We’ve all seen cell phone ads where the caller walks around trying to find a connection strong enough for the listener to hear what he’s saying. We’ve even been that person asking, “Can you hear me now?” A solid connection not only helps us understand one another when we’re talking on the phone. When we are able to fully listen to each other we hear truth.
On Pentecost, we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the Connector, Advocate, Helper and Friend. In this lesson, children will explore the Pentecost story noticing how the Holy Spirit allows those gathered in Jerusalem to understand one another, possibly for the very first time. Then, they will consider how the Holy Spirit continues to bind us together, allowing us to understand and connect with one another more deeply.
You will need:
- A Bible
- A computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television, “The Holy Spirit video,” strips of colored paper, markers or crayons, glue, and chart or roll paper (optional)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and “Active Listening” video (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Ask the children to sit in a circle on the floor or around a table so they are facing you. Tell them you are going to read a rhyming sentence to them that they need to memorize. You will repeat it several times. When they have it memorized, they should raise their hands.
You will repeat this common tongue twister several times. If you would prefer to play a recording of it, you can find one here. Be sure to just play the audio, not the video. You can adjust the volume and the speed of the recording:
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked
If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers
Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
The first time that you say the sentence, whisper it as quietly as you can. The second time, ask the children to cover their ears while you repeat it. The third time read it as quickly as you can. The fourth and final time you say it, do so clearly and slowly.
After “playing” with the tongue twister, ask:
- Was it difficult to learn the tongue twister? Why?
- Which repetition made it easiest to understand what I was saying?
- Do you ever have trouble hearing what someone is saying? Why?
- What is the difference between hearing and understanding?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (Acts 2:1-21):
- This reading comes from the book of Acts. This portion of the Bible begins as Jesus ascends to live with the Creator/Father. The majority of the book shares stories about Jesus’ disciples (both the original twelve and later followers) living into Jesus’ call to share with the world God’s love and Jesus’ story.
- The story tells about Pentecost. Ask the children to share what they know about this day in the liturgical calendar.
- At the start of the reading, many people, including Jesus’ first disciples, are gathered in the city of Jerusalem. They are there for the feast day of Shavuot. On this day, the Jewish people celebrate God giving the law (the Torah) to Moses so he could share it with the people of God. The Torah is the way of living that God called the people to follow.
- Jewish people from many different areas gathered in Jerusalem for this feast day. While they all were part of the same faith, they lived in very different communities. They spoke a variety of languages and were part of different cultures. Their faith was the one thing they had in common.
Read aloud Acts 2:1-21. You may choose to use a children’s Bible for this story, as most focus more on the experience of Pentecost than the list of locations the people came from.
After reading, ask the children:
- Imagine you are walking through a city and hearing languages you don’t know. What would that experience be like?
- Imagine you could suddenly understand the languages and speak in them. What would that experience be like?
- How does being able to understand what someone is saying to you affect your relationship with them?
- Who receives the Holy Spirit in this story?
- Why do you think that the Holy Spirit comes to all people rather than just a few?
- How does the arrival of the Holy Spirit change the experiences of the people gathered in Jerusalem?
- What does the Holy Spirit mean to you?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children connect the scripture reading to their own lives through one or more of these activities.
- Exploring the Holy Spirit: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television, “The Holy Spirit video,” strips of colored paper, markers or crayons, glue, and chart or roll paper. Show the children “The Holy Spirit video” from the Bible Project. This video connects the Pentecost story to the larger story of the Holy Spirit. After watching the video, ask the children to reflect on what they discovered about the Holy Spirit. Then, hand each child several strips of paper. Ask them to use markers or crayons to write or draw words or phrases that they associate with the Holy Spirit. They can use words they previously connected to the Holy Spirit or can use what they learned in the video. Have the children glue the paper strips on the chart/roll paper creating a pattern. Let the pattern develop organically.
- Holy active listening: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and “Active Listening” Ask the children to share how they know someone is really listening to them when they talk. Show the video Active Listening. After watching it, ask the children to share details from the video they considered important. Share that we can understand each other better when we listen actively, but we can understand each other with both our minds and our hearts when we invite the Holy Spirit to be known as we listen. Say a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to make its presence known and to help the group listen with love. Then, divide the children into pairs. Have them ask each other a series of “get-to-know-you” questions for a few minutes. Encourage them to actively listen to one another’s answers. If the children know each other well, challenge them to ask questions about topics they may not have discussed previously. Afterward, have the children reflect on the experience. What did they learn about one another? How did it feel to be listened to? How does holy active listening help you see each other as God sees us? How might you listen in this way in other areas of your life?