We used the following lesson plan in a class of 2nd-5th graders. (We had just one child attend: a 5th-grader. I can't say this lesson has been tested, but the boy who came seemed to enjoy it!)
Before class I prepared a pitcher of dilute grape juice (3 cups water and 1 cup juice). I poured a small cup for everyone to enjoy as we started the lesson -- the ordinary wine. Immediately after finishing the story, as we began reflecting together, I refilled the cup with full-strength grape juice to represent the fine wine that the steward had just tasted.
What we normally do for a lesson is this:
- Have a coloring page on hand. As kids come in, they start to color and we chit-chat until we are ready to begin.
- We have a beginning ritual of lighting a candle to remind us of God's presence with us, an opening prayer, and a brief review of the class rules (which the kids helped create).
- Then the leader reads the story of the day: in this case, John 2:1-11. It could be straight from the Bible or it could be an elaboration or paraphrase. We've found that the kids listen better when they have something to do; hence, the coloring page. Also, a coloring page as opposed to drawing on a blank piece of paper works best for us because it helps channel the kids' attention.
- We discuss the story then proceed to the day's activity.
The Wedding at Cana practically cries out, "Word problem!" So that's what we did: We explored just how much wine those six jars could hold and how many wedding guests there would need to be in order to drink it all. The lesson point is the overflowing abundance of God's generosity. God likes a party! This "first sign" of Jesus in the gospel of John isn't about healing or alleviating fear or need in some way. (Yes, the wine was out, but is this need on a par with the miracle of the loaves and fishes?) This sign demonstrates pure, overflowing, joyful abundance in a community celebration!
You will need:
- grape juice
- small cups (4 oz), 1 per child and adults
The three items above are used when telling the story. See above.
- Five 1-gallon jugs. (Even better if you can roust up 25!) One jug should be filled with water. The others could be filled or empty.
- 18 or so 10 oz. drinking cups (preferably clear plastic, the better to visualize).
- Measuring cup (I marked on one of the 10 oz cups how much a cup of water is, so there would be less spillage trying to measure out exactly 1 cup multiple times!)
- paper and pencils for kids to jot things down: number of jugs, cups in a gallon, number of people your church can seat, how many people in their family, etc.
- Optional: newspaper
My idea was to divide the class into two groups. (As I said, only 1 kid showed up! It was a bitterly cold day.) One group would stay in the room and come up with ways of visualizing the huge quantity of wine in the jars. The other group would go into the church (sanctuary) and estimate how many people could attend a wedding there.
We leaders had to think through very carefully how we would go about these tasks, as the class has a huge grade-level range. I tried to make the exploration as visual and sensory as I could. With that caveat, consider the following two example worksheets and how they might work for you and your kids in your church.
How can we visualize the volume of the 6 stone jars? (According to John 2:6, each jar holds 20 or 30 gallons. Our class didn't know how to come up with an "average", but did understand "midpoint." So we used the midpoint of 25 gallons per jar.)
Use chairs or floor space to estimate visually how big (volume) one jar would be. Here's where the five 1-gallon jugs come into play. (If you can bring 25 1-gallon jugs, even better!) We used our church school chairs to try to visualize how much volume one jar would contain. Alternatively, you could trace the outline on newspaper of the five 1-gallon jugs grouped together, then use that "template" to visually estimate the amount of floor space needed for 25 gallons. Maybe use tape to mark the floor as you go.
Do the same for the volume of water *all six jars* could hold, using chairs or floor space.
How many gallons of wine is in the 6 jars? (25 gallons per jar x 6 jars = 150)
Now, measure out the water in a gallon. How many cups in a gallon? DO NOT do this as a calculation (cups per pint, pints per quart, quarts per gallon). Do it visually, tactiley (is that a word?). I suggest having more than 16 drinking cups available so the kids can't just count up the glasses and guess that there will be 16 cups!
Now, a biggie: How many cups of wine can each JAR hold? This would be 25 gallons per jar x 16 cups per gallon. If the kids have trouble with multiplication, try breaking 25 into 10 + 10 + 5. Multiply 10x16=160, 10x16=160, 5x16=80. Then add 160+160+80=400 cups. 400 cups of wine in EACH JAR!!
How many cups of wine in all 6 jars? 400 cups/jar x 6 jars = 2400 cups of wine. WOW!!
How many wedding guests could be served with all that wine? Well, the class assistant mentioned that she drinks two cups of water or juice with dinner, so we decided that each guest could have 2 cups of wine. How many guests does 2400 cups of wine serve? 2400/2 (or just ask what is half of 2400) = 1200 people could each be served 2 cups of wine. Or, keep it simple and make each wedding guest stick to one glass of wine.
How many people can attend a wedding at our church? (Go to the sanctuary to do the estimate. We have a balcony, so we stood in the balcony and looked down.)
How many people can sit on each row? (There are several ways this could be approached: how many hymnals/prayer books per row? We have cushions for kneeling, so that was an option for us to count. Or several kids could sit in a pew and simply count how many could fit.)
How many rows on each side of the aisle?
What about the balcony?
What about the choir and clergy?
NOW both workgroups join up to see how many churches the size of your church could have attended the wedding at Cana and enjoyed two cups of wine. If your church falls far short of seating 1,200 people, the logical operation is to divide 1,200 wedding guests by number of people your church can seat. This is likely beyond the skills of your kids! Instead, try *adding up to* 1,200 wedding guests. Here's an example from my church.
As it (conveniently) happens, our church can hold about 200 people. That's way short of 1,200! What if we add another church our size? 200+200=400. We are up to two churches but still far away from 1, 200! Let's add another. 400+200=600. Now we are at three churches, and we aren't there yet. What if we add a fourth church? 600+200=800. Etc., etc. ... until the sum is 1,200 (or thereabouts).
ALTERNATELY, instead of calculating how many people your church can seat, you could work with family size. Something like this: Tell each child in the group that they are invited to the wedding, and they are to bring their extended family. Have each child in the workgroup add up their immediate family plus grandparents plus aunts, uncles, cousins (or whatever parameters you want to set). Write the size of each child's extended family on the board, then add up. Use that total number to see how many "workgroups" or church school classes the wine could have served!