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Sacred promises — Weekly Christian ed lesson

In this lesson, children will explore the story of God’s covenant with God’s people through Noah and will consider what God’s promise to never again destroy creation means.

Photo by Jana Doro on Unsplash

Lesson background

Children are enamored by animals; many a committee tasked with decorating church nurseries opts for a Noah’s Ark theme. In doing so, they forget while a pair of each species of animal is safely tucked away on the boat, God is busy destroying all of creation around them. The story of Noah’s Ark is terrifying and hardly child-friendly. But its resolution is worth exploring with young disciples because it presents a remorseful, loving God who commits to the preservation of creation. In this lesson, children will explore the story of God’s covenant with God’s people through Noah and will consider what God’s promise to never again destroy creation means.

What you’ll need

Starting out

Greet the children as they arrive.

Hand each child a copy of the promises document [insert hotlink] and a pair of scissors. Ask the children to cut the sheet into strips along the dotted lines. Then ask them to arrange the strips from the least important promise to keep to the most important promise.

After the children have sorted their strips, ask them to share their rankings. Ask:

  • Look at the promise you ranked “most important.” Why do you think this is the most important promise to keep?
  • How did you make decisions about the rankings?
  • What makes one promise more important than another? 

Hearing and exploring the story

Prepare to read aloud Genesis 9:8-17.

Provide the children with a context for the reading:

  • This reading comes from the Old Testament book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.
  • This reading is “part 2” of the story often called “Noah’s Ark.” If you are offering the reading from a children’s Bible that includes the first part of the story (God warning Noah of God’s intention to destroy creation and begin again) be sure to share this part of the story. Alternatively, you can offer a short retelling of the first part of the story or ask children to share what they know about Noah’s Ark.
  • In the story, God makes a covenant with God’s people through Noah. Share a brief definition of “covenant” with the children. If your congregation uses a particular language, use that with the group. If not, you can offer a simple definition such as “a covenant is a special promise that involves God.”

Read aloud Genesis 9:8-17.

After reading, have the children wonder:

  • I wonder why God said God would promise to never again destroy the creation …
  • I wonder why God chose the rainbow as a symbol for this promise …
  • I wonder how God shows you God keeps this promise …

Connecting the story to our lives

To help the children connect the idea of simple actions bringing wellness to others to their own lives and experiences, invite them to engage in one or more of the following activities:

  • Rainbow promise: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: 2-inch strips of colored paper (variety of colors), markers or crayons, and staplers. Ask the children to recount the promise God makes to God’s people through Noah. Note that God makes this promise not only to human beings but also to “every animal of the earth.” Hand the children strips of colored paper. Ask them to use the crayons or markers to write or draw pictures of various creatures of the earth (including humans) on the paper strips. Then, create a loop with one of the strips, stapling it closed. Thread another strip through this loop and close it with a staple. Continue until all of the strips are joined in a chain. Hang the chain somewhere in the church where it can serve as a reminder of God’s covenant with creation.
  • God’s covenants: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a television or a data projector, The Bible Project’s “The Covenants” video, chart paper or a whiteboard and markers. Write “Covenant” at the top of a sheet of chart paper or on a whiteboard. Ask the children to share what they know about this word. Write their responses under the heading. Show The Bible Project’sCovenants” video. After watching the video, write “Covenant” on another sheet of chart paper or if you’re using a whiteboard, change to a different colored marker. Ask the children to share what they learned about the covenants God made with God’s people. Write their responses on the chart paper/whiteboard. Have the children wonder about those covenants. Where do they see or experience these covenants in their own lives?
  • Responding to natural disasters: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: A computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector, videos: “The Blue Shirt Ministry” and “Staying for the Long Haul: PDA Response to the Louisiana Floods.” Ask the children to recount the promise God makes to God’s people through Noah. Note that God says God will not bring a flood that destroys all creation, but God doesn’t say floods will not occur. Ask the children to share what they know about floods and flooding. Have them wonder how people are cared for when floods impact their lives. Share that God calls people to help those impacted by floods. In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) some people aid those experiencing the effects of natural disasters through a program called Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. Show “The Blue Shirt Ministry” video. After watching, have the children share what they noticed about those in the “blue shirt ministry” who cared for fellow human beings in need. Then, show “Staying for the Long Haul.” This video captures the experiences of those affected by flooding in Louisiana in 2017.

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