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Gifts upon gifts — Weekly Christian ed lesson

In this lesson, children will explore the Apostle Paul’s words to the Roman church about its members using their varied and unique gifts to serve Christ’s church.

Lesson background

Most children love gifts. They not only enjoy finding out what’s inside the wrapping paper, but they also love the feelings of joy, excitement and care that they experience knowing they are receiving something from someone who values them. Like children opening presents, God delights when we discover, use and grow the gifts God has given us. In this lesson, children will explore the Apostle Paul’s words to the Roman church about its members using their varied and unique gifts to serve Christ’s church. Then, they will consider ways that they can combine their individual gifts with those of others to care for and build up the body of Christ.

You will need:

  • A Bible, preferably The Message translation or The Peace Table: A Storybook Bible
  • A smartphone and “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” video (only audio is needed) (optional)
  • Several sheets of 8 ½’ x 11” sheets, crayons or markers, and a paper grocery bag. Hand each child a sheet of paper (optional)
  • Copies of copies of hand and foot templates, crayons or markers, scissors, glue and a sheet of chart or butcher paper (optional)

Starting out

Greet the children as they arrive.

Ask the children to stand in a circle. Place the adult leader in the circle in a spot where all the children can see them. Tell the children they are going to move to a children’s song they may be familiar with — “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” Have children share what they know about this song and the movements that go along with it. If necessary, demonstrate the movements to the children. (Children move their hands to the part of the body that the song says.)

Sing or play “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and perform the movements. The recorded song moves at a steady, slow pace, but you may choose to sing the song increasing the speed each time you repeat the refrain.

After singing the song and performing the movements, have the children to sit on the floor. Ask:

  • Which part of your body do you think is most important? Why?
  • Why do you think our bodies are made so that different parts perform different functions?
  • How do the parts of your body work together?

Exploring the passage

Say a prayer.

Provide context for the lectionary reading (Romans 12:1-8):

  • This reading comes from a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Rome.
  • A few thousand years ago, Paul helped many of the first churches get started and/or work through difficulties they were having. Sometimes churches reached out to Paul asking for his advice about a particular problem they were having. Sometimes Paul would write to a church he had a relationship with to encourage its members to continue their good work.
  • This reading comes from a letter that Paul wrote to the church in Rome. Paul had not previously connected to the Roman church. In this letter, Paul introduces himself and asks to come visit this church, so he can share his beliefs. Parts of the letter describes what Paul believes about Jesus and about the ways Jesus’ followers can live out their faith in this letter. Our reading comes from this part of the letter.

Read aloud Romans 12:1-8. Because the vocabulary in this passage can be a bit challenging for young children to understand, it is recommended that you offer the passage in The Message translation or in a children’s Bible. The Peace Table: A Storybook Bible  has an excellent child-friendly retelling of the text titled “One Body, Many Gifts.”

After reading, ask:

  • How does Paul suggest Christians should be different than the rest of the world?
  • How is the body of Christ (church) like a human body?
  • Paul says that people have different gifts. What is a gift?
  • According to Paul, how are we called to use our gifts?
  • Do you think some gifts are more important than others? Why or why not?
  • Why is it essential for us to each use the gifts God gave us to work together to make the world the kind of place God dreams of?

Relating the passage to our lives

Help the children connect the scripture reading to their own lives through one or more of these activities.

  • The hands and feet of Jesus: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: copies of hand and foot templates, crayons or markers, scissors, glue and a sheet of chart or butcher paper. Tell the children that Christians are sometimes called “Jesus’ hands and feet.” Ask the children what they think this means. Note that we are called to do the work of loving and caring for the world just as Jesus did. This involves not only using our hands and our feet, but also the gifts that God has given us. Give each of the children a few hand and foot printouts. Ask them to write or draw a picture of one God-given gift they have on each hand or foot. If children are not sure what gifts God has given them, encourage them to write activities they enjoy, talents they have, or activities that bring them joy. You may need to provide a few personal examples to help them get started. After the children have written or drawn on the paper hands and feet, ask them to cut them out using the scissors. Then have the children glue the hands and feet on the chart/butcher paper. Hang the sheet up and have the children notice the diversity of gifts within the group. Ask them to wonder how they might combine some or all of these gifts to help the church and the larger world.
  • Combining forces: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: several sheets of 8 ½’ x 11” sheets, crayons or markers and a paper grocery bag. Hand each child a sheet of paper. Ask them to write one gift they believe God has placed in them on the paper using markers or crayons. You may need to provide a few personal examples to help them get started. Then, ask them to fold the paper into a paper airplane. Encourage them to be creative, but remind them they can only fold the paper. They cannot cut or tear it. After the children have made their airplanes, place the open grocery bag on the floor or on a table. Have the children stand a distance away from the bag. Ask them to throw their paper airplanes into the bag from a distance. Give each child a few tries. If they are not able to land their planes in the bag, have them place the planes in it. Randomly pull out a few of the paper airplanes and open them up. Read the gifts written inside. Have the children wonder how these gifts might work together to help the church and the larger world. Repeat this a few times so that all of the airplanes are opened.

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