Workshop Lessons about the Prophet Jeremiah

Summary of WORKSHOPS in this Lesson Set:

  • Bible Background Notes
  • Art 1: - Children will break clay pots by hitting them with a hammer. They will work cooperatively to piece them back together.
  • Art 2:   - Children will make their own clay and form a vessel out of it. They will be told to smash it and reform it into something new.
  • Computer - Children will explore the definition of a prophet using “Fluffy and God’s Amazing Christmas Adventure.”
  • Video - Children will watch “No More Baths!” where children, emboldened by what they learned of the passive resistance of the civil rights movement, seek to change an injustice in their own town. Children write their own solutions to the problem. (Alternatively, you might show clips of the JEREMIAH Video from the TNT Bible Collection).

Scripture Reference:
The Book of Jeremiah, especially 1:4-10; 18:1-11; 22:1-5, 11-19, 31:27-34
We will be focusing during this rotation on the general role of a prophet, not one particular story.

Memory Verse
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – Jeremiah 31:33b

Bible Background:
The Fall of Judah
The nation of Israel, as we generally think of it, divided into two kingdoms after the death of Solomon. The northern kingdom, “Israel,” was defeated by the Assyrians in 721 BCE. The Southern kingdom, “Judah,” lasted another 134 years, and was defeated by Babylon in 587 BCE. Jeremiah is a prophet in the period leading up to the fall of the southern kingdom, Judah.

When Babylon conquered a nation, they removed a relatively small number of influential people from the nation, killing a few and bringing the majority to their capital, where they were basically powerful, learned slaves. (i.e. Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah) A puppet ruler was put into place in the conquered nation and limits were placed on ability to form a standing military and defenses. The puppet king would continue to rule the nation, extracting payment for Babylon from the people.

Jeremiah – book of J.’s prophesies, probably as organized by the scribe, Baruch
Lamentations – These are often ascribed to Jeremiah, but the book makes no mention of the prophet and the content and grammar are so different that most serious Biblical scholars consider Jeremiah’s authorship as highly unlikely.
2 Chronicles – Chapters 35 & 36 make mention of the prophet.
Other O.T. – Ezra 1:1 and Daniel 9:2 make mention of the prophet. Other OT references to Jeremiah are of a different man with the same name.
Matthew – Makes mention in 2:17, 16:14, and 27:19.

The Life of the Prophet
We know more about the life of Jeremiah than any other prophet. Except for Jonah, he is the only prophet who contains large pieces of informational prose, rather than simply oracles/poetry.

c. 645-40 BCE Birth of Jeremiah (near the beginning of Josiah’s reign)
626 Call of Jeremiah
609 Death of (good) King Josiah; end of first period of prophesies
609-598 Reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah; many prophesies against this king.
In 36:21-32 Jehoiakim tore up and burned one of Jeremiah’s prophesies
598-97 Jerusalem is attacked by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar
597 Zedekiah becomes Nebuchadnezzar’s puppet king over Judah. Sometimes he listens to Jeremiah, other times he persecutes him.
597-587 Jeremiah under house arrest – something he may have arranged for his own safety.
587 With the fall of Judah, Jeremiah and scribe Baruch are taken to Egypt with some escaping notables, possibly against his will. There, he authored several oracles 43:8-44:30, 46:13-26.

Themes
The rulers are condemned for their worship of false gods and their failure to administer justice. Their decision to form a political alliance with Egypt to ward of Babylon is also seen as acting against God. An understanding of what God considers the responsibilities of kings is important. Pomp and parade are never to take the place of providing for the less fortunate in society.

“Are you a king because you compete in cedar? Did not your father (Josiah) eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy. Then it was well.” – Jeremiah 22:15-16

The prophet declares that the Babylonian attack is not a final punishment for wrongdoing, but rather a tool in God’s hand that will bring a wayward Judah back into the fold. Always, God is seen as the one calling the Babylonians (1:14-16) and this whole event must be seen as under God’s control. However, it must be emphasized that this is ultimately for Judah’s restoration, as mentioned in the metaphor of the potter and clay,

The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him… Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? Says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”
– Jeremiah 18:4, 6

God’s summary of the future in Jeremiah 31 is also ultimately a promise of hope following the destruction about to take place.

“And just as I have watched over them to pluck up and break down, to overthrow, destroy, and bring evil, so I will watch over them to build and to plant,” says the Lord. – Jeremiah 31:28

Teaching this Story to Kids
“Only a boy” Like Moses, who tried to talk God out of his call by claiming an inability to speak well, Jeremiah makes excuses as to why he can’t answer God’s call – he’s too young and no one will listen to him. As with David and Goliath, children enjoy stories where a young person is sent by God to do adult things. Ask them why they think God would have sent a child instead of an adult to be a prophet.

Justice “It’s not fair” is a cry many parents hear. Children are very insistent that good people should get good things and bad people get bad things. In that sense the prophesies are very satisfying to them. Help them see the messiness of the judgment against Judah. Point out to them the facts of Jeremiah’s life. Jeremiah was good and did God’s will, but bad things happened to him, including having to leave his home and move to Egypt.

Poetry and Prophecy Kids can understand a good story and pull moral lessons from it pretty easily. Symbolism and poetic language are more difficult for them to grasp. Educators generally emphasize narrative (content) poems and poetic structure during this age range, with symbolism and metaphor getting emphasis as children enter junior high. Teachers need to be aware of this, and may have to “feed” the children the meaning of some metaphors rather than expecting them to understand it themselves.

New Beginning Children are creatures of the present tense. If they don’t like math, they rebel against it, despite a parent’s or teacher’s attempts to explain that it will be useful later in life. The same is true as we talk of the potter and clay. It is unnatural for children to think of “present sufferings” as useful or even necessary preparations for the future. Help them to stretch their minds and grasp this important, hope-filled, object of faith.

Predictions Do the prophets predict the future for us in our day and age, or was it merely predicting the future for ancient Israel in 587 BCE? If we read the Bible carefully, will it tell us what is going to happen next? Or does it just give general, true predictions (i.e., if you treat people badly, your nation will fall). What is your point of view of these issues? The children will probably have multiple opinions.




Jeremiah

Art Workshop 1

Summary of Lesson Activities:
Children will smash and reconstruct clay pots as a way of understanding the metaphor of Jeremiah 18: 1-11.

Scripture Reference:

Jeremiah 18: 1-11

Outcome Objectives:

  1. Children will attempt to put a pot that they broke back together.
  2. Children will articulate that the repaired pot looks different from the original.
  3. Children will explain the metaphor in Jeremiah 18:1-11.
  4. Children will apply the metaphor to what happened to Israel and/or what has happened to them.

Supplies List:

  • terracotta pots
  • CD “The Potter’s Hand”
  • large plastic zip bags
  • hammers (optional)
  • glue
  • masking tape

Advance Preparation:

  • Do a practice smash to decide what method works best for smashing the pot: hitting or dropping. The goal is to have about a dozen pieces of various sizes. You don’t want the pot smashed into smithereens nor do you want only one or two pieces.
  • Gather the materials.
  • Read the scripture ahead of time.


Presentation

Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:

Greet the children and introduce yourself.

Opening Activity:

Play a partnering game to pair children together for the main activity. Tell them to find someone…
… who has the same size foot as you and stand toe to toe.
… who has the same hair color as you and put your hand on each other’s heads.
… who likes the same TV show as you and stand back to back.
Etc.

When everyone is paired up in a way you find satisfactory, stop the game and tell the children that this is the person they will be working with this next hour. (If there is an odd number of children, allow one group of 3).

Dig-Main Content and Reflection:

Main Lesson
(NOTE: No writing is required for this discussion. Try sitting down with children at the tables or on the floor as you have this discussion, rather than standing over them.)
Ask the children if they have ever broken anything.

  • What did you break?
  • Did you try and fix it? What happened?
  • Did you get in trouble?
  • Is it worse to break something that belongs to you or to someone else? Why?
  • Has anyone ever broken something of yours? How did that feel? Did they fix it?
  • When things are fixed, are they the same/better/worse than they were before? Explain.


Explain that you are going to ask them to break apart a clay pot with their partner. Have each partner team put a pot in a bag and either smash it with the hammer or drop it on the floor per your instructions.

When they are finished, explain to them that their job now is to put the pot back together. Explain that the glue is to hold the pot together, but the masking tape can be used to hold the pot in place while it dries.

While they are working, play the CD “The Potter’s Hand” on repeat mode for background music.

Call time with about 20 minutes class time remaining. Clean up and discuss how they put their pots together. Was it easy? Hard?

Life Application:
On a paper easel write the words “clay pot, smashed, glued” across the top of a piece of paper. You may want to draw lines down the paper between words. Read Jeremiah 18:1-4. Help the children to place appropriate words in the columns (i.e. “vessel, spoiled, reworked). Read Jeremiah 18:5-7. Help the children to place appropriate words in the columns (i.e. Israel, destroy, build). Read the following story to them:

When I was in school, all the children in my class teased me and made fun of me. I would go home every night crying and it got to the point that I hated school and I begged my mom not to make me go. I was very, very sad. No matter what I did, the kids, especially one popular girl, were mean to me. The teachers didn’t help. It seemed like they liked the popular girl, too. Sometimes I would be angry with God. “Why did you let this happen to me, God?” I would ask, “If you really love me, God, you won’t let terrible things keep happening to me.”
Well, I grew up. I wasn’t picked on so much as I got older. I went to college, and now have a good job. In fact, in my job I work a lot with kids. Sometimes I see kids picking on each other, and I try to help them understand how hurtful they are being. I tell kids who are teased my story, and they know I understand what they are going through.
Sometimes I think that God wanted me to have a hard time when I was younger. God had a plan that someday I would work with kids, and God wanted to be sure that I understood the problems they were having. God allowed me to be beat down, so that I could become someone who can help others.

Ask children what they think of the story, especially the conclusion.

  • Do you agree with the last sentence? Why or why not?
  • When she was a child, did she know what God had planned for her?
  • Help the children to fit the story into the columns. (i.e. kid, teased/picked on, understanding adult)
  • Can you think of any problems that might be part of God’s plan? What are the problems? What do you think God’s plan might be.

Journaling:
“God is building something new”
Ask children to reflect on what they have learned about the potter, about Israel, about the girl in the story, or perhaps something that has happened to them. Ask them to write about how God is building something new out of something terrible. Younger children can illustrate this idea.

To take home:
Flip a coin between partners to determine who gets the cracked pot.

Adjustments for age levels and abilities
For younger children – A day or more before the lesson, use tempera paints and create a simple pattern around the pot. This will make it easier to put the “puzzle” back together.

For older children – Older children are more likely to have an experience they can already pull from, similar to the story in the “Life Application” section. Use their examples to deepen the discussion, and encourage them to express those experiences in their journal time.

If you have extra time
Read Jeremiah 31:27-34. How does this passage fit in with the metaphor we have been learning?

If time runs short…
Don’t spend too much time on the opening game – it is only a creative way to find partners, not an integral part of the lesson. You may assign partners to conserve time.

Be creative
Pottery in different shapes would be more fun and challenging to break if you can find a cheap source. Also an extremely large pot that the whole group works together to fix.

Closing:

 End with a prayer.




Jeremiah 

Computer Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:

Children will be exploring the Prophets section from “Fluffy and God’s Amazing Christmas Adventure” CD (Sunday Software)--which has a "Prophets" section in it that discusses the role of a prophet. It also has an interactive activity called a "Fluffimation" which has the children creating a prophecy.

Lesson Objectives:

  1. Children will identify the role of a prophet and his main audience.
  2. Children will determine their own view of prophesy and predicting the future.
  3. Children will create their own “prophetic message” using a Fluffymation.


Software Summary
“Fluffy and God’s Amazing Christmas Adventure” CD has a very good section explaining prophets which we will be using. (Important: This program will also be used on Sunday mornings in a couple of weeks for an Advent lesson. Use this as an opportunity to advertise Sunday mornings – don’t let them play too much with the program and “ruin” the surprise for Sundays.)


Advance Preparation:
This program is specifically designed for Christmas teaching – which better parallels Isaiah than Jeremiah. Nevertheless, it provides some good background information on prophets. Go through the prophets section of the program and learn how to navigate the program. One of the “glitches” is that you need to sometimes exit the entire section and go back to the main map – starting over again. Some things can not be fast forwarded through, so that means listening to the same material as you try and find your way. Remind the children of this glitch to discourage them from going through the program randomly.



Presentation

Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:

Greet the children and introduce yourself.

Opening Activity:

Review with the children what they have already learned in previous rotations about Jeremiah. Explain that today’s lesson isn’t going to be about Jeremiah specifically, but rather general information about prophets.

(Art) What did Jeremiah say about the clay pot?
What did putting the pot back together again signify?

(Cooking) Tell me what you did with the clay. (Formed, smashed, reformed)
What does that tell you about God?

(Drama) How did you like being the “clay?”
What did Jeremiah have to say about clay pots?
What does that mean?

(Movies) What was the movie “No More Baths” about?
Who was fighting for justice?
How does this make the kids prophets?

(Temple) What were some of the stories of injustice you read?
What does God want us to do about injustice?

Dig-Main Content and Reflection:

Main Lesson
See outline material from Sunday Software. The following are the areas to be covered.

  1. Introduction – Stop and ask the children to repeat to you why people wanted kings and why God sent prophets. Play the kings game as it reinforces the idea that some of the kings were not so good.
  2. Prophets 101 – Stop and discuss the three bits of information learned about prophets: prophets’ clothes, who prophets talked to, the message they gave.
  3. Prophets 201 – Use only for older grades and only if there is enough time.
  4. Do prophets predict the future? Survey the class to see what they think, then read the explanation.


Life Application:
Go into the Fluffimation – in the prophets section. This is a lot of fun and really helps children understand what a prophet’s message might be about (although it is based on Isaiah, not Jeremiah).

If there is time, take the Jeremiah memory verse and make a “fluffymation” on the paper easel to update the meaning for today’s people.

Adjustments for age levels and abilities
For younger children and for kids having difficulty understanding the parts of speech, group the kids at one or two computers (one adult per group) and complete a team fluffymation.

If you have extra time…
You can rewrite your own Christmas carols using DJ Fluffyjams – has nothing to do with the lesson, but is a fun way to spend the last few minutes of class.

If time runs short…
Decide ahead of time your priorities for each age group -- would you rather go through Prophets 201 for this group or the fluffymation activity? “201” discussions take awhile and may require an adult to help read these questions. Set out a time line.

Closing:

End with a prayer.




Jeremiah

Art 2 Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:

Making your own clay and shaping it. Smush it and start over again, using Jeremiah 18:1-11 as your reference.

PURCHASE POWDERED CLAY and "reanimate it" with water and shaping. This is the same symbolism as God taking dirt and forming human beings, ...God is the potter, we are the clay.

While making the clay, you can talk about the imagery. Once made, you can help the kids imagine how God feels about his creation, ...does he want to start over? what happens when the pot if flawed?  How does God restore us?

Powdered Clay can be found online at art stores and pottery supply.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Children will use sense of smell and touch to visualize God’s destruction and reshaping of Israel.
  2. Children will be able to articulate the events leading to the exile.
  3. Children will interpret God’s nature of re-building in their own context.

Leader Preparation:

  • Gather the materials.
  • Read the scripture ahead of time.

Supplies List:

  • Powdered clay
  • water


Presentation

Opening- Welcome and Lesson Introduction:

Following the purchased dry clay's instructions, have the students make their own batch of clay. This will be messy, so be prepared.

Introduce the ingredients and prepare to be METAPHORICAL!   God is the potter, we are the clay. We are made out of star dust. Water/baptism animates us. etc etc.

  • Why does the potter create?

What joy does the potter get out of creation!

  • What if the pot breaks?  ....have student make and break, then repair.

Talk about the need to repair, how God repairs us, etc.

  • What shape does God want us in?  How are each of us unique? the same?
  • Different uses?  
  • What makes the pot beautiful?  

Main Lesson:
Write the words “God isn’t finished with me yet” on the easel. Invite children to think about what that phrase might mean. What else do you think God might want to do with you? (Encourage children to think beyond “what I want to be when I grow up.").  Invite children to write some of their responses on the easel board.

Tell them to make a model of themselves the way they see themselves today.

Stop them in 5 minutes and ask them to share the sculpture of themselves. How do we know that is you? What are you doing in your sculpture? Why did you choose to make yourself in that pose? Etc.

Tell them to smash their sculptures. Now re-shape the clay into a model of themselves the way God wants them to be 15 years from now.

Give them about 5 minutes. Then share what they turned their model into.

Life Application:
As they play with their clay....
Read Jeremiah 18:1-11. Focus on verses 5-7 and 11. The first image is of a real potter and real clay. The second image is that God is the potter. Who is the clay? (house of Israel). Explain what happened to the “House of Israel.” (see Biblical background notes).

On sheet of paper write “Potter” and “God” and under them “clay” and “Israel.”
Ask the following questions and invite students to write the answers under the appropriate headings (or on the table paper) USING CLAY ON THEIR FINGER TO MAKE THE LETTERS!!

  • What was wrong the clay? What was wrong with Israel?
  • What did the potter do to the clay? What did God do to Israel?
  • What would that feel like? What would that feel like?
  • How was the clay re-shaped? How was Israel reshaped?

If God wants you to change, does that mean you need to be “smushed” first? Why or why not? What does it mean for a person to be smushed? How does this apply to “God’s not finished with me yet?”

Finish by putting their clay in a baggie to go home. Clean up!

Adjustments for age levels and abilities:
Some children will easily grasp the metaphor, others will really struggle with it. Help them as best you can. Encourage them by reminding them that this is something that makes more sense the older you get.

Closing:

End with a prayer.


Alternate recipe for clay:

Kool Aid Playdough
2 ½ cups flour
1 ½ cups salt
2-3 packages unsweetened Kool-Aid**
1 Tablespoon oil
2 cups boiling water

Mix together flour, salt, and Kool-Aid
Add oil and water
Stir quickly
Cool slightly
Work dough with hands
Store in plastic zip bags

Good smelling, but not good tasting!

** to make a terracotta color, we recommend two orange and a grape!




Jeremiah 

Video Workshop

Summary of Lesson Activities:

Children will watch the first half of the movie “No More Baths!” and come up with creative solutions to an unfair situation presented in the film.

Lesson Objectives:

  1. Children will tie in the movie’s call for justice with the voice of the prophet.
  2. Children will creatively imagine a positive outcome to an unfair situation.
  3. Children will understand their role as modern “prophets” seeking justice.


Movie Summary
No More Baths! was made by Feature Films for Families in 1998. (Note: Feature Films for Families no longer have a website.)
Jake is a kind old man with a large lot where many children play after school. A greedy developer wants to evict Jake from his run-down house in an effort to increase property values on surrounding lots. He convinces local parents that a series of unfortunate incidents are the result Jake’s poor supervision and that the lot should be fenced off. There are also plans for his eviction because his ancient home does not meet modern codes and Jake can’t afford to fix them up. The children are outraged and in the spirit of Martin Luther King decide upon a mode of non-violent protest – they won’t take anymore baths until the matter is set right.

We will be watching the first half of the movie, with the children coming up with their own non-violent solutions to the story.

UPDATE:  You can find the movie trailer on Youtube under "no more baths family tv."


Advance Preparation:

  • Read the scripture ahead of time.
  • Gather the materials.
  • Cut some butcher paper in half width-wise and to 6 ft lengths. Draw boxes in the center and film sprocket holes on the edges to make it look like part of a movie reel. Children will use this as a “storyboard” for finishing the story.

Supplies List:

  • "No More Baths!" video
  • butcher paper


Presentation

Opening-Welcome and Lesson Introduction:

Opening Activity
As children arrive, hand out Bibles.
Ask children to explain what they know about prophets (in general) and Jeremiah (specifically)
Emphasize that a prophet speaks out against injustice.
Have children look up Jeremiah 22:1-5, 11-19 and read portions of it.

  • What do you think the prophet meant by “upper rooms”? (the king had a big house, was rich)
  • What do you think is meant by the question “are you a king because you compete in cedar?” (building a great palace is not what makes you a king)
  • What should a king be concerned with according to Jeremiah?

Dig-Main Content and Reflection:

Explain that we are going to watch a movie on an unjust/unfair situation. Ask the children to imagine of what Jeremiah might say, and to whom.

PAUSE When the class is talking about Martin Luther King. Ask children for a description of the unfair things going on in the days of the civil rights movement. Ask for examples of what MLK and others in the civil rights movement did. RESTART

STOP the movie when the parents are discussing the situation in the restaurant after the mother says “some of the kids came up with some very good ideas. I think we should listen to them.”

Main Lesson:

  • Summarize with the children what is unfair in the movie situation.
  • Who cares most about making things right the adults or the kids?
  • Who has more power to change laws or give lots of money: adults or kids?
  • So, adults have the POWER, but the KIDS are the ones who care.
  • Divide children into groups of about three. Explain to the children that they have __ minutes to complete the movie answering the question: “what could KIDS do to make things right?” They can write or draw their solutions in the movie reels.


Life Application:
Encourage children to brainstorm about other “BIG” problems that they think are unfair.
What can kids do to make a change?

“I fight for justice” Have children make up a story about a real or imaginary situation where they are the ones fighting for justice.

Adjustments for age levels and abilities
For younger children, summarize the Bible verses, explaining what the king was really doing vs. what God wants a king to do.

If you have extra time…
Share what each group comes up with and explain how the children in the movie protested and got justice for Jake.

Closing:

End with a prayer.


 

Lessons posted by Rev. Lisa Martin, Trinity Reformed Church of the United Church of Christ,
Pottstown, PA.

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