Speak, Lord… A Lesson in Listening

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Our names are important…when they are called or spoken, we listen. Kids listen up for and appreciate their names. In the story of Samuel’s calling, we see a name used by God. When Samuel accepts that it is the Lord speaking, he listens to learn. In this lesson, students will consider how they can listen for God and follow directions….
Lesson focus: God calls us all to do special work for Him. When we pay attention to those around us, it helps us hear and follow God’s voice, too.
Passage: 1 Samuel 3:1-10
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th Grade (adaptable older or younger)
Materials Needed: Paper, paper towel tubes, decorative materials, paper strips, “ears,” cups, string.
Lesson Opening: The story of Samuel is a fun one that lends itself to several activities and even multiple focuses. This lesson is primarily about listening. Depending on time and age level, feel free to add or alter elements in order to fit needs and interests. For opening activities, consider ideas like:

  • The mystery sound byte…have recordings, or go in a separate room and make strange noises, inviting students to listen closely and guess what they are hearing. Discuss the importance of careful attention and listening.
  • “Telephone…” this one doesn’t get old. Whisper a message to pass around the circle, and see how it changes from beginning to end.
  • Simon says, with variations…you might have “Simon” give directions three times, or have students perform the act three times (since the story involves calling three times).
  • Who is that? Blindfold one student, and have them walk up to another and ask who it is. Have the child try to fool the blindfolded one by disguising his/her voice, and see if the blindfolded guesser can determine who it is.
  • Samuel, are you awake? This is best played outdoors or with extra space. Have “Samuel” stand (or sit/crouch) with his back to the group, and have the rest of the players slowly creep up on him, repeating, “Samuel, are you awake?” When he thinks the group is close, Samuel turns around and tries to chase them and tag the callers, a la sharks and minnows.

Bible Lesson:
Invite students to open their Bibles and partner read the story, pausing for questions and comments. Alternatively, you may read the story to them (as they follow along), and invite them to create an illustrated comic version of the action (provide paper and drawing utensils). If followed properly and not too distracting, this can be a great way to engage young minds in the story…
Set the stage with who Samuel was and why he was important. Mention his miraculous birth by an old mother named Hannah, who prayed for him fervently and offered him back to the Lord to work in God’s temple and learn. While studying under the priest Eli, Samuel had an interesting experience…
 The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions.
One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel. -1 Samuel 3:1-4
Samuel is working under Eli and following his instructions as needed….and then we hear from God, even though visions were rare at the time. Now, Samuel at first doesn’t recognize this as the Lord’s voice, which must sound a lot like Eli’s, because that’s who he runs to…
Samuel answered, “Here I am.” 5 And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down.
6 Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
“My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”
7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
8 A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.”
Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. 9 So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.
10 The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”  -1 Samuel 3:4-10
After disturbing the slumber of his master twice, Samuel is advised that the voice is not coming from the room next door, but from Heaven itself. When he recognizes that, the boy submits himself to God and prepares for what message is to come.
(Note: feel free to delve into verses beyond this, and discuss what Samuel did afterward as a prophet and man of God.)
How can we be listeners? God might not call to us in our sleep, but it’s important to notice that Samuel was always willing to obey. Whether he was listening to Eli, to his mother, or to God, Samuel trusted the words of those around us. We might not always enjoy obeying or listening to moms/dads/teachers, but it’s important to listen well and follow directions. When we do this, and when we listen to what knowledgeable people tell us about God, it helps us understand what He wants of us. We can also listen by reading God’s word, the Bible. We know it to be true, and we know we can trust it for solid advice and for the true words of God.
Again, there are multiple options here…select the best craft for your group and timing:

  • Megaphone/listening “trumpet”: provide students with paper towel tubes, and have them decorate with stickers and markers (and verse caption) to serve as “listen-up” reminders.
  • “I’m All Ears!” Help students fashion headbands by cutting long strips of paper to fit their heads. Have kids color and cut large ears, and staple or glue to the sides of the head band.
  • Special names… just like God called Samuel’s name, our names are important. Have students write or draw their names with decorative color and design.
  • Telephone…revisited: Make an old school “phone” out of cups and string. See if it works!

Close with prayer and reminder of God’s work in our lives. Ask God to open our hearts and minds to listen, and to love and serve Him and His people.

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