As parents, we often look forward to our children becoming more independent. When they’re in diapers and need to be fed every few hours, we long for the days when they are sleeping through the night and potty trained. When our children need help getting dressed and tying their shoes, we cannot wait for them to get ready on their own. Even when they are tweens and teens, we look forward to them having their driver’s licenses so we don’t have to organize our schedules around drop-offs and pick-ups. In our quest for our young ones to become more independent, we can easily forget that we also need to show them that we are made to be connected to one another and to God. In this lesson, your children will explore the importance of remaining connected to God.
Begin the time with your children by asking them to share what things they can do independently. Then ask them what things they need help doing. Have them explain why these particular tasks require help. Note that there will always be things we need help with. Even adults need help — sometimes more often than we are willing to ask for it! While we often think of help as coming from other people, we also need God’s help. Sometimes God helps us through the actions of others and sometimes God helps us simply by being with us.
Prepare to read aloud John 15:1-8. Explain to your children that this story is one where Jesus uses something in nature to help explain an important idea to his disciples. Jesus will be talking about grapes and grapevines, but he’s really talking about God, the Creator, himself and his disciples. Because not all of us know much about how grapes grow, it’s helpful to see vines “in action.” Tell your children that they are going to watch a short video that shows grapes growing in a vineyard. Here’s a three-minute wordless video on growing grapes. Or, you can search for additional videos on YouTube.
After watching the video, ask your children to share what they noticed in the video. Do the grapes look healthy? How do the bunches of grapes grow? What would likely happen if the bunches were disconnected from the vines? What roles do you think the vine-grower (the farmer caring for the grapes) plays in helping the grapes grow?
Read aloud John 15:1-8. (“Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible” offers a good child-friendly retelling of the text that preserves the vineyard imagery.) After reading, remind your children that Jesus is using the idea of grapes to help his disciples understand something important about him, God the Creator and the disciples. Ask your children who they think the vine-grower, vine and grapes might represent in this story. Younger children may not be able to easily make this cognitive leap so you may need to explain that God the Creator is the vine-grower, Jesus is the grapevine and Jesus’ disciples are the bunches of grapes.
Next, focus in on the relationship between Jesus and his disciples. Ask your children to recall what they learned from the video on growing grapes. Encourage them to talk specifically about how the grapes grow on the vine. Note that the bunches of grapes must be connected to the vine to grow. They draw nutrients and water through the vine. They are also supported by the vine. Without the vine’s help, the grapes could not grow. Explain that we need God’s love and help in order to grow. God is like the vine that helps us become our best selves. When we are connected to God like the bunches of grapes are connected to the vine, we grow and develop.
To help children link the idea of God’s help to their own lives, complete this art activity with them. You’ll need blank paper, crayons or markers, scissors and glue. Begin by cutting several large circles out of the blank paper. Place these in front of your children. Ask them to think of the things that they do or can do that help other people or help God’s natural creation. Then have them select a few of these to draw or write on the circles using crayons or markers.
Next, cut a sheet of blank paper into strips that are about 2 inches wide and 4 inches long. Ask each child to select one of the drawings she made on a paper circle. Brainstorm all the people and materials needed to make it happen. For example, if a child draws a picture of plants that attract pollinators, ask what he can do to help care for God’s creation and help him come up with a list of what would be needed to create a pollinator garden (plants, soil, garden tools, gardeners, water). Write these on the paper strips. If your child doesn’t list God, ask her to think back to the Scripture reading. Who else’s help do we always rely on? Write God on one of the paper strips. Your child may want to decorate this strip differently than the others to make it stand out. Have your child glue each of these strips to the paper circle so that they radiate from it. Repeat the process for the other drawings your child made.
When your children have completed their art, spread the pieces out on the table in front of them. Offer a prayer asking for God’s help in carrying out each of these tasks.
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.