Here’s my adapted version of session 4 from the Winchester Lent course on being Agents of Social Transformation (John 9:1-41) for 5-11 year olds:
We are agents of social transformation using our influence as a diocese to transform public and personal life. We will demonstrate loving faith at work, in local communities and across the globe bringing healing, restoration and reconciliation, e.g. through Education, Social Enterprise, Health Care, Spiritual Care Teams.
1. What might God be saying to us through John 9:1-41?
You will need a mirror big enough for the children to be able to see their reflection clearly, plus a selection of torches (some bright, some coloured, head torches, etc.).
Show the mirror to the children and point out that it has no light of its own. Give the torches to various people sitting near the front, asking them to direct the light on the mirror. Angle the mirror to reflect the light back on the children. See if you can dazzle them with the reflected lights. Maybe make the light dance around your meeting room. For a really active game, try using the mirror to reflect the light around the room on to the floor and see who can reach and jump on the light the fastest.
Explain that today we are going to reflect on the fact that, when Christ shines his light on us, we become/ reflect his light in all the places we go.
2. Jesus said ‘I am the light for this world.’ How many examples of darkness can you find in this passage?
Ask the children to think about dark places – what comes to mind? (They may suggest, for example, night-time, space, when you have your eyes closed, in a cupboard, under the covers.) Explain that sometimes when we say we are in the dark it means that there is no light and we can’t see, but sometimes being ‘in the dark’ means we don’t understand or we are confused. As we read the Bible together in a minute, we are going to think about how sometimes in the story people were ‘in the dark’. They didn’t understand what was going on, or they didn’t understand who Jesus was.
Explain that it’s a long reading, and that you want people to concentrate on different characters to help us listen. Ask for volunteers to play the following roles from the reading: Jesus, the blind man, his parents, his neighbours, Jesus’ followers and the Pharisees. Try to involve everyone in this – less enthusiastic actors can hide themselves within a group of neighbours or Pharisees!
Read the whole Bible account (John 9). You may want to find an accessible version such as the New Century or Contemporary English Version. Encourage the different characters to mime their parts as you tell the story, particularly thinking about when people did and didn’t understand who Jesus was and what his message was. The younger the children are, the more help they will need, but again it’s a different way at looking at this passage. Don’t worry if you have a small group of children – use other adults for this part of the programme as well as doubling up if needed.
Focus together on the different characters to help your children to explore the theme:
- Jesus: What did you notice about him in this story? (He can heal people (v. 32); he’s unique (v. 32); he is from God (vv. 32,33); he’s worth worshipping (v. 38.)
- The neighbours: What did you notice about them? (They had a lot of questions – but that’s OK. Maybe we’re a bit like that.)
- The parents: What did you notice about them? (They were afraid of what others – the Pharisees – would say. Maybe we’re a bit like that. Being too worried about what others might say can stop us seeing what’s really important.)
- The Pharisees: What did you notice about them? (They reacted angrily! They were too fixed in their own ways of thinking to see anything new, and so were blind in a different way. Maybe we’re a bit like that too.)
- The blind man: What happens to him? (He not only gets to see with his eyes, but he also gets to see as in ‘OK, I get it – there’s something special about this Jesus guy’.) Highlight the idea that he sees something special in Jesus and goes with it – even though he might not understand it all! Maybe the children could be like this too.
The preparation you do beforehand for this part of the session will be helpful in being able to lead the discussion in a ‘light’ and creative/ chatty way, while keeping the focus of the question in mind.
3. What can we do to bring light into our world?
This might be a good point for a drink and snack!
For children in Key Stage 1
Here’s a really messy activity linked with the mud that Jesus used to heal the blind man, to help the children think about how they might be light in the world.
Assemble the ingredients to make chocolate crispy cakes: cornflakes (or other cereal), bun cases and melted chocolate. The simplest way to do this would be to bring a microwave into the space where you will be meeting and melting chocolate in it as you need it. If you really don’t think you can use melted chocolate, have some pre-made cupcakes ready (from a pound shop if you don’t fancy baking) and a bowl of brown, runny mud icing (icing sugar and cocoa powder mixed with a little water).
As the children mix together the chocolate and cereal and spoon it into the cases, ask them if they can remember how Jesus healed the man born blind. Ask them what we would do today if our eyesight wasn’t very good, or if we became ill in any other way. Ask them what they think they would like to do to help other people (encourage them to think of the miraculous as well as the practical).
4. How will these words change the things we think, do and pray this week?
If possible, darken the room and, if it’s safe to do so, light a candle. If not, you can use battery-powered tea lights that flicker like a real candle. Search online if you’re stuck! Encourage the children to sit round the candle in a circle with team members joining them as well.
Remind the children of all the activities in which you have just participated together, and ask them to think about them as the leader mentions them one by one, with a few seconds of silence in between them.
End your time together by praying that Jesus would help you and the children see more of him in your lives as you share Jesus – the Light of the World – with those you meet.