The Great Commandment
Summary of Lesson Activities:
This lesson plan involves the decoration and filling of bags for the homeless in your community. Contact your local shelter or food bank for help coming up with this project. Alternately, you could assemble bags of school supplies and healthy snacks for needy children in your community.
Matthew 22:37 –39.
- Read the great commandments in a couple of different versions. Note that the commandments are recorded in 3 gospels-Matthew, Mark, and Luke—with some variation in wording and the setting in which Jesus spoke them. Read the Bible Background sheet.
- Read the storybook Benjamin Brody’s Backyard Bag. You will need to be familiar enough with the story to read it aloud and show the pictures.
- Gather some of the items from the story: Briefcase with papers; sports bag with clothes, saxophone in case; diaper bag; book bag; toy cars; different rocks; red rubber ball. You do not need everything but some of the items will add interest as you read the story and if children have time to act out some the story with their own bags.
- Bibles (In Classroom)
- Benjamin Brody’s Backyard Bag, by Phyllis vos Wezemann and Colleen Aalsburg Wiessner Publ. Brethren Press, 1991, #9780871780911. OUT OF PRINT - try an internet search.
- Paper bags with handles
- Crayons or markers
- List of items needed by CovenantHouse (this is a local ministry serving the homeless population)
- Note to parents
- Review Bible passage
- Read story
- Decorate bags
- Discuss story, neighbors and homeless
- Learn about Covenant House -CH is a local interfaith agency supported by our church and others in the community. One area of their ministry is focus on the needs of the homeless.
- Closing Prayer
- Get ready to leave
Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:
Greet the children and introduce yourself.
Open with a prayer.
Look up and read Matthew passage. Or ask children to recite great commandments. They should be able to do this by the 3rd week of the rotation. Make sure they can tell you the reference—Matthew 22:37 –39.
Discuss who is their neighbor—questions could include: tell us about your next-door neighbor; what makes a ‘good neighbor’ is someone across the street your neighbor? In another block? Are your neighbors alike? How are some neighbors different? What do they think Jesus meant by neighbor? Explain that in a story Jesus told he helped people see that a neighbor is anyone we see who needs help or our friendship. (We will have a unit on the Good Samaritan later in the year. You do not need to go into that story now –we just want to have the children think about what it means to be a neighbor in the context of the great commandments)
If you are at the table you could move away from the table asking children to form a story circle where they can all see while you read. Ask them if you could be a neighbor if you didn’t have a house. Tell them this story will help us think about loving all kinds of neighbors. Read story and show pictures.
Dig- Main Content and Reflection:
Pass out bags. Let children decorate and put their names on one side with crayons or markers.
While coloring discuss the story— let them share their impressions and questions? Was the homeless woman a neighbor to Benjamin? What could Benjamin do so be a good neighbor to show love?
Show them the list of needed items from Covenant House. Explain that Covenant House is a place where homeless people can go for help. They can even do laundry and take showers there. They can have their mail sent there since they have no address. They can talk to people who get them more help. They can spend time with friends. Give each child the list and read it together. Tell them to put the list in their bag. They can show the list to their parents and together they can gather things from the list to give to Covenant House. Ask them to think about why someone might need some of the things listed. They can use the bag to gather the items and to carry them to church. Bring them back—Nov. 2-16.
Make a list of other things homeless people need. Help children think of things like friends, safety, knowing others care, as well as the physical things. Include these things in a closing prayer asking God to help all of us be loving neighbors and to help our homeless neighbors.
End with a prayer.
Make sure children leave with their bags. And notes.
Younger elementary may want to play with ‘props’ from the story instead of coloring. Use your judgment on this and watch the time to be sure to introduce children to Covenant House and what they can do.
Older elementary will share this lesson with the preschool class.
When they gather introduce the story. Ask for students to take one of several important roles
Readers—divide the story among the children who wish to read. The text will be copied so that they can read without having to worry about showing the pictures
Book holder—will show pictures and turn pages so all the children will see
Monitors—If you have children who don’t want to do the above they can be the story circle monitors sitting behind the children in the story circle and encouraging good listening behavior
After story, hand out bags. Older students will put children’s names on bags and help younger children decorate them.
Pass out Covenant House list—Have older children read list to others. Parent letter with list will explain the purpose of the collection.
When it is time to leave have all children gather in circle. You may ask one or two of the older children to close in prayer—one can pray that we will remember to find ways to love all our neighbors; another can pray for the needs of the homeless.
Make sure that older children get their own bag and Covenant House list to take home.
A lesson written by Lynn C. Wood from: Bream Memorial Presbyterian Church
Charleston, West Virginia
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