…As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” –Joshua 24v15
In response the people said Yes! We will follow and worship only God, so Joshua put up a large standing stone to remind them of their promise (we used our own inflatable standing stone). Joshua wanted the Israelites to remember their promise to follow and worship God even after he was gone. And we’ll see how that turned out in 2 weeks time…

26th October: Joshua 6
Theme – The fall of Jericho
The Israelites are now in the land God promised them and the first city they attack is Jericho. Jericho was a city with high walls so we thought of some of the things that the Israelites might need to attack the city. We came up with swords, soldiers, ladders for getting up the walls, ropes and Spiderman! But God was going to give them the victory using priests, trumpets and the very special chest we heard about last time – The Ark of the Covenant.
To start we all made our own trumpets out of cardboard and a party blower. (We’d like to apologise for all the headaches we caused parents yesterday afternoon). We then got ready to find out how God was going to give Jericho to the Israelites. The leaders held up the walls of Jericho while the Israelites (the kids) marched round. Part of the army went in front, then the priests with trumpets, then the priests with the Ark, then the rest of the army. On the first day they marched round the city to strange looks from the people in Jericho. Then they slept. They did the same on the second day. And the third, fourth, fifth and sixth day. Then on the seventh day they marched round seven times. Then the priests gave a blast on their trumpets and everyone shouted (and boy did they shout). The walls of Jericho fell down meaning the Israelites could go in and capture the city. But the Israelites spared Rahab and her family and they came and lived with the Israelites.
Why did God give them the city in this? We thought it was so the Israelites (and everyone else) would know that God had given them the victory, not through the Israelites power or might. And indeed God was going to give them the rest of the land in equally spectacular fashion.
We finished off with a memory verse game which was Joshua’s call to the people about whom they were going to serve. Joshua wanted them to choose to follow God all the days they were in the land:
“You must choose for yourselves today. You must decide whom you will serve…As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” –Joshua 24v15

12th October: Joshua 3-5
Theme – Crossing the Jordan into the land
We did the recap of the last session a little differently today. We got those who were there to explain what happened to those that weren’t and those that weren’t there had to answer the questions about it. The kids did a great job of remembering what happened two weeks ago but would they remember it in 2 months time? 2 years? 200 years? In today’s story God wanted the people to remember how He brought them into the land He promised them and to remember the covenant (special agreement) between Him and the Israelites. And He wanted them to remember this for a very long time.
We acted out the story with the river Jordan (blue sheets), some stones (orange foam blocks) and an Ark of the Covenant (box with poles sprayed gold). We told the kids about the Ark of the Covenant being very holy and very special. It contained the Ten Commandments and it showed God’s presence with the Israelites. (Note to self – if you don’t want kids to touch the Ark don’t tell them “no-one was allowed to touch it”).
And with those items we told the story. Of God sending the priests down to the edge of the river with the Ark, of the river stop flowing and the riverbed being dry and of the Israelites crossing over on dry ground. And God told the people to take 12 stones from the river and build a memorial where they camped that night. The 12 stones were to remind the people that God dried up the Jordan so that they could cross on dry land. They would remind people that God was powerful and He was with them as they entered the land. And they would be able to tell their children about what had happened when their children asked about the stones.
When they had entered the land God told them to renew the covenant the special agreement between Him and the Israelites. This wasn’t the end of the story, just the beginning. And now they were in the land they needed to keep on remembering He was their God and they were His people.
In small groups we thought about what we needed to remember about God. It can be easy for us to drift away from God or forget what He’s done for us. So we made our own standing stone from modelling clay and on it wrote something we wanted to remember about God – something about who He is or what He’s done for us.

28th September: Joshua 1 & 2
Theme – Rahab trusted God to give the Israelites the land
We started with a recap of the last session with God promising Abraham’s family the land of Canaan and Moses taking the Israelites out of Egypt to the edge of the land. However the Israelites didn’t trust God so it would be another 40 years before they entered the land. So we walked around the hall until, one by one, the adults had died until 40 years later when all the adults were dead and the children were all grown up. And here we were again back on the edge of the land.
Even Moses couldn’t enter the land so he passed his staff on to a new leader, Joshua, and then died. Before they entered the land God reminded the Israelites of a special agreement between Him and them – sometimes called a covenant. And the book of Joshua opens with God speaking to Joshua. God said:
– You will be successful because I will be with you
– Be strong and brave because I will be with you
– I will give you the land
– Remember the Law and keep the Law
These were important things for the Israelites to remember before they went into the land so we made some wristbands to help us remember them. We made them from origami paper and if you’d like to make one yourself you can find out how here:

And on the wristband we wrote one of the things to remember. That way between us we could remember them all.
We then acted out the story of Rahab and the Spies. We had Joshua sending the spies to scout out the city, the king of Jericho hunting the spies and Rahab hiding them in her house. Rahab had heard all about what God had done – bringing the Israelites out of Egypt, taking them across the Red Sea, helping them defeat other kings and cities – and she told them the people of Jericho were terrified of God. She said clearly their God ruled over heaven and the earth! In return for helping the spies she asked them to spare her and her family when they attacked Jericho so they told her to tie a red rope to a window and she would be safe. (Remember this it’s important later!)
When the spies returned they had a very different message for the Israelites than last time they said – ““We’re sure the Lord has given us the whole country. The people there shake with fear every time they think of us.” So now the Israelites were all ready to (finally) enter the land.
In small groups we had to chance to make some more wristbands to remember the special agreement (covenant) between God and the Israelites. This was something that was very important for them to remember as they prepared to enter the land of Canaan.

14th September – Numbers 13 & 14
Theme – We can trust God and His promises
This term our theme is going to be ‘Trust’ so we started by seeing who you would trust to do certain things for you. Who would you trust to:
–       Make you better if you were ill
–       Rescue you from a burning building
–       Lend a pound to and you’d get it back
–       Play up front for your football team
And we asked the kids why they would trust these people. We had answers like they know you, they are able to help, they’ve done this for you before, they’ve got the skills. These are some of the reasons why you might put your trust in someone.
And in this term’s stories we’re going to see if the Israelites would trust God. Is he someone we should trust?
We started by looking at a promise God had given Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and then Moses – God had promised to give them the land of Canaan (and a lot more as well!). Today’s story started where we left off last year. God had rescued the Israelites from Egypt, brought them across the Red Sea, led them in the desert and given them the Law and Ten Commandments. And now they stood on the edge of Canaan, the land God had promised them. The promise God had given Abraham over 400 years earlier. And we would see if they trusted God to give it to them.
So we became the Israelites camped on the edge of the land. Moses, their leader, chose 12 spies to go and scout out the land. So we all crept quietly across the obstacles, through the desert, over the hills, down the valleys and hid in the bushes in Canaan to see what we could find out. The spies saw things like good farmland, lots of fruit growing and vines with lots of grapes. They also saw strong, powerful armies and cities that were well defended with huge walls. The spies, as Moses told them, also took back some grapes, pomegranates and figs with them. After they’d scouted the spies snuck back to camp.
On their return we all tried the fruit from the land. While figs and pomegranates weren’t to everyone’s tastes we could see the land had a lot of fruit. And we waited for the spies’ reports. We got up Joshua & Caleb who told the people all about how good the harvest and fruit was in the land and how if the Lord was on our side the Canaanites wouldn’t stand a chance! However the other 10 spies told us all about the bad things, the large armies, the strong people, the big city walls. And they got the people worked up and angry, so much so they were ready to stone Moses!
We froze there and then told of the Lord appearing in the camp and what he said. Because they didn’t trust Him to give them the victory none of the adults (those over 20 years old) would ever enter the land, only the children present would ever get to take the land. The only exceptions would be Joshua and Caleb. And they’d all have to wander in the desert for 40 years!
Then we looked back over the story to see if the Israelites should have trusted God. Most people said yes. We asked about the big armies and strong defences and the kids said yes, they should still have trusted God. (Although one person admitted if he’d have been there he’d have found it hard to trust God – a very honest answer!) Why should they trust God? The kids said – because God is powerful, because God had helped them in the past, because God is strong enough to beat any army.
And next time we’ll see if the Israelites should have trusted God. We’ll fast forward 40 years when the children are all grown up and back at the edge of the land ready to go in. (Sneak preview – yes, they should have trusted God)

 

Paul – Summer 2014

This term we’ll be looking at Paul one of the great leaders in the Early Church. Paul (when he was known as Saul) started off as someone who hated the church and hated Christians but after seeing a vision of Jesus he was transformed. Paul became a great missionary taking the good news about Jesus to many countries including modern day Turkey, Greece and Italy.

29th June – Acts 13-14, 15-18, 20-21; Romans 10 v 8-15
Theme – Spread the Word
We started by acting out some of the stories we had learnt about Paul over the term. His conversion, his escape from Damascus, being hailed as a god in Lystra and his suffering.
And one of the things Paul is most well known for is spreading the word about Jesus – to regions, countries and people who had never heard of Him before. To get us in the mood we played ‘I heard it on the grapevine’ a relay version of Chinese whispers to see how good the kids were at taking messages and passing them on. Then we looked at Paul’s first missionary journey and marked the places out around the hall. Paul (and Barnabas) travelled to lots of places in Syria, Turkey, Cyprus etc. to tell them all about Jesus. It wasn’t easy but Paul wanted to go share this good news about Jesus with as many people as possible.
Another game helped us understand why Paul did this. A balloon game ended with us popping the balloons and putting together bits of paper to get the following verse from Romans:
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news! 
In small groups we shared out stories about what Jesus had done in our lives and wrote/drew one thing we’d like to tell our friends about Jesus.

 

22nd June – Acts 21-28
Theme – 
Suffering for Jesus
We looked at some of the ways Paul suffered for the gospel. He went to Jerusalem knowing it was dangerous got attacked by a crowd, nearly killed, arrested, deported, shipwrecked and kept under house arrest for two years. Paul was prepared to go through all this to spread the word about Jesus and it reminds us of what God told Ananias about Paul in Acts 9:
I will show him [Saul] how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.
And Jesus never said it would be easy for us to follow Him. We thought about some of the difficulties we might face – for example if they’re only a few Christians in our school or we’re the only Christian in our family.
We also thought about and prayed for Christians around the world who suffer for following Jesus. Christians who are imprisoned, beaten or even killed.

 

8th June – Acts 15 & Galatians
Theme – Set Free!
Starchasers cancelled this week.

 

11th May: Acts 14 v 8-20
Theme – All about God, not us
Using the photos from last time (remember those?) we recapped the story of Saul’s conversion. After his conversion Saul went around different countries to tell them about Jesus and to help with this he changed his name to a more Roman name – Paul.
We looked at Paul’s first journey with Barnabas when he travelled to Syria, Cyprus, Galatia and Lycaonia. And that inspired our first game – Syria, Cyprus, Galatia and Lycaonia (very similar to North, South, East and West).
The morning’s story focused on the what happened to Paul and Barnabas in Lystra (in Lycaonia). We did this by acting out the story with the kids playing Paul, Barnabas, ‘Man’ and the rest being the excitable crowd. In Lystra Paul told the crowd all about Jesus and in the crowd was a man who couldn’t walk from birth. Paul healed the man and the crowd went wild. They called Paul and Barnabas gods, brought them gifts and wanted to worship them. It would have been very easy for them to take the praise and think how great they were but they said No! They too were mere human beings and they told them about God, not about themselves. (The story ended, as it often does for Paul, with him being beaten up and left for dead).
Steve then showed some amazing photos but spent all the time talking about himself in the photos. When he did that we missed out on something much more amazing, much more incredible in the photos (e.g. Northern lights, lighting striking the Statue of Liberty or a water-surfing duck). Making it all about me meant missing out on something much more amazing.
Like Paul and Barnabas in Lystra if they had made it all about them, about how great they were or what people thought of them, the people would have missed out on hearing about something much more amazing, someone much more important – God.
And to remind us to make it All about God, not about us we made a giant pointing hand in small groups. One side had ‘All about me’ when it pointed at us (and a sad face) and the other side had ‘All about God’ when it pointed up (and a happy face).

 

27th April: Acts 9
Theme – Saul’s Conversion
We started by getting the kids to think about the ideal person to be a missionary, someone who to go to lots of different countries and tell them about Jesus. The Hot team and Cool team discussed this for a few minutes and came back with things like – speak different languages, be a clear talker, know the Bible, have a faith and be driven.
About 2,000 years ago only a few thousand people knew about Jesus and most of them were in one country. God needed someone to go to lots of different countries and tell them about Jesus and He chose someone called Saul. We learnt a little about what Saul was like – he hated the church, arrested Christians and voted to kill those who followed Jesus. Does he match the descriptions you thought off earlier?
All of us said no! Even though Saul knew different languages, knew the Bible really well and was driven the fact he hated the church and hated Christians meant he wasn’t suitable. So Saul had to change and we saw how God changed Saul in the story in Acts 9.
Before that we played the ‘Action Spot the Difference’ game where the kids had to spot 10 things Sara changed about herself. As ever the kids proved eagle-eyed and between them noticed all 10, some of which were very small changes indeed. But could we spot what changed in Saul?
To tell the story in Acts 9 we got into groups of three and each group had to produce a freeze-frame for different parts of the story. For example, Saul arresting Christians, going to Damascus, seeing a bright light, being blind, Ananias visiting Saul, Saul preaching about Jesus in Damascus and Saul escaping over the city wall in the night.
At the end we talked about some of the ways God changed Saul and it was quite a dramatic change. And God still changes and transforms people today. In small groups the leaders shared how God had changed them and transformed them. And we also made flower prayers. In the centre of the flower we wrote what we want to be like (e.g. calm and in control), then we folded it up and on the outside we wrote what we wanted God to change about us (e.g. Getting angry) and placed it in a bowl of water. We prayed for God to change us and as we prayed the flower opened up hiding the ‘getting angry’ and revealing ‘calm and in control’.

A great big plan

This term we’ll be looking at Jesus’ life as told in Matthew’s gospel. In particular we’ll be looking at some of the prophecies written about Jesus hundreds of years before he was born and how Jesus fulfilled them. Jesus life was planned out long before he was born and when he came to earth he carried out God’s great big plan, a plan that had been revealed over hundreds and thousands of years.

The weeks when we have Starchasers and the message of the mornings are:

23rd March: Matthew 26-28 & Isaiah 53
Theme – Jesus died for us
Last session we covered the events of Palm Sunday with the crowds cheering, waving and shouting Hosanna! It seemed like Jesus was about to take control, the people were about to get what they wanted.
But what a difference a few days make. This happened on the Sunday but on the Thursday night Jesus was arrested on Friday morning he was on trial before Pilate and on Friday afternoon he was being crucified. We began by showing a clip of Jesus’ death from the film The Miracle Maker.
So that was it. Jesus was defeated, killed. His plans were finished, this Kingdom He talked about wasn’t going to happen. It was all over.
Or was it? We looked back at some of the things Jesus had said in the run up to his death, at the Last Supper and while He was being arrested. Jesus had said this would happen and it was written about in the Scriptures and by the prophets. This had been God’s plan all along and parts of it had been written about by prophets hundreds of years before Jesus was born.
So we went back to look at one of those passages in the Old Testament:
He suffered and endured great pain for us,
but we thought his suffering was punishment from God.
He was wounded and crushed because of our sins;
by taking our punishment, he made us completely well.
All of us were like sheep that had wandered off.
We had each gone our own way, but the Lord gave him the punishment we deserved.
Isaiah 53 v 4-6
This was from a group of chapters in Isaiah talking about the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah, and we read of Him being punished, being wounded, being crushed. But it also tells us why? For us, He took our punishment.
To show this we invited up a kid and gave him a brand new, clean, white T-shirt. This is God’s standard for us, perfection. He is Holy and He needs us to be perfect. Except we’re not. We talked about some of our sins, when we’ve turned away from God. For each one we drew a stain on the T-shirt and soon it was filthy! But Jesus takes the punishment we deserve so we took the T-shirt off the kid and put it on the cross and gave a brand new one to the kid. Because of Jesus we can be clean, because of Jesus we can match God’s standard and be brought back to God.
In small groups we looked at this idea of being cut-off from God and Jesus opening the way to God. We did this by drawing a picture of God then covering it with a curtain as we were cut off from God. After Jesus’ death we can rip the curtain and open up the way to God.

9th March: Matthew 21 v 1-11; Zechariah 9 v 9
Theme – The triumphant entry
We began the morning by making a machine. Each one of us was a working part in the machine with a movement and a noise and we all fitted together into one big system. What type of machine were we building? Turns out it was a time machine! It would seem wrong not to use it so we hopped inside and went back 2,500 years to the time of Zechariah. We saw him writing down what he’d heard from God:
Everyone in Jerusalem, celebrate and shout!
Your king has won a victory, and he is coming to you.
He is humble and rides on a donkey;
he comes on the colt of a donkey.
Zechariah 9 v 9
Zechariah was told about the coming of an important king with people celebrating and shouting. But this important king would be humble and come riding on a donkey and a colt (baby donkey). It was an odd picture but this was the message Zechariah received from God.
Back in the time machine we went to 2,000 years ago to see Jesus on Palm Sunday. Acting out the story we had kids dressed up as Jesus, his disciples,  a donkey, a colt and lots of people in the crowd. We saw branches being waved, cloaks being put on the ground, people cheering and shouting ‘Hosanna, Hosanna to the Son of David!’. This was Jesus coming into Jerusalem just days before He would be killed. People were celebrating and shouting the arrival of Jesus, a “prophet” from Nazareth.
Finally we went back into the time machine to return to the present day and talked about the story. Zechariah had written about this hundreds of years before it happened and yet it came true. People flocked to see Jesus, fame about his healings, his teachings and his work had spread. The people were celebrating and shouting his arrival. They were shouting “Hosanna!” which means “Save!”. And yet it was a sign of humility, this great king arrived on a donkey. Not on a chariot, a horse or a Sedan chair but on a donkey. A king quite like no other.

23rd February: Matthew 8&9 (and others); Isaiah 35v5&6
Theme – Many healings
Today’s subject was a difficult and challenging one – disability and illness. We began by thinking about what it might be like living with a disability. In our two teams we chose a disability and thought about some of the issues you’d face living with it. And then we thought what it would have been like 2,000 years ago when many modern aids, devices or medicines wouldn’t have been around. Both teams went for blindness and both covered the problems with getting places (use a guide dog or a friend), reading (braille or ask a friend to read to you) and doing some tasks (ask a friends to help with shopping).
You can imagine why this promise given to Isaiah would have been so incredible. About 700 years before Jesus was born God told Isaiah that when the Messiah came…
The blind will see and the ears of the deaf will be healed. Those who were lame will leap around like deer; tongues once silent will begin to shout.
Isaiah 35 v 5 & 6
The Messiah was going to change and transform lives and one of the ways He’d do that was by healing people.
There are so many healing stories in the Bible that rather than look at one we looked at 9, 3 in each of the 3 small groups. We read each story in the Bible and asked 2 simple questions – What disability / illness had the person? and What did Jesus do to heal them? We wrote the answers to those two questions on a Post-it note for each story.
At the end we gathered together all the Post-it notes on a big picture of the human body we’d drawn. We saw the body fill up as we heard of Jesus healing people who were blind, deaf, mute, who had a skin disease, a fever, couldn’t walk and had a shrivelled hand to name but a few.
Jesus was a healer and when Jesus was around the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the lame walk and the mute speak. Yet another sign that Jesus was the Messiah –God’s chosen one.

9th February: Matthew 5 v 1-12 ; Isaiah 9 v 1-2
Theme – The Beatitudes
We started by reading the ancient scroll containing the verses from Isaiah, saying the Messiah (a great light) would be found in and around Galilee. And this region was where Jesus spent the early part of His Ministry. In the session we looked at one of the most famous parts of Jesus’ teaching – the Beatitudes.
What are the Beatitudes? They are a set of teachings by Jesus that start ‘Blessed are …’. Jesus tells us who the people are who are blessed, or truly happy, and they aren’t quite who you’d expect. One of the kids read the passage in Matthew 5 to hear what Jesus taught his followers.
We then played a game called Beatitude or not where different sentences were put on the screen and we had to guess if they were a beatitude (e.g. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted) or not. (e.g. Blessed are those who support Arsenal, for it is the best team in the world). We then looked at each of the Beatitudes to think about what they meant.
In small groups the younger ones drew a picture for each of the Beatitudes to help think about what each one meant. For the older ones we thought about chameleons and whether we wanted to ‘blend into the background’ or ‘stand our for Jesus’. We talked about how we could stand out and be different and how the Beatitudes are ways for us to do that.

26th January: Matthew 3, Isaiah 40 v 3, Malachi 3 v 1
Theme – Someone will prepare the way
Our theme was about getting ready, getting prepared for someone special. So we started with some acting. Each team had to think of someone very special coming to visit and what they’d do to get ready for them. The Cool team went for the Queen (classic) and rolled out the red carpet, laid on trumpets, got a horse and a chef prepared some food. The Hot team got ready for Adele by sending a limousine and driver, rolling out the blue carpet, getting a musician to play and laying on some food. Why were we thinking about getting ready? Because looking back through the old scrolls we saw that before the Messiah someone else would come to prepare the way, someone who would be a voice in the desert:
We then looked at the story of this unusual character called John. We got a kid to dress up in camel hair and wear a leather belt and to eat some honey. (Luckily for the kid we allowed him to just mime eating locusts.) And John didn’t preach in the city or the villages where people were he preached in the desert. But God was with John and people came to the desert to hear John preach. John told people ‘Turn back to God! The Kingdom of Heaven will soon be here!’ So people came to John, said sorry to God for their sin and they were baptised in the River Jordan. (Sadly we couldn’t get a river in the hall so had to act this out with a large blue sheet). John baptised so many people his nickname was John the Baptist.
And God spoke through John telling people to share with those who had less, not to steal and not to bully. And people wondered … is John the Messiah? Is John God’s Special One? But John said no! He was getting things ready for the Messiah, preparing the way. The Messiah was much greater than John was, John wasn’t even worthy to untie the Messiah’s laces!
And we looked at a clip from The Miracle Maker in which Jesus came to see John the Baptist at the River Jordan and Jesus was baptised by John. We asked the kids to look for clues that John thought Jesus was the Messiah. They spotted John calling Jesus ‘The Lamb of God’, the light from the sky, a dove coming down (the Holy Spirit) and a voice from Heaven saying Jesus was His Son. All this meant John thought Jesus was the Messiah, God’s Special one, the one John had been preparing the way for. So someone did prepare the way for Jesus (John) and someone was a voice in the desert just like the old scrolls said would happen.
In our small groups we thought about preparing ourselves to come before God. Just as the people came to John to say sorry and be baptised we wanted to say sorry to God and be ‘washed’ clean. We know we can be forgiven because of Jesus, because of Jesus God can ‘wash away’ our sins, So we each took a dirty stone. We thought about what we’d like to say sorry to God for and then we washed it in a bucket of water. As we washed the stone we prayed ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ and the clean stone reminded us that God can forgive us and ‘wash away’ our sin.

12th January: Matthew 2
Theme – A newborn king
We started the session by getting the kids to think of various plans they have for their lives. What did they hope to do as they grew older and grew up? We had a range of answers including living in a different place, going to a particular school, getting a qualification, being good at a sport or hobby, getting married and getting a new bathroom. Lots of different plans people had for their lives and some kids didn’t have any plans at all.
This term at Starchasers we are going to be looking at someone whose life was planned out way, way before he was born. What he was going to do, where he’d be born, what his purpose was – all planned before he was born. That person was Jesus and we know some of these plans because God revealed them to people hundreds and thousands of years before Jesus was born.
We looked at three things that were planned for Jesus, all written on a suitably ancient scroll (well two rolling pins and some yellow paper):

A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel
Isaiah 7 v 14

Bethlehem in the land of Judea, you are very important among the towns of Judea. From your town will come a leader, who will be like a shepherd for my people Israel.
Micah 5 v 2 & 4

In Ramah a voice was heard crying and weeping loudly. Rachel was mourning for her children, and she refused to be comforted, because they were dead.
Jeremiah 31 v 15

God revealed these plans to Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah hundreds of years before Jesus was born. All this was planned out before Jesus was born. Who he’s be born to, one of his names, where he’d be born and what would happen around his birth.
We then told the Christmas story from Matthew and we encouraged the kids to look out for these plans in the story to see if they did happen. With help from our dressing up box our cast featured Mary, Joseph, angels (x2), wise men (x3), Herod and Herod’s servant. We heard of the angel visiting Mary and Joseph telling them the Holy Spirit would come upon Mary and she would give birth to a boy, even though she wasn’t married. We learnt about where Jesus was born and the story of the wise men coming to Herod then to visit Mary, Joseph and Jesus. And we acted out the escape to Egypt to avoid the slaughter of the baby boys Herod ordered once he realised he’d been tricked.
In our small groups we went back and looked at the three verses to see if these plans had happened in the story of Jesus’ birth. The answer was yes! Jesus mother was a virgin, one of His names was Immanuel (God with us), Jesus was born in Bethlehem and after Herod’s orders there was crying and weeping for the dead children.
These three plans did happen (or were fulfilled). In the coming weeks we’ll look at the rest of Jesus’ life to see what other plans also happened as God said they would.

Moses: God Rescues

This term we’ll be looking at the story of the Exodus in the Old Testament. This is a great story of rescue, of God bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. God brings them out of slavery, gives them the land He had promised them, makes them His people and makes them a light to the nations.

The weeks when we have Starchasers and the message of the mornings are:

8th December: Exodus Recap
Theme – The Passover Meal
We recapped the whole story of the Exodus in one session, a great story of rescue, of God rescuing the Israelites from Egypt. And we did this using a Passover style meal. We didn’t follow the Passover meal exactly but borrowed many of its elements to help tell the story.
It started with a question from the youngest person present: “Why is this night different to every other night?” to which the reply is “Because we remember God rescuing the Israelites from Egypt”.
We brought out the first round of food, two bitter herbs (Romaine Lettuce & Horseradish). They didn’t taste nice and the horseradish tasted particularly bad! They reminded us of that the Israelites were suffering in Egypt, they were going through a bad time, a bitter time. And we also had a clay/cement like food (we used thick porridge) as that reminded us of the building the Israelites were forced to do. The Israelites cried out for help, to be rescued and God heard their cry. God responded with four statements and we remembered those with 4 glasses of grape juice. God said:
(1) I will rescue you from slavery
(2) I will show my power and punish the Egyptians.
(3) I will save you
(4) I will make you my own people and I will be your God.
4 promises from God we remember with the 4 cups. And after recapping the first 9 plagues we finished the first part of the meal.
For the second part we thought about the 10th plague and the Passover night itself. God was going to pass through Egypt and strike down the first born son of every house in Egypt. But the Israelites were going to be safe. When God saw the lamb’s blood on their door he would Pass Over their house. So we took some parsley and dipped it in salt water like those Israelites dipped branches in the lamb’s blood to put on their doorframes. We also ate some roast lamb like the Israelites did that night. Finally we had flatbread as that night the Israelites had to leave quickly and there wasn’t time to add yeast to the bread and wait for it to rise.
God had rescued the Israelites they were free. We talked about the crossing of the Red Sea and remembered this with the salty water, like the sea.
And the last item on the table was the egg. The egg was a sign of new life. God had rescued the Israelites form Egypt but now He called them to be different, to be set apart – He was going to be their God and they were going to be His people. Unfortunately the Israelites rebelled against God so it was their children that would get to enter the land God had promised them.
The book of Exodus summarised in one meal!

24th November: Exodus 20
Theme – The 10 Commandments
We started the session with a game of Action Spot the Difference (find out more here). Why? Well after God rescued the Israelites from Egypt He wanted them to be different to other nations, to stand out, to be set apart. God wanted other nations to look at the Israelites and be amazed, and to see that God is awesome. So God gave the Israelites the law, how He wanted them to live. The most famous part of the law was the 10 commandments, rules for a just and fair society.
We acted out a few situations and asked the kids what was wrong. (e.g. someone lying to get someone in trouble, someone stealing from another person, a child upsetting their parents etc.) These weren’t good, these weren’t just, these weren’t fair. So God put in place rules to stop them happening.
That covered the last 7 commandments and yes they would have made the Israelites different but what really set them apart was they would have God at the heart of their nation. We placed a tent over a light in the centre of the hall (well more a wardrobe than a tent) and got the kids to sit around it. At the heart of the Israelites camp was a giant tent called the Tabernacle. A place where they worshipped God and that showed God’s presence right at the centre of everything they did. This and the first 3 commandments were what would really make the Israelites different to other nations.
We sang a song to remind us of the 10 commandments to the tune of the 12 days of Christmas. The lyrics were (from Scripture Union):
On a hill-top at Sinai 
God gave us rules to live: 
Don’t envy people
Do not tell lies
Don’t steal from others
Be faithful in marriage
Don’t murder people
* Obey Mum and Dad *
One day’s made for me
Love my name
Don’t worship things 
‘Cos you need just one God
and that’s me

But our story had an unhappy ending. While Moses was receiving the law from God the Israelites made an idol from gold and worshipped it, breaking the first two commandments. They continued to turn away from God and rebel. Turns out they weren’t so different from everyone else after all.

3rd November: Exodus 13 & 14
Theme – Through the Red Sea
We started the morning by asking the kids to think of a drama involving ‘Escape’. The Cool team told the drama of a parrot being rescued from a cage to go live in the jungle and the Hot team acted out the story of a fish escaping from a tank to return to the ocean.
This set us up nicely for thinking about the final part in the story of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt. After the 10th plague, the Passover, Pharaoh had said they could go and so the Israelites were allowed to leave. So we acted out the story with the Cool team being the Israelites. God led the Israelites with a pillar of cloud (fluffy white scarf) by day (lights on) and a pillar of fire (torch light) by night (lights off). God lead the Israelites to the edge of the Red Sea and there they camped.
Meanwhile back in Egypt Pharaoh was annoyed that they no longer had the Israelites to do all the hard work for them so he called his army of chariots and horses (Hot team) and they set off in pursuit of the Israelites. They charged with their weapons (croquet mallets) and their horses. Pharaoh was still going against God!
When the Israelites saw the Egyptians they were scared. They complained to Moses saying they wish he’d left them in Egypt. But God was about to show who was in control. Moses told the people not to be afraid as God was with them. God told Moses to hold his hand out over the Red Sea and the sea parted in two, water to the left and right and a clear path in the middle. (At this point our red sheet was torn in two). The Israelites walked safely through to the other side. Pharaoh ordered the Egyptian army to follow them. When the Egyptian army went through Moses stretched his hand over the sea and flowed back to its original place, drowning the Egyptian army. (Cue wrapping army in red sheet). The Israelites had now escaped and God had shown His power to them once and for all.
Afterwards we asked the kids a few questions about the story:
How do you think the Israelites felt?
How do you think the Egyptians felt?
What’s your favourite part of the story?
Who is your favourite character in the story?
(Moses and God was the most popular answer to that last question!)

27th October – Exodus 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 & 12
Theme – The 10 plagues
After being called by God Moses goes to see Pharaoh to ask Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. For this bit we got one kid dressed up as Moses to lead the Israelites (Hot team) and one kid dressed up as Pharaoh to lead the Egyptians (Cool team). The Hot team would shout ‘Let my people go!’ and the Cool team would reply ‘No, no, no!’. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so God sent 10 plagues on Egyptian to show His power.
We went through the ten plagues using finger puppets, making one for each of the first 9 plagues. These were Blood, Frogs, Gnats, Flies, Animals, Boils, Hail, Locusts and Darkness.
And still Pharaoh would not let the Israelites go. So God sent one final plague on Egypt, the Passover. God would strike down the first born sons of all the Egyptians but would pass over the house of the Israelites (The house of the Israelites would be marked with lambs blood on the door frame). Again we watched this on ‘The Prince of Egypt’. A terrible punishment but finally Pharaoh let the Israelites go.
At the end we discussed a few of the questions the children had after hearing about the plagues and discussed these further in small groups. In small groups the children thought the most important part of the story was the Passover and God showing His power.

13th October – Exodus 3 & 4
Theme – God calls Moses
We began by recapping the story from last time. The Israelites were suffering in Egypt and they cried out for help. God heard their cry and was going to act.
First God was going to call their leader. Since last time Moses has left Egypt, got married and is now a shepherd. One day while he was out tending his flocks…
We got one kid up to (brilliantly) act the part of Moses. The rest of us were God and the sheep (we are very versatile actors). While we went through the story Moses said four times ‘I can’t do it’ and the rest of us replied (as God) ‘Yes you can because I’ll help you and here’s how’. The Hot team had to listen out for the four excuses Moses gave for not doing it and the Cool team to the four replies God gave. They were:
1. Moses – I am not a great/powerful man.
1. God – I will be with you – say that I sent you.
2. Moses – The people won’t listen to me or believe me.
2. God – I will give you these signs to prove that I sent you
3. Moses – I am not a good public speaker.
3. God – I gave you speech and will teach you what to say.
4. Moses – Can’t you ask someone else?
4. God – I will send your brother Aaron to go with you and will help both of you speak and teach you what to do.
And so, reluctantly Moses was going to face the most powerful man on earth, Pharaoh, but God would be with him.
We ended the session by singing the hymn ‘Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord’ which fitted in with the theme of the session. We don’t often sing at Starchasers but it may be something we try again.

29th September – Exodus 1 & 2
Theme – God hears the Israelites cry for help
This term we’re looking at rescue so we began by thinking about ‘Rescue’. The Hot team and the Cool team each made up a short drama about people who rescue. The Hot team made up a story about firefighers and the Cool team about  lifeguards. In both cases the story started with a cry for help then someone who was able to came and rescued them.
We then summarised what had happened between Abraham and the start of Exodus 1. We learnt about God’s promises carrying on through Isaac and Jacob. And then we heard about Jacob and his family moving to Egypt where his son Joseph was a governor. (For more on Joseph see Bemerton Soul 2013!)
We acted out what had happened to the Jacob’s family in the hundreds of years since Joseph. They had grown in number (now called the Israelites) but they were being abused by the ruler of Egypt, Pharaoh. The Egyptians had forgotten all about Joseph and the Pharaoh was now worried about the Israelites – what if they rose up against him! So Pharaoh made the Israelites his slaves, making them work hard and whipping them. But still the Israelites increased in number. He made the Israelites work even harder but still they grew in number. And so Pharaoh decided to kill all the baby boys born to the Israelites by throwing them in the river Nile. The Israelites had had enough and cried out to God ‘Help!’. God heard their cry, remembered the promises He’d made to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob and moved to help them. And it started with the rescue of one baby boy.
Again we acted out the story of Moses as a baby with a baby doll, a basket, a blue sheet (River Nile) and some reeds. Moses mum tried to hide him when he was born and managed to do so for 3 months. However as he grew older and bigger it was more and more difficult to hide him. So she put him in a basket and hid him in some reeds in the River Nile. He was found by Pharaoh’s daughter who you might have expected to kill him. Instead she took Moses back to the palace, hired his mum to look after him and adopted Moses as her own son. And the name Moses means – taken out of the water.
We finished by asking three questions about the story:
– What part of the story did you like best?
– What part of the story did you think was most important?
– What part of the story could you take out and still have enough story?

Prayer

This term we’re going to be looking at prayer and putting it into practice! We’ll use the Lord’s Prayer to look at the different parts of prayer and also explore listening to God and God answering prayer.

The weeks when we have Starchasers and the message of the mornings are:

14th July – Rev 4, Acts 9, 1 Samuel 3
Theme – Listening to God
We begun with getting two people up the front to talk about their week, one leader and one kid. We gave them one minute to find out about each other’s week. The leader spoke non-stop for one minute and didn’t leave any space to listen. We laughed at how silly it was and the kid said it was pretty annoying when someone just talked at them. And prayer isn’t just about us talking, we need to make space to listen to God. He has things He wants to say to us, to show us and tell us. We need to make space to listen to Him when we pray.
We acted out two stories in the Bible. The story of Samuel as a boy when God spoke to Samuel in the night with what sounded like Eli calling from another room. And the story of Saul when Jesus spoke to Saul in a voice from heaven with a bright light on the way to Damascus. We see God speaking in two different ways in these two stories – a voice in the night and a bright light and a voice from Heaven.
Sometimes God doesn’t use words, He can give us a picture or a vision. We read the vision in Revelation 4 that John had of God on His throne in Heaven and showed a picture someone had drawn based on those words. God gave John a picture, a vision rather than speaking to Him.
There are lots of different ways God speaks to us, God speaks in different ways at different times. These were just 3 examples.
Helen then lead us in a listening exercise. An exercise to calm us and take us on a journey. The journey lead to Jesus and when we were there we could ask Jesus any questions we wanted to. After the listening exercise we talked about what we saw / heard in small groups. There were lots of different responses. Some asked and heard answers, some saw a picture of Jesus but no words and some didn’t hear or see much at all. We also talked about how God speaks to us at other times and answered questions about how we can be sure it’s God speaking to us.
And as it was the last Starchasers of term we finished with the big star count for term. Congratulations to our two winners – Abi & Catherine!

30th June – Luke 17 v 11-19
Theme – Thanking God
As today’s story was about leprosy we began by cracking out the make-up and giving two people big red spots on their face. But the laughter soon faded as the two ‘lepers’ were forced to sit away from the rest of the group and weren’t allowed to join in a game of Duck, Duck, Goose. It wasn’t fun being put outside the group, being excluded, but that’s what life was like for lepers in Jesus day. Put outside the city and kept away from everyone else. A miserable life that was lonely and difficult.
When Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem he met 10 lepers so we got 10 people up and put red spots on their face. They had to put on their sad, depressed face as this now meant they were excluded, put outside the city away from everyone else. They cried out to Jesus to heal him and he did. (Cue quick scrub with facial wipes) Each was very happy and we encouraged each kid to celebrate being healed. But how many lepers do you think came back to thank God? Only 1. 1 out of 10. The other 9 didn’t bother to come back and thank Jesus.
That led into thinking about Thanking God. In our prayers we should thank God – when he answers our prayers and for the good things he’s given us. Sara and Shan gave an example of why they wanted to thank God from their lives and then we had a chance to think about what we wanted to thank God for in small groups.
In small groups we made Thank You cards and inside wrote a prayer to say thank you to God. We closed by saying our prayers of thanks to God out loud.

23rd June – 1 Samuel 1, 2 Cor 12 v 7-10, Gen 15 v 12-16
Theme – God answering prayer
We started by asking does God always hear and answer our prayers. Many of the kids weren’t sure if this was true as God doesn’t always say yes to prayers. God does hear and answer all our prayers but His answers might be Yes, No or Wait.
We acted out the story of Hannah in 1 Samuel. How she couldn’t have children so prayed to God for a child. We asked the kids how they think God answered the prayer and the answer was – Yes! She had a son called Samuel who has two books written about him in the Bible.
We then read about Paul in 2 Corinthians, praying for God to remove the ‘thorn in his side’. Three times Paul begged God to remove it and God answered – No! Paul realised this was to stop him becoming proud and his weakness glorified Jesus.
Finally we read the promises God gave Abraham in Genesis 15 that we had looked at earlier in the year. Did God fulfil those promises right away? No God said – Wait! In fact it was over 400 years before God fulfilled the promises to Abraham.
In the Lord’s Prayer it says ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven’. We want to pray for God’s will, not our will, to be done. We need to trust God that He knows how best to answer our prayers.
In small groups we shared examples of times when God has said Yes!, No! and Wait! in answer to our prayers. And we closed by praying to ask God – we wait to see how He answered those prayers!

9th June – Luke 18 v 1-8
Theme – Asking God
We began by acting out the story of the widow who didn’t give up. The Cool team were the widow who had to go to the judge to plead for justice, for him to do the right thing. The Hot team were the judge, a judge who didn’t care about the widow and what was right so he said “No!”. The widow didn’t give up and several times we had the widow going to the judge pleading and each time the judge said no. Others may have given up at this point but not the widow and then one time she asked the judge he thought ‘There’s only one way to stop her bothering me’ and he said “Yes!”.
Now in this story the judge isn’t a nice person at all but he gave the widow justice because she kept on asking. God is nothing like the judge so how much more likely is he to give us what we need, to do the right thing, if we keep on asking and praying to Him.
The Bible says Jesus told this story so that His followers should always pray and not give up praying. So we should ask God for what we need and keep on asking. Like the widow don’t give up asking God.
We talked briefly about God answering prayer. He will sometimes say no to what we ask for, He will sometimes say yes and He will sometimes say wait. We’ve got to trust God that He knows best and keep on praying. (We’ll look at this more in the next session). One of the leaders gave an example of a prayer they prayed for decades before God answered Yes!
And we looked at different situations and thought what might be needed there and what could we ask God for. These included:
People going hungry in Somalia – Food
Trouble in Syria – Peace, shelter, water
Big decision – Wisdom to make the right choice
Someone’s ill – Them to get better
In our small groups we made prayer cubes. On each face of the cube we wrote about different things to pray for including things for ourselves, for friends and family, for the church and for the world. We then threw the die and prayed for whatever landed face up.

26th May – Matthew 18 v 21-35
Theme – Saying Sorry
In this session we were looking at how our prayers should involve saying sorry to God. In fact not just saying sorry but being sorry as well. Helen and Sara acted out an example of what happens when you do something that upsets someone and showed how we need to say sorry if we do that. (Borrowing a bodywarmer without asking for it if you want to know). In the same way when we do something that hurts God we need to say sorry to Him.
And God has said He will forgive us when we say sorry. God will forgive our sins, that is wipe them away, forget them, like they’ve never happened. But the phrase in the Lord’s Prayer is : ‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’. We recapped the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant from last term which told us that just as God has forgiven us a lot we too need to forgiven those who hurt and upset us.
The next part of the Lord’s Prayer asks God to ‘Lead us not in to temptation but deliver us from evil’ so we also want to ask God to keep us away from evil to protect us from those situations when we are likely to sin.
In our small groups we thought about some things we might need to say sorry to God for. Times we we’ve upset or hurt other people. Times when we’ve upset or hurt God. Times when we’ve gone our way not God’s way. We wrote these on sheets of paper scrunched them up and put them in a metal bin.
We then went outside and prayed a prayer of confession to say sorry to God and ask Him to forgive us. And then we lit the prayers to set them on fire. At the end all the ‘sin’s were gone, taken away, forgiven.

12th May – Psalm 111
Theme – Praising God
From the previous session we asked who was able to complete the challenge of saying the Lord’s prayer every day. 3 kids said they had and no leaders! Two of the kids who did said it each day with their parents as part of family prayers and another kid said it each morning in their room. Very impressive! We mentioned again that the Lord’s Prayer is a good prayer to say when you’re unsure of what to pray for and it’s can help us get into the habit of praying regularly.
The Lord’s Prayer begins and ends with praising God and we in our prayers should praise God for who He is and what He has done. To help us think about praising God we looked at Psalm 111, a song (or prayer) of praise to God. In it the writer praises God for being kind, merciful, holy, glorious, fair and many other things beside.
In our small groups we looked at 5 other passages in the Bible where people have a vision of God, are praying to God or are saying something about what God is like. They were:
Revelations 4 v 7-9 – God’s is holy, powerful and is eternal
Romans 8 v 37-39 – Nothing can separate us from God’s love
John 3 v 16 – God gave up His Son for us
Psalm 46 v 1-3 – God will protect us
Daniel 2 v 20-21 – God knows all and is all powerful
Using these as inspiration we then wrote our own prayers of praise to God, what we’d like to say to Him about who He is and what He’s done for us.
And to finish we lifted those prayers up in praise to God. How? We attached them to some helium balloons, said a prayer to God then lifted our praises (literally!) up to Him.

28th April – Matthew 6 v 9-13
Theme – The Lord’s Prayer
As we’re learning about prayer this term we started off with a few statements about prayer. If you agreed with a statement you would run to the ‘True’ side of the room, if you disagreed you would run to the ‘False’ side and if you weren’t sure you would run to the middle. Most of us thought you could pray anywhere, anytime and about anything, that prayer involves talking and listening to God and that you don’t need to close your eyes, kneel or clasp you hands (although they can help). One statement that split the group was ‘God always answers our prayers’ so we’ll come back to that in a later session!
We then read through the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew where Jesus was teaching people about prayer. We broke the prayer down into 6 sections with a drawing for each to help us remember what it was about.
Our Father in Heaven – The word used here is closer to ‘Daddy’ so we drew a picture of a dad with his arm on his child to show the relationship we have with God
Hallowed be Your name – Hallowed means Holy which is ‘special’, ‘set apart’ or different’. So we drew ‘HOLY’ in big shiny letters.
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven – A king (or queen) rules in a kingdom and when we want God’s Kingdom to come we want Him to rule, we want people to follow and obey Him. That already happens in Heaven so we want God’s will to be done on Earth as well. We drew a world with a crown above it to show God’s rule.
Give us today our daily bread – Bread is something we need, not just something we want, and this is asking God for what we need. So of course we drew some bread.
Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us – Two parts to this, we’re asking God to forgive us for when we’ve gone our way not God’s way but we also need to forgive those who hurt us. We drew a cross to show the reason why God can forgive our sins
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil – And we want God to protect us from evil and keep us away from temptation. We drew a shield to ask for God’s help in protecting us from evil and temptation.
The bit that wasn’t in the Bible that we usually add is ‘For Yours is the Kingdom, the power and the glory. Now and for ever. Amen’. This is another chance to praise God to end the prayer.
In our small groups we looked at the prayer further. The younger ones drew their own 6 pictures to remember the parts of the Lord’s Prayer and what it means. The older ones wrote each phrase in their own words, here’s what the boys came up with:

Our amazing Dad in Heaven
Your name is Holy
Reign on Earth just like you reign in Heaven.
Let what you want to happen, happen.
Give us what we need.
Forgive us our sins and help us to forgive those who sin against us.
Guide us away from temptation and protect us from evil
Amen.

And we set each one of us (leaders included!) the challenge of saying this prayer each day until the next Starchasers in 2 weeks time.

 

Parables: Jesus’ Teaching


This term we’ll be looking at some of the parables Jesus told. Parables were one of the ways Jesus used to convey deep truths about God and the Kingdom of Heaven. Sometimes it made it easier for people to understand if there was a story they could relate to and sometimes it didn’t! Throughout the term we’ll look at six of the most famous parables Jesus told and look at what He was trying to say through them.

The weeks when we have Starchasers and the message of the mornings are:

17th March – Matthew 24 v 36-51, Luke 12 v 42-48
Theme – The Servants and Returning Master
This session was all about being prepared, being ready for something even though you didn’t know when it was happening. So we started with a challenge. We set an alarm for a random time during the morning and when the alarm goes off you had to be touching your right elbow with your left hand. If the alarm goes off and you were doing that you’d get a star. But if the alarm goes off and your left hand wasn’t touching your right elbow, nothing.
It started off seeming easy. But what if it takes a long time for the alarm to go off? Will you give up? You might think it’s too hard and stop. Or after a while you might think it’s not going to happen, You might get distracted by something else. As time goes on are you still going to be ready, still going to be prepared? As it happened when it did go off most people had forgot to keep doing it so only 2 people got a star.
And this set us up for talking about this parable. The story comes from towards the end of Jesus life. Jesus is in Jerusalem and He knows He’s going to have to go through something very difficult, his arrest, torture and death. There is good news as Jesus will rise from the dead but after that Jesus will go back to heaven and his followers are going to have to cope without Him. Jesus was preparing them for that.
But Jesus also gave them a promise that He would return. It would be a surprise, it would be at a time when they weren’t expecting it but He would come back. Would they be prepared, be ready for when He returned? Would they be doing what Jesus asked them to do when He returned?
We looked at the story in the passage that Jesus told about the returning master and we framed it in a modern day setting.
A person who owned a house, a pretty nice house, had to go away for a while so they asked a neighbour to look after the house for them. Things started out fine the neighbour would go in and tidy the house, clean up and make sure everything was fine. But weeks went by, months and the neighbour thought this guy’s not coming back, he’s been gone ages. There’s no point me cleaning his house and looking after it he’s never coming back. So the house got dirtier and dustier and more run down. Then the neighbour thought. I know I’ll have a party. But instead of holding it in my house why don’t I hold it in the house I’m looking after. The owner will never know and I’m sure it’ll be fine. So he holds a party and lots of people come. Then some more people come and things get a bit out of hand. Rooms get thrashed and the place gets smashed up. Not great. And the neighbour wakes up the next morning and thinks, oh no I need to fix this, I need to repair things and tidy up. … But I can do that next week, I don’t need to do it now and so he never gets round to repairing it and the house gets worse and worse.
And then the owner of the house comes back and finds everything in a mess. If you were the owner of the house and came back to find it looking like this you wouldn’t be happy. In the story Jesus told the owner was furious when he returned. He was not at all pleased with the neighbour for not being ready for him returning. For not having things like they were meant to be when he came back.
But imagine it had turned out like this. Imagine the neighbour had gone in each week and cleaned and checked the house to make sure things were okay. If something broke he’d fix it and take good care of it. He’d go out each spring and weed the garden and plant the flowers. So when the owner came back he found the house looking perfect, just like he wanted it too. If you were the owner of the house and came back to find it looking like this you’d be very happy. In the story Jesus told the owner was very pleased. Things were just as he wanted them to be when he came back and he was very happy. He was very pleased the neighbour was ready and prepared for him coming back.
So when Jesus returns we should be prepared we should be ready like the person who looked after and cared for the house. When Jesus comes back we want Him to find us doing what He wants us to do, doing what He’s asked us to do, being ready, being prepared for Him coming back.
We discussed that Jesus told this story over 2,000 years ago and He hasn’t come back yet. That doesn’t mean we should give up and say ‘He’s not coming back’. We don’t know when Jesus will return, today, tomorrow, in our lifetime or thousands of years from now but He will come back. Will we be ready, prepared, doing what He wants us to do?
We finished in small groups by looking at what God wants us to do, what Jesus asked us to do while He was away, including these verses:
Micah 6 v 8
The Lord has told you, human, what is good;
he has told you what he wants from you:
to do what is right to other people,
love being kind to others,
and live humbly, obeying your God.
Matthew 22 v 35-41
35 One Pharisee, who was an expert on the law of Moses, asked Jesus this question to test him: 36 “Teacher, which command in the law is the most important?”
37 Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and most important command. 39 And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 40 All the law and the writings of the prophets depend on these two commands.”
John 13 v 34-35
34 “I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. 35 All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.”

3rd March – Matthew 13 v 1-23
Theme – The Sower & The Seed
We began the session with a recap of the parables so far, in particular last week’s parable and the ‘Heart Bucket’, as it would feature again in this week’s parable!
To tell the story of the Sower we had a mini-field. In the field was a path made of gravel, a rocky corner, a collection of thorns and in the centre some good soil.
We told the story of the Sower sowing the seed. As he was scattering his seed some would fall in different places. Some fell on the path and the birds came down and ate it (we had a glove-bird for just such a purpose). Some fell among the rocks and grew a little bit but when the sun came out the plants withered and died because they didn’t have deep roots. (we had some partially grown but withered plants) Some seed fell amongst the thorns. They grew but the weeds choked the plants. And, thankfully, some fell on good soil and they grew and produced a crop themselves, some 30 times, some 60 times, some 100 times. (We had some small, medium and large stalks)
We looked at what Jesus said the story meant. He says the seed was the word of God, the message about the Kingdom of God. And the different places the seed fell were different people hearing these words. Some people are like the path and they don’t understand the word so the Devil takes the word away from their hearts. We likened that to having a hard heart that wasn’t able to hear and understand the message of the Kingdom. Some people are like the rocks, they believe for a while but when things get difficult they fall away. Some people are like the thorns, they too believe for a while but the world’s concerns, worries and appeals tempt them and choke them. We said both these types of soil are like the sponge heart. It can be soft but it can dry out and become hard.
Finally the good soil is people with a ‘noble and good’ heart. They hear the word, retain it, grow and sow the seed themselves, they tell others about God and His Kingdom. This is like the soft, noble heart of the king in the previous parable.
Which soil are you like? One who gives up and falls away? Or one that grows in faith and spreads the good news of the Kingdom?
We finished the session by planting our own seeds in good soil to see them grow over the next few weeks and months.

24th February – Matthew 18 v 21-35
Theme – The Unforgiving Servant
For today’s parable we read through the story in the Bible of the king who forgave his servant a huge debt but that servant in turn threw someone else in prison or not paying back a small debt.
After reading it we introduced the idea of a heart bucket and looked at the heart of the people in the story. What as the heart of the king like? His heart was soft, patient and forgiving so we had a soft, squidgy heart for him. What about the servant? His heart was hard and unforgiving as he wouldn’t forgive a small debt even after his huge debt was forgiven. So his heart was a stone, hard and unmoving.
But in this story Jesus says our hearts shouldn’t be like the servant who didn’t forgive others, despite being forgiven a lot himself. So we took a dry sponge that was hard and unmoving it, added water to it and it became soft like the king’s.
To think about the story some more we had ‘duvet’ time. We got out a duvet and a pillow each and lay on the floor quietly. While we did that we played a song asking God to change our heart. We then read the story again listening again to the words Jesus said. And finally we finished by quietly singing the song together.

10th February – Luke 15 v 11-32
Theme – The Lost Son
In this session we looked at a story Jesus told about two sons. We told a story based on Jesus’ parable, set in London today. You can see the video of the first part of the storyhere.
This tells the story of a father with a younger son, Tom and an older (better looking) son Steve. Halfway through the video we asked what we thought of Tom and the general consensus was he was selfish, a waster and someone who didn’t respect his father. The kids thought when Tom hit rock bottom he should go back to his father but not all of them thought his father should take him back. Some thought Tom had upset his father too much and his father would be too angry to take him back. Others thought he was family so he could always go back to his dad.
We saw in the story that his dad welcomed Tom back and how! He ran towards him when he saw him coming, threw his arms round him and hosted a party to celebrate Tom returning.
In many parables when Jesus talks about a father He is talking about God and this one is no different. This parable speaks of God’s love and forgiveness. No matter how far we feel we are from God, no matter how many people tell us we’re no good, no matter how bad things get we can always turn back to God and he will welcome us with open arms. A message worth holding on to.
But there was another son in the story, the older son Steve. And we acted out Steve’s story. Because Steve wasn’t happy his father was throwing a party for Tom. A party for this waster? This loser? And Steve had been working away all these years and he’d got nothing! But we saw the father loved Steve as well, he reassured Steve, told him everything left was his as Tom already had his inheritance and invited him to the party. Shouldn’t he be happy his brother’s returned?
The kids really felt Steve’s pain. He’d worked hard and he seemed to be getting the rough end of the deal. But some thought Steve too should welcome Tom back as he was family, he was his brother.
When Jesus was telling the story of Steve He was speaking to the religious leaders and other religious people. They didn’t like that Jesus was hanging out with the wrong sort of people (the ‘Toms’) and inviting them to be part of God’s kingdom. But Jesus is saying we should be more like the father, welcoming everyone into the kingdom, celebrating when they join, just like God does.
In small groups we looked at the two sons in a little more detail and what they teach us. The story of Tom teaches us about God’s love and forgiveness no matter how far away we feel from Him. The story of Steve teaches us to welcome others like God welcomes others.

27th January – Luke 10 v 25-37
Theme – The Good Samaritan
This is a very familiar story told in an unfamiliar way! We started off with a bit of celebrity gossip about the ongoing feud between Lady Gaga and Kelly Osbourne. They hate each other, have been slagging each other off on twitter and are sworn enemies (apparently).
With that in mind we acted out the story of Kelly Osbourne and the good Lady Gaga. Kelly Osbourne (dressed in spangly dress and with Holywood strut) was walking along the street when she was attacked by robbers (wearing stripy tops). She was beaten up, her money and jewellery was stolen and she was left injured in the street. But who would help her? Luckily famous people were walking past all the time. First up was Barack Obama (wearing a jacket and a very serious face). Would he help? We thought yes but he walked on by! Probably very busy with things to do and economies to fix. Next to come by was Kate Middleton (dressed in pearls and a crown). Surely she would stop but no she walked on by too! Perhaps she was feeling ill and needed to get home. Then finally along came Lady Gaga (blonde wig, sunglasses and attitude). But she would never help her sworn enemy Kelly Osborne. But guess what, she did! She helped her, bandaged her up, took her to a hospital and left her credit card to pay for her treatment. Wow! We didn’t expect that.
Later we said this story was similar to one Jesus told in answer to the question ‘Who is my neighbour in Love my neighbour?’. To show who our neighbour was each person was given a raffle ticket and we would draw the tickets and those that were drawn would get to be our neighbour. Guess what? Everyone’s name was drawn and we were all neighbours of each other! So we should be loving and caring for everyone like Lady Gaga cared for Kelly Osborne.
In small groups we looked at the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible and thought about those we might find it difficult to get on with. The annoying kid in class, the person no-one else likes, the guy on our team who’s rubbish at football. How could we love that neighbour like Jesus tells us to.

13th January – Matthew 13 v 31-35, Luke 13 v 18-21
Theme – The Mustard Seed & The Yeast
This term we’re going to be looking at some of the Parables Jesus told so we began by talking about Parables and what they are. Parables are stories that tell us some deep truth about God and what He is doing. They are usually based on every day things, things that would have been familiar to those who heard them.
Today we might not be that familiar with making bread so we began the session by doing just that. We made two batches of dough. Both had water and flour in them but only one had yeast. We added a pinch of yeast to one and nothing to the other. We also had some dough that had been proofed earlier so we used that to make bread rolls that we’d bake during the session.
With that in mind we turned to the two parables. One of the kids read the first one out, the Parable of the mustard seed. We passed round some mustard seeds to show how tiny they were and yet they’d grow and grow, big enough so that birds could nest in them. There wasn’t really enough time to grow a tree in today’s session so we showed an animation of a tiny seed being planted and growing into a huge tree.
Jesus was telling this parable to only a small-ish group of people. His followers during His time on earth were only a few hundred people, they could probably have all fitted in one big room. But what was He saying? One of the kids hit the nail on the head saying that Jesus’ followers were going to start out as a small number but grow and grow and grow. And we have the chance to see what had happened in the 2,000 years since Jesus told that parable. This small group of people took the message around the whole world and now more than 2 billion people would call themselves Christians. This tiny seed really did become a huge tree!
We then read the second parable about the yeast. We looked at our two batches of dough and saw the difference the yeast made. And that was only a tiny pinch! What was Jesus saying in this? Again one of the kids got it spot on saying that even though Jesus’ followers were only a small group they could make a huge difference to the world.
In our small groups we (finally!) got to eat the bread we made earlier and also talked about what it was like at school or in our clubs. Were there only a small number of Christians or many Christians? It was mixed for our kids with some at church schools and some with only one or two other Christians in their class. We prayed for those with only a few Christians and prayed that they would be encouraged by these Parables.

 

Abraham: God’s Promises

 

Abraham was a man called by God and given some incredible promises, promises that point all the way to Jesus. We’ll look at the promises God gave Abraham and how God kept them. We’ll also see that Abraham wasn’t perfect and, like all of us, made mistakes. Ultimately though Abraham trusted God and God blessed Abraham with a son and through that line came Jesus.

Our memory verse of term will remind us of God’s great promise to Abraham:
“I will bless those who bless you, and I will place a curse on those who harm you. And all the people on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12v3

The weeks when we have Starchasers and the message of the mornings are:

9th December – Genesis 24
Theme – Isaac & Rebekah
We started the session by reading the story from Genesis 24. Abraham sends his trusted servant back to his family’s country to find a wife for Isaac. And how do you know if a woman is the right one for your master’s son? Because she offers to water your camels for you of course. So Abraham’s servant knew who God wanted to marry Isaac, it was a woman from Abraham’s family called Rebekah. Rebekah returned with the servant, married Isaac and they had two children together, Jacob and Esau. The promises God had given Abraham were to carry on through Isaac and then Jacob. And we’ll learn more about these people and their relationship with God another term.
We recapped the story with a running game which, if nothing else, proved the kids are much fitter than the leaders. After that we looked at Abraham’s descendants and followed them through the old Testament and finally to Jesus. The person through whom all people on earth would be blessed.
And in our small groups we had Christmas crackers. Inside each were the usual toy, hat and joke but there was also a blessing, a blessing Jesus had given us. To show how Jesus really did bless everyone when He came.

25th November – Genesis 22
Theme – Abraham’s test
We started today thinking about some of the promises God had given Abraham. We had 7 pictures that reminded us of 7 promises God had given Abraham and these were:

  • God promised Abraham and Sarah a son
  • Abraham’s descendants would get a land
  • Abraham would be famous
  • Abraham’s descendants would as many as the stars in the sky
  • Abraham would be the father of many nations
  • Kings come from Abraham’s family
  • All peoples on earth would be blessed through Abraham

And God had promised Abraham the agreement would carry on through his son Isaac. So would Abraham be able to say ‘I can trust God’? Did Abraham really believe God when God gave him these promises?
We started with seeing if the kids would trust me. Would they believe me when I said I could pour water into a newspaper and it wouldn’t come out the bottom? That someone could sit underneath and stay dry? Well then who was prepared to sit underneath? One kid came forward and (thankfully!) he did stay dry. How did I know he trusted me? Because of his actions, because he did what I asked him to.
Now I’m not necessarily someone you can always trust but God is. Would Abraham trust God? God was going to test Abraham to see if Abraham really believed Him, to see if Abraham would do what God asked him to.
We read the story in Genesis 22 of God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac and Abraham being prepared to do it. Abraham was sure God would find a way, somehow, to keep His promises. And thankfully God stopped Abraham before he killed Isaac and provided a ram instead for the sacrifice. We repeated the story with a few actions, including learning the sign language for ‘Trust’ and ‘I can trust God’. We saw that Abraham did trust God. How did we know? Because of Abraham’s actions, because he did what God asked him to.
And finally in our small groups we prayed God would help us in the situations when we find it difficult, when we find it hard. We prayed that we would be able to trust God and say ‘I can trust God’.
11th November – Genesis 20
Theme – Abraham’s mistake II
We started today by putting two jugs at the front. One that had refreshing, cool water in it, labelled ‘W’, and one that had bitter, horrible lemon juice in it ,labelled ‘L’. We took everyone through it so we were all clear and then offered Helen a drink. Alas she went for the ‘L’ jug and got a rather bad taste in her mouth for her mistake.
Anyway, in today’s story we went through the story of Abraham, Sarah and Abimelech with a soundtrack. Abraham and Sarah had just received a message from God (via the three mysterious visitors) that they would have a son Isaac so they should have been happy (Happy music – Spice up your life). But they then had to move to Gerar where a powerful king lived called Abimelech (Powerful music – Star Wars Darth Vader music). And Abraham was frightened because Sarah was very beautiful (Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison). Abraham was worried Abimelech would kill him so he could take Sarah as his wife. So Abraham told Sarah to lie and say she was his sister. Well when Abimelech saw Sarah she thought she was very beautiful. He checked that Abraham and her were just brother and sister and then he took her into his palace. (Wedding March music). But how did this make God feel? Sad. (Sad Music – Saturn from the Planets). And God appeared to Abimelech in a dream and said ‘Sarah is married, I’m going to punish you!’. Abimelech said I thought they were brother and sister! God said He knew Abimelech was innocent but he should let Sarah go back to Abraham and Abraham would pray for all of them. So Abimelech let Sarah go back to Abraham, gave Abraham and Sarah money and let them live wherever they wanted in his land. Abraham prayed to God to say sorry for all of them and God lifted his punishment from Abimelech. (Happy music – Spice up your life).
Throughout the morning we’d kept offering Helen a drink but each time she drank from the wrong jug. She kept making the same mistake over and over again. We asked the kids what they thought of Helen making the same mistake over and over again and they thought she was daft, stupid, crazy and born yesterday!
Yet in today’s story we see Abraham making the same mistake over again. He still found it difficult to trust God in situations like this. We recapped the story with the music and then retold the story in Genesis 12 of Abraham and Sarah in Egypt with Pharaoh when Abraham made the same mistake. And both times other people were hurt because of Abraham’s mistake.
And if someone like Abraham can make the same mistake again so can we. We can keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Keep hurting God in the same way over and over again. We shared that great verse in the Bible Proverbs 26 v 11 which sums it up rather nicely:
“As a dog returns to its vomit,
so a fool repeats his foolishness.”
(We used a few pictures as well just to make sure the image stuck!)
And finally we had a time of confession at the end in small groups. Everyone was given a dirty stone and as we said sorry to God we cleaned the stone to remind us God can wash us clean and make us new.

28th October – Genesis 18 v 16-33 & Genesis 19
Theme – Abraham & Lot
This session was all about two cities, Sodom and Gomorrah. So we renamed our two teams for the occasion – Cool became Sodom and Hot became Gomorrah. They were two very wicked cities so we burst all the balloons of both teams (If you break a rule one of your team’s balloons is burst)
We last met Abraham’s nephew Lot back in the first session. He had gone with Abraham but when they arrived in the land God took them too Lot went to settle by the city of Sodom and Abraham went the other way. But the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were very wicked and God was thinking of destroying them.
We picked up the story from last week with the three mysterious visitors leaving Abraham. After that God decided to tell Abraham what He was planning to do. God had seen the two cities were very wicked and was going to go down and see them. And if they were wicked He would destroy them.
Abraham, realising Lot was still living there, began to bargain with God. We saw Abraham try to persuade God not to destroy the city if 50 righteous people were living there. Or 45. Or 40. Or 30. Or 20. Or 10.
So what happened? We acted out the story of the angels visiting Lot (dressed in clothes suspiciously similar to the 3 visitors last week), and telling Lot and his family to escape. (Well nearly all his family, his son-in-laws thought he was crazy and laughed at him. The angels told them to run away, keep going, don’t stop and don’t look back.
While Lot and his wife and daughters ran away, fire and burning sulphur rained down on the two cities (well, red and white plastic balls). They escaped except for Lot’s wife who looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt (well, wrapped in Toilet Paper).
And we recapped the story again in small groups with a comic book of the events in the story.

14th October – Genesis 16, 18 v 1-15, Genesis 21 v 1-7
Theme – Abraham’s 3 visitors
We began by recapping our session last time and the covenant God made with Abraham. A covenant was something more than a promise, a cast-iron guarantee. God said that He would give Abraham a son, Abraham’s descendants would be a great nation, they would get a land and He would be their God. This covenant was sealed in rather unusual way – with a bunch of animals cut in half and a flame passing through the middle of them and with circumcision.
One of these promises was for Abraham to have a son, but this seemed ridiculous as Abraham and Sarah were so old. And right in the middle of getting these covenants this happened. Sarah felt that God had kept her from having children so she told Abraham to marry one of her servants and have a child with her. (We got the kids to act out this scene using last time’s much loved dressing gown, tea-towel, head scarf and a cushion up the jumper.) We asked the kids if this seemed like a good idea or a bad idea. They all thought bad idea but Abraham thought it seemed ok so he married one of Sarah’s servants, Hagar, and Hagar became pregnant with his child. Then the problems started. Sarah gave Hagar the evils and treated her badly (acted particularly well by our Sarah) so Hagar ran away crying. God had heard Hagar crying and told her to go back to Sarah and submit to her. She did and she gave birth to a boy and named him Ishmael. Which means? God Sees / God Hears / God Speaks? It means God Hears as God heard Hagar crying.
Perhaps God thought Abraham and Sarah needed reminding of the promise so three mysterious visitors came to Abraham. He realised they were very important as he bowed down to them and invited them in for food and rest. They told Abraham and Sarah that this time next year they would have a son. The idea seemed so silly to Sarah she laughed. And when God asked her why she laughed, nothing is too hard for Him, she did what naughty children do when they get caught and said ‘I never laughed!’.
We fast-forwarded a year and when we went back we found Abraham in the tent. And Sarah. And somebody else, the newly born baby Isaac. And Isaac means – he laughs / he cries / he burps-a-lot? It means he laughs. Yes because Sarah laughed at such a ridiculous idea at her age but also because Sarah said God had given her a son and she could laugh again. Even though Sarah was 90 and Abraham was 100 God kept His promise, nothing was too hard for Him.
Although there was still trouble in the household between Sarah and Hagar. So much so that now Isaac was born Sarah threw Hagar and Ishmael out. And they had to go to the desert. There God heard Hagar and Ishmael cry and gave them water and promised that Ishmael too would be a great nation one day.
We thought at the end about whether Abraham or Sarah really, really believed God’s promise. And who was hurt when they didn’t trust God.
We also asked if we should trust God and why. Answers included because He keeps His promises, because He’d been there in difficult times and because it’s better to trust God than anyone else.

30th September – Genesis 15 & 17
Theme – God’s covenant with Abraham
Our story began with Abraham. As is often the case in these stories Abraham wore a tea-towel and a dressing gown. The other key player in this story was God and to play the part of God a child wore a hat with eyes all over it as God is all-seeing (obviously).
At the start of the story Abraham was sad as he had no children and so one of his servant’s children would inherit everything. God took Abraham outside and told him to look up at the stars. God asked Abraham to try and count them but there were too many to count. And God told Abraham he would have a son and his descendants (his children’s, children’s children’s children….) would be like the stars in the sky, too many to count.
God also promised Abraham the land He had shown Abraham. And to confirm these promises God made a covenant with Abraham. A covenant was a very special agreement, more than a promise, but something binding and absolute. To show that God was going to keep this covenant God did something that might seem a little odd.
Abraham took a young cow, a ram, a goat, a pigeon and a dove and he cut the cow, ram and goat in half. (Nothing too messy for us just some pictures and some scissors.) Abraham placed the halves of the animals and the birds opposite each other and while Abraham slept a flaming torch came down and moved between the animals and birds. (For us a red umbrella). This was how God showed His covenant with Abraham was binding and that He was going to keep it.
Later in the session we looked at Genesis 17 where God says again his promise to Abraham that Abraham would have a son and Abraham would be the father of many. God says again that Abraham’s descendants would get the land God promised them. And God adds that from Abraham’s family would come nations and kings.
God promised that Abraham and his descendants would be God’s people and He would be their God. And as a sign of this covenant God said that Abraham and all the males in his household would be circumcised. A operation for boys and men that leaves a permanent mark. A mark for Abraham and all the males in his family that they were God’s people. And this is a sign Jewish people still carry on today.
A big session where we see God make two covenants with Abraham promising a son, a land and a relationship. Abraham’s family would be God’s people and He would be their God.

23rd September – Genesis 12 v 10-20
Theme – Abraham’s mistake I
We started by reading verses 10-12 to hear what Abraham’s dilemma was. Because of a famine he moved down to Egypt but Abraham was worried. His wife, Sarah, was very beautiful and he was afraid that the Egyptians would kill him and take Sarah as his wife. Abraham was worried but what should he do?
We asked the kids what they would do and they came up with answers such as – Pray to God, dress Sarah up really badly, Trust the promises God gave him and bury Sarah in a pit to hide her until they left Egypt.
Abraham was frightened and what he decided to do wasn’t great. He told Sarah to say she was his sister. So when they went to Egypt the king, Pharaoh, saw that Sarah was beautiful, married her and took her into his palace. (Poor Sarah!) And Pharaoh treated her ‘brother’ Abraham very well giving him sheep, camels, donkeys, cattle and servants.
But God wasn’t happy and caused Pharaoh and his house to catch various diseases and get ill. (Poor Pharaoh!) Pharaoh called Abraham and asked why Abraham lied to him. But rather than kill Abraham he sent him and Sarah away and let him keep everything he’d been given. Even when Abraham lied to Pharaoh and caused him no ends of problem the king still didn’t kill Abraham. Perhaps Abraham should have trusted God a bit more in the first place. Especially as God had just given Abraham some pretty incredible promises.
But sometimes when we’re worried or frightened we make the wrong decision and don’t trust God. In small groups we made a chatterbox with some of the promises God gives us to say that we can trust Him. We thought about some situations that worry us (e.g. exams, changes, people being ill) and then used the chatterbox to look up a promise God gives us. We can rely on those promises when things are difficult or scary.

9th September: Genesis 12 v 1-9
Theme – God calls Abraham
We began the session by asking people about moving house. Who had ever done it? Who had moved the furthest? Who had moved the most times? What was it like? Were you worried? What were you most worried about? What was the best thing about it? (Turns out Shan had moved the furthest from Trinidad to London as a 17 year old). This set the scene for today’s story in which a man, Abraham, was called by God to leave his country, his family, his friends and go to a place God would show him to live.
But first we needed to set the scene, the situation between God and humans in the first few chapters of Genesis. Or if you prefer 11 chapters in 11 actions.  God created Adam and Eve but they broke his one rule about eating from the Tree of knowledge of Good & Evil. They were kicked out of the garden and things got worse when people turned away from God and did their own thing. So much so God regretted making humans at all and sent a flood on the whole earth. Noah found favour in God’s eyes though and his family were saved. After the flood Noah’s family were told to grow in number and fill the whole earth. Instead people built the Tower of Babel so (a) they could all see it and stay close and (b) everyone would say how great they were. God wasn’t happy and made people speak different languages and scattered them out across the whole earth. So things weren’t going well between God and humans at all. But God had a plan to restore the relationship and it started with Abraham.
We set up a gazebo, sleeping bag and rucksacks in the corner of the hall and met under that for the story. This was where Abraham & Sarah (or Abram & Sarai as they were called then) lived. They lived with Abraham’s father, brothers & sisters and nephew Lot. Then one day God called Abraham to get up and leave. To go to a foreign country God would show them. And God told Abraham this:
I will make you a great nation and I will bless you.
I will make you famous and you will be a blessing to others.
I will bless those who bless you.
I will place a curse on those who harm you
And all the people on earth will be blessed through you
We asked the kids what they would do? Would they leave their family, friends and country and go? Some said yes but most said no. Well Abraham did go so we packed everything up and left with his wife Sarah, his nephew Lot, his servants and all the people he worked with. And they walked and walked and walked. Eventually we came to Canaan and there God gave Abraham one more promise – One day God would give this land to Abraham’s family. To his children’s children’s children’s…. well you get the idea. Abraham worshipped God and then kept walking. Eventually Abraham came to Bethel and settled there so we unpacked everything and put the gazebo up on the other side of the hall. (He went on to the Negev afterwards).
We finished by going over the 5 things in the promise God gave Abraham. We acted it out to go through the remarkably promises God gave Abraham.

 

Summer Term 2012: Peter

 

This term we’ll be looking at the life of Peter, particularly his role as leader of the church in the first part of Acts.
Peter appears to be a very ‘ordinary’ man but one who was transformed by God into an extraordinary leader. It can’t have been easy taking on the role of leader after Jesus, especially since the church was being persecuted at the time. Peter must have been a very faithful and strong man to take on such a role.
We’ll begin the series by looking at Peter’s mistakes, in particular his denying of Jesus. But we’ll see that wasn’t the end for Peter. Jesus welcomed him back and, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter went on to do great things in Jesus’ name.

The weeks when we have Starchasers and the message of the mornings are:

8th July: Acts 10
Theme – Peter challenged on welcoming outsiders
We opened the session with a recap quiz to look back at how much God had changed Peter since our first story at the start of term. But God hadn’t finished changing Peter yet there was another important lesson that Peter had to learn – welcoming outsiders into the church.
To help us understand that we heard about two groups of people when Peter was alive. Jews (of which Peter was one) and Gentiles (everyone who wasn’t a Jew). Now the Jews looked down on Gentiles. They wouldn’t want anything to do with them, they wouldn’t talk to them and they thought they were ‘unclean’. Peter was a Jew and he wasn’t sure if Gentiles (non-Jews) should be part of the church. So today’s story starred Peter (a Jew) and Cornelius (a Gentile). Cornelius feared God and helped the poor but could he really be part of the church?
God had an answer for Peter in the form of a vision – a picture from God. One day when Peter was hungry and waiting for lunch to be cooked he went up on to the roof. There God gave him a vision. We got some of the kids to act out the vision. It was of a sheet coming down form heaven full of animals. Or in our case a parachute full of kids pretending to be animals.
A voice told Peter – ‘Get up, kill and eat’ (That worried a few of the kids in the parachute). Peter said no as some of these animals were animals Jews couldn’t eat like pigs. The Jews say these animals are ‘unclean’. The voice said – ‘ Don’t call anything unclean God has made clean’. This happened three times (we’ve seen that number a lot with Peter) and then the sheet went back to heaven.
Now this wasn’t just about eating animals it was about the Gentiles as well. Peter may have thought they were ‘unclean’ and he shouldn’t have anything to do with them. But God had made them ‘clean’ and God wanted them to be part of the church as well as the Jews.
God also gave Cornelius a vision in which an angel told Cornelius to send for Peter. Cornelius did just that sending his men to go and bring Peter back. After Peter’s vision, Peter came and told Cornelius (and his family and friends) all about Jesus, how he died and rose again. While Peter was speaking the Holy Spirit came on the Gentiles present and they begun speaking in tongues and praising God. God was definitely showing Peter the Gentiles were part of his church!
After that Peter welcomed the Gentiles into the church and he baptised Cornelius and the others to show that they belonged to Jesus.
24th June
Theme – Preparing for Starchasers Service
This week at Starchasers we were preparing for the Starchasers Service where we’ll be sharing what we’ve learnt this term with the whole Parish. I’ll not spoil the surprise but instead invite you along. The details are:

Starchasers Service
Sunday 1st July @ 10:30am
St. Andrew’s Church

And you can find out more information by clicking here.

10th June: Acts 9 v 32-43
Theme – Peter heals and raises from the dead
We told the story of Aeneas via one of our favourite running games. Everyone sits in a circle and gets assigned a key word – Peter, Lydda, Aeneas or bed. As the story is read if your word is said you have to get up, run round the circle and sit down back where you were. Simple fun.
If you don’t know the story, Aeneas was paralysed so had to stay in bed for 8 years. Peter visited Lydda, (where Aeneas lived) came across Aeneas and healed him in Jesus’ name. (We put in about 5 times more references to each word).
For the second story we acted it out. We had Peter going around preaching and healing and Tabitha / Dorcas (in Joppa) knitting and making clothes for the poor. Alas one day Dorcas got ill and died. Her friends were very upset. They washed her body and placed it in an upstairs room and went to get Peter. When Peter came he sent everyone out of the room, prayed and told Dorcas ‘Get up!’. And she did! Word of this spread all round Joppa and because of this many people followed Jesus.
Again we see the change in Peter, how different he was to the scared, fearful man of a few weeks ago. Now he is healing and raising from the dead in Jesus’ name! And Peter didn’t do this by his own power or for his own glory – it was Jesus doing it through him and the result again was people following Jesus.

27th May: Acts 3 & 4
Theme – Peter heals and preaches
We started with a recap involving a rock, a boat and the number three. It reminded us of who we’re finding out about this term – Peter. The boat reminds us Peter used to be a fisherman. The rock that Jesus changed his name to ‘Peter’ (which means rock) as Peter was to be the rock on which the church would be built. And the number three reminded us of Peter denying Jesus three times. It also reminded us that Jesus asked Peter back three times and still had a plan for him.
After the Holy Spirit came we find Peter and John going to the temple. We acted the story out where they came to the Beautiful gate and found a disabled man there who couldn’t walk. The man was begging and asked Peter and John for money. Peter said he had no money but did something remarkable. He told the man to get up and walk in Jesus’ name and he did! Peter healed the man in Jesus’ name and a large crowd gathered to see this man who they saw there every day leaping around and praising God! Peter then told the crowd all about Jesus and thousands more decided to follow Jesus.
As ever the chief priests and leaders weren’t happy and hauled Peter and John before them. These were the same people who only a few weeks early had arrested Jesus and Jesus had stood trial in front of. But what a change we see in Peter. He boldly stood up to them and told them all about Jesus too. The leaders weren’t sure what to do so told Peter and John to stop talking about Jesus but Peter said no, we won’t! – We’ll do what God wants us to do. The leaders let Peter and John go because they couldn’t decide what to do with them.
What a transformation in Peter. God was changing Peter into the person He wanted Peter to be. What a change from the man in the courtyard just a few weeks earlier.
In our small groups we thought more about ‘transforming’. We took some old recycling and transformed it into something else – a robot, a telescope, a boat, a monster and so on. It reminded us that God changed the lives of the disabled man, Peter and indeed can change our lives.

13th May: Acts 2
Theme – The Holy Spirit comes
We started the session with a balloon. At the start it didn’t look very exciting just a piece of plastic that doesn’t really do much. But most of us knows what it could become. Once it was filled you can see more and more of what it was meant to be like, as it gets filled it becomes more like what its meant to be.
Last time we might not have seen the best side of Peter with him denying he knew his friend Jesus. But Jesus knew what Peter could become. Jesus had a plan for Peter. Jesus wanted Peter to take care of his followers. And this week we see a different Peter, a Peter changed after he is filled with the Holy Spirit. A Peter more like the one Jesus wanted him to become.
Jesus had promised Peter, and the rest of his followers, to send a helper – the Holy Spirit. They were to wait in Jerusalem after Jesus went up to Heaven and he would send it. And so we acted out the story of Pentecost.
We split the kids into two groups, (1) the believers gathered in a house and (2) the Jews from all different nations who were in Jerusalem for the festival of Pentecost. The believers were together when there was a sound like a strong wind (cue sound effect) and what looked like tongues of fire and flames coming down on each person (cue sound effect and hand on head waving). Then the believers began speaking lots of different languages (cue appropriate sound effect).
When the Jews outside heard the commotion they came over and asked what was going on. No shy, denying Peter this time – Peter stood up and told the whole crowd about Jesus, what He had done and His death and coming back to life. After Peter spoke over 3,000 of those listening became believers too. What a change in Peter – much more like the man Jesus knew he could become.
In small groups we thought a little more about some things and what they become. A tadpole becomes a frog, an egg becomes a bird, an acorn becomes an oak. And Peter was changing, becoming the man Jesus wanted him to be. And we are promised the same Holy Spirit to help us become the person Jesus wants us to be.

29th April – Mark 14 & John 21
Theme – Jesus gives Peter a fresh start
We began, as all good Starchasers sessions should, with a clip from ‘The Simpsons’. In the clip Homer made a promise to his daughter, Lisa, to buy her a new reed for her saxophone for the school concert. But Homer broke his promise and Lisa had to go out in front of the whole school, and parents, with a broken sax.
We talked about how Lisa would have felt about Homer letting her down and how Homer must have felt afterwards. Which led us nicely into our first story about Peter…
We started with the Last Supper and Jesus telling his disciples that He was going to die. We thought about how his friends would have felt hearing this. We then moved around the different locations in the story from the upper room, to the Mount of Olives, to the Garden of Gethsemane and finally to the courtyard. Jesus told His friends, they would all leave him, they would all desert Him, every one of them. At this point Peter (one of the kids) stood up and said he’d never leave Jesus, even if it meant dying for him. Jesus told Peter that before the morning, before the cock crows, Peter would say three times he didn’t know Jesus.
And what happened? Jesus was arrested and taken away and nearly all his friends ran off and left Him, fearing for their lives. Peter and another did stay and followed behind those who arrested Jesus until they arrived at the courtyard. Peter tried to hear what was going on when Jesus was on trial while some in the courtyard thought he looked familiar. Three times Peter was asked if he knew Jesus and three times Peter said he didn’t know who this Jesus was.
Then the cock crowed. And the Bible says Jesus looked right at Peter. Peter broke down in tears and went off crying. Peter had let his friend down when He needed him most.
But was this the end? No! Despite Peter letting Jesus down, He still had plans for Peter.
We then thought about different scenarios for welcoming people back. People who’d been in hospital, a surprise visit from gran and welcoming someone back at the airport. It appears that the boys prefer food and the girls prefer hugs to welcome people back!
We then looked at how Jesus welcomed Peter back. We acted out the story in John 21 with Peter and 6 other disciples fishing. They fished all night and caught nothing. Then at dawn a man appeared on shore and told them to throw the net out on the right side. They did and this time they caught loads of fish. Peter recognised the man as Jesus and leapt out of the boat and ran/swam to the shore (leaving the others to bring in the catch!).
Jesus had breakfast with his friends (bread and fish – so we shared out some bread and fish) on the shore. Afterwards Jesus asked Peter three times ‘Peter do you love me’. Each time Peter said yes, though got more irritated each time Jesus asked. And Jesus asked Peter each time to feed his lambs or take care of his sheep. This was how Jesus welcomed Peter back.
We asked why three times, why did Jesus ask Peter three times? We thought this was because Peter denied Jesus three times. And we asked who were the lambs / sheep? We thought Jesus followers and indeed us!
In small groups we caught up after the holidays and we also gave everyone a dirty penny. It was dirty, unclean, ikky and kind of horrible. It was like how Peter must have felt after letting Jesus down. Yet that wasn’t the end for Peter. We applied some HP sauce (other sauces are available) and gave it a rub and ta-da one shiny penny. This reminded us of the new start Peter had in Jesus. He could start over again be made new. And Jesus still had an important task for Peter.

 

Spring Term 2012: Meeting Jesus

 

This term we’re going to be looking at some of the people who met Jesus in Luke’s gospel. Through these encounters with Jesus we learn about Jesus Himself and how other people responded to meeting the ‘Son of God’. The challenge to us today is how will we respond to discovering Jesus and meeting Him?

The weeks when we have Starchasers and the message of the mornings are:

25th March: Luke 19v1-10
Theme – Zacchaeus
We started with a question. How would you know if someone was really sorry? How could you tell? We had lots of answers from the kids including looking sorry, not doing it again (changing behaviour), doing something nice for the person you’ve upset and listening to you mum next time!
Today’s story was all about someone who’d changed, who turned over a new leaf and was sorry for what he’d done. But how did people know he was sorry? We’ll find out later.
We told the story of this man Zacchaeus. Not a popular man. He was the chief tax collector which meant he worked for the Romans, the occupiers who most Jews hated. He was also a cheat and would take more than he should from people and stole from them. This made Zacchaeus very wealthy but it wasn’t enough. So when Jesus came to town Zacchaeus wanted to see him. Zacchaeus was very small so he had to climb a tree in order to see Jesus. Jesus sees Zacchaeus up the tree and invites himself to Zacchaeus’s house – a great honour.
The other people weren’t please thinking – a man like that, why’s Jesus going to his house? But on meeting Jesus Zacchaeus was changed, he was transformed. And how did people know he was a changed man? He gave half his money to the poor and paid back four times what he cheated people out of. Jesus brought real change to Zaccaheus’s life which lead to real actions from Zacchaeus.
We thought about how Zacchaeus had changed, had turned over a new leaf. In our groups we had a leaf on one side we wrote what Zacchaeus was like before and the other what he was like after. How had meeting Jesus changed him? And the question we finished with was if we’re following Jesus how should we change? What change would people see in us?

11th March: Luke 10:38-42 
Theme – Mary & Martha
We started off the session by meeting a family. A family that included Mary, Martha and Lazarus. The family were good friends of Jesus and they were prepared to stick up for Jesus even when people were out to get Him. They kept opening their home up to Jesus even when the leaders were looking to arrest Jesus.
We also asked where we met have met the family before, especially the brother Lazarus. We’d heard about him last year in a story at the start of the countdown to Easter, when Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead. A remarkable story, and like last session, one that shows Jesus’ power over death.
We then went on to today’s story from Luke. We got one of the kids to be Martha and she was brave and invited Jesus to her house – normally it would have been her brother, the man, who would have invited Jesus. And when Jesus was there she was busy doing chores to make Jesus welcome. One of the kids showed us the hive of activity that would have been happening with Martha cooking, cleaning, setting the table and so on. And what was her sister Mary doing while all this was going on? Sitting listening to Jesus. We asked the kids what they thought and they generally thought Mary should have helped her sister and not leave it all to Martha.
Martha was so aggrieved she asked Jesus to have a word with Mary. We asked the kids what they thought Jesus would say and the answers included telling Mary not to be so selfish, telling Mary off and telling Martha ask her yourself!
But what Jesus actually said was a bit of a surprise. He didn’t tell Mary off instead he said ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. Only one thing is important. Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her’. Although Martha was worried about making Jesus welcome and showing Him hospitality Jesus said the more important thing was to be with Him and listen to Him. That’s not to say what Martha was doing wasn’t important but it was more important to listen to Jesus and spend time with Him, like Mary was doing.
We looked at the story more in small groups. Asking questions of each other to find out more about everyone in our group. Asking questions about the story including how both women tried to make Jesus feel welcome. And asking what we would ask Jesus if we had a chance to speak with Him. At the end we made friendships bracelets to remind us of the friendship between Jesus and these two women.

26th February: Luke 8:40-56
Theme – A ruler & an ill woman
We started this week by meeting two people. One was an important leader, Jarius, and the other a poor, ill woman. Very different people but both were utterly helpless.
And they’d come to Doctor Stavs for some advice. The man’s daughter was ill and Doctor Stavs examined her and said there was nothing she could do. She couldn’t help Jarius’s daughter at all.
Then the woman came to Dr. Stavs. The woman had been bleeding for 12 years and nobody had been able to help her. Stavs tested her blood and urine and tried spiders webs, shock and frogs but nothing seemed to work. (I’m not entirely convinced Doctor Stavs was a real doctor…). Both were helpless, there was nothing they could do.
Except of course, Jesus was in town…
We acted out the story and got the kids to form a large crowd to greet Jesus when he arrived back. Jarius was one of the people who came to see Jesus and he fell at Jesus’ feet, begging that Jesus would come and heal his daughter. Jesus agreed and they set off to Jarius’s house.
The crowd went with Jesus and people were pushing and shoving to get close to him. And then Jesus stopped. He asked who touched Him. There was a pause and Simon Peter pointed out that lots of people were pushing against him and touching him. But Jesus meant something different, power had gone from Him. It was the ill woman who had touched him and she came forward to admit it was her. She was frightened and feel at Jesus’ feet. She told Jesus it was her that touched Him and as soon as she had she was healed. Jesus told her that her faith had healed her adn she could go in peace.
While this was all happening a person came from Jarius’s house to say his daughter was dead. It was too late. What little hope Jarius had was gone, there was nothing Jesus could do for her now.
But Jesus had different ideas, he encouraged Jarius to believe and they went to his house. People laughed at Jesus for saying the girl was only asleep but Jesus brought the girl back to life. Her parents were amazed but Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone what happened.
We recapped the story later by watching a clip from the Miracle Maker. Again we saw two hopeless situations where Jesus was able to show His power and bring hope.
And we finished by writing our thoughts in our treasure notebooks. What did we want to remember about Jesus from today’s story and what didn’t we understand but wanted to note down?

12th February: Luke 7:36-50
Theme – A rejected woman
We started the session by going over our memory verse:
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness. He will have the light that gives life.”
John 8 v 12
We lit a candle at the front to represent Jesus and turned off the lights in the hall. Then as each person said the memory verse they came up to light a tea-light from the candle and took it back with them. This was to remind us that if we follow Jesus we don’t live in darkness but rather we have the light that gives life.
Before we started the story we thought about what would happen if one of the kids in the group came to their house. What are some of the things we’d do to make them feel welcome. Some of the answers were take off their coat and scarf, shake their hand and say hello, get them a seat, make them a cup of tea and put the TV on for them. We’d do this to make the guest feel welcome and comfortable. In Jesus’ day you’d also want to make your guest feel welcome and comfortable but you’d perhaps do some different things. You’d give them water to wash their feet because the roads were dusty and their feet would be hot. You’d greet them with a kiss to welcome them. And you’d pour oil on their head to help them freshen up. A good host would do this for his guests.
We then acted out today’s story. Simon the Pharisee invited Jesus round to his house. But when Jesus came Simon didn’t do any of these things for Jesus – no water, no kiss and no oil. While they were eating and talking a woman came in – a woman who’d done some bad things and was rejected by people because she had done many wrong things. She came in and stood behind Jesus. She cried and cried and the tears wet Jesus feet. She then dried Jesus feet with her hair, then kissed them and finally took some expensive perfume out and poured it on Jesus’ feet.
Simon the Pharisee thought – this Jesus can’t be a prophet otherwise he’d know what type of woman she is and wouldn’t let her near Him. But Jesus did know what type of woman she was and He knew what Simon was thinking so He told a story. A man is owed £500 by someone and £50 by someone else. He forgives both their debts so who loves him more? Simon said the one who owed him £500 because he’d been forgiven more.
Jesus pointed to the woman and said she had washed his feet with her tears, dried his feet with her hair, poured oil on them and hasn’t stopped kissing them. She loves me a lot because she’s been forgiven a lot. But you Simon didn’t give me any water, or oil or greet me with a kiss. The person who’s been forgiven a little loves a little. Jesus then turned to the woman and said – Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace! There was much whispering among the other guests about the sort of person who can forgive sins.
Afterwards we thought more about the story Jesus told about the man who forgave someone £500 and someone £50 – who loved him more? The one who was forgiven more. We also thought about if a man knew two Liverpool fans and he gave one tickets to the Carling Cup Final and one tickets to a reserve game on a wet Wednesday night. Who would love him more? The one who got Carling Cup Final tickets as the man had done more for them.
And this was like the situation in the story. The woman realised she’d done a lot of things wrong. She realised she’d been forgiven a lot. She realised Jesus had done a lot for her so she showed a lot of love to him.
But Simon the Pharisee thought he was a good man and he’d didn’t have much need for Jesus. So he only showed a little love to Jesus. He felt Jesus hadn’t done that much for him. But actually Jesus had forgiven him a lot. Jesus had done a lot for him. To forgive him Jesus had to come to earth, to die and to rise again. It took a lot for Jesus to forgive him and Jesus had forgiven him a lot. So he should have loved Jesus a lot. But Simon the Pharisee didn’t realise that.
And Jesus has done a lot to forgive us. And Jesus has forgiven us a lot. So should we show Jesus a little love or a lot of love?
We ended with a time of confession. As we were thinking about forgiveness we asked Jesus to forgive us for the things we’ve done wrong and the things we should have done but didn’t. We then finished with a response prayer about realising what Jesus has done for us so that we could be forgiven.

29th January: Luke 5:1-11
Theme – Simon Peter, James & John
We started the session with a recap of the first two sessions and the people who met Jesus – Simeon, Anna, the religious teachers and his mother Mary. (For more information see below!). The three people in today’s story were also amazed by Jesus. So much so their response was to leave everything behind and follow Him.
We started with some mock job interviews. In came the first candidate who was very clever, passed lots of exams, was very confident (almost cocky) and seemed to be good at lots of things. Did he want to join? There he ummed and ahhed and made excuses and said he’d see how things were over the next few months, maybe in 6 months he could make a decision.
The second candidate didn’t really seem up to much. Wasn’t really good at school work, couldn’t really read and write, hadn’t amounted to much in life. In fact his main skill was fishing. But he was prepared to join right away. If it was a job interview who would we choose? Would we choose the same sort of people Jesus chose?
We then looked at the story of Jesus calling Simon Peter, James & John. (Simon Peter was called Simon but Jesus later gave him the name Peter – we’ll call him Simon Peter today so we know that he’s same Peter who was one of Jesus closest friends). The kids acted out today’s story with a few chairs (boats) and a football net (fishing net). We saw Jesus coming to the edge of the shore and the crowds were gathering around him. We saw the three fishermen come back from fishing all night but they had caught nothing. Jesus got into Simon Peter’s boat and asked him to push out a little from the shore. Jesus then taught the people from Simon Peter’s boat.
After that Jesus told Simon Peter to head out to the deep part of the lake and try catching some fish. Simon Peter knew that there was no chance of catching fish but did it because Jesus asked him too. And then… the net was bulging with fish, so much so the nets started to break, the boat sunk a little bit and James and John had to come and help them take the catch back to shore. The fishermen new that what Jesus had done was extraordinary, miraculous. They were astonished at this and Simon Peter fell on his knees and said to Jesus ‘Go away from me, I’m a sinner!’.
But Jesus didn’t go away instead he gave the three of them an offer of leaving their fishing boats behind, following Him and come fishing for people. Jesus wanted them to follow Him and help build His group of followers, His church. And Simon Peter, James & John left everything and followed Jesus. This man was so remarkable they had to do as He said and follow Him.
We also looked at the story in the Miracle Marker film to recap and emphasized that the three fishermen knew how remarkable it was for Jesus to do what He did. The miracle of the fishes was tailor-made for them!
We finished in small groups with our heart-notebooks again. We wrote down what we wanted to treasure and be reminded off about Jesus in this story. We also wrote down what things we didn’t quite understand about Jesus but wanted to hold on to.

22nd January: Luke 2:41-52
Theme – Religious teachers
This session we learnt about a time when Jesus was 12 years old. Again his parents were going up to the temple in Jerusalem, this time to celebrate the Passover, just like they did every year. We read the story from Luke’s gospel while the kids listened.
We heard that after the festival Mary & Joseph returned home and although Jesus wasn’t with his parents He was somewhere in the big family group that was heading home. Or so his parents thought. But after a day they looked for Him amongst their family and friends and couldn’t find Him. So Mary & Joseph headed back to Jerusalem to look for Jesus there but for three days they couldn’t find Him. Then, after three days of looking, they found Jesus in the temple with the religious teachers. Jesus was listening to them and asking questions. The teachers were amazed with Jesus’ understanding and wisdom.
When Mary & Joseph found Jesus they were astonished too but more because they wondered why He’d stayed here rather than coming home with them and didn’t He know how worried they were! Jesus replied – where else would I be but in my Father’s house? They didn’t understand what Jesus was saying but we also learnt that Mary treasured these things (and more besides as Jesus grew) in her heart.
Taking up the theme of Mary treasuring these things in her heart we introduced the idea of the heart bucket. In this case it was a small bucket with a big red heart stuck on the front. We looked at some of the things that were inside – silver, gold, coins and a big jewel – all treasure. We said that Mary kept these things about Jesus in her heart, she remembered them, she thought about them. These things were precious to her and they helped her learn more about Jesus. Some of the things she didn’t quite understand but she also held onto them, these precious things.
In small groups we had our own treasure notebook which we also decorated. Inside we wrote some of the things we wanted to treasure, to keep, to remember, to think about. We wrote those things we wanted to treasure about Jesus from the story of Him at the temple – His wisdom, His going to His Father’s house, His understanding. And we also wrote some of the things we didn’t quite understand yet – Didn’t He know His parents would be upset? What did He mean by His Father’s House?

Theme – Simeon & Anna
We started the morning with waiting. Steve came on and sat and waited. And looked at his watch and waited. And drummed and fingers and waited. Through writing down on a pad and getting a kid to read out he conveyed that he was waiting for something to happen. Someone was going to be chosen. But who. And we waited. And then waited some more. Finally the countdown from 10 and then the name was revealed.
It gave us an an idea what waiting was like, even for a short time. You’re wondering what’s going to happen, who it’s going to be, you really want it to come now. We also shared some things we waited for and what that was like. That included birthdays, exams and the London Olympics.
And today’s story was all about waiting. We met Simeon who was given a special promise by God – he would see the Messiah before he died, God’s chosen one. (We don’t know how the promise was delivered but in acting it out Simeon got a letter with his name on it). And so Simeon waited and waited and waited. One day Jesus’ parents Mary and Joseph went up to the temple. They were good people, devout and Godly, and so were keeping the Jewish law by going up to the temple when Jesus was 40 days old. They went with their offering, two turtledoves or pigeons, because they were too poor to afford a lamb.
That day Simeon was led to the temple by the Holy Spirit and when Simeon saw Jesus he knew Jesus was the Messiah. He took Jesus in his arms, thanked God and said this prayer of thanks to God:
Lord, I am your servant, and now I can die in peace
because you have kept your promise to me.
With my own eyes I have seen what you have done
to save your people
and foreign nations will also see this
Your mighty power is a light for all nations, and it will bring honour to your people Israel.
Simeon blessed Jesus’ parents but he also had a warning for Mary that some people would reject Jesus and Mary would suffer.
And the day out at the temple wasn’t over yet! A prophetess, Anna, was also there. She was an old lady of 84 whose husband had died some years ago. Anna never left the temple and she spent all her time there worshipping and praying to God. When Anna saw Jesus she thanked God and told people asking about Jerusalem being saved about Jesus.
Some strange things had happened to Mary and Joseph since Mary found out she was pregnant. We asked the kids what some of those things were, including today’s story. Simeon, his prayer and his warning, Anna and her response to Jesus, angels, strange visitors from the East, shepherds, an unusual star, gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh… it was a lot to take it. We asked the kids what Mary and Joseph might have been thinking and one response was ‘maybe they were believing more and more that Jesus was special’.
We finished by using Simeon’s prayer of praise for some choral speaking. In that we say, not sing, the prayer but go louder and softer in different parts and have some parts with one voice, some with several and some with everyone. We split the kids into two groups and went through the words thinking how they would emphasis the key bits before ending with the two groups choral speaking the prayer.

Autumn Term 2011: Long way from home

This term we’ll be looking at the exile of the Jews and the return home. We’ll start by looking at the warnings and promises in Jeremiah, then life in exile in Daniel and finally the return to Jerusalem in Nehemiah.

The weeks when we have Starchasers and the message of the mornings are:

11th December: Nehemiah 12
Theme – Celebrating & Praising God
We started by thinking about celebrations – what sort of things do you celebrate and how do you celebrate them. One of the kids had a birthday so we had a few celebrations for that including singing and eating cake.
And what about times when a whole city, in fact the whole country, celebrates? We looked at one of the biggest celebrations ever in London – in 1945 when World War 2 ended. And we also looked at a more recent celebration – the Royal Wedding in April this year.
And in today’s story the people of Jerusalem, and indeed the whole country of Judah were celebrating. Why? We recapped last session’s story to remind us why – because the people had returned to the city and now the city, including the walls, had been rebuilt.
So the cry went out across the country for people to help with the celebrations. Nehemiah called Levites to purify things before the celebrations. We’re not sure how the Levites purified things but we got some kids to come up and sprinkle them with water. They sprinkled the gates, the walls, each other and finally all the people.
Nehemiah then called together singers and musicians to help lead the celebrations. We gave some kids instruments and got them to rattle, shake and play them. And finally Nehemiah called the leaders and people together to help celebrate so everyone else got involved as well.
Nehemiah split the group into two groups and sent them different ways around the walls. We split ourselves into two groups and walked around the gates and towers. Each time one group would reach a gate or tower they’d play their instrument and shout – ‘God is great we sing and shout it’. And each time the other group reached a gate or tower they’d shout ‘God is great we celebrate’.
We went round the whole walls like this before both groups came together. But then we said the people weren’t just celebrating because they were happy, they were also thanking and praising someone. Thanking and praising someone who’d brought them back to the land and helped them with the rebuilding. Who? God of course! So the people went to the temple and there offered gifts, offerings and sacrifices to thank and praise God for what He had done.
Spurred on by Nehemiah’s example we started to think about how we could thank and praise God. Again we split into two groups. One group decorated flags with things we could praise God for and this included our family, making new friends, animals and Starchasers. And another group made a giant paper chain and each link had something to praise God written on it. We had family, friends, school, health, the environment and many, many other things on the chains. We came back together as a group and shared and finished by praising God through prayer.
To wrap up the term we looked back at the two lego scenes we first saw in Jeremiah 32 all those weeks ago. One was what the country looked like at the time of Jeremiah 32 – a war zone with the country in ruins. And the other looked like what God promised it would be like in the future – things would return to normal, the place would be rebuilt and they’d farm there again. Now in Nehemiah we see God keeping His promise and the people back in the land with the city rebuilt. God had a plan for the people of Judah and He didn’t forget them. We closed with our memory verse to help us remember that.
“I know what I have planned for you,” says the LORD. “I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future.
Jeremiah 29 v 11

27th November: Nehemiah 1-6
Theme – The return: Pray and keep going!
As we come to the end of our series this term we’re starting to see more of God’s Big Plan for the people of Judah. We started the session with a recap of all the sessions we’d done so far (ambitious I know).
We saw that through a prophet called Jeremiah God warned the people to change and turn back to Him. But they didn’t, kept turning their back on God and so God sent the Babylonians to invade and capture them. But God also gave them a promise that they’d return to the land and to the city of Jerusalem again.
That promise seemed very far off when they were taken to Babylon and we looked at the lives of four men standing out for in Babylon – Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But God had kept His promise to the people of Judah. The Babylonians were themselves attacked and taken over by the Persians and the Persians allowed some of the Jews to return to Jerusalem.
And this is where today’s hero Nehemiah comes in. As we told the story we had a prop for several key words in the story, the first being a knee slap everytime Nehemiah was mentioned. (Well it is panto season.)
Nehemiah (KNEE SLAP) heard reports from Jerusalem (STAR OF DAVID) that the city walls were in ruins and the gate burnt down. In short the city was in a bit of a state. This made Nehemiah sad (SAD FACE). Nehemiah prayed to God (KNEEL AND PRAY). And Nehemiah was so sad that when he went to the king (CROWN), (Nehemiah was the king’s wine-taster (WINE GLASS)), the king asked why he was so sad. Nehemiah told the king about Jerusalem and the king let Nehemiah return to Jerusalem to help build the walls. Complete with letters (um, LETTERS) to give him permission.
On his return Nehemiah oversaw the rebuilding of the walls. He organised people in groups to give them a section to work on, armed them (SWORDS, SPEARS, BOWS) to protect the walls, issued trumpets (TRUMPETS) to call for help and of course prayed to God. Some people didn’t want Nehemiah to succeed, three people in particular, but Nehemiah trusted God and carried on building. And through prayer and by trusting God Nehemiah and the people finished the walls in just 52 days!
We finished the story with a song of ‘Our God is and awesome God’, similar to the prayer Nehemiah prayed when he heard about what a state Jerusalem was in.
And finally in our small groups we prayed. Just as Nehemiah prayed throughout the rebuilding we can bring all parts of our life to God in prayer. We thought of something happy to thank God for and something unhappy we could ask God to help us with.

13th November: Daniel 6
Theme – Standing out for God III
We had a special rule for this morning only at Starchasers – Do not go near the lions’ den (formerly known as the PE cupboard). And if you needed any further warning we rigged up some speakers so that every time the door was opened the lions inside would roar. The scene, and indeed the den, was set for today’s story.
Since our story last time the Babylonians have been overthrown by the Medes and the Persians and now Darius was king. Like Nebuchadnezzar he spotted that Daniel was a very talented person and so Darius thought he promote Daniel ahead of all his other advisors and ministers. Not everyone was pleased for Daniel and a few of his fellow advisors plotted against him. But what could they find to accuse him off?
The one thing that was different about Daniel was his faith in God so they went to Darius and persuaded Darius to bring in a new law. The law was that for 30 days no-one was to pray to any god or any person other than King Darius. Darius put the law in writing and now it couldn’t be changed no matter what. The penalty for breaking this law? Being thrown in the lions’ den (CUE ROARS). Daniel heard about this law but carried on praying to God three times a day as he always did.
The other advisors told the king and told him Daniel would have to be thrown in the lions’ den (CUE ROARS). The king was upset and made every effort to save Daniel but he couldn’t. The law couldn’t be changed. (CUE ROARS).
And so the king gave the order and Daniel was thrown in the lions’ den (ODD NO ROARS) and a stone was placed over the entrance and the entrance sealed. The king said to Daniel – “May God rescue you!”. And all night the king could not sleep, eat or enjoy any entertainment.
While the king slept we played a game, Sleeping Lions of course. And in the morning the king went to the den (ODD, STILL NO ROARS). King Darius called out to Daniel and amazingly Daniel replied! Daniel said God had sent an angel and shut the lions’ mouths and Daniel was safe! Daniel was taken out of the den and the king was very happy! He wasn’t so happy with the advisors who tricked him and they were thrown into the lions’ den (CUE LOTS OF ROARS).
In our small groups we looked at the story using colours. The kids were asked what they learnt from the story using different colours and some of the replies included:

  • God ruled and was in charge – Yellow, Purple
  • God brought peace to the situation – Yellow, Green, Blue, White
  • Blood that was meant to be Daniel’s – Red
  • The advisors were cold-hearted – Blue
  • Daniel did break the law – Black
  • Daniel stood out from those around him – Yellow on Black

We ended the session by getting one of the kids to read out the letter that Darius sent round the kingdom after Daniel was rescued from the lions’ den. Daniel’s faith in God and God’s power in rescuing Daniel lead Darius to say:
“In every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.”

23rd October: Daniel 3
Theme – Standing out for God II
Daniel and his three friends had made it through Nebuchadnezzar’s boot camp and were now working in the king’s service. Daniel’s friends were called by their Babylonian names – Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
In today’s story Nebuchadnezzar had built a giant gold statue, approximately 27 metres tall and 3 metres wide. We showed a picture of what the statue might have looked like next to a group of people and it was very tall and very impressive.
The king wanted to bring all his officials together to worship this statue. When the music played all of them were to bow down and worship it. But not everyone did. Three men, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, would not worship the statue, they would only worship God.
When the king heard this he was furious. We had one of the kids be the king and another three be Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They came before the king and the king demanded they bow down to the statue and they refused. The king was furious and the kid acting him did a great job of showing us what an angry king looks like. The punishment for not bowing down was to be thrown into a fiery furnace and we showed the furnace the king was talking about (created using a large cardboard box, some tissue paper, bike lights and a little imagination).
But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego wouldn’t bow down. The king said to them that no god would be able to save them from his punishment. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied that God could save them. But even if God wouldn’t save them they still weren’t going to worship anyone other than God.
The king was so mad he ordered the three men to be tied up so our fifth actor, ‘soldier’, did the honours. The king ordered the furnace be heated up seven times hotter than normal. So hot that when ‘soldier’ threw them in the furnace he was killed by the heat (It was a small but important part, ‘soldier’).
So we shut the cardboard box with the three men in it. It looked like they had paid with their lives. But then Nebuchadnezzar looked inside the furnace. There weren’t three men in there but four. He saw a fourth person in there walking around. Nebuchadnezzar described this fourth person as a son of the gods or an angel.
So Nebuchadnezzar called Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to come out of the furnace and when they came out we all checked their clothes and sniffed them. Their clothes weren’t at all burnt and there was no smell of smoke on them. The king was so amazed he praised God and called him the Most High God.
Key things we took from this story were that God is mightier than even the most powerful king and empire on earth. That Jesus goes with us and watches over us. And that we are called to stand out for God.
In our small group we made our own fiery furnace cards and inside was our memory verse for the term:
“I know what I have planned for you,” says the LORD. “I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future.
Jeremiah 29 v 11

Sunday 9th October: Daniel 1
Theme – Standing out for God.
The people of Judah lost to the Babylonians. They have been captured and taken to Babylon. But they still have God’s promise that He has a plan for them, the promise that one day they will return to the country. But in the meantime they have to live in a foreign land, far away from home.
We started the session by showing some photographs of foreign countries to get them thinking about being in a different land. What things might be different? The children said, the weather, the language, the buildings, the clothes, the food and the daily routine. The people of Judah were going to have to do a lot of adjusting!
And over the next few weeks we are going to be looking at four people in particular, four people from Judah called Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. We got four kids up front to be these four people in today’s story and we gave them a name card each.
One of the things that was changed were their names and they each were given a Babylonian name: Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar, Hananiah – Shadrach, Mishael – Meshach and Azariah – Abednego. So we changed the name of each of the four kids name cards.
These four people followed God and although they were living in a different country they still worshipped God, even when that meant standing out and being different. These four young men were selected to be trained up for three years and then the best ones would enter the royal service. Sort of like a Babylonian X-factor boot camp.
But Daniel and his friends didn’t want to eat the food or drink the wine given to them by the king. We’re not sure of the reasons why, it might have been the Jewish food laws, it might have been that the food was offered to idols or some other reason but because Daniel and his friends followed God they didn’t want to eat it. Even if that meant standing out and being different. Instead they asked if they could eat only vegetables and drink only water for ten days.
So we passed round all the rest of the kids some cocktail sausages for them to eat. But Daniel and his four friends were only given carrot sticks. They stood out and were different to everyone else (and some of them weren’t happy about it!). And God blessed their stance and at the end of the ten days they were fitter and healthier than everyone else. So their guard let them continue eating vegetables and drinking only water.
God also gave these four young men wisdom so at the end of the boot camp they went into the King Nebuchadnezzar’s service and were very, very good at their job. We talked about how these four were prepared to stand out for God and be different, even in a difficult situation.
And in our small groups we thought about the times we found it difficult to stand out and be different because we believed in God – at school, at work, at football training, wherever. (Some kids didn’t find it difficult in any situation). We offered these situations to God in prayer. And we also prayed for those countries where it can be difficult to be a Christian today.

25th September:  Jeremiah 31 v 1-6, 32 v 1-15
Theme – Trust God and His promises for the future
We recapped the warning God gave the people of Judah last week via a saucepan full of string (you had to be there). If they didn’t change and turn back to Him, God was going to bring disaster on them. And guess what? They ignored Jeremiah’s message from God and didn’t change.
True to His word God sent the Babylonian army to attack Judah. The Babylonians were the biggest, strongest country in the world at this time and so things were looking bad for Judah. God gave Jeremiah a message – Judah were going to lose, their land was going to be taken over by the Babylonians and the king of Judah was going to be taken off to Judah. The king of Judah wasn’t too pleased at hearing this and threw Jeremiah in jail!
And so, using a few toys and props we re-created what the land of Judah was like. We put out a brown sheet on a table to resemble a field in the middle of a battle. There were soldiers everywhere so we put toy soldiers on the sheet. Trees were burned, animals injured and homes ruined so we put a few broken toys around as well. In short the land looked a mess.
Then something slightly odd happened. Jeremiah’s cousin, Hanamel, came to Jeremiah. He had some land to sell and wanted Jeremiah to buy it. (Jeremiah was his closest relative so had the first chance to buy the land). Now we looked at the brown battlefield we’d created and asked what was the problem with buying land at this moment? It was a war zone! The land was a mess! And in fact it would be worthless if the Babylonians were going to win – and God said they were going to win.
But God told Jeremiah to buy the land. To give Hanamel the money, get the paperwork and put it in a clay jar to keep it for a long time. Why? Why did God want Jeremiah to buy the land? Because God had given Jeremiah a promise. A promise that although the people would be taken off as prisoners to Babylon, one day they would come back to the land. A promise that showed that God still had plans for the people of Judah. A promise that gave them hope for the future.
We looked at this promise in Jeremiah 31 v 3-6 and Jeremiah 32 v 15. God promised that the people would return to Judah. They would buy and sell fields again. They would build houses, build farms and plant fruit. So we created a second plot of land on a different table. One with a green sheet. One with a rebuilt house. One with trees growing, farmers farming, animals that were fit and well and with fruit placed around the land. God promised that although the land at the moment looked like the brown battlefield one day it would return to normal and look like the green farm again.
Jeremiah trusted God and bought the land. Jeremiah was showing that he believed God when God said that things would return to normal and the land would be worth something again. Jeremiah still knew that God had a plan for the people of Judah and Jeremiah was showing the people that he trusted God’s plan. It might not be their children it might be their grand-children or great grand-children who would some back but people would come back to Judah again one day. God still had a plan for them.
The next year Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and people were taken prisoner and taken off to Babylon. Just like God said would happen. But the people of Judah had God’s promise that one day they would come back to the land and life would return to normal again.
And we finished with the memory verse, taken from a letter Jeremiah wrote to the people who were taken off to Babylon as prisoners. It reminded them that God still had plans for them:
“I know what I have planned for you,” says the LORD. “I have good plans for you. I don’t plan to hurt you. I plan to give you hope and a good future.
Jeremiah 29 v 11

11th September: Jeremiah 18 v 1-12
Theme: God is in control and wants His people to change
This term we’re looking at the last part of the history of the Old Testament. So we started by putting the period we’re looking at into context.
We talked about the land where the Israelites lived. They lived in Israel with David and then Solomon as their king. We showed a piece of paper for this country. But the people turned their back on God. God warned them but they still turned their back on Him. So God split the kingdom in two – we ripped the paper into a bigger part, Israel in the north, and a smaller part, Judah in the south. The people still turned their back on God and God sent warnings through prophets like Elijah and Elisha but the people ignored them. So God sent the Assyrians to attack Israel and they captured the northern country – we scrunched up the bigger piece of paper. And Judah also turned their back on God and so God sent prophets to warn them.
We looked at one of those prophets Jeremiah. God told Jeremiah to go to the a potter’s shop, watch the potter at work and God would give Jeremiah a message. So we too went off to the potter’s shop.
Alas our skills let us down a little here so we had to make do with a video. We saw the potter shape and work the clay to make a pot, using water and a wheel. Who was in charge here? The potter or the clay? The potter of course. And the potter was like God, God can shape and use nations like the potter uses the clay. God is in charge.
And the Jeremiah saw a pot that went wrong. Something wasn’t right with the clay and the pot went wrong. (And when a pot goes wrong it really goes wrong!). In our video the potter brought his hand down on the pot, crushed it and started again using the clay to make another pot. God said that Judah had gone wrong. Judah were meant to be God’s people, following God and worshipping Him. Instead they had turned their backs on him and worshipped idols. So God had a plan against Judah. Like the potter on the wrong pot God was going to bring disaster on Judah.
But. God didn’t want to bring disaster on them. We showed a still of the potter’s hand just before it came down on the pot. That was like where God said the people of Judah were. So what could they do?
We played a little game to make God’s message clear. We paired up and you & your partner stood at opposite ends of the hall. When you heard the word change (or changed, changes, changing etc.) you and your partner had to swap places. We read out God’s message to the people and there were 9 ‘changes’ in all! It was pretty obvious God wanted the people to change, God wanted the people to turn back to God.
And what did they do? Unfortunately they ignored Jeremiah and didn’t change. In fact they decided to turn on Jeremiah and make fun of him. This didn’t seem the wisest course of action…
We finished the session in our small groups and in them we made some very simple pots using clay. We saw how you could shape and work the clay like a potter and how if the pot went wrong you scrunched the clay up and started again.

Summer Term 2011: The Bible

This term we’ll be looking at the Bible. What’s in the Bible? What’s it about? What’s the big story in the Bible? And how can we read and understand it for ourselves?

Check back here after each session for a summary of what we’ve looked at.

10th July
Theme – Putting it into practise
Over the last four weeks we’ve been looking at four questions to ask when we read the Bible for ourselves. They are:
Q1. When does this happen in the big story?
Q2. What type of book is this from?
Q3. What does this tell us about God?
Q4. What does this tell us about God & us?
Now this week we were going to put it into practise looking at one of my favourite Bible stories – the conversion of Saul in Acts 9 v 1-19.
We started by looking at what Saul was like before this story. We looked at him agreeing with the stoning of Stephen, him wanting to arrest the followers of Jesus and him threatening to kill them. We wrote up on one flipchart sheet what the kids thought Saul was like – Mean, violent, rude, aggressive, hating the church.
We then went through the story in Acts 9. We read the passage out and at certain points we stopped and the kids had to do a freeze-frame to show what was happening in the story at that point. We learnt that Paul was threatening to kill people in the church. That he wanted to go to Damascus and arrest followers of Jesus there. On the way there was a flashing light and he fell to the ground and Jesus spoke to him. When Saul got up he was blind so he had to be helped into the city of Damascus. When he was there God called a man called Ananias to go and see Saul. Ananias prayed with Saul, laid hands on him and Saul could see again. Saul was baptised, he ate and drank and his strength returned.
Finally we found out what this man Saul was like after he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus. He became a great leader, he told people all about Jesus, he encouraged people in the church and helped them. We wrote on another flipchart sheet what Saul was like after. And in fact he changed so much he changed his name to Paul. So Saul who hated the church was changed into Paul this great leader in the church in Acts 9. A great story about God loving unlovable people and God being able to transform people.
In small groups we looked at the passage again going through the four questions. We got the kids to write and/or draw their thoughts on what they learnt from the story and we’ll share that with everyone at the Starchasers service next Sunday!

26th June
Theme – The Bible is made up of lots of books
We started by asking if anyone knew what the word ‘Bible’ meant in Greek. No-one did but luckily we had our resident Greek expert, Stavs, along to help out. Bible means ‘Library’ or ‘Books’ and the reason for that is that the Bible is made up of a lot of different books.
Different types of books, written by different people at different times. All telling us about God and our relationship with God.
With a bit of guesswork we found out that there were 66 books in the Bible in total, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. So we brought out our big empty Bible which only had a 6 books in it. We needed to make 60 others to go in it.
In our small groups we set about making the other books. Some made the Law books, some the History books, some the gospels and so on. Each group making different books to put in out big book.
And while we were making them we also looked at some verses in those books that showed us what sort of things were in those books. E.g. Gospels tell us about Jesus life on earth and Poetry & Wisdom books contain songs, prayers and sayings about God and about life.
At the end we pulled all these books together into our big book by the different groups:
OT – Law (5)
The beginning, God choosing a people and giving them rules to live by.
OT – History (12)
A history of God’s people. From entering the land God promised, Judges ruling over them, Kings ruling over them, the Kingdom being split, going into exile and then the return to Jerusalem
OT – Poetry and Wisdom (5)
Songs, Prayers and wise sayings about life and God.
OT – Prophecy (17)
Prophets hear God’s word and tell it to the people. They explain the past, say what God will do in the future and tell about Jesus in the future
NT – Gospels (4)
The story and of the Son of God Jesus
NT – History (1)
A history of God’s people, the church, after Jesus goes back to Heaven.
NT – Letters (21)
Letters written by Christian leaders to a church or a person to encourage them in their faith.
NT – Prophecy (1)
Prophets hear God’s word and tell it to the people. The Prophet John tells about things that happened around 2,000 years ago right up until the end of time.
So we now had all 66 books, all grouped into different types of books in our big Bible. And when we read the Bible it’s worth asking ourselves what book is it from and what type of book is it.

12th June
Theme – The big picture in the Bible
At the start of the session we recapped over what we’d learnt so far. That the Bible is a book about God and the Bible tells us about God’s relationship with us. We even brought out the rope trick again to look at the story of our relationship with God from beginning to end in the Bible.
But what of the all the stories in the Bible? How do they fit together? How do we know the order things happened in the Bible? Well we did a quick 5 minute tour of the Old Testament (with actions) and a 3 minute tour of the New Testament (with actions). Ready for it? Here goes:
The big picture – Old Testament
Out of nothing
(CROUCH DOWN)
God made everything
(LEAP UP)
Including us humans
(STAND PROUDLY)
God gave the first humans, Adam and Eve, one rule – don’t eat from the tree of knowledge
(ONE FINGER)
But they thought they knew better than God and they turned their back on God
(POINT TO SELF AND TURN BACK)
And they broke His rule and ate from the tree
(EATING FRUIT)
Adam and Eve were sent from the garden and the relationship with God was broken
(POINTING GET OUT)
But God had a plan to put things right.
(THUMBS UP)
People thought they knew better than God and they turned their back on God so he sent a great flood
(POINT TO SELF AND TURN BACK – RAINFALL)
But God called Noah
(CALL NOAH)
And God saved Noah and his family. And God sent a rainbow
(RAINBOW)
To promise He wouldn’t send a great flood like that again
(HOLDING OUT HANDS)
God called Abraham
(CALL ABRAHAM)
Abraham was very old and had no children
(WALK OLD)
But God promised Abraham a son, a land and everyone would be blessed through his family
(HOLDING OUT HANDS)
And God gave Abraham a son, Isaac
(CRADLE BABY)
Isaac had a son called Jacob or sometimes he was called Israel
(CRADLE BABY)
During a famine Jacob’s family went down to Egypt
(WALK DOWN)
And hundreds of years passed and Israel’s family grew and grew and grew
(BIGGER AND BIGGER)
The Egyptians were scared of them and made Israel’s family their slaves
(WHIP)
But God called Moses
(CALL MOSES)
And Moses led Israel’s family out of Egypt
(WALKING UPSTAIRS)
But they thought they knew better than God and they turned their back on God
(POINT TO SELF AND TURN BACK ON GOD)
And they walked in the desert for 40 years!
(WALK AROUND ON THE SPOT)
But when Moses died God called Joshua.
(CALL JOSHUA)
And God was with the people as they went into the land God promised them. They fought the people there
(FIGHT)
And God gave them the victory and the land
(HAND ALOFT IN VICTORY)
In the land the people were ruled by Judges, like Samson
(STRONG MAN POSE)
And Deborah
(CLEVER – POINT TO FOREHEAD)
Some judges were good and followed God
(POINT TO GOD)
Some were bad and thought they knew better than God and they turned their back on God
(POINT TO SELF AND TURN BACK ON GOD)
The people wanted a king so God gave them a king – Saul
(CROWN SIGN)
But Saul thought he knew better than God and he turned his back on God
(POINT TO SELF AND TURN BACK ON GOD)
So God chose David
(SLING ACTION FOR DAVID)
David was a good king and followed God
(POINT TO GOD)
And God promised David a great king would come from his family
(HOLD OUT HANDS)
The kings after David weren’t so great, most of them thought they knew better than God and they turned their back on God.
(POINT TO SELF AND TURN BACK ON GOD)
So God split the country into two – Israel in the North and Judah in the South
(RIP SELF IN TWO)
But the kings still didn’t listen and thought they knew better than God and they turned their back on God
(POINT TO SELF AND TURN BACK ON GOD)
God called prophets like Elijah and Elisha
(CALL ELIJAH & ELISHA)
To warn the people and the kings
(SHAKE FINGER)
That they should follow GOD
(POINT TO GOD)
But they ignored God’s warnings. So empires came with their armies and beat Israel and Judah
(FIGHTING)
And the people were taken prisoner and taken away from their land
(DRAGGED OFF IN CHAINS)
The people in Judah went to Babylon. And God said they should keep following God
(POINT TO GOD)
And some did. People like Daniel and his friends
(LION ROAR)
And a bigger army came and beat the Babylonians
(FIGHTING)
They were the Persians and they allowed the people to go back to their land and some of them went back to re-build
(BUILDING)
But it wasn’t as grand as before and some people cried
(CRYING)
But God said this wasn’t His plan. God called other prophets
(CALL OTHER PROPHETS)
Through them God gave promises of a great person who was going to come and rescue everyone, not just the people of Judah.
(HOLDING OUT PROMISES)
And the people waited to see who that would be…
The big picture – New Testament
It started in a stable
(HOLD NOSE)
A baby was born – Jesus
(BABY)
A special baby, with a special star to show He was special
(STAR)
This baby was the Son of God.
(POINT TO GOD)
This baby grew into a man
(CROUCH DOWN AND GROW)
And this man, Jesus, did amazing things
(BEND LEG THEN APPEAR AND WOW)
And taught the people amazing things
(TEACHING AND WOW)
Some people listened and followed Jesus
(NOD HEAD AND FOLLOW)
And some thought they knew better than God and they turned their back on Jesus
(POINT TO SELF AND TURN BACK ON JESUS)
The ones who turned their back on Jesus plotted to kill Him
(PLOTTING FINGERS)
But Jesus knew He had to die. To die for us. That was what God promised
(HOLDING OUT HANDS)
So Jesus was killed on a cross
(CROSS SIGN)
But then the most amazing thing happened. Jesus came back to life
(LIE DOWN AND GET UP)
And we can share in this new life of Jesus. A new life with God.
(BRINGING US BACK TOGETHER AGAIN WITH HANDS)
40 days after rising from the dead Jesus went back up to Heaven
(RAISE EYES UPWARDS)
And Jesus promised the Holy Spirit which came to His friends and followers
(FIRE WITH FINGERS ON TOP OF THE HEAD)
And Jesus’ friends and followers, went out and told as many people as possible this good news about God and Jesus and us.
(TELLING EVERYONE)
And they tried to live and follow God, as Jesus wanted them to
(POINT TO GOD)
And today we want to tell people this good news about God and Jesus and us.
(TELLING EVERYONE)
And we want to try to live and follow God, as Jesus wants us to.
(POINT TO GOD)
And the last book of the Bible tells us that one day in the future, everything will be made new
(PING NEW WITH FINGERS)
And we will live with God on a new, perfect Earth.
(BRING HANDS TOGETHER)
In the small groups we then looked at the story of Daniel in two books that give an overview of the whole Bible to see which book they liked best. The older ones reviewed:
The Manga Bible
The Comic Book Bible
And they preferred the Comic Book Bible as it was colour, the language was easier to understand and it was laid out better.
The younger ones reviewed:
The Big Bible Storybook
Veggietables – Bible Storybook
And they preferred the Veggietales one as it was more fun!
This wasn’t just a reviewing exercise as we’ll be buying the books to give to the kids at the end of term as prizes. Comic Book Bible and Veggietable Bible Storybook are now on order!

29th May
Theme – The Bible is a book about God and us
We started the session with a recap of what we looked at last time – well it had been three weeks! We asked what was one way we could find out more about God? Answer – read the Bible as it’s a book all about Him. And we recapped some of the things we’ve learnt about God from the Bible how He loves us, cares for us and sent His Son. But the Bible isn’t just a book about God…
The Bible is a book about God’s relationship with us. You, me, everyone, in fact every person who has ever lived. Now the Bible can be a difficult book to read from cover to cover but it is useful to know the big story in the Bible so we told it using a rope and a pair of scissors.
In the beginning in Genesis We were joined to God, in a perfect relationship with God. Just like this rope, one end is us and one end is God and we’re joined together. But there was a problem – sin. Sin is us thinking we know better than God, us saying to God, I know better than you, I’m going to do what I want, not what you want. And that sin cuts us off from God – so we cut the rope. Now we were separated from God and there was nothing we could do to put things right.
But God could do something about it and God reveals than plan in the Bible. He’s going to send someone from Abraham’s family, He’s going to send someone who’ll be great king like David and lots of prophets told us what this person would be like and what He would do. This chosen one, this Son of Man.
And who was that person? Jesus! And we read about Him coming to earth at the start of the New Testament. And the Bible says Jesus took the punishment for our Sin by dying. But Jesus didn’t stay dead he rose again and we can share in His new life, new life with God. So because of Jesus dying and coming back to life we can be joined back to God. We tied a knot in the rope so we have God and us joined together again.
And this was amazing news and people went out and shared this with as many people as possible and that’s why we know about it today. And then in the last book in the Bible, Revelation, it says we can look forward to things being made new, being made perfect. We will once again be in the perfect relationship to God. At this point we slipped the knot off the rope and showed it was perfect, just as before.
So that was the big story in the Bible, a book about God and His relationship with us. And as we read the Bible we want to ask two questions:
–       What does this tell us about God?
–       What does this tell us about God’s relationship with us?
We then looked at some of our favourite stories in the Bible and asked those two questions about it. I shared one of my favourite stories – the story of Saul encountering Jesus on the road to Damascus. (We told it using a few props, a Go To Jail card, a stone, a map, a light, a blindfold and a letter writing kit). And we asked the kids the two questions above. The replies included that God loves us – even someone like Saul, God can forgive us and that God can change us.
In our small groups we then looked at a few of our favourite stories and asked the same two questions. We looked at how these stories tell us about what God is like and His relationship with us.
8th May
Theme – The Bible tells us about God
We started of the session with a game to help the kids get to know the leaders better. The leaders would give the kids a clue and they would have to guess who it was, if they didn’t get it they’d get another clue until they guessed it right. The leaders’ heroes included Barack Obama, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Thierry Henry and J. K. Rowling. The highlight though was one kid guessing my hero right in zero guesses – Steven Gerrard.
We then asked the kids how they could find out more about their heroes. Take Steven Gerrard for example how could you find out more about him? Answers included from the news, on the internet, Sky sports and in the newspapers. I then pulled out a biography of Steven Gerrard and said that I found out a lot more about him by reading a book all about him. We then asked the same question about Barack Obama and, warming to the theme, the kids said reading a book about him straight away.
And for us leaders there is someone even more important to us than our heroes, someone more special than them – God. And how could we find out more about God? By reading a book about Him – the Bible! There are other ways but the Bible is a great way to find out more about God. It’s a book God has given to us and it tells us what He’s like and what He has done. The Bible is written by people God has spoken to, people God has revealed Himself to in dreams and visions, people who have seen some of the things God has done and people who met and talked with Jesus while He was on earth.
So this book, the Bible, is special to us as it tells us all about God. And in small groups we looked at some of the things it says about Him. We looked at 9 passages in the Bible to see what they told us about God. We learnt that God is Holy, a king, doesn’t die, loving, doesn’t change, powerful, amazing and much more.
We took what these verses said about God and turned them into prayers to God. We wrote on a luggage label ‘We thank you God because you are…’ prayers to praise God. We then tied these prayers to helium balloons, went outside and said them together. As we said Amen we let go and watched the balloons rise, symbolising our prayers rising up to God. A fantastic way to finish off the session about how great God is!

Jesus: Countdown to Easter

This term we’ll be looking at Jesus’ final days as told in John’s gospel. This is a period of time so important to John that he devotes over half of his entire gospel to this period. We’ll be seeing how Jesus is in control of the whole situation and is preparing his friends and disciples for what lies ahead. Jesus shows them He has the power over life and death by raising Lazarus from the dead. He shows He is control by predicting His death and the events around it. He prepares His disciples by teaching them and praying for them. And finally Jesus show His power and glory in His death and resurrection. All told by one of his closest friends who was right there with Jesus during these last days and who has come to understand what was happening then.

Check back here after each session for a summary of what we’ve looked at.

27th March – John 20
Theme – Jesus has the power over life and death
At the end of the last session it looked like the Easter story had a very sad ending. Jesus had been arrested and killed on a cross. It was a difficult, horrible story and it looked like it was all over.
But Jesus had shown his disciples that He was still in control. He had said before He died that Judas would betray (turn against) Him, that Peter would say three times he never knew Jesus and Jesus would be killed by being lifted up (as He was on the cross.). Jesus was in control of events even when it looked like things were going badly wrong. What happened next was incredible, unbelievable almost. So incredible in fact that even Jesus’ friends had difficult taking it in.
We started the session with a challenge for the kids. Who thought they were strong? Those that did we got out the front to try and break an egg with their hands. Easy? They had to squeeze the two ends of an egg between their thumb an forefinger. Who thought they were strong enough to break it? Most kids thought they could do it but no-one could. And Jesus was about to give an even more amazing demonstration of power and strength. Forget eggs Jesus was about to show he was more powerful than death!
We then went through the story of that Sunday morning in John 20. Ros played the part of Jesus and his dead body was put in the tomb on Friday evening. The tomb was sealed up and two guards were placed in front of the stone. Saturday was a special rest day so no-one visited the tomb then but then some women came on Sunday morning and how different things were then! (By this stage Ros had sneaked out so the tomb was empty.) The stone had been rolled away and Mary Magdalene saw that Jesus’ body was gone. Had it been stolen? She ran to get Peter and John and when they got there they too saw the stone moved and Jesus’ body had gone. They didn’t yet know it was because Jesus had come back to life.
And then Mary saw someone, she presumed it was the gardener but when He said her name she knew it was Jesus. It was Jesus! She went to tell the others what she’d seen. Jesus appeared to many of his other friends and they too saw He was alive. They were overjoyed!
One person who hadn’t seen Jesus yet was Thomas and it was all a bit much for him. He didn’t believe it and said unless he saw Jesus with his own eyes and touched Jesus with his own hands he wouldn’t believe it had happened. But a week later Thomas did see Jesus and Thomas also believed he’d come back from the dead.
All these people saw Jesus come back from the dead. It was difficult to get their heads round it but they’d seen Jesus and knew it was true.
Finally in the small groups we thought a little more about what it would have been like to have been one of Jesus’ friends that day. What would you have thought if you were there? Would it have been confusing, weird, amazing?  All three? Would you have been like Thomas and wanted to see it for yourself?
This truly was an amazing event and is right at the heart of the Christian gospel.

13th March – John 18v1 – 19v42
Theme – Jesus’ arrest and death happens just like He said it would
Before today’s story we looked back over some of the predictions Jesus had given His friends, the disciples, about what was going to happen to Him. While they were all eating together Jesus had said that Judas would betray Him (John 13 v 21-26) and that Peter would say three times he didn’t know Jesus (John 13 v 37-38). Jesus also talked a lot about His death, Jesus knew He was going to be killed. And Jesus told His friends that He would be ‘lifted up’ so His friends would know how He would die. We went over these three predictions and asked the kids to look out for them in the story.
We used The Miracle Maker film to tell today’s story. After a meal with Jesus and His friends they went out into a garden together, the Garden of Gethsemane. All except Judas who went off to Jesus’ enemies, the chief priests and the Pharisees. In the video we saw the chief priests’ soldiers come and arrest Jesus, led by Judas. They knew who Jesus was as Judas greeted Jesus by kissing him. Judas had betrayed his friend, just as Jesus said he would.
Jesus was arrested and taken to the chief priests and Pharisees who tried to find a reason to sentence Jesus. Meanwhile in the courtyard outside Peter had crept in to try and find out what was happening. But people there recognised Peter and asked him if he knew Jesus. Not just one, or twice but three times Peter said he didn’t know Jesus. Just as Jesus said he would.
Jesus was found guilty by the priests. But only the Romans could have Jesus killed so the priests took Jesus to the Roman ruler, Pilate. Pilate eventually gave the order to have Jesus killed. Jesus was nailed to a cross and crucified. The cross was lifted up. Jesus had died in the way that He said He would.
So was Jesus in control of these events? He knew what was going to happen but didn’t do anything to stop it. If Jesus could have stopped it why didn’t He? One clue to answer this is in a letter John wrote:
True love is God’s love for us, not our love for God. God sent his Son to be the way to take away our sins.
1 John 4 v 10
Jesus was prepared to go through with this because He loved us. Jesus went through with this to make things right between us and God. Jesus was in control but still choose to let it happen.
We finished this session by lighting a candle and giving the children a few minutes silence to reflect on these events. During the silence they could say thank you to Jesus for what He did.

27th February – John 14v15 – 17v26 
Theme – Jesus prepares His disciples
We’re now moving towards the end of Jesus’ time with His friends before He was killed. In this session we looked at how Jesus prepared His disciples for what lay ahead – Jesus’ death and life without Jesus being on earth.
First of all Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to His friends. The Holy Spirit would help them when Jesus was gone. To illustrate this the two teams were asked incredibly difficult questions (e.g. Q. Who was the King of England in 795 AD? A. Offa – see what I mean). Sometimes they’d have Steve helping them and sometimes they didn’t. With Steve’s help the teams were able to do things they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do. And with the Holy Spirit’s help the disciples would be able to do things they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do.
Jesus also gave His friends some advice. One piece of advice was to stay in Jesus, to keep following Jesus. We read John 15 v1-9 where Jesus says ‘I am the vine; you are the branches’. Just like the branches need to stay in the vine to live so we need to stay in Jesus.
Another command Jesus gave was our memory verse:
“I give you a new command: love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you” 
John 13 v 34. 
We were impressed with how many kids could remember the verse and this important command that Jesus gave His friends, and us.
Finally Jesus prayed for His disciples. So we prayed for each other in our small groups. We prayed, as Jesus did, for unity, that we would be one and that Jesus would help us to love each other.

13th February – John 13 v 18-38
Theme – Jesus is in control of events
The story for this session takes place at the same meal as last time, the meal where Jesus washed His friends’ feet. But before we got to the story we played a little game, a game you might not have heard off before but it was called ‘What will Stavs do?’. The kids were given a poser like ‘You see someone fall over when they are running for a bus, would you…’ and then they were given three options. The kids then had to guess ‘What will Stavs do?’, A, B or C. (The answer to the above was B – laugh). The aim was to get the kids thinking about the future and how difficult it was to know what was going to happen.
Which brought us nicely to the story. As it was the same meal as last session we arranged the tables in the same way and had the kids lie around them as if they were at a big meal. We then selected a few of the kids to be the main characters in the story – John, Peter and Judas. While they were eating Jesus said that one of the friends gathered there would turn against him, would betray him. They all wondered who? Who would let Jesus down after all they’d been through together? Peter told John to ask Jesus who He was talking about, who was going to betray Jesus. Jesus told John it was the person who he’d give a piece of bread to and that person was Judas. Judas took the bread and left the group and went out into the night.
A little later on Peter tells Jesus that he would lay down his life for Jesus. Jesus knew better than Peter what Peter was going to do and Jesus told Peter he would deny he knew Jesus three times. Three times Peter would say he never knew his friend Jesus.
Jesus was showing His friends that He was in control of events. He knew what was going to happen, He knew what His friends were going to do and He was prepared to go through with it, no matter how terrible it would be.
In our small groups we explored Jesus being in control a little more. Not just guessing about what might happen, not just someone who’d been very organised in advance but someone who can control events, people and even life and death.
And we’d see in a few weeks’ time that what Jesus said would happen did indeed happen.

30th January – John 13 v 1-17
Theme – Jesus shows his friends humility
We began this session with a recap of last week’s story. We looked again at the crowds turning out to see and cheer Jesus. Jesus had come into Jerusalem on a wave of popular support and been greeted like a great king.
But not everyone was pleased with Jesus. The religious leaders, the priests and Pharisees, wanted Jesus dead. But Jesus was in control, He knew He was going to die and He was going to let it happen. So what was this great person going to show His friends before He died?
We move on a few days to just before the Passover and Jesus and His friends are gathered together for the evening meal. So we set out the tables, got the kids to lie by the tables on the floor and passed round some fruit for the kids to eat to get into the scene. Then Jesus did something that seems an odd thing to us but was something people normally did then. Jesus went round and washed His friends’ feet. (Actually it was odd Jesus was doing it, normally it would be a servant or someone low down). If you visited someone’s house your feet would probably be sweaty and dirty so you’d want to wash your feet before you arrive.
So at the meal Jesus took a towel and a basin of water and went round and washed His friends’ feet. We didn’t do feet washing but a few kids washed their hands and dried them. We went round the table as Jesus would have gone round His friends.
Until Jesus got to Peter. Peter didn’t want Jesus to wash his feet, it felt wrong to Peter that his leader was washing his feet. But Jesus said Peter needed to let Jesus wash his feet. Peter, as he sometimes did, went too far the other way and wanted Jesus to wash all of him! Jesus said there was no need and Jesus just washed Peter’s feet. Jesus then finished washing the rest of His friends’ feet and went back to His place.
When Jesus got there He asked them if they understood what He had just done. They called Him Lord and Teacher, and that was right as that was what Jesus was, but just as Jesus had washed their feet to they should wash each others’ feet. Jesus was setting an example, and example of humble service. His friends should look to help and serve each other. His friends shouldn’t think themselves too important to do something to help each other. They should be prepared to help and serve each other and be prepared to do the nasty jobs, the jobs that don’t get any credit for doing them.
After the story we looked in more detail at what Jesus had done. Washing feet seems a bit odd to us, but it might be a bit like if someone came to your house you’d take their coat, offer them a drink, make them feel welcome. Except it was more disgusting than that as it involved washing feet!
We got Michael up front to demonstrate why that was necessary. In those days people walked around in either open sandals or perhaps even barefoot. So Michael took off his socks and shoes and walked around a bit. As they walked around their feet probably got sweaty. And in those days you didn’t have tarmac on roads or pavements so you’re feet might get dusty. So we got Michael to walk in a tray of sand to show his feet getting dusty and sandy. And if it rained it might be muddy so we got Michael to walk in a tray of mud. And after tramping around in mud and sand he showed his feet to the kids to get the expected response of ‘Urrgggghhhh!’.
So you can see why when you went to someone’s house you needed and wanted your feet washed. You’d want that to feel clean and freshen up. And we asked the kids if they thought it would be a nice job, most said no (but not all!). And who did you think did it, the most important person in the house or one of the least important? One of the least of course, it’s washing feet! Dirty, smelly feet! We were about to go into small groups when Michael pointed out his feet were dirty and needed washing. After trying to duck out of it he pointed out to me that if I’d been listening to what I’d been talking about perhaps I should wash them. Not think myself too important for the job. So I got the basin and the towel and washed Michael’s feet, to groans and shouts from the kids. It was disgusting!
Once Michael had got His shoes and socks on He taught us a memory verse later on in John’s gospel from the story of Jesus washing His friends’ feet. It sums up rather nicely what Jesus was trying to say, and He would show even greater love for His friends later on.
I give you a new command: love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. John 13 v 34

23rd January – John 12 v 12-19
Theme – The Triumphal Entry
We move on a few days from Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and word was spreading about what Jesus had done. Those that had seen the miracle were telling others and soon a great crowd had come to see this Jesus they had heard about.
We started the teaching by playing a game of Jewish Whispers. For this game one of the kids took a palm leaf, they then passed the palm leaf onto someone else and told them about Jesus. The Cool team passed on the message ‘Jesus has raised to Lazarus from the dead’ and the Hot team passed on the message ‘Come to Jerusalem and see the one who will save us’. Soon the whole room had heard about Jesus and had a palm leaf ready to cheer him into Jerusalem. (This time of year was also a big Jewish festival, the Passover, so a lot of people had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover.) The crowd went out to meet Jesus and waved their palm leaves but what was Jesus going to enter the city on?
We gave the kids four choices to see what they would expect him to come in on. (A) An open top bus like a famous sports team might ride, (B) An elephant which would look very impressive and mighty, (C) A horse like a general in the army might ride or (D) A young donkey. The kids had obviously heard this story before as most said the answer was (D), a young donkey. This great figure, this king, was going to enter the capital city on a young donkey.
We got the kids to act out this scene by waving their palm leaves and shouting what the crowd was shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the king of Israel!” (Hosanna! means Save us!). This was the scene that greeted Jesus when he entered Jerusalem.
This odd scene of a great crowd cheering someone on a young donkey was actually predicted hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Zechariah 9v9-10 talks of a great king entering Jerusalem on a young donkey, exactly had Jesus had done. Jesus’ friends didn’t realise it at the time but this was yet another way that Jesus was showing people that He was the Messiah, the Chosen One. And this great king in Zechariah had come to bring peace to the nations.
But not everyone was happy about this. Last time we saw that the religious leaders, the priests and Pharisees, had decided to kill Jesus and now they were even more unhappy. To them it looked like the whole world was now following Jesus. Something had to be done.
Where would this story take us next?

9th January – John 11
Theme – Jesus has the power over life and death
We started the session by showing video clips of people trying amazing things. Things such as trying to get a spare in two bowling lanes with one ball, trying to jump a ramp on a small plastic tricycle and trying to fly using some fizzy water bottles (shaken). Some amazing things that make you go ‘Wow!’ or least they would do if they succeeded. We asked the kids to guess whether the person (I say person they were all men, it’s always men) could do it or not. ‘Can he do it?’ And when we saw the full clips some could do it and some couldn’t.
This term at Starchasers we are going to be looking at Jesus’ life, particularly the time towards the end of Jesus life, the events leading up to Easter. And we started with a story about Jesus when a lot of people were asking the same question ‘Can He do it?’ Some thought yes, some thought no. Jesus had done some amazing things so what was this thing that made people ask ‘Could Jesus really do it?’.
First of all we set the scene. Jesus and His closest friends, the disciples, had been together for about 3 years. They and others who followed Jesus were amazed by the things Jesus had done. But not everyone was amazed, the religious leaders in Jerusalem were less impressed and began to plot against Jesus.
And today’s story took place in Bethany, near Jerusalem. So going there was going to be risky for the disciples and Jesus. But in Bethany lived some friends of Jesus – Mary, Martha and Lazarus. And one day Lazarus took ill. Very ill. As we went through the story we told it with the help of the wonderful Brick Testament and the kids making appropriate actions (e.g. amazement, ill, waiting, smelling etc.).
When Jesus heard about Lazarus He said Lazarus’s sickness wouldn’t end in death. It would end in glory for God and the Son of God. And then Jesus did something odd. He waited. In fact he waited for two days. Then Jesus announced that Lazarus was dead and He was going to wake Lazarus up. The disciples were confused and frightened but went with Him.
When Jesus got there He met Martha and then Mary. Then both believed that had Jesus got there when Lazarus was ill then Lazarus wouldn’t have died. And some in the crowd were wondering why Jesus couldn’t keep Lazarus from dying. But Jesus couldn’t bring Lazarus back from the dead could He? It all became too much for Mary who cried, then the people with her cried and Jesus was saddened and He cried too.
So Jesus went to the tomb where Lazarus was and asked them to open it. Despite Martha suggesting it might smell a bit as he’d been dead for four days they did it anyway. Jesus then thanked God and called out to Lazarus and out he came! Still covered in the cloths they wrapped him in but Lazarus was alive! The people there were amazed. Jesus really could do that! He really did have power over life and death.
After a slightly silly break with the Mummies game we looked again at the story and Jesus showing his closest friends that He had the power over life and death. Why was that important? Well although people were amazed by what Jesus had done for Lazarus the religious leaders in Jerusalem got even more upset. Now they planned to kill Jesus. The high priest, Caiaphas, said ‘It is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed’.
When Jesus went to Jerusalem there was going to be trouble and there’s where He is heading. He’d just shown His friends that He was in control over life and death but even they would find it difficult to believe that Jesus was still in control over the next few days.

 

Autumn Term 2010: Elijah & Elisha

 

This term we’re going to be looking at two great prophets of the Old Testament – Elijah & Elisha. When they lived it was a really difficult time to be a prophet of God. Ahab and his sons were ruling and Jezebel was queen and queen mother. And they were the worst rulers in Israel’s history as they turned people away from God, wanted people to worship the false-god Baal and were killing the prophets of God. For Elijah and Elisha it was a really difficult time to stand out for God.

But throughout this term we’ll see that God was still in control, He was the one true God. God was in control of the rain, death, nature and even kings and armies. Ultimately God would remove Ahab, Jezebel and their family from the throne and give it to someone else. Even when it seemed like God was far away He was still working, He was still in control.

Check back here after each session for a summary of what we’ve looked at.

12th December – 2 Kings 8-10 
Theme – God keeps His promises
This week at Starchasers we were thinking about waiting for promises to be kept. So we started by seeing how good the kids were at waiting. We gave each of them a marshmallow and promised them if they kept it in their hand for three minutes and didn’t eat it then we’d give them another one. Could they wait? It was hard work for some, especially the leaders! But nearly everyone could wait 3 minutes and they were rewarded with a second marshmallow.
Three minutes could seem like a long time but in our story of Elijah and Elisha we were still waiting to see if some promises God gave Elijah would be kept, and that was over 20 years ago! When Elijah was in the cave on Mount Sinai God spoke to Elijah in a small, gentle voice. He told Elijah that Elisha would be a prophet after Elijah, Hazael would be king of Aram and Jehu would be king of Israel. Now we already knew that the first promise had been kept as we’d been learning about Elisha for the last few weeks, but what about the other two promises?
And so we came to today’s story, a grizzly, sometimes violent story but one that showed God’s word is true. We started with the king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, the same king who attacked Israel last time. He was now very ill and Elisha told Hazael that he would become king of Aram – the same promise God gave Elijah. Hazael took matters into his own hands and smothered Ben-Hadad with a wet cloth and so Hazael became king of Aram – just as God said he would.
Then we turned to Israel where Joram was still king and his mother, Jezebel, is still around. Elisha sends a prophet to anoint Jehu as king and Jehu sets out to confront Jehu. Jehu then gets rid of Joram (shot with a bow and arrow) and Jezebel (pushed out of a window) and indeed all of Ahab’s family. Jehu became king of Israel – just like God said he would.
God took the crown away from Ahab’s family and gave it to Joram and his family. And Jehu got rid of Baal worship in Israel and was a better king than Ahab. But… he still wasn’t that good a king. Jehu still worshipped other gods, not just the one true God. Jehu didn’t follow God like king David had done. He was better than Ahab but he wasn’t great. Was this it? Was this the big ending? We’d waited all this time for a king who wasn’t much better than the last one?
Except that wasn’t the end. There was the promise of another king who would come after Jehu. The people of Israel would have to wait even longer for Him, this perfect king. In small groups we looked at some promises about this king. We saw He would be from Abraham’s family. We saw that He would be of David’s line (family). We saw that He would be born in Bethlehem. Who was this perfect king? Jesus, of course.

28th November – 2 Kings 6v24 – 7 v 20
Theme – God’s power over kings and armies
After the events of last time, where God helped a poor woman and a rich woman through Elisha, we turn back to the king of Israel.
King Ahab was dead (killed by an arrow in battle) and his oldest son Ahaziah was dead (fell from upstairs in his house, both deaths were impressively acted out by the Starchasers kids. So the new king was Ahab’s second son, Joram.
But things were going badly for Joram. He was in his capital city, Samaria. For the purposes of the story we turned the Hot team into Samaria with the area cones being the city walls. A neighbouring country, Aram (aka the Cool team), had it in for Israel. The king of Aram, Ben-Hadad, got his army together and surrounded the city of Samaria – this is called a siege. So the Cool team marched around the Hot team area with the Hot team trapped inside. The Cool team looking menacing and threatening towards the Hot team. The army of Aram stopped anyone getting in and out of Samaria so the people there had no food. In fact they even had to eat donkeys’ heads and bird poo!
Joram, trapped inside sent for Elisha. Why? Well the kids wisely said to ask for God’s help but alas Joram wasn’t as wise as them! Joram wanted to kill Elisha as he blamed Elisha and God for the siege. Luckily Joram was stopped before he got to Elisha and Elisha told Joram that the siege would be over by tomorrow. By the next day the army of Aram would be gone. Really? Not everyone believed what Elisha said but we’d see…
We then played a game with the Cool team surrounding the Hot team and trying to attack them – a twist on the old dodgeball classic.
And then we asked the kids, if you were in Samaria, if you were surrounded by a large army and had no food, who would you want to help you? The answers ranged from aliens to air-drops from America to armies from other countries. But who were the key people God used? 4 men with skin diseases. 4 men who lived outside the city away from everyone else.
We got these four men out and after a few coloured stickers they looked the part. Now these four men had three choices. (1) Stay where they were with no food and die. (2) Go to Samaria, where there was no food, and die. (3) Go to the army of Aram. They might kill them (they would die) but they might not (so might not die). Not a great choice but they thought they’d go for option (3). So they were going to go to the Aramean camp later…
However, in the meantime God sent a sound like lots and lots of horses and chariots (we banged the floor) and a large army (shouts and noises). The Aram army around Samaria were scared and fled (Cool team ran to the edge of the hall, leaving coats scattered everywhere). And then the four men came to the Arameans camp.
They found no-one there just lots of food and drink (well in our case some Haribo). They ate and drank as they were very hungry and thirsty. Then they thought they’d better tell the people in Samaria so went to the walls and shouted over that the Arameans had gone!
King Joram thought it was a trap so picked a few men to go out and look. (The kids crept out carefully into the Cool team area). But it was true, they were gone. God had saved Samaria just like Elisha had said!
We then asked the kids two questions. (1) How did the story show God was in control? Answers included because Elisha had said so beforehand and it was God who sent the noises and sounds. (2) Why do you think God used the four men with skin diseases? Answers included because it might help the rest of the people accept them and God uses all sorts of people. We then finished by praying in our small groups.

14th November – 2 Kings 4
Theme – God’s power to save from poverty & death
Last time we learnt that Elijah went up to heaven with horses & chariots of fire and a whirlwind. Elisha was going to be a prophet for God after Elijah and carry on the work. We began this session with a recap of the story of Elijah going up to heaven, told using an adapted version of Land-Sea-Air. In our version it was Bethel-Gilgal-Jericho-Jordan and as we went through 2 Kings 2 the kids had to run to the place being read out. We quickly learnt that Elijah and Elisha moved around a lot in that story!
We then turned to the stories in 2 Kings 4 which showed God working through Elisha, just as He had worked through Elijah. Both stories were acted out by the kids using the full range of their acting talents and the Starchasers prop department. In the first story we learnt of a poor widow who’s husband had been a prophet of God. When her husband died she had no money and so her two sons would be sold as slaves. Elisha asked her what she had and she said only a small jar of oil. Elisha told her to collect as many jars as she could from her neighbours and so the widow set off round the other kids (neighbours) to see how many jars she could get – as it turned out quite a lot. This lead into a game where her two sons were able to fill jar after jar with oil (well in our game table-tennis balls) and so the woman had enough oil to sell to clear her debts and for her and her sons to live off.
The second story involved another woman, this time a rich one. The rich woman had made a room in her house for Elisha to stay in when he needed it and had been good to Elisha. Elisha wanted to know if there was anything that she wanted to thank her for taking care of him. Elisha promised her a son next year, even thought the woman’s husband was very old. And sure enough next year the woman and her husband had a son. The son grew older but there was bad news ahead. One day the son was in the field with his dad when he complained of a headache. His dad took his son to his mother but unfortunately the son died. The woman went to get Elisha and he came to the boy. Elisha laid on top of the boy and the boy came back to life and sneezed seven times.
Two stories that showed God working through Elisha and helping a poor woman and a rich woman. We looked at these stories in small groups in more detail and asked what they told us about God.

24th October – 2 Kings 2
Theme – God’s plan continues after Elijah
We’ve been learning at Starchasers this term about Elijah but now we’ve reached the end of his story. But as we learnt last time God had told Elijah that Elisha was going to carry on God’s plan after Elijah.
We started the session with a themesetter thinking about some people who’s work had carried on after them. Indeed they might not even have seen the results of their work in their lifetime. We looked at:
Martin Luther King Jr. and his campaign for civil rights. Many others carried on after him and now Obama is president of the USA.
Isaac Newton was one of the greatest scientists and he explained a lot about physics but it didn’t stop with him. People like Stephen Hawking carried on Newton’s work and indeed Hawking was a professor in the same subject at the same university as Newton.
Richard Whittington set up a charity in the 15th Century to help poor people and the charity is still carrying on that work today.
John Wycliffe was one of the first people to translate the Bible into English and the Bible we read today is a result of people carrying on his work.
And finally, William Higginbotham. Never heard of him? He invented the one of the first computer games in 1958, Tennis for Two. Check it out here and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s as good as any game today.
The kids and other leaders were also able to give us a few examples of their own e.g. Rosa Parks & Emily Pankhurst.
With all these examples in our mind we turned to the story in 2 Kings 2 about Elijah going up to heaven and Elisha carrying on Elijah’s work. Elijah and Elisha went to the Jordan river, Elijah took off his hairy coat and hit the water with it. The water parted and Elijah and Elisha crossed over on dry land.
Before Elijah went up to heaven Elisha had asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit, so he could carry on God’s work. Then as they were walking together there was a chariot of fire with horses of fire and a whirlwind that took Elijah up to heaven.
We did our best to create this amazing scene with sparklers, pom-poms and fans but it certainly would have been nowhere near as impressive as what Elijah and Elisha saw. But we were able to use our imaginations to think what it might have been like.
When Elijah was gone, Elisha picked up Elijah’s hairy coat and went back to the Jordan river. Just as Elijah had done before, Elisha hit the water with the coat and the water parted. The Spirit of God was with Elisha, just like it had been with Elijah.
In small groups we looked at the idea of our part in the bigger picture of God’s plan. We thought about people who’ve passed on what they know about God to us and we thanked God for them. Family, friends, people in church. And we also thought about what it means to be part of this huge plan that goes back to Elijah (and before!) and will carry on after us. Scary! Exciting! Gobsmacking!

10th October – 1 Kings 19 – Steve
Theme – God encourages Elijah
And the end of the story last time things were looking really good for Elijah. He’d just shown the people that God was the one true God and that Baal was just a false god. The king was listening to Elijah and obeying him. Surely things were coming to an end and Elijah was going to lead the people back to God?
Except, as we learnt in the story, it didn’t quite work out like that. We acted out the events of 1 Kings 19 and found things worked out rather differently for Elijah. When the king, Ahab, went back to the queen, Jezebel, and told her what happened she was furious, absolutely livid. She was so angry that she wanted to kill Elijah. And when Elijah heard this he was scared and ran. In fact Elijah was so down he felt he couldn’t go on, he just wanted to die.
But God didn’t abandon Elijah, instead God encouraged Elijah. God encouraged Elijah in different ways. He sent an angel to Elijah. God spoke personally to Elijah. Not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire but in a gentle whisper. God told Elijah that he wasn’t alone, there was still 7,000 people who followed God in Israel. That might not be a lot in the whole country but it wasn’t just Elijah vs. the whole country.
And finally God showed Elijah that God’s plan was going to carry on after Elijah. God told Elijah to pour oil on three people (pouring oil is a way of selecting a person for a special task). God told Elijah to pour oil on Hazael who would be king of Aram, on Jehu who would be king of Israel and on Elisha who would take Elijah’s place as prophet. God was showing Elijah that yes Ahab and Jezebel would be defeated and overthrown but he may not see it. God’s plan was going to take longer than perhaps Elijah had been expecting.
After the story we had a game to remind us of how God encouraged Elijah called ‘Bible Whispers’. In groups of 6 or 7 one person got a verse from the Bible where God was encouraging his people and they then had to pass it round the group by whispering. The last person in the line then had to repeat the message they heard and see how close it was to the original. It’s fair to say there were mixed results but those verses were:

  • Psalm 118 v 6
  • Isaiah 41 v 13
  • Deuteronomy 31 v 6

And the ways that God encouraged Elijah are not the only ways that God encourages people. In our small groups we did things a little differently this session. Instead of the leaders asking the kids questions the kids asked the leaders questions. They asked things like our favourite food, our family and the films we liked but they also asked about how God has encouraged us and about times we’ve found it difficult. We were able to share a little of how God has helped us. We then finished by praying for some of the things the kids found difficult and what things they wanted God to help them with over the next few weeks.

26th September – 1 Kings 18
Theme – God is the one true God
We started the session this week with a game of Truth or Lie. Leaders gave us two statements about themselves and we would have to decide which one was a truth and which one was a lie. Who knew that Shan ate Iguana on several occasions or that Helen once danced on TV?
And this set us up for today’s story when Elijah presented the people of Israel with two choices – to serve God or to serve Baal. The people would have to decide who was telling the Truth – Elijah or the prophets of Baal. Who was the one true God and who was the false god? Mary read the story of this choice Elijah presented to the people.
Elijah came to the king and presented him with this challenge. On one side would be the 450 prophets of Baal (and the 400 prophets of Asherah) and on the other side, um, just Elijah. They would each take a bull, prepare it for a sacrifice and put the meat on top of some wood. They would each then pray to their God to send fire to burn up the meat.
Elijah let the prophets of Baal choose which bull they would use and they went first. They shouted out to Baal all morning and all afternoon but there was nothing. No reply, no-one heard them. Indeed Elijah started making fun of them asking where their God was. Was he on holiday? Or perhaps he was asleep and they needed to shout louder!
After many hours of the prophets of Baal trying in vain Elijah had his turn. He took 12 stones to rebuild the altar of the Lord. He dug a small ditch around the altar. He put the wood and then the meat on the altar. And then he soaked it all in water. Three times! Then Elijah prayed to God. He asked God to answer his prayer and show the people that the Lord was the one true God.
Wham! The Lord sent fire down. The fire burned up the meat, the wood, the stones and even the water that had run into the ditch. The people fell down and cried out – The Lord is God! The people were in no doubt who the one true God was and who the false god was. (And at the end God even sent the rain again!)
We recapped the story again, this time using cake and biscuits. We built the altar using 12 stones (cakes). We then placed the wood on top (chocolate fingers). And finally on top of that we placed the meat (marizpan). We then soaked it in water (chocolate sauce). And then Mary put a firework in top to show the fire God sent down from to burn everything up. Our fire didn’t burn everything up but we found another way to consume everything!
We finished the session by thinking over the story again in small groups and asking the kids – do you believe God is the one true God? If so, why? And if not what would you want to find out to convince you?
So was this mission accomplished for Elijah? Would the country start following God after this powerful display? Find out next time.

12th September – 1 Kings 17
Theme – God is in control
At the start of a session we had a quiz between two teams. Well I say teams it was Ros against everyone else. Perhaps not surprisingly Ros lost and it seemed unfair and difficult as it was just him against everyone else.
But this showed us a little of how Elijah felt. He often felt that it was just him against everyone else. It wasn’t quite as bad as Elijah thought it was but nearly everyone else had turned away from God and very few people in Israel still followed God.
We looked back at the history of Israel and Judah to see what had happened and we learned that when Elijah was around things were pretty bad. The king, Ahab, and his queen, Jezebel, were the worst rulers Israel had ever had. They turned the people away from God, they worshipped a false-god Baal and they were killing God’s prophets. You can see why at times Elijah felt like it was him against everyone else!
But did this mean that God was not in control? Of course not! We looked at the story of Elijah and the drought and saw that God was still in control, even when the country had turned away from Him.
God had told Elijah that He was going to stop the rain, He was going to bring a drought on the land. Because of the drought there would be a shortage of food and water in the land but God was going to take care of Elijah.
First God took Elijah to a brook, which he could drink from, and God commanded ravens to bring Elijah bread and meat in the morning and evening. When the brook dried up God sent Elijah to a widow. The widow had only a little flour and oil left and that was about to run out. The widow thought that she would just be able to make one more meal then she and her son would starve to death. But God provided for them all by making sure the flour or oil didn’t run out as long as there was a drought.
Then the story took an unhappy turn when the widow’s son died. But God showed that He is even in control of life and death and bought the widow’s son back to life.
Looking back through the story we thought about how it showed that God was in control. Those who followed the false-god Baal believed that he was in charge of the rain but he had to submit to the god of death so for a season there was no rain. But God showed that He is in charge of the rain and death submits to Him!
So although Elijah might have felt that it was him against the world God was showing Elijah He cared for him and that God was still in control.

 

Summer Term 2010: Ruth

This term we’ll be looking at the book of Ruth. In this book we see remarkable kindness shown by two of the main characters, Ruth & Boaz. And at this time, the time of the Judges, kindness was definitely not the norm!  The book of Ruth is a refreshing change from what has gone before in Judges.

We’ll be going through the story of Ruth each week and then we’ll be getting the kids to make a film in which they tell the story of Ruth. We are hoping to show this film at the Parish-wide Starchasers service at St. Andrew’s Church on the 18th July.

Check back here after each session for a summary of what we’ve looked at.

27th June & 11th July– Ruth 1-4

For these two sessions we’ll be making a film of the story of Ruth to share with the rest of the Parish. If you want to see the finished film and find out what we’ve been learning about at Starchasers this term then please come to the Parish wide Starchasers Service, 10.30am Sunday 18th July at St. Andrew’s Church. Click on the picture above to download a pdf version of leaflet.

13th June – Ruth 4
Theme – God blesses Ruth and Boaz
The final part of our story of Ruth and how will it end? Last time we learned that Ruth was making moves towards Boaz to be their Kinsman Redeember but Boaz knew of someone who was a closer relative to Naomi than he was. So Boaz, who wanted to do things properly, was going to approach this man to see if he wanted to redeem and rescue Naomi and Ruth.
The story today was told through a couple of chatty ladies who liked to catch up on what’s going on over a cup of coffee. The two ladies were played by Stavs and Mary and they showed us what good actors they were by being very convincing as two gossips. In the first part we heard them talk about Boaz approach the closer relative and to see if he wanted to rescue Naomi and Ruth. Boaz did this in front of the town’s elders so everything would be done properly. Initially the closer relative wanted to buy Naomi’s family land but when he heard he would have to take care of Ruth as well he became less keen. So the closer relative passed this responsibility onto Boaz and to show that he took off his sandal and gave it to Boaz in front of all the elders. So Boaz was going to buy Naomi’s family land, take care of her and he was also going to marry Ruth. The ladies approved as Boaz was a lovely man and they hoped God would bless their marriage.
And nine months later we dropped in on the ladies again to hear what had happened. It turns out God had blessed Ruth and Boaz as they had a little boy, a son called Obed. After all the bad things that had happened to Naomi and Ruth this was great news indeed. At the start of the story it looked like their family line would not continue but now God blessed them.
And how did He bless them! Obed turned out to be the grandfather of David, who we learned about a couple of terms ago at Starchasers. From Naomi’s, Ruth’s and Boaz’s family came this great king. And that wasn’t all, generations later from this family line came Jesus who rescued the whole world. A truly amazing end to the story of Ruth.

23rd May –Ruth 3
Theme – Boaz is going to rescue Ruth & Naomi
At the start of the session we introduced the word ‘Goel’. It’s a Hebrew word but what does it mean? Well it means Kinsman Redeemer. Hmm, not much clearer there so we broke it down further. Kinsman, as some of the older kids knew meant a family member or relative. So a kinsman was a member of your family. Redeemer meant someone who saves or rescues. And this immediately made us think of Superman – cue Superman T-shirts, pretend flying and THAT theme tune. So now we had a better idea of what Goel, or Kinsman Redeember, meant. It was a close relative who rescued someone. And God had said in his law that if someone was in trouble or needed helped a close relative, or Kinsman Redeemer, should rescue them if possible. But what has that got to do with the story of Ruth?
We looked back over the story so far and asked who needed rescuing – it was Ruth and Naomi. They had returned to Bethlehem with no money, no food and no husbands. In those days that didn’t just mean they were poor but also that they had little chance of earning money or getting land so they could grow food. But last time we met someone who showed kindness to Ruth and Naomi – Boaz. And it turns out Boaz was a close relative so could he rescue them? Would Boaz be there Kinsman Redeemer?
And today’s story was all about a, to be honest, slightly odd courtship ritual between Ruth and Boaz and we got the kids to act out this slightly strange story.
When Naomi found out Boaz was a close relative of hers she takes steps to help bring Boaz and Ruth together. She tells Ruth to go to where Boaz was sleeping, which was on his grain pile. Well you’ve got to be wary of thieves in the time of the Judges. Once there Ruth uncovered Boaz’s feet and lay down. (This was apparently how they did things back then.)
When Boaz awoke he knew what Ruth was saying and was happy. (We think he quite liked Ruth all along.) But Boaz wanted to do things properly. He wasn’t the closest relative to Naomi so this other relative should be allowed the opportunity to rescue Naomi and Ruth first.
But Boaz didn’t just brush off Ruth and Naomi forget about them. He promised to go see this man who was a closer relative and offer him first refusal. If he didn’t want to rescue them then Boaz said he definitely would. This week we see not just Boaz’s kindness but his desire to do things properly, to obey God’s law. And he didn’t just abandon Naomi and Ruth but would help them sort it out. He was going to make sure someone redeemed / rescued them, even if it wasn’t him.
So what does happen? Tune in next time to find out…

9th May –Ruth 2
Theme – Boaz shows Ruth & Naomi kindness at the harvest

We started the session by thinking about surprises and what had surprised us recently. For the kids the responses included a surprise birthday present, that they were going to spend some time with their dad and that a Banksy had appeared outside their house overnight. Mary was surprised this week when she found an Australian bandy bandy snake in her garden! Here’s a picture of a one and the snake she found is now at London Zoo. And in today’s story we see that Naomi and Ruth are surprised by kindness, they are surprised when Boaz is kind to them.
When we left the story last time Naomi and Ruth had returned to Bethlehem but they had no money and no way of earning so what were they going to do for food? We told the story by getting the kids up the front and getting them to do an action each time their word was mentioned in the story. This included sign language for Ruth and Naomi, a flick of the cape for Boaz, using a sickle for the harvest, a light bulb for an idea an a saw for ‘saw’.
We learnt that Ruth went out to the fields to try and get some grain for her and Naomi. In those days in Israel when people harvested they were meant to let the poor people come after them and pick up the stalks and grains they’d left behind at the first attempt so Ruth joined this group of people. She ended up working in the field of a man called Boaz. Boaz showed kindness to Ruth and let her harvest in his field for the whole harvest. He offered her water to drink as she worked, protected her from any hassle she might have got from his men working there and asked his men to help make her job easier by leaving some grain behind for her to harvest.
Boaz had heard about the kindness Ruth had shown Naomi and he wanted to show kindness to Ruth as well. In fact, he went one stage further. He invited Ruth to eat with him and his men at mealtime. She wasn’t just a poor foreigner working in the field but she was made part of the group.
Ruth took a lot of grain back to Naomi and when she heard it was Boaz’s field she praised God. Naomi praised God for Boaz’s kindness and also because Boaz was a close relative of theirs so may be able to offer them more than just food (more next time!)
We also took a little time to explore kindness in the session. Kindness is a characteristic of God and a fruit of the Spirit. God has shown us kindness and He wants us to shown kindness to others.

25th Apr –Ruth 1
Theme – Ruth sticks by Naomi at a very difficult time
We started the session by setting the scene for the book of Ruth. And we did this using lemon juice. We had lemon juice in 3 cups and when we drank the lemon juice it tasted bad, it was very bitter. And this was what life was like when Ruth lived. It was a time when the judges ruled Israel and the book of Judges tells us that everyone did whatever they wanted. And that wasn’t good. Some people were killing each other, some were stealing from each other, some were beating each other up, there was civil war and many people weren’t worshipping God. Everyone did whatever they wanted. And the bad, unpleasant lemon juice reminded us of what it was like at that time.
But the book of Ruth is different to the end of the book of Judges. In it we see people caring for each other and showing kindness to each other. These people really stand out from the rest of the world. So into one of our cups of lemon juice we put some sugar. It made the lemon juice sweet and pleasant and really made that cup stand out from all the others. We shuffled the three cups up and invited different people up to the front to try the cups and see if they could see if one stood out. Each time they were able to spot the sweet one – the one that tasted sweet and pleasant and not bad and bitter. And just like that we see Ruth’s and Boaz’s kindness standing out from the rest of the world.
And so having given some background to the story we looked at Ruth chapter 1. We told the story by getting some kids up front to act out the story and play the different parts. And we also stopped at key points and asked the kids what they thought two of the main characters, Naomi and Ruth, may have been feeling at that point in the story.
So we met Elimelech and his wife Naomi and their two sons Mahlon & Kilion. At the start of the story they lived in Bethlehem, in Israel, but there was a shortage of food there and they were very hungry. They heard there was food in Moab so the whole family moved to live in Moab. We got the family walking round the hall to their new home. And while they were in Moab the two sons married two woman from Moab – Orpah and Ruth. So we had our 6 main characters for the story.
But when they were living in Moab something really bad happened. Elimelech died. We asked the kids how Naomi must have been feeling and they said sad & unhappy. And things got worse when her two sons, Mahlon & Kilion, died. We asked how Naomi must be feeling now and the kids said very, very sad, lonely and anxious, as she wouldn’t be sure what to do now. And we asked how Ruth was feeling and again we got very sad and lonely as she had lost her husband. It was a time of great sadness for this family and these three ladies. And it was even worse in those days if you lost a husband or a son as usually they would be the person earning money and getting food for the family. These three ladies were not only sad but could also be very poor.
Now Naomi heard there was food once again in Bethlehem and, years after she had left, she set out to go to Bethlehem. Orpah and Ruth went with her but on the way Naomi said that they should turn back, go back to their own families and their own country. Both daughters-in-law said they would go with Naomi. Naomi begged them to turn back – she couldn’t offer them much of a life and she certainly couldn’t offer them another husband. They would be better off trying to make a new life in their own country. At this Orpah turned back to Moab. But Ruth refused to go, she stuck by Naomi and wanted to stay with her. And we looked at the words of v16&17 to see what Ruth said to Naomi. We asked the kids again what they thought Naomi and Ruth might be feeling at this point. There was a mixture of thinking they would be happy to be together, worried and Naomi being annoyed Ruth didn’t listen to her.
So both woman went to Bethlehem and went to live there. But what were they going to do for food?
Looking back at the story we focused on the kindness of Ruth. She didn’t have to stick with Naomi but she did. She wanted to help her mother-in-law and friend and not leave her on her own. Naomi needed a friend and she’d need someone to help her get food. But it wasn’t easy for Ruth, it was difficult for her to stick by Naomi. It meant leaving her country, her family, going to live as a foreigner, perhaps giving up her chance of starting her own family and struggling to get food to eat. Sometimes it’s difficult to be kind.
And we ended with the memory verse from Ruth 1 v 16, that reminded us of Ruth’s commitment and kindness to Naomi. As we are going to be filming the story of Ruth later we did the memory verse in the style of auditions for the part of Ruth. People came in to the director and read the memory verse as they imagined Ruth might have said it.
“But Ruth said, “Don’t beg me to leave you or to stop following you. Where you go, I will go. Where you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.” – Ruth 1 v 16
So we see Ruth’s act of kindness towards Naomi and what it cost here. But things were still difficult for them and Naomi and Ruth would struggle to find food in Bethlehem, even when the harvest was over.

 

Spring Term 2010: Jesus said “I am…”

This term we’ll be looking at John’s gospel and in particular Jesus’ “I am…” statements. We’ll look how Jesus describes Himself and see what they tell us about Him and His mission.

Check back here after each session for a summary of what we’ve looked at.

28th Mar –I am the resurrection and the life (John 10 (John11v25))
Theme – Jesus offers us new life through His death and resurrection
For our last session of term we were looking at Jesus saying ‘I am the resurrection and the life’. We didn’t look at the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead where Jesus said this statement but instead focused on Jesus’ own death and resurrection and what that means for us.
We told story of Jesus’ death and resurrection through cookery. Each ingredient reminded us of a different part of the Easter story and as it was added to the mix we read the passage it reminded us about.

We beat and smashed up some chocolate – Jesus was beaten by the soldiers
Vinegar – Jesus was given vinegar to drink on the cross
Egg whites – Eggs represent new life, Jesus died to offer us new life
Salt – Reminds us of the tears shed by Jesus’ friends and family
Sugar – The sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died for us
Put the mixture out on paper cases – Jesus body was wrapped in cloth after he died
Put cases in a tin and sealed the tin before it was placed in the oven – Jesus body was put in a tomb and then the tomb was sealed

So we left the story with Jesus being killed and placed in the tomb. In small groups we talked a little more about the story. What it must have felt like for Jesus’ friends and disciples after His death and then after His resurrection. What Jesus rising from the dead means for us – how we can share in this new life.
After small groups we gave out the cooked biscuits as we watched a video of a reading from Matthew 28. We heard how the women were told by an angel that Jesus rose from the dead. We heard that they saw and touched Jesus after He came back from the dead. We heard that Jesus told them to tell the disciples and then He told the disciples to tell everyone about it. And as we listened we looked inside our biscuits and saw they were hollow, reminding us of Jesus empty tomb.
Through making biscuits we learnt about the Easter story and how Jesus was the resurrection and the life. And we learnt that through Jesus we can share in the resurrection and this new life.

7th Mar –I am the true vine (John 15 (v5))
Theme – We can only live as Jesus wants us to if we stay close to Him
This session we were thinking all about fruit so to get us in the mood we had a blind fruit testing. We threw down the gauntlet to the kids to see if they could recognise different fruits when they tasted them blindfolded. Turns out they could, which was reassuring for those concerned about both the message behind the themesetter and the diet of our kids.
We then looked at the passage in John 15 v 5 where Jesus says, “I am the vine, and you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him, will bear much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.” We then produced a mock-up vine to show what it looked a bit like. A large vine (trunk) in the middle, branches attached to the vine and bunches of grapes (purple balloons) growing on the branches.
Why did Jesus use the example of the vine and fruit? Well where Jesus and His friends were vines would have been a common sight so Jesus was using everyday things to help explain things to His friends. Like the examples of the sheep, light and bread we looked at earlier in term, all things they would have been used to. So everytime they saw a vine they would have been reminded of what Jesus was saying.
So what was Jesus trying to say? This took place shortly before Jesus’ death so His friends would have been worried that Jesus was no longer going to be with them. But although a time was soon coming when they wouldn’t be able to see Him, He would still be with them but living inside them. Just like the life of the branch can’t be seen on the outside but there is life if it is connected to the vine and we know there is life because of the fruit.
It was to reassure His friends that He would still be close to them and to encourage them to stay close to Him, to remain in Him. And it was also to encourage us, those who follow Jesus, to stay close to Him as well, to remain in Him. If Jesus’ friends did that they would bear fruit, if we do that we will bear fruit.
What is this fruit? In our small groups we each took a bunch of grapes
(purple balloons) and burst them one by one. Inside each were written one of the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5 v 22&23: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We looked at them and thought who showed all these fruits? Jesus! And we discussed which ones we thought we’d like to have more of. We then split into pairs and prayed for each other, that we’d stay close to Jesus and bear these fruits of the Spirit. The small groups also gave us a chance to ask the kids how close they felt to Jesus and whether they felt they were in Him and bearing fruit.
We also looked at an everyday example from our lives that might make the same point Jesus was trying to make. Instead of vines and fruit we went for Fairy lights. We are the lights and if we stayed plugged into Jesus we can shine in the world.

28th Feb – I am the way and the truth and the life (John 14 (v6))
Theme – Through Jesus we can know God and have new life in God
We started off this session by getting the kids to read through the first part of John 14. We heard about Jesus going to His Father’s house to prepare a place for us (there are many rooms there). But how can we get there? If we don’t know where Jesus is going how can we know the way? Jesus is the way. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. If we want to find the way to His Father’s house we need to know Jesus. And if we want to find out what the Father is like we can look at Jesus.
We focused on the central verse about Jesus being the way and the truth and the life. First we gave the kids different words in the verse and then got them to arrange themselves in the correct order. Then we looked more at how Jesus can show us the way to God, can show us how to live and show us what God is like.
In small groups we explored this verse in a couple of other ways. We used a set of puzzles and activities to reinforce the message about Jesus being the way and the truth and the life. Among the older ones we took a sheet of paper and drew a line down the middle. On one side we wrote all the things we knew about Jesus and what He did (e.g. healing people, didn’t sin, died for us) and on the other we then wrote what that could tell us about God (e.g. powerful, Holy, merciful). Again it was a chance for the kids to discover for themselves more about Jesus and God.

14th Feb – I am the good shepherd (John 10 (v11))
Theme –Jesus loves, guides and protects us
This week saw the return of an old friend, my pet orang-utan Boris. We asked the kids if Boris was my pet what sort of things would I do for him. I feed Boris, I give him water to drink and I play with Boris. We also saw that I know Boris and he knows me, He will follow me when I call him and that I protect Boris from the big scary dog next door. But why do I do all these things for Boris? What do I all this? Because I love Boris and care for him. Just like we would love, care for and look after our pets.
And this helped us to start thinking about today’s verse – Jesus said I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd looks after his sheep because he loves them, much like we look after our pets because we love them. Although we did mention that being a shepherd in Jesus’ day was tough, having to be outside all day, every day, having to sleep outside and being ready to fight off wolves and other animals. Shepherds were really tough, hard men. But good shepherds still loved and cared for their sheep.
So in what ways does a good shepherd care for his sheep? We looked at John 1o to see what Jesus said about being a good shepherd. We saw that a good shepherd knows his sheep (v14-15), a good shepherd leads his sheep (v3-4) and a good shepherd protects his sheep, and will even lay down his life for his sheep (v11-13). We split into three groups to act our these three scenes of a shepherd knowing his sheep (calling them by name and them coming), leading his sheep (to grass, water and the pen for the night) and protecting his sheep (scaring off a big wolf). So we see how a shepherd loves and looks after his sheep.
And if Jesus is the good shepherd who are His sheep? We are! His sheep are His people. So Jesus looks after us and cares for us because He loves us. Jesus knows us, leads us and protects us, even laying down His life for us. We then prayed for different places we are during the week and how Jesus is a good shepherd to us there, how He looks after and cares for us there. We thought about Home, School and Starchasers & Church and about how Jesus is a good shepherd to us in those places. We then prayed to thank him for looking after us there. We invited the kids to think of how Jesus looks after us in these places and some answers were:
Home – giving us our parents to look after and guide us, providing us with food and drink, being able to pray to Jesus there and get to know Him.
School – looks after us and is with us if we face bullies or things we’re frightened off, gives us teachers to teach us
Starchasers and church – guides and leads us by teaching us, can pray to Jesus there and get to know Him and gives us friends to look after us.
We finished by praying together to thank Jesus for being a good shepherd and looking after and caring for us, His sheep.

31st Jan – I am the light of the world (John 8v12, Isaiah 9v2)
Theme –Life without God is like darkness, Jesus shows us new life, life with God
We began the session by thinking about darkness. First, what happens if we can’t see? We got people up in pairs, blinfolded both of them and then got them to try and feed each other cereal. The results were hilarious but they also showed us how difficult it can be when we can’t see. How difficult it can be to do things when we can’t see what we’re doing or have no-one to guide us.
We then asked the kids to think about some words that come to mind when they think of darkness and they said words like scared, frightened, lost, alone. This helped us think a little about darkness, when there is no light and what life is like without God. A life with no guidance, a life that is scary, alone and where we feel lost.
But thankfully we don’t have to live in darkness. Jesus said I am the light of the world and He offers us a different way to life, life with God. Jesus is the light of the world in that He guides us and shows us the way to God. And Jesus is the light of the world in that He shows us what God is like as He is the Son of God.
In our small groups we thought a little more about light. We each made a candle and holder and wrote on it “Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world’”. On the holders we tried to show different ways that Jesus is like light. Some people drew stars or a torch as they can guide us just like Jesus can guide us. Others wrote God as light reminds us of God’s presence and Jesus was the Son of God.
At the end of the session we lit all the candles and read from Matthew 5 where Jesus says we are like light. We are to go show God to the world and show people the way to God. We finished by praying together thanking Jesus that He is the light of the world.

10th Jan – I am the bread of life (John 6 (v48))
Theme – Jesus offers new life to the world
We started off this session by thinking about things we might compare ourselves to. We took ice as an example and what’s one thing you might think of when you think of ice? That it’s cold. So we might say we’re as cold as ice – something very apt given the big freeze at the moment! We went through a few other examples and then asked them to think about what they might compare the leaders to. We got back:
Gilly – Monkey, cheeky and playful
Mary – Parrot, very colourful
Stavs – Tiger, dressed in stripes and purr-fect
Shan – Gorilla, very hairy
Steve – Watermelon, round

The cheek of it. I’m much hairer than Shan. Anyway we did this to show that these comparisons can tell you a lot about a person. If you didn’t know us you’d know us better and know more about what we’re like if you heard one of these comparisons. And this term we’ll be looking at John’s gospel where Jesus compares himself to many things. He says “I am…” on many occasions and these tell us more about what Jesus is like and why He came to earth.
The first of one we looked at is bread. That might seem a bit odd so we looked at that in more detail. We got the kids to lie on the floor and got them to imagine what it would be like without food. Imagine going a few hours without food, what would you feel like? What would your stomach be like? What would you be thinking off? Now imagine if you missed two meals, you went hours without food. Now imagine it was a whole day since you’ve eaten, what are you feeling like? Then someone gives you some food, some bread. What do you do with the bread? What does that feel like? We then gave everyone a small slice of bread and got them to act out what they would do with it if they hadn’t eaten for a whole day.
Now this situation was very real to the people following Jesus. They’d gone hours without food, maybe even the whole day, and they were hungry. But Jesus did something? We asked the kids if they knew and when we told them there were over 5,000 people they were able to tell us about Jesus feeding the 5,000. He took a young boy’s lunch and with it fed over 5,000 people. These people knew how important bread was. They knew they needed bread, they knew bread was important for life.
These people then followed Jesus, perhaps looking for another miracle, perhaps looking for more food. But what did Jesus tell them? He told them: “I am the bread of life”. He told them that because they knew what it was like to need bread but they also needed Jesus. They needed Jesus and the new life with God He was offering. When Jesus said “I am the bread of life” He was telling the people they needed Him and they needed the life He was offering.
In our small groups we then explored the idea of Jesus being the bread of life further. We took a slice of bread each, a filling and then added some other ingredients and sauces. The kids then had to explain what ways they thought Jesus was the bread of life and how they could show that with their sandwich. We had:
Red sauce – Jesus’ blood and Him dying for us
Mayonnaise – White, reminds us of peace
Meat – Jesus gave His flesh for us
Cucumber – Round, Jesus made the world
Face – Some made a face from the ingredients, that showed Jesus was a person
Food – Jesus made all this food we eat
Daddies sauce – Jesus shows us the way to the Daddy, God the Father

We then closed in prayer to thank God for sending Jesus and for the new life He offers and to pray that we need Jesus.

 

Autumn Term 2009: David – The boy who would be king

 

Our series for the Autumn term will look at the life of David, from humble beginnings working as a shepherd on his dad’s farm to his rise to be one of the greatest kings ever of Israel.

Check back here after each session for a summary of what we’ve looked at.

13th Dec – Christmas: A king from David’s line (2 Samuel 7v11-16)
Theme – Jesus, whose kingdom will last forever
Throughout the term we’ve been looking at promises and in particular the promises that God gave David. We saw right at the start of term God promised David that he would be king and God kept that promise. In this session we looked at a promise that God gave David about his descendants and their kingdom lasting forever.
We started by getting the kids to look through the Bible for promises God gave about David, his descendants and a kingdom that lasted forever. We started with 2 Samuel 7v11-16 and also looked at Jeremiah 23 v 5-6, Isaiah 9 v 6-7 and Luke 1 v 31-33. We had to explain what ancestors and descendants were but luckily with a father and son in the group we could explain that by thinking about their fathers and their sons.
These verses told us all about a king. A king from David’s family. A king who be right and just. A king whose kingdom would last forever. And who was this king? Jesus!
We looked at the Christmas story and saw how Jesus kept these promises. His great (x a lot) grandfather was king David. He was born in Bethlehem, the city of David. A star was used as a sign to show a new king was born. And wise men bought him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, gifts fit for a king.
So at Christmas we see God keeping His promise to David about a king from his line whose kingdom will last forever. And that king is Jesus.

29th Nov – David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11&12)
Theme – David sins and needs to be forgiven

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen how David has trusted God and obeyed Him. We’d seen how God had made David king, had protected and looked after David and had blessed David in many different ways. But David wasn’t perfect, he could mess things up just like the rest of us. And we saw in this story how David went wrong, went really, really wrong.
Before we looked at the story about David, Stavs showed us a favourite plate of hers. It was a very precious plate to her and she gave it to Steve to look after. However, when Steve was putting the plate away he dropped it and the plate smashed. Steve hid the plate and asked everyone to cover up what he did. Unfortunately Stavs found the plate and Steve’s attempt to cover things up just made things worse. [Disclaimer – plate wasn’t actually Stav’s favourite and she knew it was going to be broken. You can relax now.]
And that reminded us of the story of David and Bathsheba. The story started when David’s armies were off fighting but David was back in the city. When he was there he saw Bathsheba, thought she was very beautiful and invited her back to his palace. But Bathsheba had a husband and David shouldn’t have done that. He tried to cover up his mistake by arranging to have Bathsheba’s husband (Uriah) killed while he was fighting in a battle for David’s armies. Uriah was killed and David married Bathsheba and she went to live with him. Had David managed to get away with doing something wrong? Had he managed to cover up his mistake?
No he didn’t! David couldn’t hide what he’d done from God. God sent a prophet, Nathan, to see David and Nathan told David a story. Nathan told the story of a rich man who owned many cattle and a poor man who owned just one lamb. The lamb was a pet lamb to the poor man, almost like a child to him. A visitor came to see the rich man and the rich man wanted to give his visitor a meal. But rather than take one of his own sheep or cattle he went and killed the poor man’s lamb and served that up instead. David was furious when he heard and thought the rich man would have to pay for what he had done!
Then Nathan pointed out that David was like the rich man. God had given David his kingdom, his riches and his wives and yet he still went out and stole the wife of another man – Uriah. In fact he had had Uriah killed so he could steal his wife. David realised his mistake and realised he couldn’t hid his mistakes from God. He prayed to God, he said sorry and God forgave him. God still punished David for his sin but God was able to restore their friendship and David could carry on serving God.
And in small groups we thought about some of the mistakes we made, when we’d done things wrong. We can’t hide them from God or cover them up, instead we need to say sorry and ask God to forgive us.

22nd Nov – David brings the Ark back to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6)
Theme – David didn’t worry about what others thought only God

We met someone new today at Starchasers – Colin. He looked a bit like Tom but it wasn’t him. It really wasn’t. Someone completely different. And Colin wasn’t very good at making choices. For example Colin had a football match and a concert on the same day and couldn’t decide which one he should go to.
We helped Colin by getting him to think about which one was more important to him and that’s the one he should choose. That’s the one that should come first. And it wasn’t just the football vs. band problem he’d also double booked the next week as well. It was his friend’s party that he really wanted to go to but it was the same day as his mum’s birthday meal. What should he choose? It was tough but he thought his mum’s birthday was more important so he chose that, his mum came first. So Colin helped us to think about what is more important, what comes first for us. And that was the theme of today’s story.
Last week we learned that David had become king, just as God had promised. David was now king over the whole country of Israel and then he captured the city of Jerusalem with God’s help. David had made Jerusalem his new captial city so David was now king over the whole country ruling from Jerusalem. And David was going to bring the ark into Jerusalem. The ark was a holy object that was very important to the Israelites, where it was it showed that God was present there. By bringing the ark to Jerusalem David was showing the people God was there with them and David was showing that it was God who was the true king of Israel.
So David was bringing the ark into the city of Jerusalem and it was a big deal for David. As it was being brought in David danced and leapt about praising God. He took off his kingly robes as he was dancing. The people cheered and sounded trumpets as it came in. And when it arrived David blessed the people and gave out bread, dates and raisins to celebrate.
Then David went home to bless his house and his wife Michal was there. And she wasn’t happy. Oh no. She’d seen David dancing and jumping before God and she didn’t like it one little bit. She thought he hadn’t acted in a very kingly way taking his kingly robes off and dancing around like that. What would people think! And David replied – I did it for the Lord. David didn’t worry that people might think less of him, he was only worried about what God would think. That’s what really mattered to him.
So we carried on our theme of thinking about what’s more important to us, who is going to come first. We’d seen Colin had put his band first and his mum first. Then we looked at today’s story about David and saw two choices – between God and other people. Were they more worried about what God thought or what other people thought. Who was more important to them? Who was going to come first?
We asked who David put first in today’s story? God had come first for him, he wasn’t worried about other people thinking he was acting silly or not in a kingly way, he was just worried about what God thought and wanted to praise God. What about Michal, David’s wife? She put other people first, she was more worried about what other people thought than God. She was ashamed and embarrassed about how her husband had acted.
And then in small groups we asked about the times when we find it difficult to put God first, when it’s difficult to worry more about what God thinks than other people. It could be telling people what you believe or telling them about what you do on Sunday. Or it could be when people want you to do something but you know God wants you to do something else. Leaders and kids shared times when we found it difficult to put God first and to remember that God is more important. The times that came out in small groups were different for different people and they included –  at school or work, playing with people who live near us or with our family if they didn’t believe in God. We closed in prayer for God to help us and be with us in those difficult situations over the next week.

8th Nov – David is made king (2 Samuel 2&5)
Theme – God always keeps his promises

We started off this session by thinking about promises. We got the kids to think about a promise someone had made to them. For example, someone promised to take them to the park, to get them something for their birthday or to help them with their homework. So we all knew what a promise was.
Then we looked at keeping promises. We looked at three people to see if we thought they kept their promises. First up was Homer Simpson and we looked at a promise he made to his daughter Lisa and a promise he made to his son Bart. We saw Homer didn’t keep his promise to Lisa but did keep his promise to Bart. How do we think Lisa felt? Sad, let down, embarrassed and disappointed were some of the answers the kids gave. How do we think Bart felt? Happy, glad, excited and relieved were some of the answers the kids gave. So we were starting to think what it felt like if someone kept a promise to us and if someone didn’t. Much better to keep a promise and not let someone down.
We then looked at a second person and a promise they gave – Steve! We brought out a nappy full of a suspicious brown substance. I promised the kids that the stuff in the nappy was ok to eat and that it would even taste a bit sweet. Most of the kids didn’t believe me and only two trusted me enough to actually try it! Now, like Homer, and probably like all of us, I sometimes keep my promises and I sometimes let people down. I definitely wasn’t saying I always keep my promises. But what we were showing was that if someone gives you a promise it can be difficult to trust them, sometimes it isn’t easy, sometimes it can be difficult to trust that promise.
So far we’d learnt that we feel better when people keep their promises to us and trusting people to keep their promises can sometimes be difficult. Now we looked at a third person and a promise they gave – God. We looked back to what we heard at the start of term about a promise God gave David. This was that David would be king one day. So we got the youngest kid out to be David as a young boy receiving the promise from God that he would be king. And David was shown to be the chosen one by having oil poured on his head. Then we picked out the oldest kid and they were to be David as a young man. Years had passed between David getting the promise but now Saul had died. Did David become king? Yes he did! God had kept his promise! First David was king over part of the country then finally over all the country. It had taken years, longer even than the gap between the youngest and oldest kid at Starchasers but God kept his promise. So we put David as king in a crown & robe, got him to wave, played some coronation music and got the rest of the kids to cheer. David was king! God kept His promise!
Now this was just one promise we looked at from God and the Bible is full of promises from God. And you know what, God has kept every single one of them. God always keeps His promises. God never lets us down. So we can trust God. But is it always easy to trust God to keep His promises? We looked at David again and what happened between him as a young boy and him becoming king? David had waited years to be king, he’d fought a giant Goliath and had to go into hiding as Saul was trying to kill him. It probably wasn’t easy for David to keep trusting God for that long and through all that but he did. It wasn’t easy but David kept trusting God.
And finally we looked at some promises that God has given us. Ones such as that when we pray God will hear us, that God offers us life and life to the full and that God will give us what we need. Can we trust God to keep those promises? – yes! But it sometimes isn’t easy to trust God. We thought about different situations when we might think it would be helpful to remember those promises. We then thought about what promise from God we really wanted to hear about right now. And as we stood by the key promise for us right now we closed in prayer.

25th Oct – David spares Saul (1 Samuel 19-26 esp. 24&26)
Theme – Loving your enemies / The Heart bucket

After David defeated Goliath he became an high ranking officer in Saul’s army and was very popular among the people. As David became more popular and more famous Saul (the king) grew more and more jealous of David. That jealousy lead to Saul wanting to kill David and David had to flee for his life.
God kept David safe and God gave David two different chances to kill Saul – once while he was, ahem, relieving himself in a cave (chp. 24) and once when Saul was asleep (chp. 26). Both times David spared Saul’s life even though Saul wanted to kill him.
We then introduced the idea of a “Heart Bucket”, a bucket to represent the heart. We looked in Saul’s “Heart Bucket” and in there was a yucky, green substance – jealously. That lead Saul to want to try and kill David and behave in a way that didn’t please God. We also looked in David’s “Heart Bucket” and in there we found TRUST – David was trusting in the Lord. He wasn’t rushing God’s plan and he didn’t want to get revenge on Saul for trying to kill him, instead he showed Saul love.
In the small groups we asked the kids what does God see when he looks into our hearts? Is he pleased or sad? What things please him,what makes him sad? What do we do if there is ‘yucky’ stuff in our hearts? What might that yucky stuff be? And we talked about how God can deal with those things in our heart:
“Create in me a clean heart, O God” Psalm 51 v10
“If we confess our sins he is able & just to forgive us.” 1 John 1 v9

11th Oct – David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
Theme
 – Trusting God when faced with danger

In this session we looked at what is probably the most famous story about David – when he takes on the giant Goliath.
We started off by comparing the two characters in the story – David the youngest of eight sons who was still too young to fight for his country and Goliath a 3 metre tall giant who had trained all his life as a warrior. We wanted to get across to the kids just how uneven a contest this was and how frightening Goliath was.
To tell the story we split the kids into Israelites (Hot team) and Philistines (Cool team). And they shouted at each other across the valley. And then Goliath came out. 3 metres tall, rippling with muscles and dressed in armour as heavy as a normal man. He came out daring the Israelites to challenge him and mocking them. He wanted one man to come out and fight him, the Philistine champion, and the winner would take all. He was a terrfying sight and the Israelites were frightened, even their king, Saul.
One day, as Goliath was bellowing, shouting and taunting David came to the Israelite camp to take food to his three oldest brothers. He heard Goliath’s chants and said he would take him on! David the young shepherd boy was taking on the mighty warrior! Although everyone else was scared David wasn’t. He’d beaten lions and bears when protecting his sheep and, most importantly of all, he knew God was with him. God would protect His people and the victory would glorify God. Goliath was scary, very scary, but David was prepared to trust God.
So what happened? When David came out to fight Goliath Goliath laughed at him. Goliath said he would beat David and feed him to the birds and wild animals. But things didn’t turn out as Goliath thought they would. David used his sling and hit Goliath in the head with a stone and Goliath fell to the ground. David took Goliath’s sword, killed him and cut off his head. Seeing Goliath was dead the Philistines turned and ran and the Israelites chased after them. Against all the odds God had given the Israelites the victory!
And in the small groups we looked at things God might ask us to do might frighten us? Do we trust God will be with us? We used the words of Psalm 27 v1 to close in prayer:
“The Lord is my light and the one who saves me. I fear no-one. The Lord protects my life. I am afraid of no-one.” – Psalm 27 v1

27th Sep – David is chosen as king (1 Samuel 16)
Theme – David was going to be king but he knew he had to trust & follow Go

We love the idea of stories that start with an ordinary person suddenly discovering that there’s something special about them and we see it time and time again in books, films and TV programmes. At Starchasers we looked at a clip from the first Harry Potter film when Harry gets a midnight visit from a strange man telling him there’s something special about Harry. He’s not an ordinary boy but a wizard. We got the kids to think about how they would have felt in Harry’s position about someone arriving to tell them they were someone special. Some kids said happy, some said excited and some said confused as they didn’t know whether they could trust this strange visitor or not.
Although the Harry Potter stories are great they are made up and aren’t true, people aren’t really wizards but that idea of finding out you’re special is interesting. We then looked at a true story from the Bible where somebody found out that God said they were special, that God had a special role for them.
The story involved a prophet (someone who had a word from God and took it to the people) called Samuel. God had sent him to a man called Jesse in Bethlehem and God was going to choose one of Jesse’s sons for a special role. Samuel went through all 7 of Jesse’s sons that were bought before him and God said no to all of them! But it turns out there was an eight son, the youngest one who was still out looking after the sheep. This son, David, was brought to Samuel and God told him YES! This is the one. God chose David to be the king of Israel. This ordinary boy from Bethlehem, the youngest of 8 sons was going to be the king! And to show that David was God’s chosen one Samuel poured some oil on his head.
We then asked the kids again how they would feel in David’s position if Samuel came to their house to tell them they were going to be king. Again we had happy and excited but we also had worried, worried because what would they know about being king, they just knew about looking after sheep.
In the small groups we told the kids that God had a plan for them, had something He wanted them to do. Now it might not be to be a great leader or a ruler but God does have a plan for them. And again we asked them how they felt about that. Again some said happy and excited and some also said scared, scared because what if God asked you to do something you didn’t want to do. (Great answer!)
We then ended by looking at a Psalm of David. We saw how David was looking after sheep then was told that he would be king. What was it about David that meant God chose him as king? Well to be honest we don’t really know. In fact there might not have been anything particularly special about David at all. What we do know is what God told Samuel when he was looking at Jesse’s sons:
“God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16v7
God knows everything about us, God knows us better than we know ourselves. And God knew He wanted David to do this job. And it’s interesting to see how David responded. He didn’t start lording it over his brothers or boasting about the fact that he would be in charge or tell people they’d have to start doing things his way. Instead he trusted and followed God. Although David would be king, David knew that God was really in charge.
And we saw this in one of the Psalms that David wrote – Psalm 23. From his time as shepherd he knew what a good shepherd did for his sheep, he cared for the sheep, looked after them, protected them and guided them. And the best thing for the sheep was to follow the shepherd. And David saw God as his shepherd, someone who knew best and someone who should be trusted, followed and obeyed. This is summed up in our memory verse for the week:
“The Lord is my shepherd. I have everything I need” – Psalm 23v1

13th September – Getting to know you (Psalm 139, Romans 5v6-8, Zephaniah 3v17)
Theme – 
God knows everything about us and He loves us

At the start of a new school year we get to met knew people and start to get to know them. We had some new people at Starchasers and had new teams so we were thinking of how well we know each other.
We started off by seeing how well we knew various TV, film and indeed other characters (including Captain Redbeard who a few people may have recognised from Bemerton Soul). With the Hot and Cool team going head-to-head to see how well they knew these characters we found out the answer was very well indeed!
We saw that we knew a lot about these characters and they looked at how well does God know us. We looked at Psalm 139 and Stavs acted out the chapter as we read it. We saw that God knows everything about us and He knows us no matter where we go or what we do. Or as one of the kids put it: How well does God know us? – Infinity and beyond.
So God knows us everything about us. The good things and the bad things. He knows the things we want Him to know and the things we may not want Him to know. Yet how does God feel about us knowing everything about us? We looked at Romans 5 where we see God loved us and loved us so much He sent his Son to die in our place and we looked at Zephaniah 3 where God will sing and be joyful if we are one of His people. In short – We are God’s treasure, just like we were looking at at Bemerton Soul.
In the small groups we did a few games to get to know each other a little better and find out what we did in the summer holidays. The kids then had a chance to respond to what they thought about God knowing everything about us and that God loves us so much.

 

Summer Term 2009: Life in the Spirit

 

Our series for the Summer term is “Life in the Spirit” in which we’ll be looking at what it’s like to live as a Christian and what hope Christians have for the future. The Holy Spirit helps us and strengthens us as in our Christian life and it is also the “firstfruits” of the glory that lies ahead.

12th July – Life as it should be (Revelation 21 – 22 v6)
Theme – One day everything will be just as it should be – A perfect world & God living with us

We ended our series on Life in the Spirit with a look forward to the hope that Christians have for the future. What are we looking forward to when Jesus returns?
We started with a short video featuring some Vox Pops of people from Church on the Corner saying what they think heaven will be like. And then we looked at Revelations 21v1-5 to see what life will be like when Jesus returns.
We saw that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. All the bad things and things that make us unhappy and cause us pain will be gone. Everything will be made perfect. And, best of all, God will be living us. Things are what they should be. Us living in a perfect world, in a perfect relationship with God.
In small groups we gave the kids a picture of the earth from space and then asked them to write down some of the things that upset them in this world (e.g. sickness, bullying, falling out, pollution, death). We crossed these out as these won’t be present in the new earth and the new heaven. We then asked them to think of some things they love about this world (e.g. friendship, community, fun) and said they would be present in the new earth and new heaven. Finally we  wrote God across the earth to show that He would be living with us in this perfect world.
What a hope, what a prize! As the end of Revelations says: “Jesus is the One who says that these things are true. Now He says ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!”

28th June – Press on towards the goal (Philippians 3v12-21)
Theme – We need to keep going in life in the Spirit

Our session this week had a gardening flavour to it. Mary shared with us her joy as a new allotment holder and she talked us through the process of growing courgettes.
A courgette plant started life as a small seed but as as you watered it and it got warmed by the sun the seed grew into a shoot and then a small plant. As it continued to grow you had to watch out for problems like snails and weeds as they could stop the plant growing. It took a while for the plant to grow but Mary kept going as she thought of the prize that lay at the end of it, some delicious courgettes that she had grown herself.
And to cap it all off Mary bought along a fully grown courgette plant that she had dug up that morning. It was massive! and you could see 3 or 4 courgettes growing on this one plant. Well worth all the effort!
Mary said that living as a Christian was a bit like growing plants. Our faith can start off as a small seed but it can grow. As we learn more about God and get encouraged by other Christians our faith grows. However, on the way are difficulties, things that can put us off and stop us growing or even cause us to lose our faith. At these times it’s important to think about what the prize is at the end of it, what we as Christians are striving for – A perfect life with God with a new heaven and a new earth (more next session!). By keeping our eyes on that prize, the promise that Jesus will return, we will continue to grow to be the people that God wants us to be.
In our small groups we talked more about some of the difficulties we might face as Christians and what we can do to help us at those difficult times. We thought of things like finding out more about God from the Bible, talking to God and listening to God through prayer, going to church to worship and praise God and being encouraged by Christian friends and families around us. Keep growing, keep changing and keep our eyes on what lies ahead!

14th June – Gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12)
Theme – We all have different gifts but need to work together as part of one body

This week we were thinking of gifts and in particular gifts of the Spirit, another way the Holy Spirit helps us prepare for Jesus’ return.
We started off inviting the leaders up the front to the hot-set. They had to tell us the best present they had ever received and why it was so good. Then they had to tell us about a gift of the Spirit they had been given or someone else they knew had been given. They told us why the gift of the spirit was so good and how could it could be used to help others.
We then got two of the kids to read 1 Corinthians 12 v4-11. We had a memory test to see how many of the gifts in the passage the kids could remember. And then we looked again at what we were supposed to do with the gifts – to support, serve and encourage each other.
In the second part of the session. We looked at the human body – we drew a picture of a stick-man and a stick-woman in our two teams, Hot and Cool. We then asked the teams to think of different things that the different parts of the body are good at – e.g. head for thinking, feet for walking, hands for holding, mouth for talking & eating etc.
The idea was to show that although the parts of the body are different to each other each body part has something useful to do. And the body needs all these different parts to work properly.
And so with us and the Gifts of the Spirit. We are all different but we all have something useful to do. The body, the church, needs all these different people to work properly.

24th May – Our Helper (Romans 8 )
Theme – The Holy Spirit helps us pray

This week we were looking at how the Holy Spirit helps us and in particular how it helps us pray.
Our two new friends, Boris and Lucy, were back again and this time we see Boris struggling with a pair of headphones he’s just bought. He’d love to listen to his music on them but he can’t get them on his head as his arms are too weak (well he is just a puppet). But with Lucy’s help he managed to get them on. She helped him with something he was finding difficult.
That lead into talking about the Holy Spirit. There are some bits of living as God wants us to live that we find difficult but God doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves. He has given us the Holy Spirit to help us. And one of the ways is to help us to pray. Sometimes we aren’t sure what to pray for or how we ought to pray for something but the Spirit helps us. The Spirit does this with groans that can’t be put into words.
What does that look like? Well we aren’t exactly sure but we listened to some pieces of music with no words (Morning, Jupiter & Star Wars Imperial March) and asked – how did they make us feel? – what were they trying to say? And we can see how things could be expressed without using words.
And to finish we put this into practise by praying in our small groups.

10th May – Pentecost: The Holy Spirit Comes (Acts 2, Romans 8v9-25)
Theme – God kept His promise about the Holy Spirit and we can trust that Jesus will return

We met two new friends at Starchasers this week, Boris and Lucy. Boris was an orang-utan, which is like a gorilla but hairer and orange-er, and Lucy was a girl, which is like a boy but less hairy and less orange.
Boris loved bananas and Lucy loved chocolate and both promised to go to the shop for me (located under the table conveniently) and get me a banana and a chocolate bar respectively. When they returned Boris had eaten the banana on the way home so didn’t keep his promise to me but Lucy had kept her promise and bought me a chocolate bar. We asked the kids who they would trust more to go to the shop the next day to get a banana / chocolate bar. I said I’d trust Lucy more next time as she kept the first promise so was someone I’d trust to keep their promise next time.
We then looked at the story of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came and when God kept the first of the two promises we looked at last week. We re-enacted the story and heard a noise like a strong wind, saw flames of fire that split up and stood over us and then we could speak different languages. The Holy Spirit gave the disciples the power to speak different languages and this meant lots of people from different countries, who were in Jerusalem at the time, could understand them and hear them talking about Jesus.
Peter stood up and told the crowd about this very special person, Jesus. He told them about the wonders and miracles Jesus did. He told them that Jesus died and rose from the dead. And he told the crowd that they needed to say sorry to God and follow & obey Him. That day over 3,000 people decided to follow God and were baptised. What a way for God to keep the first promise!
In the final section we then looked at the two promises from last week again. If God kept the first promise could we trust Him to keep the second promise – that Jesus would return? Yes! In fact God has kept all His promises, every single one, so we can definitely trust Him.
And the Holy Spirit is more than just God keeping His promise, it’s a guarantee that Jesus will return, that we will share in this future glory with God. The Holy Spirit isn’t just something the disciples received, it’s something that every Christian receives. If you’re a Christian the Bible says you will have the Holy spirit. So every Christian has the Holy Spirit, every Christian has that guarantee that Jesus will return.

26th April – Ascension: Two promises (Acts 1v1-11)
Theme 
– God promised the Holy Spirit & that Jesus would return

This week at Starchasers we were thinking about things that we look forward to. We thought about some things we’re looking forward to – holidays, birthdays, football match, getting a new kitchen. We thought about how it made us feel (excited, nervous, happy, pleased, can’t wait) and we thought about how we would have to prepare for these things (e.g. pack, send out invites, train, clean room). When we look forward to something we feel excited about it and we have to prepare for it.
We then looked at what happened to Jesus after Easter. What did Jesus do when He came back from the dead? We learnt about Him appearing to over 500 people after His death. And we learnt about a promise that Jesus gave His disciples, His closest friends:
Promise 1: In a few days you will be baptised by the Holy Spirit
And one day when Jesus and His friends were together He told them again the Holy spirit was coming. He also told them to tell people all about what they had seen and to tell people all about Jesus. To tell people all over the city, Jerusalem. To tell people all over the country, Judea. To tell people all over the world.
When Jesus finished speaking He rose up into the sky, up into heaven and a large cloud hid Jesus from their sight. The disciples stood staring at the sky and we stood staring up through the skylight at this point in the story.
While we were doing this two men dressed in white appeared on the video screen. They told us that this same Jesus we’d seen go up into heaven would come back the same way we saw Him go. And this was the second promise we learnt about:
Promise 2: Jesus will return.
So the disciples had two promises to look forward to and we discussed how they would have felt and what they would have done to prepare for these two things. And we are still waiting for Jesus to return and we are still looking forward to Him coming back.
The leaders shared how they felt about Jesus returning (excited, nervous, happy) and some of the things we should do to prepare for Jesus coming back (tell others about Jesus, obey Jesus and live how He wants us to, Enjoy God).
For the rest of this term we’re going to be looking at this further. We’re going to see how the Holy Spirit helps prepare us for Jesus coming back. We’re also going to see how the Holy Spirit is a guarantee that Jesus is coming back.

Spring Term 2009: Who do you say I am? – Mark

Right at the start of his gospel Mark makes some pretty big claims about Jesus, about who He is and why He has come to earth. (”This is the beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God”). This term, as we work through the book of Mark, we’re going to find out more about Jesus and see if He is who He’s claimed to be.

We’ll be looking at various events in Jesus’ ministry that Mark writes about and see what that says about the type of person Jesus is and why He came to earth. His miracles, His teaching and how He deals with people.
And we’ll also encourage the kids to think who do they think Jesus is. This will be captured in our memory verse:

Then Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

Mark 8v29

Session 6: 29th Mar – Easter (Mark 14-16)

Theme – Jesus died to save us. Jesus had the power to rise from the dead.

We’ve reached the end of Mark’s gospel and come to the most remarkable thing that Jesus did. We looked at what Jesus had to do to save us.
But what was Jesus saving us from? What was our problem? We all sat at one end of the hall and at the other end were some bright lights to represent God. And inbetween us and God were several black sheets that cut us off from God. These sheets were our sin (just in case they missed the point we wrote SIN on them in 4 feet high letters!) and this sin cuts us off from God. And we could do nothing about it. Only Jesus could save us.
But what needed to be done? We asked the kids about what happens if they do something wrong at school or at home. There’s a punishment, like detention, lines etc., because you did something wrong. And there has to be a punishment for our sin. An awful, horrible punishment which shows just how serious a problem our sin was.
We looked at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane on The Miracle Maker DVD and saw He knew what was going to happen and was asking God if there was another way. Yet despite this Jesus still prayed for God’s will to happen and Jesus was still prepared to go through with it for us. And so Jesus was arrested and we saw on the DVD what Jesus went through, including being put to death on the cross. This was what Jesus was prepared to do for us.
And because He took the blame for our sin this barrier between us and God was removed and we could be in God’s presence and know God. We took down the big SIN barrier and bought the kids round the lights to show we could come to God now because of what Jesus did. Jesus was prepared to die to save us. To bring us back to God.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. What happened on the Sunday was even more remarkable. Jesus rose from the dead, He came back to life. We looked a little at the story on Easter Sunday and the people who saw Jesus after He died. Jesus had the power to rise from the dead.
Knowing what we’ve learnt this term and knowing what we learnt that morning we asked the kids in the small groups – Who do they think Jesus was? We asked which of the following best described what they thought:
–    He is Christ, Son of God
–    Not sure, want to find out more
–    He isn’t the Christ, Son of God

The key question we’ve been asking all term is “Who do you say I am?”

Session 5: 8th Mar – The Greatest Commandment (Mark 12v13-17,28-34)
Theme – The power of Jesus’ teaching

This session we looked at Jesus’ teaching to see that He spoke with wisdom, power and authority. Obviously we couldn’t cover all of Jesus teaching in one session but we looked at Mark 12 as an example.
We started off by giving the two teams a list of famous names and then getting them to rank them in terms of who they thought was the most powerful and why. For both groups Barack Obama came out top because he was in charge of the most powerful country, he had done something that no other person had done in becoming the first black president of the USA and he had given hope to a lot of people. We then asked where Jesus would go on the list and thankfully both teams put Him at the top!
We then looked at the idea that one of the places we see Jesus power is in His teaching and in His dealing with people. We read Mark 12v13-17 and saw how Jesus was able to handle people trying to trick Him and catch Him out. The result was that those listening were amazed by how Jesus answered the question.
Then we looked at how Jesus answered the question of what was the greatest commandment in Mark 12v28-34. Jesus says the two most important ones are love God with all your heart, soul, mind & strength and love your neighbour as yourself. Through all Jesus teaching the greatest lesson He teaches us is about love – both in what He said and what He did.
We spent the rest of the session going through these commandments and learning them. First through some actions the kids devised and then making a bookmark to remind us of Jesus’ words. If we want the kids to remember one thing about Jesus’ teaching it’s these two commandments.

Session 4: 22nd Feb – Blessing the children & The rich man (Mark 10v13-31)
Theme – How Jesus deals with different people

It’s not just in the power of Jesus’ miracles that we see what type of person He is but also in how He deals with people. Mark 10 gives the story of two different groups of people and how Jesus dealt with them both.
First there were a group of  children who the disciples tried to stop from seeing Jesus. Surely He would be too busy to see them and wouldn’t have time for kids? Jesus wasn’t happy that the disciples were turning them away and insisted they come to Him. He then took the children in His arms and blessed them.
Next came a rich, young ruler who wanted to know how to get eternal life. Jesus took the time to talk to him and explain to him. But he also didn’t shy away from telling him the truth about what he needed to do – sell everything he had and give it to the poor. Although the truth was difficult and it meant the man went away disappointed Jesus was prepared to tell him what he needed to here.
We went through the story as a mime, with different actions for key words in the story. From obvious words like being cross (angry face, stamp foot) to the less obvious like shoo away (touch your shoe). We went through it a few times to give the kids a chance to do the actions and to get them familiar with the story. The mime also gave us a chance to see the reactions of different people – Jesus cross, disciples shocked, rich man sad and so on.
The key point of the morning was that Jesus made time for everyone, not just the rich and powerful but the young, the weak and the poor as well. Jesus had real love for all of them and real love for all of us as well.

Session 3: 8th Feb – Feeding the 5,000 (Mark 6v30-44)
Theme – The power and compassion of Jesus

Last time we saw the power of Jesus and we see that again in this passage with another miracle, but this time we also see the compassion of Jesus.
We started with a short video of celebrity chef Martynella and her adoring fans who had come to see her. But, alas, Martynella didn’t have time to see them so sent them away disappointed.
How different was Jesus’ response in a similar situation. Despite being tired (and hungry!) Jesus took time to teach the crowd who came to see Him because He felt compassion for them.
Again we told the story with the kids lying or sitting on mats, duvets and pillows and to imagine themselves in the story. (We did this so last session didn’t seem like a one-off but rather one of the ways we can do things). We told them about the large crowds coming to see Jesus. How He felt sorry for them and taught them. Then we told them about the need to feed the large crowd. So Jesus took 5 loaves and 2 fishes a young boy had, thanked God for them and then broke them up to give out to the crowd. Everyone had enough to eat despite there being more than 5,000 people present! And there was plenty left over as well!
Who is this Jesus? A man with the power to feed 5,000 people with just one young boy’s lunch and also someone who showed compassion and love to this great crowd as well.

Session 2: 25th Jan – Jesus heals a paralysed man (Mark 2v1-12)
Theme – The power of Jesus – to forgive sins and heal

For this session we tried something a little different. Before the story we laid out some mats on the floor, gave the kids some blankets and duvets and got them to lie or sit comfortably while we told the story.
We then told the story – Jesus was in a house and so many people had come to see Him the house was completely full. Some men had bought their friend, a paralysed man, to see Jesus but they couldn’t get into the house. Instead they made a hole in the roof and lowered their friend through the hole to see Jesus.
Jesus turned to the paralysed man and told him his sins were forgiven. And to prove that He could forgive sins He also told the paralysed man to get up, pick up his mat and walk. And he did! The crowd were amazed and said they had never seen anything like this before.
As we told the story we asked the kids to imagine themselves in the story.  What it was like? Who was there? What happened? At the end of the story we asked them to listen to see if Jesus had something to say to them.  We wanted to allow space for God to talk to the children and to allow them space to tune in to what he is trying to reveal.
Then in the small groups we invited the kids to tell us where they imagined they were in the story and what they thought was happening. We also asked them what they thought this story said about Jesus and if Jesus had a message for them.

Session 1: 11th Jan – Who do you say I am? (Mark 1v1-13)
Theme – Jesus is the Christ, God’s chosen one come to save us

We started off the session by making some claims about the leaders. We said that Stavs could speak fluent Greek, Mary was a superb cook and Peter could do parkour (sort of like free running). We then asked the kids what they’d like to know or find out to be convinced that these claims were true. They said things like – get them to speak greek, try some of their cooking, get them to show you some, get them to translate some greek words from a dictionary & ask someone who’s tried their cooking. [I’ll leave you to guess which things they said about which claim, hopefully it’s fairly obvious.]
Then when we looked at Mark’s gospel we saw some big claims that Mark made about Jesus right at the start in verse 1. Mark claims that Jesus is the Son of God and the Christ. We explored what “the Christ” (or sometimes “the Messiah”) meant and summarised it as God’s chosen one come to save us. These are big claims, huge claims, that Mark is making and what would we want to know or find out to be convinced about them. As we go through Mark’s gosepl this term we’ll be looking and what Mark tells us about Jesus us to convince us of these claims.
And we started with how John the Baptist became convinced that Jesus was the Christ. This happened when Jesus was baptised by John and God himself said that Jesus was His beloved Son. A pretty good confirmation if you ask me!
That convinced John the Baptist that Jesus was the Christ but in the small groups we asked them who they thought Jesus was. Did they think He was God’s chosen one come to save us? What more would they like to know and find out to be convinced that Jesus was the Christ? This is something we’ll be looking at in every session as we discover more about Jesus in Mark’s gospel.

Autumn 2008: TRUST – Joshua & Judges

This term we’re following on from the story of Moses last year to look at Joshua and Judges. The key point of the whole term is that we can trust God and trust the promises He has made. And at the centre of everything we’re going to be teaching is Joshua’s challenge to the people of Israel at the end of the book in Joshua 24 from where our memory verse is taken.

“You must choose for yourselves today. You must decide whom you will serve…As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24v15

Session 8: 14th Dec – Samson (Judges 13-16, esp. 16)
Theme – Trust God and keep on trusting God.

In our themesetter we looked at a clip from the Simpsons where Lisa was conducting a test on her brother. She wired a cupcake up to an electric battery and each time Bart touched it he got a shock. And  Bart kept on trying to get the cupcake despite getting a shock each time.
Then we had a real life example with Shan being offered the choice between orange juice and lime juice. Despite the fact the lime juice tasted very bitter and unpleasant he kept on choosing the lime juice and not the orange juice. We all thought that Bart and Shan we’re being stupid as they kept making the same mistakes over and over again.
And when you read through Joshua and Judges you can feel the same about God’s people. They keep making the same mistakes. They keep turning away from God, despite all that He’s done for them.
In this session we learnt about our final judge of the term, Samson. The Israelites were being ruled by the Philistines and God used Samson to help defeat the Philistines, although in a most unusal way. We learnt that Samson had been set apart for God from birth and had to keep some special rules, one of which was to never cut his hair. And God gave Samson amazing strength and Samson had used this to beat the Philistines on several occasions.
But Samson’s weakness was women, and one woman in particular – Delilah. She had been paid by the Philistines to learn the secret of Samson’s strength so they could capture them. So she kept pleading with Samson to tell her the secret of his strength. Through the use of many bad wigs and other props we learnt that the secret of his strength wasn’t 7 new bow strings, new ropes or weaving his hair into a loom.
The fourth time though Samson told Delilah if she cut his hair off he’d be as weak as any other man. So Delilah cut his hair off and at that point God left Samson. He was captured, thrown in prison and the Philistines blinded him.
But that wasn’t the end. The Philistines threw a party to celebrate capturing Samson and he was bought out so they could laugh and jeer at him. But in prison his hair had started to grow back. And when Samson prayed to God his strength returned and he was able to push over the two pillars he was placed between. That brought down the whole building and, although Samson died when the building feel down, he was able to defeat all the Philistines present. God had used Samson to help His people, even if it was in a very unusual way.
Yet what happened after Samson died? The people turned away from God and did there own thing. WHAT?!!?? Even after all that He had done for them? Why did they keep making the same mistakes over and over again.
Then we thought, hang on, do we keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Do we trust God for a little bit and then turn away from Him? We’d be learning all term about Trust and how God was someone we could trust. He keeps His promises, He has the power to do what He says He will and He knows what’s best for us. So what should our response be? We need to trust God and keep on trusting God. Not just for a little while or until it gets difficult but to trust God and keep on trusting God.
So TRUST GOD AND KEEP ON TRUSTING GOD!

Session 7: 30th Nov – Gideon (Judges 6 – 8 )
Theme – Trust God even when we are frightened of what He wants us to do

There’s a bit of a pattern emerging. After Deborah last week the Israelites once again turned away from God, then the Midianites (and others) invaded and made the Israelites suffer. The Israelites then  cry out to God for help. Once again God hears their cry and rescues them.
This time God calls Gideon to rescue His people but Gideon is a bit unsure and needs some persuading. He needs three signs from God before he agrees to lead the Israelites – the first was when God burned up a food offering, the second was when a fleece was wet but the ground was dry and the third was when a fleece was dry but the ground was wet. Finally, after all that, Gideon agreeed to lead the people.
And God made sure that the people knew that it was Him who had given them the victory. From the initial 32,000 men who turned up to fight God selected only 300 to fight the Midianites. And with those 300 God used trumpets, torches and glass jars (well balloons in our case) to defeat the Midianites.
In our small groups we thought about things that scared us or frightened us and when we find it difficult to trust God. We prayed for the situations over the next couple of weeks when we wanted reassurance.

Session 6: 23rd Nov – Deborah (Judges 4-5)
Theme – Even when they turned away from God, God still kept His promise to His people and rescued them

Oh dear. Things have taken a turn for the worse, after Joshua dies the people turn away from God. As God had promised (Joshua 24v19-20, Judges 2v14-15) when they turned away from Him He would not be on their side and so we see a king defeat and oppress the Israelites.
But even though the Israelites turned away from God, God still kept His promise to the Israelites and remembers His people when they cry out to Him. We learned how God used Deborah and Barak to defeat the army of the king who was oppressing the Israelites and how God rescued His people.
God keeps His promise that even when we mess up and turn away from Him, He will rescue us if we turn back to Him. In small groups we looked at some promises God gives us in the bible, we had some children’s books to look at along this theme.The children made a small hanging with their favourite promise on.
Numbers 23 v19 – ‘God is not like men who lie,He is not a human who changes his mind. Whatever He promises he does,He speaks and it is done.’

Session 5: 9th Nov – Israelites take the rest of the land (Joshua 10-12,24)
Theme – Joshua & the Israelites trusted God and He kept His promise

For this session we went right back to the start of term – to look at the promise that God had given to Abraham then to Moses and finally to Joshua. The promise that God would give the Israelites the land. The people under Moses hadn’t trusted God and were frightened off when the spies bought back their report. But would Joshua and the people trust God and His promise? We found out last week they’d taken the city of Jericho but what about the rest of the land?
We picked up the story just after the Israelites took Jericho. The land was controlled by lots of kings and after Jericho God told the Israelites to go and fight the king of Ai. They did and they captured his city and we turned that part of the land red to show the Israelites were in control. After Ai, 5 kings came out to fight the Israelites but because God was on their side the Israelites won – again that area turned red. Then they went to the south of the country and God gave them the cities there and finally to the north of the country and God gave them the cities there. In all God helped Joshua and the Israelites defeat 31 kings and most of the hall was now turned red. They were (say them quickly…):

Jericho, Ai, Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, Eglon, Gezer, Debir, Geder, Hormah, Arad, Libna, Adullam, Makkedah, Bethel, Tappuah, Hepher, Aphe, Lasharon, Madon, Hazor, Shimro, Meron, Acshaph, Taanach, Megiddo, Kedesh, Jokneam, Dor, Goyim, Tirzah.

So God had kept His promise to give them the land. He had helped them beat all these armies, given them good farmland they hadn’t planted and given them cities with strong walls they hadn’t built. There were still parts of the land left to capture (more on that in later sessions…) but Joshua was very old now and God told him to divide up the land between the different groups, or tribes, of Israel. God had promised He would give them the land and He did.
And right at the end of the book of Joshua we find Joshua speaking to the Israelites and reminding them of what God had done for them. And Joshua issued this challenge to the people:

“You must choose for yourselves today. You must decide whom you will serve. As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” – Joshua 24v15

Think about what God has done and decide are you going to serve and trust Him.
And we issued the same challenge to the kids. You’ve seen what God did for Joshua and the Israelites and are you going to serve and trust Him. In the small groups and we replaced “you” in the verse with our name (and yourselves with “himself/herself”) and went through the verse to see what we would decide to do.
We looked at what it might mean to trust and serve God. To stand up for God in a difficult situation. To put God first even if that means giving up something we’d really like. To use our gifts to serve God. These were just some of the ways we can trust and serve God. And we’ll keep on looking at how we can trust and serve God during the rest of the term.

Session 4: 26th October – Fall of Jericho (Joshua 5v13 – 6v27)
Theme – 
Joshua & the Israelites trusted God and He kept His promise

Once again we were thinking about the theme of “Trust” and how God was someone the Israelites could and should trust. The Israelites have now entered the land God promised them and the time has come to take their first big city – Jericho.
In our teams we thought about different ways you could capture a city and what sort of equipment you might need. Inspired by what we’d seen on TV & on film we came up with great battle plans to take Jericho. We were going to use flaming arrows, battering rams, ladders, grappling hooks, siege towers and even dead animals, which we would fling over the wall. We thought we’d got some good ideas about how the Israelites could take Jericho.
But then we ripped up our battle plans. What??!!?? Why??? Because the Israelites weren’t going to do it their way, they were going to do it God’s way. And that involved walking around the walls with trumpets and the Ark of the Covenant. That sounded crazy but the Israelites did it because they trusted God. And if it worked then they knew it was because God had given them the city and not because of their own might and strength.
So we marched round our hastily-constructed city of Jericho for six days with trumpets, the Ark and the Israelite army. Then on the seventh day we blew the trumpets, shouted and the walls fell down just as God said it would! The Israelites captured the city and while doing so they rescued Rahab and her family so the Israelites kept their promise to her (see Session 2) .
And in our small groups we thought more about trusting God. It can be a difficult concept to understand so we’ve recapped it several times this term. We looked at: Why can we trust God? When is it difficult to trust God? What does it actually mean to trust God? Should it change what we actually do? And even if it seems difficult or strange to trust God we should because His way is the best way.

Session 3: 10th Oct – Crossing the Jordan  (Joshua 3v1 – 5v12)
Theme – When God does great things in our lives we need to remember them

The time has now come to cross the Jordan and God did it in spectacular style. God told Joshua what to do and he followed God’s instructions. The Israelites were able to cross the Jordan on dry land because God stopped the river and when they arrived in the promised land the people dedicated themselves to God once more.
During the crossing God commanded the people to take 12 stones from the river to help them remember what God had done. This meant in future generations people would ask and be told what God had done while crossing the Jordan. And that reminder was certainly needed.
We had great fun acting out the story with props for the Jordan, the Ark of the Covenant and the 12 stones. In the midst of the fun we also remembered God’s power, what He was able to do and that He was someone the Israelites could trust.
And maybe we need to remember what God has done for us in the past so the present or the bad times don’t get on top of us.

Session 2: 28th Sep – I spy part 2 (Joshua 1 & 2)
Theme – Rahab trusted God and knew He would give the Israelites the land

We’ve fast forwarded 40 years and Moses has died and Joshua has become leader of the Israelites. God reminds Joshua of His promise to give the Israelites the land and that He will be with them. Joshua sends two spies to spy out the land but they have to be hidden by Rahab to keep them safe. Rahab, who wasn’t an Israelite, had heard about God and what things He had done. She knew that God would be able to keep His promise and give the Israelites the promised land.
We read through the story as a group and then as we recapped the key events we invited the kids to come up one by one and sit in the hot seat. We asked the person in the hot seat how they think they would have felt as different people in the story. As Joshua getting the promise again from God, as the spies sent into the land, as Rahab hiding the spies and as the King of Jericho when he heard about the spies.
We focused especially on Rahab and how it was a very brave and difficult thing for her to do to hide the spies and why she did it. She did it because she trusted God and knew He would give the Israelites the land.
This lead on to us thinking about us trusting God. If God is someone who can be trusted then we need to choose to follow and serve Him. And we need to do that when things are going well and when things might be difficult or frightening.
This was summed up in the first part of our memory verse for the term:
‘You must choose for yourselves today. You must decide whom you will serve.’ – Joshua 24 v15

Session 1: 14th Sep – I spy part 1 (Numbers 13 & 14)
Theme – We should trust God and His promises no matter what we face

The first session followed on from where we left the Israelites last year. After they had escaped from Egypt God promised to give them the land of Canaan for their home. This was the land He had promised Abraham (e.g. Gen 15 v17-19) and God had reaffirmed the promise to Moses (e.g. Exodus 6 v1-8). The time had now come for them to enter this land God had promised them so Moses chose 12 people to spy out the land and bring a report back.
So we went spying. Hiding behind an inconspicuous white sheet we peeked through the holes to see what this land was like. We found lots of grapes, figs, pomegranates and good farm land. But we also found strong armies, walled cities and giants!
So when the spies came back they were scared. They were scared of the strong armies and the fortified cities and didn’t think they could take the land, even though God said they would. Only Joshua and Caleb trusted God when He said they would take possession of it. The people grumbled and rebelled against God. And God made them wander around the desert for 40 years so none of those adults would enter the promised land.
Is God someone that could be trusted? We looked at some things that make a person trustworthy:
Loves us – care for us so only want the best for us
Have kept their word before – If they’ve kept their promises before we would trust them again
Has the power to do what they said they’d do – Need to be able to back up their promises
And we saw how God had shown the Israelites that He loved them, that He kept His word and He had shown His power in rescuing them from Egypt. We’ll be returning to this theme all term but God is someone who we can totally and utterly trust.
Let’s not underestimate how difficult the task must have seemed to the Israelites. It looked like it would be really, really tough to take this land. This was a real challenge to them to trust God, but sadly they didn’t. Throughout this term we’ll be learning more about God and the more we learn the more we’ll see God is someone we can trust.

 

Summer 2008: Life to the MAX

This term at Starchasers the theme is “Life to the MAX”, based on John 10v10 where Jesus said that He has come to give us life and life to the full. Sometimes we forget that Jesus promises us “Life to the MAX” so we’re going to be looking at why God’s way is the best way to live.

Our memory verse for the term is:

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” – John 10v10

Session 7 – 14th July – Look to the future now (Romans 8, Revelation 21v1-5)
Theme – Things may be difficult now but we will share in God’s future glory. One day everything will be just as it should be – Us living in a perfect world and God living with us

Throughout this term we’ve been learning how life with God is Life to the MAX. It’s the best way for us, the church, everyone and the world. But if it is Life to the MAX then why are things still difficult, why do bad things still happen to us?

We started by talking about some of the things we enjoy making or creating. Paintings, clay models and pots, writing etc. And one of the things I love doing is taking photos. And particularly that moment when you download them onto your computer and see which ones are good and which ones are bad. And I showed one of my favourite photos, one I took in Barcelona:
Then someone took this photo and scratched it with scissors and drew on it with pen. How would we feel if someone did this to something we made? We can still see the good things in the photo, the colours, the shapes, the story etc. but it has been spoilt by the scratches and the pen.
And this is like our world – it has been spoilt by our sin. We can still see the good things in it but also in there are bad things like pain, sickness, hunger, death, pollution etc. because of our sin. And this means that even life with God will have difficulties and bad things will happen because of this sin.
But this isn’t the end of the story. Because what can we do about the photo, how can we make it right? We can print off a new copy, where everything is just as it should be, like it was meant to be.
And in Revelations 21v1-5 we see what God promises for the world. One day he will make everything new, a new heaven and a new earth. And on this new earth the sin is gone and everything is as it should be, like it was meant to be. All of the bad things will be gone (pain, sickness, death etc.) and we can enjoy all the good things. We can live like we were meant to live on a world like it was meant to be. And at the heart of it all is God who will be living with us.
So when Jesus offers us Life to the MAX it may be difficult now but we can look forward to a glorious future. When everything will be made new and made as it should be. Us living in a perfect world and God living with us.

Session 6 – 29th June – Care for the world (Genesis 1-3, Romans 8v18-27)
Theme – God’s life is the best for the whole planet. God created it and wants us to take care of it

In this last session we looked at how life with God was the best for everyone as we should be looking out for those in need. This session we were looking at how it is best for the planet itself.
At the start of the session we met Mr. I-don’t-care-about-you. Not a very nice person, he only loved himself and, as his name suggested, he didn’t care about other people. This meant he was a very selfish person who didn’t really care about how he treated other people or other things. He’d chuck down litter as he didn’t care about what other people thought of it, drive everywhere as he didn’t care about what the pollution would do to other people and basically did everything only thinking about himself. An extreme example but it showed how bad it is when we only care about ourselves.
But that’s not how God intended things to be. When he made the world He put us in charge of it, He made us responsible for it and wanted us to look after it (Genesis 3 v16-19). If we only care about ourselves it wouldn’t be a very nice place to live but if we look out for each other that will involve taking care of the place where we live.
In small groups we then looked at different ways we can help take care of this planet that God has made us responsible for. This involved things like cycling or walking to school (if possible!), recycling, turning off unnecessary lights, heaters etc. and some other great suggestions from the kids.
So life with God is Life to the MAX for all of us because if we take care of the planet as God wants us to it makes it a better place for all of us to live.

Session 5 – 22nd June – Everyone matters to God (Luke 10 v22-37 Matthew 25 v31-45)
Theme – God’s life is best for the whole world as He cares about everyone

In this last session we started to think about God’s way not just being about us as individuals but as a group of people. God’s way was best for the church, a group of believers, because we are asked to help and support each other. And God’s way isn’t just best for Christians it’s best for everyone as everyone matters to God. God cares for all of us and wants his people to look out for those who need our help.
We looked at an updated version of the Good Samaritan to see what it means to look out for other people, to help those who need it. It’s not just our friends we should look out for but everyone who needs our help.
Then we played a (very difficult!) game of hangman based on Matthew 25 to look at some of the ways we could help other people. If someone is hungry give them food, if someone is thirsty give them a drink, if someone is sick look after them and so on. And in the small groups we looked at groups of people who might need our help. In the oldest group, Starlets, we prayed for some of those groups of people – those who are hungry helped by Breakfast Stop at All Saints, those who don’t have a job helped by Prospex and those who are homeless helped by The Simon Community.

So life with God is Life to the MAX for all people as God cares for everyone and wants his people to look out for those who need our help.

Session 4 – 8th June – The Church (1 Cor. 12&13, Acts 2&4, Heb 3&10, 1 John 4)
Theme – We have other Christians to help, encourage & support each other

In this last session we learnt that we are not facing this life alone but rather that God has given us the Holy Spirit. In this session we learnt that we also have other Christians to help & encourage us.
We started off by looking at what the Church is. It’s not a building we go to or some particular place but rather it’s the other Christians we know. And the Bible tells us that we as Christians are to help & encourage each other, or as we put it – Big Up Each Other. And God has given each of us different gifts and different things we are good at. He wants us to use those different gifts to help and encourage each other – to Big Up Each Other.
So how can we Big Up Each Other? Some of the things we can do are to look out for each other, to be kind to each other, to forgive each other, to listen to each other, to pray for each other and to accept and welcome each other. In the small groups we thought about some of the ways we could Big Up other people in Church. We asked what we were good at and what we enjoy doing and how we could use that to Big Up Each Other. For the Starlets we even set them a specific challenge of something they have to do over the next two weeks to Big Up others.
So life with God is Life to the Max because we have other Christians to help and encourage us. And we also need to help & encourage others as well.

Session 3 – 25th May – The Holy Spirit is with us (John14, Acts2, Romans8 )
Theme – The Holy Spirit is a gift from God to help us and equip us

In this session we learnt that the Holy Spirit was a gift from God to help us and equip us for the life He wants us to lead.
We looked at someone about to set off on an expedition but just before they went they received a present from someone. The person gave them that present because they cared about them and also to help them with the expedition. The gift was a Swiss Army knife and we saw the many different things it could do and the many different ways it could help for the journey ahead.
And this life with God is like an expedition or journey and the Holy Spirit is a gift from God to help on the way. God gives us this gift because He cares about us and wants to help us. And the Holy Spirit can help us and equips us for life with God in many different ways. Life with God can be difficult and we can’t make it on our own but with the Holy Spirit we can do it.
So life with God is Life to the Max because we have the Holy Spirit with us to help us.

Session 2 – 11th May – A design for life (Genesis 1&2, 2 Corinthians 5v5)
Theme – God made us. God made us to have a relationship with him

In this session we looked at why certain objects were made and what they were best at doing.
For example – what was a hammer designed to do and what was a toothbrush designed to do? What happens if you use a toothbrush for DIY and a hammer to brush your teeth? (if you’re not sure of the answer try it for yourself…).
The result was that things work best when they are used for the purpose they were designed for.
We even had a go at making some things ourselves. We made things to fly (paper planes) and things to make noise (shakers and paper snappers). The paper planes were best at flying and the shakers and snappers were best at making noise.
Again, we saw that things work best when they are used for the purpose they were designed for.
And we are no different. The bible tells us that God made and designed us and the reason He made us was to have a relationship with Him. We were designed for life with God.
So one of the reasons why life with God is “Life to the MAX” is that is what we were designed for.

Session 1 – 27th April: Life to the Zero (Luke 5 v11-32, Ecclesiastes 2 v1-11)
Theme: Life without God doesn’t lead to happiness – But God is always there, waiting for us to turn back to Him.

In the first session we looked at choices and how good we are at making them. For example, do we prefer School time or School holidays, Chocolate or Ice Cream & Saturday or Sunday.
But the biggest choice we’re faced with is whether we want to choose life with or without God. And in the first session we looked at what life is like without God, when we go our own way and do our own thing.
To help us with this we looked at a video (see below), based on a story that Jesus told. In the video Tom left his father (J. Mortley) and went and did his own thing. Although he had fun for a while it didn’t last and he didn’t find happiness away from his father. Jesus said we’re like the son, Tom, and God is like the father, J. Mortley. When we do our own thing without God it doesn’t lead to happiness. And as the writer of Ecclesiastes found, just having fun may bring short term pleasure but it doesn’t lead to real, true, permanent happiness. We’re not saying these things are bad but on their own they don’t lead to happiness. Life without God is life to the zero.
But, as the parable of the Prodigal Son reminds us, God is always there, waiting for us to turn back to Him. Jesus used an extreme example in the son (Tom) to show that no matter how low we might feel, or how far away form God we think we are, we can always turn back to God and choose life with Him. And this life with God is new life, life to the full, life to the MAX.
During the rest of the term we’re going to looking at life with God and why it really is Life to the MAX.

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