We often tell children that God knows them better than anyone else. God knows their likes and dislikes, their thoughts before they think them, and their innermost selves. So when God speaks to them, God always does so in an easily understandable way, right? While it may be easy to believe that God knows us well, it can be more difficult to know when God is speaking directly to us. We’re not alone in this experience. Throughout the Bible, God calls people to lead and to serve, but they don’t always clearly hear or understand God’s voice. In this lesson, children will explore one such story (1 Samuel 3:1-10) and will notice ways God may be speaking directly to them.
You will need:
- A Bible or scripted version of the reading
- Old magazines, scissors, blank paper, and glue sticks (optional)
- Several older adults from the congregation to be interviewed by the children, copies of an interview sheet, and pencils (optional)
- Copies of the mirror sheet and pencils, crayons and/or markers (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Who are you game?
Have the children sit in chairs around a table or in a circle on the floor. Introduce the game by saying, “We’re going to play a game called Who Are You? One by one you will turn to the person next to you and ask, ‘Who are you?’ The person must answer this question honestly and then ask the next person in the circle the same question. Each time you are asked this question, you must give a different answer, but the answer needs to be true for you. For example, the first time you are asked the question, you might answer with your name. The second time you are asked it, you might answer with one of your interests (ex. I’m a dog lover).”
Play several rounds of the game so each child gets an opportunity to answer the question multiple times.
After playing the game, ask:
- What kinds of information did you share about yourself when you were asked who you were?
- How did you decide what to share?
- When it comes to who you are as a person, how important is each bit of information you shared?
Hearing and exploring the story
Prepare to read aloud 1 Samuel 3:1-10.
Provide the children with a context for the reading:
- This story comes from the Old Testament portion of the Bible.
- In the story, there are two human characters: Eli and Samuel. Eli was a religious leader (priest) a long, long time ago. He was also a leader in his community who helped people solve problems with one another and make decisions about how to live according to God’s ways. At the time of this story, Eli was old, and he was having difficulty with his eyesight. Though he struggled to lead the people, he was faithful to God and loved God very much.
- Samuel was a young boy. When he was very young, his mother Hannah promised God that Samuel would serve God. She brought Samuel to live in God’s house with Eli and to help Eli.
- In the story, you will hear about God speaking to Samuel. It was not very common for God to speak directly to people.
Read aloud 1 Samuel 3:1-10. Because most of the story is dialogue, you may choose to invite children in the group to read the parts of Eli and Samuel. Here’s a scripted version of the reading you may choose to use.
After reading, ask the children:
- Why do you think Samuel thought Eli was calling him?
- What do you think God sounded like?
- How does Eli help Samuel hear God?
- Why do you think God wanted to speak to Samuel?
- Do you think God speaks to you? What does God say to you?
Connecting the story to our lives
To help the children connect the Bible story to their own lives and experiences, invite them to engage in one or more of the following activities:
- Noticing God: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: old magazines, scissors, blank paper, and glue sticks. Ask the children to recount how Samuel comes to recognize God’s voice in the story. Note that Eli helps him notice that God is speaking to him, not Eli. We can also see God in the world when we focus on noticing God. Offer a prayer inviting God to make God’s self known to the children through this activity. Then, invite children to quietly look through the magazines. Ask them to cut out any images that make them think of God or notice God. Encourage them to select images that “speak to” them. After they have cut out several images, invite each child to glue the pictures to a piece of blank paper. Ask each child to share their collage noting why they selected each image.
- Knowing God together: Before the lesson, invite older adults to join the children for this activity. You can invite enough adults to pair each child with an adult or you can have 2-3 adults talk with the entire group. Ask the children to recount how Samuel was able to recognize God’s voice in the story. Note that he needed a trusted adult who followed God to help him. We can continue to know God by knowing older adults in our church. Provide each child with an interview sheet and a pencil. Have the children interview the adults, either by placing them in pairs or by dividing up the questions and having the children ask them about the adults present. Encourage the children to write the answers the adults provide. After the interviews are complete, ask the children to share ideas they heard that resonated with them.
- Who are you?: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: copies of the mirror sheet and pencils, crayons and/or markers. Ask the children to share why they think God was speaking to Samuel. Note that as the story continues, God shares important information with Samuel. This is the first of many times God does this. God will continue to talk to Samuel and to call him to help lead and serve God’s people. God has made each of us in special ways so that we can also care for the world. Hand each child a mirror sheet. Ask them to draw or write words about who they are in the mirror. Encourage them to think beyond their physical appearances. They should write and draw who they are (what they enjoy doing, what gifts they have, what excites them). After they have completed their mirrors, have each child share their work. Then, wonder about how these gifts might be used to serve the world.