Hunger and homelessness in the community can be invisible to children whose basic needs are met. Last year as I explored hunger in our area with a group of third to fifth graders, I asked the kids to guess how many kids in their schools don’t have enough to eat on a daily basis. Their estimates were optimistically low. They were shocked to learn that 1 in 5 children in America are food insecure. And they were even more surprised to learn that nearly half a million people are homeless on any given night. Hunger and Homelessness Sunday draws attention to our neighbors experiencing food and housing insecurity and calls us to take action as disciples of Christ. In this lesson, children will consider the impact of hunger and homelessness on their communities and will explore opportunities to respond.
You will need
- A Bible, preferably a Common English Bible translation
- Chart paper or a whiteboard, a marker, a large sheet of roll paper and crayons or makers (optional)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a television or a data projector and the “Parents and Kids Talk About Homelessness” video (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Have the children sit in a circle on the floor or around a table. Ask them to turn to the person next to them and share what they did at home this morning from the time they woke up until they arrived at church.
After the children have shared in pairs, ask the children to raise their hands if they:
- woke up in a bed
- ate something
- had clothes and shoes to dress in
- had running water to brush their teeth and/or bathe
Note that 1 in 5 children in America do not have enough food to eat each day and nearly half a million people in families including children have used emergency housing (shelters) because they did not have regular housing
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the reading (Deuteronomy 15:7-11):
- The passage comes from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy. In this book, Moses prepares the people of God for life in the land that God promised them. After a long, challenging journey to this place, Moses wants to set them up for success. He is hoping to help them avoid making mistakes that they made in the past.
- The reading references “the seventh year.” It was practice for the people of God to let the land rest every seventh year by not planting crops. They would also forgive any debts that people owed in the seventh year. It was like a “reset” year. This meant that people needed to prepare for a year without crops and without money coming in from debts. This led some people to be less generous leading up to the seventh year because they were concerned they wouldn’t have enough when it came.
Read aloud (Deuteronomy 15:7-11). After reading, ask:
- What does Moses say about sharing with those in need?
- Why do you think Moses encourages the people not only to be generous in their giving but also joyful?
- How does sharing what you have with those in need in your community make the community stronger?
- How does sharing what you have with those in need in your community reflect God’s love for the world?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children connect the Scripture reading to their own lives through one or more of these activities.
- World without need: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: chart paper or a whiteboard, a marker, a large sheet of roll paper and crayons or makers. Write “Basic Needs” at the top of a sheet of chart paper or the whiteboard. Ask the children what human beings need to survive. Then, ask the children to imagine a community where everyone had their basic needs met. Place a long sheet of roll paper on a table or the floor. Have the children work together to draw a picture of a community where all people have what they need to live. After they have created the community, ask them to describe the community. Offer a prayer for this community to come into being.
- Experiencing homelessness: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a television or a data projector and the “Parents and Kids Talk About Homelessness” video. Show the video. Have the children reflect on what they saw. What surprised them? What made them sad? What did they see that gave them hope? What would it be like to not have consistent housing? What would they worry about? What would the experience of going to school be like? Offer a prayer for the families in the video as well as all others experiencing homelessness.
- Open our hands generously: Invite member(s) of your congregation’s Mission and Service committee to have a conversation with the children about the ways the congregation not only supports those experiencing hunger and homelessness but also advocates for an end to these challenges. Encourage the children to ask questions and find ways they can connect with these missions.