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Teaching the Psalms: Psalm 100


(C) 2005, Phyllis Wezeman & Anna Liechty




Psalm 100, a song of thanksgiving that is not attributed to a specific author, is an invitation to joyfully worship God. While the writer is not known, it is recognized that this has been a favorite Psalm through the ages. The title of the hymn tune written by William Kethe, a Scottish clergyman, is still called "Old Hundredth" because it was the setting for Psalm 100 enjoyed by those Pilgrims who fled persecution in the mid-sixteenth century.

Psalm 100 is divided into four parts, each written in a parallel structure typical of Hebrew poetry. The second phrase in each section completes the thought of the first or rewords it. Verse one begins with "Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth." The second phrase completes that thought and reiterates the directive: "Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing." While the first and third sections -- verses 1 and 2, and 4 -- tell us what to do to worship God, the second and fourth sections -- verses 3 and 5 -- tell us why we are to give God thanks. The Psalmist's two-fold message is that people everywhere are to rejoice in God's presence because God is the Creator of all that is and because God's goodness is everlasting.

Psalm 100 is a familiar text that most people have read, maybe even memorized, at some point in their Christian study. The challenge for the education setting, however, is to help learners move beyond surface knowledge of a Biblical passage to explore and experience new levels of understanding in familiar words. The following methods inspire leaders to create new patterns for learning and involve participants in hands-on activities that tap into different interests and intelligences. Each category contains two ideas to develop in traditional classroom settings, workshop rotation model programs, or learning center approaches.


Workshop Ideas


  • Recommend ways your church could improve its sense of joyful welcome to members and visitors.
  • Take a tour of your building and look for ways that the design of your church invites people to feel welcome to "enter the gates with thanksgiving."


  • Construct a triptych to suggest gates on the outside sections; then write Psalm 100 in the center portion.
  • Use calligraphy pens to write prayers of praise and thanksgiving.


  • Create welcoming banners to display at the entrance or the "gates" of the church or worship space. Use colors and fabric to suggest royalty and pageantry.
  • Make a Psalm 100 patchwork quilt by giving squares to different groups or classes within the church. Give instructions to participants to depict a symbol of thanksgiving, or assign different groups a specific line from the Psalm. Have someone coordinate and piece together the collected squares.

Creative Writing:

  • List the many ways God's love is around you every day; then use these ideas to write a poem.
  • Write a "cheer" to shout God's praises; then use it for a contemporary call to worship.


  • Create a "faithful generations" recipe collection by having participants bring in a family recipe from grandparents or great-grandparents. When possible, stories of family faith could be added as inspiration, as well.
  • Have each person bring a favorite food for donating to a local food pantry as a thank offering for God's goodness.


  • Learn a dance of celebration from a different county.
  • Let groups choose music that makes them happy and choreograph steps or gestures to express their joy.


  • Divide the Psalm into portions for dramatic interpretation and assign one segment per small group. Have each group develop actions to pantomime the meaning of their part. Then enact the gestures as someone reads dramatically for the whole class or congregation.
  • Improvise a "praise machine" with each participant adding one new sound or gesture in praise of God.


  • Have each participant design a sheep; collect and hide them. Then let them look for their own sheep. Stress that the Creator knows each one of us as well as the learners know the sheep of their creation.
  • Play a variation of a familiar group game that challenges participants to remember what others have said as well as add something new. Call the game, "I'm" Going to Enter the Courts of the King." Instruct each person in the circle to think of something they would want to be thankful for in God's presence. Then instruct each to say: "I'm going to enter the courts of the King, and I'm going to bring _______ in thanksgiving." For example, someone might bring "good health" or another "my family." Each person must remember all the other items brought to the court as well as add an item of his or her own.


  • Find different versions of Psalm 100 set to music and enjoy listening to or performing them.
  • Explore recyclable materials to form new and exciting rhythm instruments for making a joyful noise.


  • Assemble a montage of photographs from magazines portraying a variety of people making a joyful noise.
  • Photograph your congregation during worship or special events and combine the pictures with historical photos to display as evidence of "praising through the years."


  • Fashion sock puppet sheep covered with cotton balls; then perform a hymn of praise with singing sheep.
  • Make a glove puppet with a collection of faces singing.


  • Distribute "story stems" like "I knew God's faithfulness when ..." and collect responses for publication in newsletters or bulletins.
  • Interview family members for stories of God's love and care demonstrated in past time of joy or sorrow.


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