Feeding the Five Thousand and Walking on Water
- A reading from John 6.1-21.
- The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is
enacted and discussed, with the help of the children, some teddy bears
- The miracle of Jesus walking on water is
then discussed with the children, using the teddies as an aid to their
understanding of what it means to feel safe in the darkness.
- Adult(s) and/or older child(ren) to do the
reading. This reading is relatively long, which gives scope for involving
more people, either by breaking it down into sections or by giving the
speaking parts to different people.
- An adult to lead the teaching.
- Children to take part in the reenactments
of the miracle stories.
- Teddy bears and other soft toys (see
- Popcorn kernels and a popcorn machine: if
you ask around your congregation then you'll probably find someone who
can lend you a machine. Alternatively, does someone have small microwave
that you could bring into church for this occasion, with some
microwavable popcorn kernels?
- A bowl for the popcorn
- Some means of depicting the disciples'
boat: this can be as simple as a blanket that you spread on the ground,
on which the children can sit.
- Although this activity will work best if
you are able to ask the children in advance to bring along their
favourite teddy or toy (perhaps by announcing it at the previous Family
Service, or via posters, the school newsletter, etc.), it can be managed
even if you haven't had chance to do this. In this case, you'll need one
or two special toys that the adults might have kept from their own
childhood, enhanced by any other soft toys that you can borrow, plus toys
that the children happen to have brought to church that morning.
- Ask the readers in advance, or as they
arrive in church, according to your normal practice.
- Have the popcorn machine or microwave
plugged in and ready to go.
- Gather the children and the toys around
you, sitting on the floor to represent the crowd of 5,000 people. Talk
about why the people were there: the Bible tells us that "a great crowd
followed him because they had seen the signs which he gave in his
dealings with the sick." So they were hungry for Jesus' words and
actions: desperate to be with him. But they were hungry for food, too,
and even his closest followers couldn't imagine how he was going to feed
them all. When Andrew pointed out the boy with the five loaves and two
fishes, he could hardly have imagined that Jesus would really use them to
feed 5,000 people!
- At this point, show the children a handful
of popcorn kernels: look how tiny they are. Invite them to hold one and
feel how hard and unappetising it looks. Sometimes, when we look at
things in our lives, they look pretty hard and unpromising: we can't see
how on earth things can improve; we can't see how this could possibly be
what we need. But then something happens that we just hadn't
- At this point, invite the children to
predict what would happen if you put the kernels into the
machine/microwave. It would change completely - from something tiny and
hard and unappealing into something large and fluffy and delicious. Now
let them see this happen: make the popcorn and share it around the
children. Give them time to enjoy it and settle down again before
carrying on to the next part of the story.
- Talk about how what they have experienced,
seeing the popcorn being transformed, relates to today's miracle story:
Jesus took an apparently hopeless situation (5 loaves, 2 fishes, 5000
people) and somehow managed to provide from it everything that the people
needed; the story tells us that everyone "had enough". Jesus can take
apparently hopeless situations, in which we cannot see the answer, and
- Talk about how, when the crowd saw what
Jesus had done, they knew that he was truly the Son of God, who could
feed their souls as well as their bodies. They wanted to crown him their
king, but this wasn't God's plan for Jesus, and he went off by himself to
- Later, his disciples went back across the
lake in their boat: at this point gather the children and toys in your
"boat", and ask them to imagine what it might have been like to row three
or four miles in the dark. The Bible tells us that "a strong wind sprang
up and the water grew very rough." How might the disciples have been
feeling? Have the children ever felt scared in the dark? What helps them
to feel safe? You might talk about how you felt scared of the dark when
you were a child, and show them the bear that helped you to feel safe;
and talk about how we all feel frightened from time to time. The Bible
tells us that the disciples felt "terrified" in the middle of that dark,
stormy lake, when they saw something coming across the water towards
- But then Jesus said: "Don't be afraid: it
is I myself." And when they realised who it was, the disciples "gladly
took him aboard" and were no longer afraid - and at once they reached the
shore. When we invite Jesus into our lives, he can help us to overcome
our fears, too.
- Recap what the children have learnt from
the two miracle stories that they have heard: if we trust Jesus, and
invite him into our lives, then he can transform apparently hopeless
situations. When we feel that there isn't enough to go round (whether
that's our money or our time or our energy), Jesus can multiply the tiny
amount that our human eyes see into enough for everyone. And when life
feels dark and stormy, Jesus can calm our fears.