The first Sunday of July is often the first Sunday worshiping with the new pastor for United Methodist churches with a new appointment. The goal of children’s time on the first Sunday is to introduce children to the new pastor and to model generously welcoming new people to the congregation. For the following children’s message, you will need several picnic blankets.* Be sure to have more than enough to hold all the children and any adults who decide to join in the welcome. Think ahead about including people who may not be able to sit on the floor; perhaps chairs can be pulled near the picnic blanket.
Good morning everyone! Come have a seat on my picnic blanket. (Have picnic blanket folded up very small. As kids come, ask kids to scoot over and begin unfolding blanket. Let kids settle in a circle).
How many of you have gone on picnics this summer? Picnics are a wonderful time to celebrate and share. What do you do when you need to fit more people on your picnic blanket? (Have a couple of adults from congregation come up and ask to join the kids. Keep making circle bigger and unfolding blanket). What about new people, can we make room for them at our picnic? Can you think of anyone new we can invite to our blanket? (Make room pastor and pastor’s family). Invite everyone to welcome the pastor and family, introducing them by name. Can we fit everyone? Yes! We can.
Connecting the Bible Story:
There are several scriptures that would work with this passage, including the lectionary reading for July 2, 2017 – Matthew 10:40-42. Other ideas:
- The Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32, Mark 4:30-32, and Luke 13:18-19): Jesus told this parable because people asked him “What is the kingdom of God like?” If the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, how big can it get? How does it feel to be a part of the kingdom of God, like the bird in the nests? Our blanket is a little bit like the kingdom of God, too. It got bigger and bigger and can fit many, many people.
- The story of the loaves and fishes (John 6:1-14) is also a picnic story. You have heard about the boy who shared his fish and bread with 5,000 people? Everyone had come to see Jesus and they didn’t bring any food with them because they didn’t realize how long they would be staying. But, the boy shared his 5 loaves and 2 fishes with the whole crowd of 5,000 people. That is a lot of sharing, isn’t it? But in the story, we know that everyone was filled and there were 12 baskets of leftovers.
Connecting with the Lord’s Table:
The first Sunday of the month is also Communion Sunday. Be sure to make the connection with the children that God’s table, is even bigger than a picnic blanket. There is room for everyone at God’s table.
Welcoming activity suggestions:
In our congregation, children remain in worship on the first Sundays. I invite them to a quiet activity up front during the sermon. For this Sunday, they might color their own nametags (a great help for the pastor), make a welcome sign for the pastor’s door, or use a large piece of paper to do a group drawing of the communion table and/or the kingdom of God.
Loving God, Thank you for making room for all of us in your church, at your table and in your kingdom. Help us to welcome and include others in our church as Christ would. Amen.
*The picnic blanket idea was shared with me by Pastor David Aslesen, the first pastor I have had the privilege of welcoming during children’s time.