The Parable of the Sower:
A Teaching Activity for Harvest
A Simple Harvest Festival
- This is simply a slightly expanded version
of the Family
Service, which uses the teaching activity below but also incorporates
elements of a traditional Harvest Festival, with the children bringing
produce into church. Children so much appreciate the security that
familiarity can breed, and the Parable of the Sower has become a
favourite feature of at least one parish's Harvest celebrations.
- If you want families to bring produce to
church then you need to think about publicity in the weeks preceding your
- You need also to think about what will
happen to the produce after the service. Will you hold a Harvest sale, or
use the produce in a Harvest lunch or supper? Some urban churches prefer
people to bring tins and packets which can be distributed to those in
- The only additional elements are the
offering of the Harvest gifts (following the first hymn) and an extra
hymn (following the offering of the gifts). The reading, Mark 4.1-9, is
the Parable of the Sower: it is at this point that the teaching activity
above takes place.
- Follow this link to the Harvest Festival Liturgy
Teaching Activity: Summary
parable is read by one adult while another performs the sower's actions,
as described below. The children remain in their seats but are
involved by helping with the props.
children are invited to the front for a discussion of the parable's
- After the
discussion you could use an action song like Ishmael's "Though the grass
adults who have prepared the story in advance. (Do you have any
older farmers in your congregation, who could explain to the children how
sowing used to be done by hand, and show them the technique?)
- An adult
(who could also be the reader or sower) to lead the discussion of the
to brandish the props, which can be distributed as they come into
suitable version of the parable, either in a children's Bible or in
Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23 or Mark 4. 1-9, 14-20 or Luke 8. 4-8,
- Seeds: a
basket or bowl of any kind of seeds.
e.g. cardboard/paper cut-outs of crows, stuck on to sticks so that
children in the aisles can make them 'peck' at the seeds. If you
have puppets or soft toy birds then this would work, too.
- The sun:
again this could be on a stick, but a large orange or yellow ball would
also work, as something to raise into the air when the sun scorches the
ground: a tray of pebbles or a pile of rocks.
- Thorns: a
pile of cuttings from a local hedgerow, or suitable pictures or
- The seeds
that grew: any kind of plants in pots.
'sower' will walk through the church, pretending to sow his/her
seeds. Decide which route s/he will take and prepare different
areas of church as the different types of ground in the parable - as
- An aisle
works well as the path/road: children sitting either side of the aisle
can be prompted to make their crows 'peck' at the seeds.
- The tray
of pebbles or pile of rocks is the stony ground, and a child will need to
be prompted to raise the sun at that point in the story.
- The pile
of thorns, or pictures of them, will be in another area of the
- The pot
plants will need to appear when the seeds fall on good soil. You could
give these to children to produce at that point in the story.
Alternatively, your sower could arrive back in the aisle at the end: if
the plants have been hidden behind pews then an adult helper, while the
congregation is watching the sower at the rocky and thorny ground in
another part of the church, can discreetly move the pots out into the
aisle so that they are there when the sower returns.
reader and sower might benefit from a walk-through practice together, so
that the story is well coordinated with the actions.
- We can
find Jesus' own explanation of this parable's meaning in the Bible
(Matthew 13.18-23, Mark 4.14-20, Luke 8.11-15.): the seed is God's word
and we all have a choice about how to respond to it.
- Some of
the seed in the parable fell on the path. We've probably all
walked along well-walked rights-of-way beside fields, trodden down so
hard that no seed will grow there. Some people's minds are hardened like
this: God's message can't find a way in because they have closed their
minds to it and they just won't listen.
- Some of
the seed fell on stony ground, where there was only a thin layer of soil
over solid rock, with no space for roots to grow. Some people
listen eagerly to God's word, and they're happy to accept it - so long as
it doesn't cause them too much trouble. As soon as life is hard, though,
or other people mock them for being Christian, they fall away because
their faith has no roots.
- Some of
the seed fell among thorns, and you can't grown two crops in the same
patch. People whose minds are taken up with pleasure, work or
worries can't focus on God. Once we put Him first, though, everything
else falls into place.
- Some of
the seed fell on good soil. Even then it didn't really grown
immediately, like the plants that suddenly appeared in our retelling of
the story. It took hard work and time to turn the seeds into a good
harvest, even in the good soil. Christian life is like this, too.
- And don't
forget that hardened soil can be ploughed, shallow soil deepened and
weeds uprooted: there is hope for everyone who lets Christ help
additional modern illustration/analogy for older school children is the
familiar situation of a teacher giving them some homework. Some
don't even bother to write it in their homework diaries; others write it
down but then forget to do it; others write it down and even start to do
it but are then distracted by the desire to play with their friends or
watch television. Others write it down, complete the homework, and
perhaps even remind their friends about what needs doing.