All-Age Service Plan: The Parable of the Sower
This service enables your group to get to grips with the Parable of the Sower.
Prayer / Worship Activity
Resources: seed shapes cut out of coloured paper, pens
As people come into the service, give everyone a seed shape cut from coloured paper and a pen. At the start of the service, ask everyone to write down on one side of the seed shape how they feel today: Tired? Happy? Fraught? Excited? Bored? Expectant?
Then ask them to turn over their shape and write down what their relationship with Jesus is like. Give people the option not to write anything if they don’t want to, but encourage them to think about it nonetheless.
Resources: Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:5–8 on PowerPoint or acetate
Use Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17:5-8 to help the congregation think about the theme of growing and being in good soil. Try one of these ideas:
~~ Display the words of both Bible passages on a screen and simply read the words together as praise to God.
~~ Provide art materials and encourage the congregation to create a visual response to these two passages.
~~ Create actions that can be done alongside reading the passages. You might wish to break into smaller groups so that more people can have input into the actions. Encourage a few groups to do their actions as the church reads the passages. Alternatively, if anyone in your church knows sign language, they could teach the signs for one or both of these passages to the congregation, and then you could all read and sign the passages together.
~~ Create a sound piece to go behind the reading of the passages. Provide percussion instruments, such as rain sticks and shakers, or use found sounds such as tapping rhythms on a part of the body or rustling paper.
Matthew 13:1–9, 24–30 10 MINS
You’re going to retell the Parable of the Sower using your whole congregation as the areas of the field described in the story.
Resources: A bag containing lots of ‘seeds’ (this can be anything small that can be easily cleaned up, such as confetti or polystyrene packing pieces), four or five garden canes, string, paper birds, a large spotlight, long streamers made out of brown and green crepe paper, newspaper, lots of ears of wheat cut from brown paper, signs (optional)
Before the session, create the resources you’ll need. Attach a length of string to each of the canes, then attach a paper bird to the loose end of the string (these birds can be as complex as large origami birds or as simple as a strip of paper folded in half and opened up again!). Roll up several sheets of newspaper into a long tube shape and tape together. Stick the paper ears of wheat onto the top of the paper tube so that it looks like a stalk of wheat. Make about ten or 15 of these.
Divide the seats in your worship area into four areas (for example, if you have two blocks with a central aisle, divide the two blocks in half). You won’t need to move any chairs, though it might be useful to mark the divides with masking tape or similar, if you need to.
Designate one as the pathway, one as rocky ground, one as a patch of thorns and the last as good ground. You might find it useful to make a sign for each area and give it to someone to hold up, so each area of the room knows where they are. Position the spotlight next to the rocky ground and place the stalks of wheat under some of the chairs in the good ground. Ask four of five volunteers to operate the birds, and position them next to the pathway. Position another four or five volunteers next to the patch of thorns and give them the long lengths of crepe paper.
Retell the story using this script, or create your own retelling. Before you start, reiterate that this is a story that Jesus told and that it can be found in the book of Matthew.
There once was a farmer, who went out into his fields to sow some seed. (Walk into the congregation, carrying the bag of ‘seeds’.)
As the farmer was scattering the seed, some of it fell onto a pathway. (Walk to the ‘pathway’ and throw some of your seed over the people sitting there.) This seed didn’t have a chance to grow, as it was son eaten by birds. (Your bird volunteers should dangle the paper birds over the heads of those sitting in the ‘pathway’ and make them jump up and down as if pecking at seed.)
As the farmer was scattering the seed, some of it fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t much soil. (Walk to the ‘rocky ground’ and throw some seed over the people sitting there.) The seed quickly started growing (Ask the people in the rocky ground to lift their hands up in the air, as if their arms are plants growing quickly.) but when the sun came, they were quickly scorched and dried up, because they hardly had any roots. (Turn on the spotlight, encourage those in the rocky ground to drop their hands as if they are withering plants.)
As the farmer was scattering the seed, some of it fell in a patch of thorns. (Walk over to the patch of thorns and throw some of your seed over the people sitting there.) They grew up (Ask the people there to lift their hands.) but they were choked by the thorn bushes that grew there. (Your volunteers should walk around the patch of thorns, encircling the raised hands with the long lengths of crepe paper. Some could even go in between the rows, entangling the ‘plants’ there even more.)
As the farmer was scattering the seed, some of it fell on good ground. (Walk to the ‘good ground’ and throw some seed over the people sitting there.) These plants grew big and strong (Ask the people there to raise up their hands.) and produced up to 100 times as much as was scattered. (Ask those who have a stalk of wheat under their chair to lift that stalk high into the air.)
Say that Jesus didn’t give an immediate explanation of the parable. He told people why he used stories like this, before explaining what he meant. Pause now, asking people think about what they think the meaning of the parable is. Give people a few moments to think about it. You may want to play some background music as people consider the story. If you wish, give the congregation a chance to share what they think the story means with those sitting around them.
After a few moments, go on to read out Matthew 13:18–23 (use a child-friendly translation, such as the Contemporary English Version). Ask if the congregation thought the story meant what Jesus said.
Reflective Response to Story
Resources: small flower pots, sterile compost/potting soil, latex or disposable plastic gloves, seeds of different varieties, clean-up and cover-up facilities
Set up tables around your worship area and put all the resources on each table. Invite the congregation to go to one of the tables and plant a seed or two to take home with them. Before they do, ask them to look and touch the soil (wearing gloves if necessary), and see how good it is. How will seeds grow in this soil?
As people work, encourage them to talk about the story they have just heard. What did they think? You might want to position people at each table to help the discussion along and maybe ask some of the questions from the group discussion section (right). These people should try to include all ages in the conversation.
When everyone is finished, ask them to take their planted seeds home with them, water them and watch them grow. Invite them to revisit the parable a couple of times this week when they tend their seed. How can your relationship with Jesus be more like a seed in good soil?
Resources: pictures of a path, rocky ground, some thorns or weeds, good soil; popcorn kernels or other large seeds, background music, the meditation below
Put the pictures you have collected into a PowerPoint presentation. Practise reading the following short mediation before the service, so that you can read it confidently.
Play some quiet background music, display the pictures and read this meditation:
Imagine you are at the edge of a field. A dirt track runs down one side. Down the other side, weeds and brambles line the edge of the field. In front of you is some stony ground, with rocks and large pebbles poking through the soil. In the centre of the field is a large area where the rocks have been cleared and the weeds pulled up. It looks like good soil to plant in. (It might help you to look at the pictures on the screen.)
Think back to what Jesus said about the seeds which fell in these different parts of the field: the track, the rocks, the weeds and the good soil.
What is your relationship with Jesus like? Has your friendship with him been stolen away before it’s had a chance to get going? Has it been neglected because of the troubles you’ve been going through lately? Do other things in your life seem more important or exciting than being friends with Jesus? Or are you and Jesus good friends? What is your relationship with Jesus like? What do you want to say to him? Give people a moment or two to talk to God. Then give everyone a popcorn kernel as a reminder of the parable of the sower. Ask them to keep it over the next week and remember their reflections on what Jesus taught through this story. Encourage everyone to use the seed as a spur to grow in healthy ground.
10 MINS Group discussion questions
~~What do you like or dislike about this parable?
~~Which part of the story did you understand the best?
~~Which part of the story surprised you the most?
~~ If Jesus were to tell this story today, what images might he use?