One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Weekly Christian ed lesson

Photo by sterlinglanier Lanier on Unsplash

Starting off

The longer I work with children the more I struggle to believe the old adage “one size fits all.” Each child is unique. Even those who share genes and who look alike can have vastly different personalities, interests and ways of interacting with the world around them. Because of this, each child’s faith develops along a path that is all her own. Yes, some children have similar ways of encountering God and their faith communities, but, ultimately, the Holy Spirit speaks to each child in her own language. Jesus understood this as he demonstrates with his disciple Thomas following his resurrection. In this lesson, children will explore the story of Thomas’ post-resurrection encounter with Jesus noticing that Jesus engages with him exactly as Thomas needs him to do. Then, they will examine their own ways of connecting with God and Christ’s church.

Begin your time with the children by asking them to think about a time when they learned something new. Have each child describe how they learned this new information or task. Did someone show them how to do it? Did they read about it? Did they watch a video? After each child has shared, note the differences in the ways that they learn. Explain that we each learn new things best when they are taught to us in a way that fits our learning styles. The same is true for our faith. Our faith grows and changes when we encounter God and our communities in ways that speak to us.

Exploring the passage

Prepare to read aloud John 20:19-31. Tell the children that this story takes place after Jesus’ resurrection. Prior to this story, Jesus meets two of his disciples as they are walking to the village of Emmaus (according to Luke’s Gospel). They do not recognize him at first, but eventually realize he is the risen Jesus. Today’s story takes place as Jesus arrives at the house where many of his disciples have been hiding. After Jesus’ death, they were afraid to be seen in public. They were worried that they too would be put in jail or killed because they were his followers. As you read the story, encourage the children to notice how and when the disciples recognize that the person who is visiting them is Jesus returned from the dead.

Read aloud John 20:19-31. After reading, focus on the first part of the reading (vv. 19-23). Ask the children to recount how the disciples in the house came to see the visitor as Jesus. What did Jesus do that helped them believe? Note that Jesus shows them the wounds on his hands and his side. He also speaks familiar words to them, “peace be with you.” Have the children wonder why Jesus shows them “proof” of his identity. Then ask them to wonder whether the disciples would believe the person was Jesus if he hadn’t done so.

Next, explore Thomas’ reaction to the news that Jesus had returned. What does he say when the disciples tell him they encountered the risen Christ? How does he act when he finally sees Jesus? Have the children wonder what the experience must have been like for Thomas.

Finally, discuss Jesus’ interactions with the disciples. How does Jesus respond when the disciples doubt his resurrection? What does he offer them to help them believe?

Relating the passage to our lives

End your time with the children by exploring the ways that they encounter God in the world. Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: sheets of white paper, colored paper in a variety of colors, crayons or markers, glue and scissors.

Begin by brainstorming together with a list of places and times when we “see” God. Encourage the children to think beyond the church building. Record the list on a sheet of chart paper or a whiteboard.

Once you have a full list, hand out one sheet of white paper to each child. Make the colored paper available to them. Explain that they will be making a stained-glass window that represents the ways they experience God. If the children are unfamiliar with stained-glass windows, you may want to show them pictures of a few examples. They will cut pieces of “glass” from the colored paper. On each piece of colored paper, they should write or draw one of the ways they experience God. Then, they will glue these on the white paper in a pattern. They may even want to overlap some of the pieces.

When the children have completed their stained-glass windows, ask them to share them with one another. Encourage them to hang their art somewhere in their home where they can be reminded of the many ways they get to know and feel God’s presence in their lives.