It is a challenging time to be a kid. Several years of their childhoods were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Climate change is causing stronger more destructive hurricanes and rising sea levels. Racism, homophobia and sexism continue to rear their ugly heads. But hope for a better future still exists. In this lesson, children will explore the promise God made to God’s people in exile in Jeremiah 31. Then they will consider how this promise holds true for them as they navigate the difficulties of today’s challenges.
You will need
- A Bible
- Paper cups, soil, seeds, and water (optional activity)
- Paper doves, scissors, crayons or markers, a hole punch, and yarn (optional activity)
- Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones or a recording of the book (optional activity)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Ask the children to sit on the floor in a circle or around a table in chairs facing one another.
Tell the children to close their eyes and imagine their lives 20 years from now. After a minute, ask them to open their eyes.
- What did you see your life being like?
- What job were you working?
- Where did you live?
- Who was part of your household?
- What did you do for fun?
Note that many of the things we imagine ourselves doing in the future are positive. We look to the future with hope.
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Offer the children context for the passage:
- The reading comes from the Old Testament book of the prophet Jeremiah.
- Jeremiah was called by God to share important messages with the people of God. God promised to give Jeremiah the words he should say to the people.
- Many of the messages God asked Jeremiah to share were difficult. Jeremiah had to tell the people of God they would be forced from the land God promised would be their home forever. Their Temple would be destroyed. The people would have to live in exile, far from their homeland for many years.
- God also gave Jeremiah words of hope for the people of God. Today’s reading is one of those messages of hope.
Read Jeremiah 31:27, 31-34 aloud. (Note: The Revised Common Lectionary reading includes verses 28-30, but we are not including them in this lesson.)
After reading the passage, discuss:
- What does God tell the people about the future?
- How do you think God’s promise will make their lives better?
- God tells the people God will make a new covenant (promise) with them. God will “be their God, and they will be [God’s] people.” What does it mean to be one of God’s people?
- How does being a person of God give us hope?
Relating the passage to our lives
- Are there places in our lives where we need to experience hope?
- In your community or in the larger world, what people need hope?
Extension activities (choose one or more):
- Seed planting: Give each child a paper cup filled with soil. Then give them each a few seeds to plant in the soil along with water to pour on the soil. Encourage them to continue to care for the plant at home, watering it and keeping it in a sunny spot. Ask them to notice how the plant grows and changes when it is cared for, just like we grow and become more ourselves as we experience and share God’s love.
- Doves of hope: Hand out several paper doves to each child along with markers or crayons. Ask the children to write or draw their hopes for the future on the paper doves. Then, place holes in top and bottom of each dove using a single hole punch. String the doves together using yarn. Share that our doves represent the hopes we want to “fly” into the future. Display the doves somewhere in the church.
- Picture book read aloud: Read aloud Born on the Water or watch a video of the book being read aloud. This is the story of African people being forcibly removed from their homeland and enslaved. Despite the difficulties they experience, they are filled with hope and strength. After reading the book, discuss the examples of hope in the face of difficulty that the author shares.
Conclude your time together with a prayer.