We all have familiar comforts we turn to when times are tough. A particular blanket or food or even a smell may help center us when we feel unsettled. Words can also ground us when life feels unpredictable. This activity helps children identify and draw on Jesus’ promise of peace as a means of bringing comfort during this uncertain and unusual time.
Start your time with your children by asking them to share things or activities that make them feel safe and comfortable. If they need a bit of prompting to get started, share some of the ways that you find comfort. (“When I’m worried, I look at a picture of our family because it reminds me that we have each other to rely on no matter what happens.” Or: “When I feel stressed, I like to listen to my favorite song. It calms me down and makes my heart feel happy.”)
After you’ve talked about the tangible ways we seek comfort, shift to discussing words that give us comfort. You can ask them what they would say to a friend who is feeling anxious or scared. You can have them reflect on a time when someone said words of comfort to them when they were upset or nervous.
Share with your children that Jesus often used words to comfort the people he encountered. His words were special because they not only addressed their particular concerns, but they also shared a message of ongoing comfort. One of the times that Jesus offers words of comfort to his disciples appears in chapter 14 of John’s Gospel. After sharing the jarring news that he will soon be leaving his beloved friends, Jesus promises to send the world the Holy Spirit, which will live with and among them reminding them of all Jesus taught them. He then offers these words: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14: 27).
Ask your children to notice words in this message that are comforting. Talk about what ideas or feelings those words have contained within them that help them feel relaxed and safe.
Now for the really fun part…
Create a piece of art that shares the comfort contained with Jesus’ words. You may choose to construct a communal piece of art as a family, or children could work independently to make their own pieces. Be creative in your selection of art materials. Of course, you may draw on traditional materials like crayons, markers and construction paper, but you can also think outside the box (or even the house). Some children may take a literal approach to the project, writing Jesus’ words verbatim and decorating the space around them. Others may offer an abstract approach to the verse, sharing their ideas through images or colors.
Here are a few of the ways members of the congregation I serve interpreted the Scripture through art:
Peace sign made from natural materials gathered around the yard. Placed on the patio near the side door of the house.
Adults in the congregation can even join in on this activity. This piece was painted by one of our adult artists.
This child opted for a chalk-on-the-sidewalk piece to share with all who pass by her home.
A simple reminder of Christ’s words that will hang in the family’s kitchen.
When you’ve completed your artwork, consider placing it somewhere in your home that gets a lot of foot traffic, perhaps the kitchen or a hallway or even near the door you use to come in and out of the house. Over the next several weeks as we continue to practice social distancing, this piece can serve as a regular reminder of the peace Christ has shared with us and its power to comfort our hearts and quiet our fears.
Also, congregations may want to consider having children email pictures of their art to other families to create an online tapestry of their work.
JOELLE BRUMMIT-YALE is the director of children’s and youth ministries at Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. When not at the church, she can usually be found at home with her son and husband caring for their many animals and developing their family homestead.