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How does God’s garden grow? — Weekly Christian ed lesson

In this lesson, children will explore two of Jesus’ “seed parables” (Luke 4:26-34). They will consider what the mysterious kindom of God might look like and how they might help nurture it.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Lesson background

About three years ago, my family committed to converting the landscaping in front of our home to all native plants. We purchased several tiny seedlings from a local farm to start the gardens.
As he handed us the plants, he said, “I know these look small but don’t worry. When you buy native plants, you’re really buying the rootstock. They may not seem like much now, but they’ll grow like crazy!”

And he was right.

Each spring, I’ve watched the plants reemerge from their slumber, heartier than they were the previous year. I’ve also watched the native plants spread as little volunteer plants pop up in unexpected parts of the landscape: A columbine emerging from the thick patch of yarrow; mountain mint peeking out of the beautyberry bushes. Not only are the plants’ roots thriving, but they’re also producing plenty of seeds that are being spread far and wide, adding new dimensions to our happy garden.

Like many aspects of God’s creation, seeds and plants teach us a great deal about the Creator. They help us see both the beauty and sanctity of creation and they are a wonderful metaphor for understanding the relationship between God and God’s creation. In this lesson, children will explore two of Jesus’ “seed parables” (Luke 4:26-34). Using seeds and plants as a foundation, they will consider what the mysterious kindom of God might look like and how they might help nurture it.

What you’ll need:

  • A Bible
  • Various seeds spread out on a tray (If you’re able, collect a variety of seeds for the introductory activity. Aim to share seeds for several types of plants, including varying sizes and shapes.)
  • Seed planting and growing activity: Paper cups, pencils, potting soil, fast-growing seeds (such as radish, lettuce or basil seeds), and 8 ½” x 11” blank paper (optional)
  • Mysteries of faith: Chart paper or whiteboard, markers, and sheets of blank paper (optional)
  • Wonderful weeds: A computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and videos: “David Attenborough Will Make You Think of Weeds in a Different Way” and “Learn to Love Weeds” (optional)

Starting out

Greet the children as they arrive.

Have the children sit in a circle on the floor or in chairs around a table. Place the tray of seeds in front of the children or pass it around so each child can observe the seeds. Encourage them to carefully touch and view each seed.

After the children have examined the seeds ask:

  • What did you notice about the seeds?
  • If we were to plant these seeds, what do you think they might grow into?
  • Are there any of the seeds that you think would grow better than the others? Why?
  • What plants do you hope the seeds might produce?
  • What could we do to help the seeds grow?
  • Are plants important? Why or why not?

Hearing and exploring the story

Prepare to read aloud Mark 4:26-34.

Provide the children with a context for the reading:

  • This reading comes from the New Testament Gospel of Mark.
  • In the reading, you’ll hear two parables. Ask the children what they know about parables. Offer a simple definition for those who are unfamiliar with this story type.
  • Jesus offers these parables to his disciples as well as a large crowd of people who have gathered to hear him teach.
  • The second parable talks about mustard plants. In the region where and time period when Jesus lived mustard plants were considered weeds. People wouldn’t intentionally plant a mustard seed.
  • Jesus talks about “the kingdom/kindom of God” in both of the parables. This idea is important to Jesus, but it is also complicated and mysterious. Knowing that it would be difficult to explain, Jesus uses several stories or parables to help his listeners glimpse what it might look like and how it might come to be.

Read aloud Mark 4:26-34.

After reading, ask the children:

  • Parable #1 (verses 26-29)
    • What does Jesus say about seeds and the plants they produce?
    • What is mysterious about the wheat plant?
    • What do you think this parable might be telling us about the kingdom/kindom of God?
  • Parable #2 (verses 30-32):
    • What does Jesus say about the mustard seed and plant?
    • What benefits does the mustard plant provide?
    • What do you think this parable might be telling us about the kingdom/kindom of God?
  • Why do you think Jesus uses stories about seeds to help people understand the kingdom/kindom of God?

Responding to the story

To help the children connect the story to their own lives and experiences, invite them to engage in one or more of the following activities:

  • Seed planting and growing Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: paper cups, pencils, potting soil, fast-growing seeds (such as radish, lettuce or basil seeds), and 8 ½” x 11” blank paper. NOTE: This is an activity that you can start during a Sunday gathering that children can continue at home. Begin the activity by noting that Jesus often used examples from the natural world, including seeds and plants, to help his followers understand the ideas that he was teaching to them. We can continue to observe nature and use what we learn from these observations to understand God. Give each child a paper cup and a pencil. Ask them to use the pencil tip to poke a few small holes in the bottom of the cup. These are for water drainage. Then, provide them with soil. Have them fill the cups about 2/3 full with the soil. Provide them each with several seeds. Ask them to scatter the seeds on the top of the soil. Then have them add a thin layer of soil (just a dusting) on top of the seeds. Have them lightly water the soil so that it is just barely moist.

Next, help the children prepare observation sheets. Give each child a sheet of blank paper. Ask them to fold it in half lengthwise (the long way). Then, maintaining the first fold, have them fold it in half twice. When they open the sheet, the folds should create 8 rectangles on the page. Ask them to trace the fold lines with a pencil and then number the boxes. If you’ll have them observe their plants for 1 week, label boxes 1-7. If they’ll observe for 2 weeks, label boxes 1-14 (boxes 9-14 will be on the back of the sheet).

Have the children take the plantings and observation sheets home with them. Encourage them to place the cup in a sunny location and to water it regularly. Each day, they should observe the plant and draw a picture of it or write notes about it in one of the boxes. After they have completed this, ask them to consider what the plant might be teaching them about God. How is the plant like God at each stage? Consider “debriefing” each Sunday when the group gathers.

  • Mysteries of faith: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: Chart paper or whiteboard, markers, and sheets of blank paper. Begin by asking the children what mystery means to them. Then, ask them to brainstorm a list of mysterious things and reflect on why they are mysterious. Remind the group that the kingdom/kindom of God Jesus describes through the two parables is often considered a mystery of our faith. It is something people don’t totally understand but consider important and worth wondering about. Ask the children to share other aspects of faith, the Bible, and church they find mysterious. Write these on the chart paper or whiteboard. Then, give each child a sheet of blank paper. Have them wonder about one of the mysteries written on the chart paper/whiteboard by writing or drawing as they ponder it. Have the children share their wonderings with the group, if they are comfortable doing so.
  • Wonderful weeds: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a data projector or television and videos: “David Attenborough Will Make You Think of Weeds in a Different Way” and “Learn to Love Weeds.” Remind the children that the mustard plant Jesus talks about in the second parable was considered a weed. Ask the children to share the names of plants they consider weeds. Why are these seen as undesirable plants? Show the videos. Ask the children to share key ideas from the videos. Then, have them wonder what they learned from the videos might also be used as a way to understand God and the kingdom/kindom of God.

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