Each time I’m in my kitchen, I look out the window and notice the plants growing in my pollinator garden. Many of them are in their prime right now. There’s an array of colorful flowers and the hummingbirds, bees and butterflies seem to relish their own abundance. A few years ago, this plot of land was just hard-packed, clay soil with a little bit of grass growing on it. But now, after nurturing the soil, planting healthy native plants, allowing wildlife to work its magic, and getting a healthy dose of rain, the garden is flourishing.
God is like a master gardener, planting the best seeds in the world. And God trusts and hopes that we will nurture these good seeds so they can grow and flourish. We see this in the parable of the sower. In this lesson, children will explore the parable of the sower. They will discover the ways God acts like a gardener, joyfully planting seeds of grace, faith, and love in the world. Then, they will consider how we might faithfully tend these seeds so they can grow and bless the world.
You will need
- A Bible (preferably Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a television or a data projector
- Videos: “Bean time-lapse,” “Power of people” and “Alton Brown Reveals the Unbelievable Way Heifer Transforms Lives” (optional)
- Chart paper or a whiteboard, markers, brown roll paper, copies of seed pictures, scissors, crayons, and glue (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Ask the children to sit so they are facing the television or projection screen. Show the “Bean time-lapse” video.
After watching the video ask:
- What do you think helped the bean grow?
- What does a seed need to grow into a plant?
- What can keep a seed from growing into a plant?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23:
- This reading is from the New Testament Gospel of Matthew.
- In it, Jesus shares a parable with the gathered crowd. If your group has discussed parables in the past, ask them to share what they remember. If they have not read parables, share a bit about these special stories.
- Prior to this reading, Jesus does a lot of teaching and healing! He has been surrounded by crowds seeking teaching and has been “tested” by religious leaders. He goes to sit by the sea and a crowd gathers. He goes out into a boat so that he can speak to all gathered on the shore.
- The lectionary reading does not include verses 10-17. In these verses, the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks in parables. He tells them he does this to encourage those gathered to listen and understand with their hearts. They do not understand when he simply teaches. However, through these stories, they are encouraged to dig deep and explore what Jesus has to say about the kingdom of God.
Read aloud Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. A children’s Bible retelling of this passage or The Message translation will help make this reading more accessible to the children. Growing in God’s Love: A Story Bible offers a retelling of the parable as it is presented in Luke’s Gospel (“The Sower”).
After reading, ask:
- Why did some of the seeds that the farmer planted grow while others didn’t?
- God is like a farmer planting seeds in the world. What kind of “seeds” do you think God plants?
- According to the story, what prevents seeds from growing?
- What do you think prevents the “seeds” God plants in the world from growing?
- What can we do to help the “seeds” God plants in the world to grow and be healthy?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children connect the scripture reading to their own lives through one or more of these activities.
- Seeding for the future: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector, videos: “Power of people” and “Alton Brown Reveals the Unbelievable Way Heifer Transforms Lives.” Play “The power of people” video. After watching the video, ask the children to share what they could infer Heifer International does to help support people living in poverty around the world. Then, show “Alton Brown Reveals the Unbelievable Way Heifer Transforms Lives.” Ask the children to share what they learned in the video. Have the children wonder how the gift of a few farm animals or seeds to start a farm could help a family. Then, have them wonder how that family could benefit their larger community.
- Growing faith: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: chart paper or a whiteboard, markers, brown roll paper, copies of seed pictures, scissors, crayons, and glue. Tell the children that God has “planted” faith in each of us. Ask the children to brainstorm ways that people can nurture and grow that faith. List their responses on the chart paper or whiteboard. Distribute paper seeds to the children. Ask them to use the crayons to write or draw the examples they listed or others they may think of on the paper seeds. Then, have them cut out the seeds and glue them on a sheet of brown roll paper. Ask the children to stand around the roll of paper after all of the seeds have been glued on it. Offer a prayer for God to help us nurture and grow the faith God has gifted to us.
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