Children could write their gifts and abilities onto cardboard boxes and then build these boxes into a strong structure. Talk about how everybody needs to use their gifts for the congregation to be strong and healthy. You may wish to use this building exercise again as part of a congregational Service of Reconciliation.
For older children, collect advertisements and catalogues from toyshops and cut out the items most likely to appeal to the children. Add to these some statements you have made up, like - choose to buy your sister a birthday present, or, you choose to put some money into the offering plate. (Have up to ten such statements). Give the children a limited amount of play money (it should run out fairly soon). Now offer the items you have cut out for sale interspersed with your written suggestions. If the child wishes to buy the item or follow the suggestion then s/he must pay the agreed price. Once a child's money has run out s/he may not buy anything else. Save the best items till last! Use this game to lead into a discussion about priorities and budgeting. Introduce the idea that our money is a limited resource that we are responsible for.
Have a mirror inside a box (e.g. an ice-cream carton). Ask the children if they would like to see a very special person whom God loves very much. They may like to guess who it might be. Then let them look in one at a time to see themselves.
Ask each child to write their name vertically on a piece of paper. Then ask them to write something they are good at or enjoy doing for each letter of their name. Display for all to see.
Each child in turns lies down and someone draws around their outline. Give the children time to colour themselves in, then ask the children to write something they like about each child on that child's picture.
Ask the children to write some of the things they are good at on strips of paper. (Adult helpers should write some for themselves too.) Join them together into a paper chain. Display it where all the congregation can see it, perhaps with a note inviting others to add their own links.
In each case there is an idea for a drama and a children's book title related to the theme. The children's books should be available through your local library or book shop. If you use the drama suggestion in the service, you may find it helpful to have the children's book on hand for parents to borrow and read to their children at home.
Badger's Party by Hiawyn Oram & Susan Varley, Collins, 1996.
Uses the characters from Susan Varley's classic, Badger's Parting Gift, to explore the theme that everyone has something they can offer.
A clown (or another madcap character) enters the church at the children's slot. Welcome him/her and get them to sit or stand beside you as you talk to the children. Show the children a completed wooden IQ puzzle( one that has pieces that fit together into a cube, or similar). Tell the children that you can put the puzzle back together, when it is broken apart. Start to pull the puzzle apart handing each piece to the clown. The clown looks bewildered at the first piece of puzzle you hand him/her and tosses it away like a piece of rubbish into the pews in front. As you pass the other bits to the clown s/he decides that perhaps s/he had better hold on to them after all. When you have dismantled the puzzle get the clown to pass the pieces you need back to you. When you come to the point where you need the piece that was tossed away, ask the clown for it. The clown is flustered and looks around until s/he remembers what s/he did with it. S/he clambers over the front pews to retrieve it. When s/he brings it back, complete the puzzle and talk to the children about how you needed every bit of the puzzle to complete it. None of the bits were just like the others but they all had a part that only they could play.
a. The classic tale of The Little Red Hen - talks about the need for everyone to pull their weight. Or The Very Hungry Caterpillar, by Eric Carle, Picture Puffin, on the more general idea that all good things take time and effort.
b. Seeds by Clare Lind
Narrator Aunty Annie gave Petunia and Daisy each a seed.
Aunty A. Plant it carefully, take good care of it and you will have some beautiful flowers to look at.
Narrator Petunia found a good pot. She filled it with potting mix, watered it and planted the seed, and covered it to keep it warm and damp. She spent most of the morning looking for the best place to put it.
Petunia Somewhere sunny.... Somewhere sheltered.... By the shed.
Narrator Daisy was in a hurry. She was on the last level of warp room three and she hadn't saved her game. She poked her finger into the first bit of earth she could find, dropped her seed in the hole and put some earth over it (stamps the ground with her foot).
Daisy Back to the game.
Narrator On Tuesday before school Petunia lifted the cover on the pot and checked her seed. The soil was still damp.
Petunia No need to water you yet.
Narrator Daisy was going to check her seed.
Daisy But, I have to dash. (Runs off with school bag).
Narrator It rained for the rest of the week. It was Saturday before Petunia lifted the cover again, and there in the middle of the pot was a little green shoot. Petunia smiled. She took the cover away.
Petunia You won't need that anymore. I'll put some slug bait around you so you don't get eaten.
Narrator On Wednesday after school the girls were outside rollerblading. Petunia noticed her seedling had grown taller and now it had four leaves.
Petunia Daisy, have you checked your seed? Mine has sprouted.
Narrator Daisy went to look at her seed. She had planted it somewhere around here. She saw a young plant that had pushed its way through the soil.
Daisy Here it is! It is even bigger than yours.
Petunia Are you sure that's your seed? Its leaves are different to mine and I thought the seeds that Aunty Annie gave us were the same.
Daisy Yours is probably a weed then. Well I'm off down the street to play with Susan. See ya.
Narrator Petunia looked worried.
Petunia I hope it's not a weed. It can't be...it was new potting mix.
Narrator And she gave her seedling some water.
Everyday or two Petunia checked her plant. It was growing well.
Daisy's plant was growing well too. Its leaves were very sharp. It was just as well it was such a strong plant, because she never had time for watering or weeding. Daisy was trying to beat the guardian of warp room four and it was really difficult. It was ten weeks now since Aunty Annie had given Daisy and Petunia their seeds. Daisy had forgotten all about hers. She'd been given a cheat sheet and was well on her way through warp room five. Petunia's plant had a bud on it. Aunty Annie came to tea on Friday.
Aunty A. How are my gardeners?
Narrator Petunia showed her her plant.
Petunia It's just about to flower.
Aunty A. It's beautiful. You must have looked after it well. Look there are some more buds further down. If you remove the flowers when they are dead it will keep on producing new ones, and it will flower for ages. Where's yours, Daisy?
Daisy Oh.... Ummm. Somewhere around here. (Daisy pulls back some weeds). Oww! There it is and it's pricked me. (Jumps around shaking her hand).
Aunty A. (laughing) I hope I didn't give you that seed, Daisy.
Daisy (sucking her finger) Why?
Aunty A. Because it's a thistle. (chuckles). Let's see. (she pokes around among the weeds) No, it doesn't look as though it came up at all. Did you water it or weed it?
Daisy (still with finger in mouth) I was going to.
Aunty A. Oh that will be it then. They don't come up if you don't spend the time on them, Daisy. Good things always take time.
a. Herbert and Harry by Pamela Allen, Picture Puffin, 1990. A great 'Rich Fool' story that explores the relationship between wealth and happiness.
b. Possessions by Geraldine Anderson. "I want you to imagine a scene which we will briefly act for you. A developer (that is, someone who believes in using and developing resources) is strolling along the shores of a lake in an underdeveloped country. He comes across a fisherman, basking in the sun."
Developer: Why are you not out on the lake fishing today?
Fisherman: I caught many fish yesterday, enough for today and tomorrow. I do not need to fish today.
Developer: But if you fish today, you will get more money.
Fisherman: Why would I want more money?
Developer: Well, if you had more money, you could buy a new high-powered fishing boat.
Fisherman: Why would I want a new high-powered fishing boat?
Developer: With a new boat you can catch ten times more fish and make ten times more money.
Fisherman: But what is the use of ten times more fish and ten times more money?
Developer: With the extra money, you can buy yourself a large palatial home, with a big swimming pool and many luxuries.
Fisherman: What would I want with a big house and swimming pool?
Developer: Once you get a few possessions, you will be wealthy and soon you will never have to work again.
Fisherman: But what is the use of all this?
Developer: So that you can spend your days just basking in the sun.
Fisherman: But isn't that what I'm doing now?