Use this Bible lesson to show kids the real meaning of Thanksgiving.
1. Ahoy, Mate-Create a Mayflower boat by turning a table in your room upside down. Have kids crowd onto it.
Once kids are on the “Mayflower”, pass around a Bible and have kids take turns reading the verses from Numbers 33 until the entire chapter is read. Ask: How would it feel to have to ride on a boat like this for one day? one week? several months?
Say: “A long time ago, the Pilgrims had to ride in boats and endure crowded conditions to get to America. They were coming to America so they could worship Christ the way they wanted, rather than the way the Church of England said they had to. The Pilgrims had been through political and religious persecution, a long and difficult boat trip, an unknown land and weather, and getting to know new people.”
2. Land, Ho!-Have kids get off the boat. Form two groups. Assign one group to be the “similarities” group and the other group to be the “differences” group. Have groups each reread Numbers 33 and note the similarities or differences between the Israelites’ journey and the Pilgrims’ journey. Encourage kids to imagine what the conditions would’ve been like for the Israelites and the Pilgrims. Have kids report their observations.
Ask: “What difficult things do you have to deal with in your life? How are your problems like or unlike the Pilgrims’ problems?”
Say: “On the first Thanksgiving, what did the Pilgrims have to be thankful for? What things has God given us that the Pilgrims never had? What do you have to be thankful for this year at Thanksgiving?”
4. Joy for the Journey-(Supplies: A clean, empty baby food jar for each child; paper, scissors, paint pens, fine-tipped markers, and joke books.) Read aloud Proverbs 15:15. Ask: Who are some people you know who are going through a difficult journey in life, such as people who are sick, hurting, lonely, or struggling? We’re going to make Joy Jars for these people to help them have happy hearts.
Have kids decorate their jars with paint pens. Then have them search for and write jokes on paper slips, using markers. Kids can fill their jars with the jokes. Encourage kids to deliver their jars to someone who’s experiencing a tough time and needs God’s joy at Thanksgiving time.
Allergy Alert: Some children have food allergies that can be dangerous. Know your children, and consult with parents about allergies their children may have.
5. Snack-Food for Thought: You’ll need: Plain popped corn, salt, butter-flavored salt, sugar, cinnamon, Parmesan cheese, and bowls.
Directions: Give each child a bowl of plain popcorn. Tell children that the American Indians and Pilgrims ate corn in many different ways, such as corn-on-the-cob, soup, bread, and even popcorn! Have children put their choice of seasoning on their popcorn, or eat it plain.
Kenn Gorman is a children’s minister in Wenatchee, Washington.