The Woman at the Well
Summary of Lesson Activities:
This lesson focuses on the change that happened to the woman as a result of meeting Jesus. Discuss changes that occur – both that we can see (changes on the “outside") and those we can’t see (changes on the inside"). Carry on the theme of change by changing some ordinary ingredients into a tasty snack: ice cream! (Students make their own individual serving ice cream in a bag). Discuss the change that can occur when we recognize our need for “living water.”
“Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.” John 4:13-14a (NIV, 1984)
Workshop Objectives —
After completing this Rotation, participants will be able to:
- Name that the story is found in the New Testament. Identify the meaning of the word “gospel.” For 3rd grade and up: Locate the story in John. Identify the four Gospels.
- Retell the story in his/her own words.
- Discover how radical it was for a Jewish person to associate with a Samaritan.
- Explore the woman’s position in society; discuss the significance of the compassion that Jesus offered.
- Define “living water” as what Jesus offers us: a close relationship with God - assurance that God loves us, no matter what.
- Recognize the change that took place in the woman. Recognize how our wanting this living water can change us.
Author’s note: This is the only portion of this background that I wrote. The rest can’t be shared due to copyright issues. We used the background that was available for a lesson we’d purchased from Cornerstones.
[Update 2016: In the past year or so, the founders of Cornerstones retired. Their website and materials are no longer available.]
The water image in this story can seem complicated. It’s not just water, it’s “living water.” Jesus is using a metaphor to reach out to a woman at a well. Obviously she is in need of physical water; we all need water in order to live. Jesus sees that this woman needs more. One physical drink of water won’t satisfy for long. We’ll need another, and another.
Just as everyone experiences thirst for physical water, everyone is also spiritually thirsty. It is part of the “human condition;” it is the way God created us. Why did God create us to be spiritually thirsty? This need, our thirst, is what causes us to seek God! God can in turn, offer us “living water.”
Living water has been described as…
- in a literal sense: flowing water
- God (refer to Jeremiah 2:13 and 17:13)
- Wisdom (Proverbs 13:14)
- Jesus (Zechariah 14:8)
- the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39).
No wonder the woman was confused! Our definition will be: what Jesus offers us: a close relationship with God. Living water gives us a well-nourished life as someone who is assured that God loves them, no matter what!
Author’s note: 1st through 3rd graders visited this workshop. This workshop was done at our church early in the fall, before the 3rd graders receive their Bibles. Thus, there is not the usual Bible usage that our lessons normally include.
- Read the scripture for this lesson.
- Read and reflect on the overview material provided for this lesson.
- Gather the materials
- An easel and appropriate marker
- 1/3 & 1/2 measuring cups
- Two – one Tablespoon measuring spoons and a 1/2 teaspoon
- Eating spoons
- Whole milk – ½ cup per student (for dairy allergy students substitute soymilk)
- Crushed ice – about 6 cups per student
- Sandwich-sized zipper bags – two per student
- Gallon-sized freezer zipper bags – one per student
- Sugar – 1 T. per student;
- Vanilla – ½ tsp. per student
- Rock Salt - 6 tablespoons per student
- Towels (hand towel size is ok) – one per student
- Ice cream toppings: sprinkles
- One Adventure Bible with tabs (Law, History, etc.)
Before Start of Class:
- Be able to seamlessly tell the story. (See the lesson starting with “It happened like this…")
- Locate all supplies needed.
- Prepare sandwich-sized zipper bags (1 per student). Place in each bag: 1 Tablespoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.
- Prepare gallon-sized zipper bags (1 per student) by putting 1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon of rock salt into each bag. (Do not add the ice to the rock salt yet!) Keep these two different sized zipper bags separate.
- Write on the easel the words: “living water.” Leave space around these words. Also write: “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. John 4:14a”
- When 3rd grade visits, distribute Bibles around the seats at the tables.
- In the leaders Bible (a purple Adventure Bible) bookmark the division between the Old and the New Testament (page 1048). Also bookmark John 4:4.
Opening - Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Gather everyone around the tables in the Social Hall; greet your students warmly, welcoming them to the Cooking Workshop. Introduce yourself and have the Shepherds introduce themselves.
- How many of you changed out of your pajamas into clothes this morning?
- How many of you have changed by growing taller over the last few years?
- How are these two types of changes the same? (allow a few replies)
Say: Those are both changes that happen to our bodies; changes that we see on the outside. The insides of our bodies can change as well.
Ask: Here’s an inside change: Who has ever changed their mind about something?
What caused you to change? (accept a few answers)
Say: Today we are going to talk about a change that happened to a woman who was changed on the inside when she met Jesus. To help us think about changes, we’ll be making some changes happen for our cooking project. Let’s start with prayer.
Ask for any prayer requests.
Say: Towards the end of the prayer, I will allow a time when you can pray silently for one need you have, and for one thankful. Then we’ll use the Lord’s Prayer as the ending.
A prayer suggestion: Dear God, we love to spend time learning and doing things that help us to know your son, Jesus. We recognize that when we better know Jesus, it can change us inside. Pray for requests. Lord, now you will hear each of us pray silently, sharing our needs and our thankfuls… (Don’t rush the silence!) End with the Lord’s Prayer. Amen.
Dig - Main Content and Reflection:
Say: Our Bible story today is about a woman who met Jesus at a well.
Ask: Who can tell me what a well is? (allow a few replies)
Say: In Jesus’ time they didn’t have faucets that they turned on and water came out. There was a well, a hole dug in the ground to access water. Women took buckets to the well and lowered the bucket into the hole and drew out water. They used that water for washing, and cooking and drinking. Our story is about a woman who met Jesus at the village well.
Ask: So, now here comes the question that we ask every week, and I have just given you a clue: Where in the Bible would we find our story? (in the NT)
As you say the next words, show the portions of the Bible that are the Old & New Testament.
Say: The Bible is divided into two sections, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament contains stories that Jesus learned as a child. The New Testament tells us the story of Jesus’ life, and about the start of the church after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Besides being divided into Old and New Testaments, the Bible is also divided into books. The first four books of the New Testament have been given a special name.
Ask: What do we call the first four books of the New Testament? (the Gospels)
Say: The word “Gospel” means “good news.” The first four books of the New Testament tell the story of the good news about Jesus
For 3rd grade:
Show the Adventure Bible with tabs and point out the one for “Gospels.”
Say: You will receive your own Bible next month in worship. You too can collect tabs like these for your Bible. They can help you to quickly find what you are looking for.
Ask: Who can tell me the names of the first four books of the New Testament? (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)
Say: Now let’s find the story in the Gospel of John.
Review the quick way to find the New Testament. (Opening the Bible in middle lands you usually in Psalms. Taking just the back half and finding middle of that, gets you to beginning of the NT.)
Have everyone find John 4:4. Make sure that everyone understands the difference between chapter numbers and verse numbers.
For all students:
Say: Our story is found in the Gospel of John. It starts off with a drastic change, an outside change; a change in behavior: Jesus and his disciples are traveling through a place called Samaria!
Ask: Can anyone tell me why it was unusual for Jews to go to Samaria?
Say: Here is how Jewish people felt about Samaritans: They hated them! The Jewish people would travel far out of their way just to avoid Samaria! As an example of how Jews felt about Samaritans, think of someone whom you can’t stand; you won’t eat lunch with them at school and you won’t play with them and you don’t want to be near them!
Ask: Can you think of anyone like that in your life? (allow space for thought)
Say: So it was pretty radical for Jesus to be traveling through Samaria.
Ask: What else did Jesus do that was radical on his trip through Samaria?
Say: This was a really big change that one could see on the outside: He talked to a woman from Samaria! In Jesus’ day, men didn’t talk to women outside of their family!
Jesus was all about big changes! Help me to tell this story if you know it.
For 3rd grade, which visits on the last week of this Rotation, word the telling into questions such as: What happened next? Have them look for answers in the Bible. Encourage telling by the students!)
It happened like this: Jesus and his disciples are in Samaria and it was around lunchtime. Needing something to eat, Jesus sent his disciples to find some food while he waited by the well. There wasn’t anyone else at the well; no one came to the well at noon; it was the hottest time of the day! But then, along comes a Samaritan woman.
Ask: I wonder if she came to the well at noon because she didn’t want to see anyone!?
She must have felt like an outcast! That’s an inside feeling where you feel bad. Have you ever felt left out? (allow a few replies)
Are you ready for another outside change that happened in our story?
Say: Jesus asked the Samaritan woman for a drink! The woman was shocked! I’ll bet the woman was even more surprised by what Jesus said next! Let’s read it in the Bible.
Read John 4:10-11.
Ask: What does the woman think that this “living water” is? (allow a few replies = no right or wrong answer; she’s likely confused!)
Say: I’ll bet that the woman thinks that Jesus is offering some sort of super-water; water that has a special ingredient so that you’ll never need any more water! Who wouldn’t want some of that!
Ask: Is that what Jesus was talking about? (no)
Say: Let’s see what Jesus said.
Read John 4:13-14a.
(Note: The “a” means only read the first part of verse 14. Stop after the punctuation mark.)
Say: Now, I’ll let you in on a secret, which you can get if you go home and read this story. It turns out that Jesus knows all about this woman! He knows that she is looked down upon; that she doesn’t have any friends. Jesus is offering this woman something more than a drink of water. He is offering her friendship, and confidence, and peace inside. He is offering her the feeling that God loves her no matter what!
Ask: Wouldn’t you like those things? (allow space for thought)
Say: The Samaritan woman was changed on the inside as a result of meeting Jesus. She changed her mind about how she felt about herself; about the words she used to describe herself. She no longer called herself “left out” or “not wanted” or “lonely.” Now she called herself a loved, child of God! This inside change caused her to change how she acted on the outside. We’ll talk more about that, but first let’s make some changes happen in the kitchen.
In the Kitchen:
Wash your hands first and then have everyone wash their hands. Offer aprons.
Count the number students. Set aside any excess bags that won’t be needed. Or ask the Shepherd to prepare more bags if needed.
Divide students up and enlist their help in doing the following:
- To the gallon zipper bags with rock salt, add ice until the bag is half full.
- To the sandwich zipper bags, add 1/2 cup of milk (or soymilk if dairy allergy). Seal bags thoroughly, squeezing out excess air.
- Pass out a towel to everyone.
Once the bags are complete, check the seal on everyone’s sandwich bag.
Make sure that the large bags have rock salt and ice. Have students place their sandwich bag inside a second sandwich bag and seal it, squeezing out excess air. Place both bags inside a large one, and seal it carefully. Check the seal on everyone’s large bag.
Say: Start shaking your bag – vigorously! You may wish to hold your bag with the towel, as it will get cold. Watch for a change inside your bag.
Students will need to continuously shake or knead their bag for 5-8 minutes. Make sure that they keep the bag moving and that the ice surrounds the milk mixture.
Since it is hard to hear in the kitchen, move out to the Social Hall for discussion. Arrange everyone standing in a semi-circle near the easel. (Everyone keep shaking!)
Discussion: (while the students are working)
- Does anyone know what we are creating?
Say: We are changing milk and sugar and vanilla, into ice cream!
- What other sorts of changes have you seen lately? (grass green after rain, new paint in the classroom at school, etc.)
- What about if there’s an instrument you play or a sport you do, can there be change that happens?
- What makes you notice change?
Say: The woman at the well was changed by her experience with Jesus because Jesus offered her living water.
- What do you suppose Jesus meant by living water?
Accept all answers. Write their replies around the words on the easel. Add your personal reply.
Say: By offering the woman living water, Jesus was giving her a chance to see how her life could be different with a close relationship with God. When we accept living water from Jesus, it makes us feel full, or satisfied, that God loves us, no matter what.
- I had mentioned that the inside change that happened in the woman, caused her to act differently on the outside. What did the woman do that was different? (if necessary, read John 4:28-29)
Say: The woman wasn’t afraid to share the good news about Jesus with the townspeople! And she had originally come to the well at noon to avoid seeing anyone.
- How can it change us to know that we’d like some living water from Jesus?
Once the milk appears to have transformed into ice cream you are done. Have students carefully open the large bag over a sink. Pour out the ice and saltwater. Wipe off the tops of the small bags. Allow everyone to add 1 spoonful of toppings to their ice cream. [Have early finishers wash the measuring devices.]
When everyone is ready, grab a spoon and return to the Social Hall with his or her ice cream. Eat and enjoy!
Say: Jesus saw that the Samaritan woman was thirsty for acceptance; thirsty for understanding; thirsty for friendship. These are all things that Jesus offers. This was the living water that Jesus offered. Maybe she didn’t know it, but she was thirsting for God! We all thirst for God. We can have it quenched no other way but by our belief and faith in Jesus. This next week, whenever you feel thirsty, use that as a reminder to accept living water from Jesus.
If you have extra time:
Do a Mad-Lib: Use the easel. Write down their response. Then read them the altered verse. Ask for: (1) verb (action word), (2) noun, (3) verb, (4) noun, (5) verb.
Read it as: Everyone who (1)'s this (2) will be thirsty again, but whoever (3) the (4), I give him will never (be) (5) .
- Senyard, Jamie. “Saul on the Road to Damascus: Cooking/Science Workshop.” 2003. (for ice cream directions)
- The NIV Adventure Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zonderkidz, 2000.
Visit Carol's blog – where we encourage parents to continue the learning at home.
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A lesson written by Carol Hulbert from: First United Methodist Church
Ann Arbor, MI
Copyright First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI.
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