We as people tend to be competitive, and youngsters are no different. In fact, kids often find themselves in heated debates over who is first in line, whose turn it is, or who did the best job. In today’s story, we see that even disciples of Jesus argued over who was most important. We will see that God loves it when we approach Him humbly and do not beg for credit or glory. This lesson is especially relevant for children because we see Jesus emphasize an appreciation for children and admiration of their mindset. Our little ones might at times feel frustrated about not doing all that “big kids” do, but GOD still thinks they are special and precious!
Lesson focus: God thinks that little children are important, and He wants even big people to think with a humble and childlike attitude.
Passage: Mark 9:33-42; Luke 18:15-17
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th Grade (adaptable older or younger)
Materials Needed: Paper in various types and colors; coloring materials; ribbons; stickers
Lesson Opening: Who’s first? Begin the lesson by sharing with the children that we will be creating pictures to see who makes the best art work…but there are a few twists. Allow students to figure out who is the oldest in the group, and allow them to select paper materials one at a time oldest to youngest. If students are too young to know age gaps by month, you may need to help or perhaps go by height rather than age. After students all pick out their papers, have them pick materials (crayons, markers, etc.), but this time with the youngest choosing first. Finally, tell students they have a time limit to create their pictures. The topic of drawing/art is open-ended, but they will only have a brief time to complete them. Draw names at random to stagger the start times of kids so they all start at different times. Give them several minutes to make their art work, and then take a look at the work. Explain that today we will be talking about our attitude and how God tells us we should think when we come to Him.
Set a little background for the story. Explain that back when Jesus was alive, people did not always think kids were very important! A lot of times children were ignored or used for work until they were old enough to understand and really participate in things. Jesus did not agree. In fact, there are several spots in the Bible where we see Him being criticized for letting children come to Him. Read (or have kids read) Luke 18:15-17:
People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Even the disciples of Jesus wondered why He was spending so much time on little children. But Jesus explained that He welcomed and loved kids. He also said that people should “receive the kingdom of God like a little child…” What does that mean? Invite students to think about that as they look at another passage…in this one, Jesus and His disciples are walking down the road when He asks them a question:
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” -Mark 9: 33-37
The disciples were arguing over who was best. They wanted to know if Jesus had a favorite or which one was most important. But they knew Jesus wouldn’t really like that argument (it probably wasn’t the first time they’d had it), so they didn’t say anything. Somehow, though, Jesus already knew. He told them that if they wanted to be great, they had to be humble. What does “humble” mean? Depending on age group, discuss or explain humility by sharing how important it is to not think too much of yourself. This is what Jesus meant earlier when He said that we should think like a little child. It means not expecting to know everything or wanting to be the best all the time; instead, we trust that GOD has all of the answers and will help us in His time.
Sometimes it can be hard to be a kid. Invite students to share any stories they might have of times when they have had to miss out on something or do it differently because of age. Share a personal anecdote if you have one. Maybe it is an earlier bed time, or not getting to watch a certain movie, or having to wait for things like driving a car and getting a job. Sometimes older people look down on kids. But Jesus wants people of ALL ages to come to him and trust Him, and He thinks kids are great! Isn’t that neat?
A winner in God’s eyes…remind students that they don’t have to be the “best” to be great in God’s eyes. Provide them with a cardboard cut-out trophy or ribbon—or better yet, pick up some real blue ribbons from a craft or supply store. Allow students to decorate and attach a caption along the lines of “I am a winner to God!”
Close with prayer and reminder of God’s work in our lives. Ask for trust and faith in His goodness and for humility and understanding. Thank God for opportunities to share His love with others and take care of them.