THE BASICS FOR LEADERS
During Jesus’ time on earth, most people who heard him speak worked in agriculture. Even people who lived in cities were used to seeing grapevines dot the landscape, each vine carefully tended so it produced branches heavy with grapes at harvest time.
So nobody missed Jesus’ point: if you want grapes to grow on a branch, the worst thing you can do is remove that branch from the grapevine.
The grapevine carries life-giving nourishment to the branch. It’s what keeps branches from turning into kindling for the next cooking fire.
What was challenging for his audience to grasp was the meaning of Jesus’ words: that when we remain in Jesus—when we stay connected to him—he can do great things through us. You’ll help your kids discover the truth in Jesus’ words: they can stay connected to Jesus!
Option 1: Howzitgoin’
- Prepared poster
Before kids arrive, draw a line on a poster. Place a 1 on the left end of the line, a 10 on the right, and a 5 in the middle. As kids arrive, ask them to pencil in their initials on the line.
Say: If this past week was so awful you wish you’d slept through it, place your initials by the 1. If it was a great week you wish you could repeat, put your initials by the 10. Place your initials anywhere on the line that shows how you feel about this past week—except exactly on the 5. That’s because there’s no such thing as a week that’s exactly half good and half bad!
After kids have signed in, give them 30 seconds each to explain why they placed their initials where they did. Be sure to include your own initials and explain your placement on the line. Kids will begin to express themselves more over time–and hearing their stories will help you adapt this lesson to make it relevant to your kids’ lives.
Option 2: Connection Detection
Form children into pairs and sit each pair on the floor, partners facing each other.
Say: Time to see how closely we’re connected together. When I give the signal, see how quickly you can find three things you have in common. When you’ve got three, call out, “Connected!”
And dig a bit. It doesn’t count that you both have noses! Look for things like both your birthdays are in the spring or you each have a middle name with five letters. Start now. Uneven number of kids? Jump in yourself to form a pair.
After kids complete the first round, play three more rounds, looking for four, five, and six new connections.
This game becomes increasingly difficult as the easy connections are covered. After kids either struggle through the third round or abandon hope, say: Let’s change the rules a bit to see if it helps. This last round you only need to find two connections—but you have to sit back-to-back with your partner. Scoot into that position now.
After kids move, continue with this instruction: Oh, and you can’t talk either. Ready? Go! It won’t take long for kids to realize they’re stuck and to give up. Have kids gather in a large circle, facing in, for a discussion. Ask:
- What was easy or hard about this connection challenge?
- What would have helped you succeed during the last round?
Say: The results I wanted–for you to find things you have in common with your partner—couldn’t happen unless you were connected! It didn’t help when I cut you off from the only source of information you had! Today we’ll dive into a story Jesus told about staying connected. We’ll discover that when we stay connected to Jesus, great things can happen.
COOL STORY GAME
Ask children to stand against one wall. Instruct them to work together to make a single chain reaching as far as possible by connecting themselves and anything they brought with them. They can use belts, shoelaces, or strings of beads. So long as the chain has items connected—it counts!
Give kids several minutes to make their chain. Measure it with a tape measurer and report the result. Applaud your kids’ creativity and willingness to work together.
As kids replace their belts and shoelaces, ask them to discuss:
- How long a chain do you think you could have made on your own?
- How was our working together helpful in making a longer chain?
Say: When we stayed connected, we could do more. That’s something the people listening to Jesus discovered when they heard him share a story about a vine and a branch. Let’s dig into that story and see what we can learn!
COOL BIBLE STORY
Fruit and Firewood
Gather children in a circle, seated close enough to hold hands when you ask them to do so. Say: When Jesus was on earth, there were lots of vineyards in the area where he lived. People who heard Jesus speak knew how to care for a grapevine so it would produce a healthy harvest.
One thing people did very carefully was to cut branches from the vine. Prune too much and there were no branches left to produce grapes. Prune too little and the grapes were small. But this was always true: once you cut a branch from the vine, that branch couldn’t produce fruit! I’ll read aloud a story Jesus shared about a grapevine. It’s not much of a story—it’s more a picture Jesus wanted his listeners to see and explore. So that’s what we’ll do!
Tell kids you’ll be the gardener and they’ll represent the branches—except for the last child in line. That child will represent the fruit. See the diagram below for positioning: G (gardener), F (fruit), and X (branches).
Arrange your Bible so you can easily read aloud using just one hand to hold the Bible on your lap. With your other hand, hold the hand of the child next to you (the child playing the branch, not the fruit). Ask children to form a “vine” by holding the hands of kids next to them. Only you (the gardener) and the child playing the fruit will each have a free hand.
Say: When your hand is squeezed, “pass along” the squeeze as quickly as possible to the next person in line. When the child playing the fruit feels his or her hand squeezed, that child will call out, “Fruit!”
After everyone’s connected, read aloud John 15:1, 4, 5. Squeeze a hand where indicated and wait until “Fruit!” is called each time:
“I am the true grapevine, (squeeze) and my Father is the gardener.” (squeeze)
“Remain in me, and I will remain in you. (squeeze) For a branch cannot produce fruit (squeeze) if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. (squeeze)
“Yes, I am the vine; (squeeze) you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. (squeeze) For apart from me you can do nothing.” (squeeze)
Ask children to release their hands but stay in a circle. Discuss:
- What would have happened had someone dropped out of our vine?
- What kinds of good fruit do you think Jesus is looking to find in his followers?
- What kind of good fruit is growing in you? How do you know?
Say: Jesus is clear: when we stay connected to him and let him lead us, great things happen. But when we try to go it on our own—it’s not so great. Let’s thank Jesus that we can stay connected to him and for the way he helps us bear good fruit!
Ask children to join you in a circle. Say: If you believe in Jesus and have him as a friend, you’re a branch in this story. You’re connected to Jesus. He wants to give you strength to bear fruit and to be strong and helpful in his kingdom. Let’s thank Jesus for connecting to us.
First, please place your hands down at your sides, pointed toward the floor, and join me as I pray. Jesus, thank you for rooting us in you–for letting us grow deep in our faith—for giving us a solid foundation in our lives. Thank you for your love.
Now please hold your hands up. (pause) Jesus, we praise you. Only you could do what you’ve done—create a way for us to come to God through you. We honor you as our Savior.
Now please join hands. (pause) Jesus, thank you for letting us be connected to each other. Thank you for the strength that comes with serving you together. Thank you for our friends. Amen.
Option 1: Tidy Tie
- Shoes the kids are wearing
This object talk is best suited for older kids who are able to quickly lace and unlace their shoelaces. Have a child wearing slip-on shoes or sandals? No problem! Have that child help another child wearing lace-ups.
Ask children to remove their shoes. Say: When I think of connections, I think of shoelaces. They not only connect to the shoes, but they keep your shoes connected to your feet. Instruct children to put their shoes on and lace them in reverse order so that the laces tie at their toes instead of their ankles. Discuss:
- How are our shoelaces like a vine?
- Why is it a good idea to stay connected to Jesus?
When they’re finished lacing up their shoes, ask children to leave them that way and see how long it takes their parents to notice the difference!
Option 2: Sticking Together
- Shoes the kids are wearing
Ask children to remove their shoes. Place your guys with guys and girls with girls for this game, with each same-sex group forming a row against one wall. Within each row wedge a shoe between the elbows of every two children so the only way they can keep the shoes from falling is to press their elbows together tightly.
The goal is for each row to move together to the opposite wall without losing their shoes. If a shoe is lost, stop the line and replace the shoe before continuing.
At the end of the game, ask each team to discuss:
- What made it easy to stay connected? hard to stay connected?
- What makes it easy or hard to stay connected with God?
Option 3: Inquiring Minds Want to Know
Gather kids in a circle. Ask: Why do you think someone who knows Jesus would choose to not stay connected to him?