When you were young, adults probably said things to you like, “You’re too young to understand” or “you can’t do that until you’re older.” Or maybe you’ve uttered similar statements to children. We often mistakenly assume that because children are small, they are not capable of doing big things. While they may not have the physical and cognitive capabilities of adults, young people can have a big impact on the world they live in. God calls them just as God calls adults. In this lesson, children will explore God’s call to Jeremiah to prophecy to the Israelites. They will then reflect on what God is calling them to do at this time in their lives.
Begin your time with the children by asking them to share stories about adults saying they are too young or too small to do something. What were they told they couldn’t do because of their age and size? Did they agree with the adult saying this? Why or why not? Explain that there are some things that adults are better suited for like driving cars or doing dangerous work. However, there are many important roles that children play in the world. God relies on both children and adults to share God’s love and care with their communities.
Exploring the passage
Prepare to read aloud Jeremiah 1:4-10. Provide the children with some context for the reading. Explain that the story they will be hearing comes from the Old Testament. It is the start of the book of Jeremiah. In this part of the Bible, we hear about a person who God was very close with, Jeremiah. God called Jeremiah to speak to the people of Israel for God. At the time, God wanted to warn the people that their temple might be destroyed and that they might be pushed off the land God had given them. Jeremiah shared these warnings but the people did not listen. Later, God gave Jeremiah words of comfort and hope for the Israelites as they suffered the loss of their homeland. Before Jeremiah said all of these things, God called Jeremiah to serve as God’s voice. This is the story that we’ll hear today. Encourage the children to notice how Jeremiah reacts when God calls him to be a prophet and how God responds to each of Jeremiah’s concerns.
Read aloud Jeremiah 1:4-10. After reading the passage, ask the children to recount what Jeremiah says when God tells him he will be a prophet, speaking for God. Note that Jeremiah does not believe he can speak on God’s behalf because he is young. Ask the children to share how God responds. Highlight God’s willingness to give Jeremiah the words he will need to share God’s message. God promises Jeremiah God will be with him as he undertakes this important task. In fact, God tells Jeremiah that God knew he would be a prophet even before he was born. God called him well before he even existed.
Have the children wonder what this experience must have been like for Jeremiah. What would it feel like to have God offer you this call? How would you feel about this opportunity and responsibility? Would it be a comfort to know God would be with you along the way, providing you with the words to say? Why or why not?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children connect Jeremiah’s call to their own lives. Share that God continues to call people of all ages to do God’s work on earth. While God called Jeremiah to share particular messages for people in a particular time, God calls people to do other important work. Ask the children to share the ways they feel God is calling them to serve their communities right now. Remind them that God gives us each unique gifts. When we use those gifts to love and care for others and to make the world a better place, we are living out a call from God. If children are having difficulty identifying ways God is calling them to serve, encourage them to think about the things that they do that make them feel most like themselves. What is important to them? How is what is important to them important to the larger world?
Gather the supplies you’ll need for the next part of the activity: print-outs of enough paper people templates for each child to receive one, crayons or markers, several sheets of blank paper, scissors, and glue. You can use this template or another you like.
Once each child has identified one way that they are living out a call God has placed on them, give each a paper person. Ask the child to use crayons or markers to turn this blank paper person into themselves. Encourage them to add details that show them using their gifts to do God’s work on earth.
Then, give each child a sheet of blank paper. Ask them to trace their hands on the paper. You may need to assist younger children with this task. Have them write their names on the paper hands and then cut them out.
Hang the paper people the children colored on the wall. Alternately, you can glue them on a large sheet of butcher paper or chart paper. Note the collection of gifts that are represented by the community of children. Share that God is with them as they carry out the work God has called them to do, just as God was with Jeremiah as he spoke to the Israelites. The community of people including the children in the group are also with us as we use our gifts. Share that when a person begins serving in a new ministry in the church, we often recognize their call in a worship service by asking them special questions and then asking those in the congregation who have done similar work to place their hands on the person as a prayer is offered. We call this the “laying on of hands.” To remind the children that they have one another’s support, glue each of the paper hands around the paper people.
Conclude by offering a prayer for the children to live out their calls knowing they are supported by one another.