All-age Service Plan: Stepping out of the Boat
This service plan explores the story of Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33).
Prayer / Worship Activity
Resources: Plasticine. The basic packs come with eight different coloured strips; allow half a piece per person. Cut the Plasticine up before the service, cover some trays with tin foil and place the pieces on them. This will make distributing it much easier
Invite everyone to make a model of something that they want to give thankso God for with the Plasticine (for example food, trees or animals). Invite people to share what they have made and why they are thankful, ensuring that people of all ages get to share.
Resources: white A4 paper and felt-tip pens, enough for everyone to have one of each
Invite people to gather in groups of four to eight people of mixed ages. Ask everyone to draw around one of their shoes or feet and write their first name within the outline. Encourage people in their groups to pray short prayers thanking and praising God for each other by name. Emphasise that we are all welcomed by God, whoever we are. (NB The feet outlines will be used later, if you use the Option 2 Response.)
Resources: mist water-sprayers, large sheets of thick card, a small paddling pool or washing-up bowl filled with 5cm of water, buckets with little scraps of paper rolled up in them
This story is told using ‘News Headlines’, which guide the congregation through the narrative. It is read by two newspaper sellers, and could either be put onto PowerPoint or on the front of pretend newspapers. The narrators need to be able to engage the congregation as they share the headlines, in the same way a newspaper seller could grab people’s attention. There are then other elements of interaction with the congregation, following each headline.
Newspaper seller 1: Read all about it! Read all about it! Men get in a boat! Men get in a boat!
Newspaper seller 2: Yes indeed, it has been reported that a group of men, known as the disciples were seen getting in a boat! (To seller 1) Hold on, what kind of headline is that?
Newspaper seller 1: What can I say? It’s a slow news day.
Newspaper seller 2: They set off across the lake, their leader, Jesus, staying behind on. This was in the days before speed and electric engines. So muscle power would get them across.
Newspaper seller 1: Yes. So if you could pretend to pick up your oars (encourage congregation to pretend they are holding to oars) and after my friend here says ‘three’, we’re going to row.
Newspaper seller 2: One, two, three!
Newspaper seller 1: Excellent. Let’s rest.
Newspaper seller 2: Read all about it! Read all about IT! A storm was brewing! A storm was brewing!
Newspaper seller 1: Yes, indeed. Later that night, some distance from the shore, the boat was being thrown about by the wind (seller 1 starts to sway from side to side).
Newspaper seller 2: (to seller 1) What are you doing?
Newspaper seller 1: I’m being thrown about by the wind.
Newspaper seller 2: That’s just a little breeze, we’re talking something a little stronger
(Pre-organised volunteers seated amongst the congregation stand up and wave the large sheets of think card towards people to create wind while others use the mist water-sprayers).
Newspaper seller 1: Read all about it! Read all about it! Man walks out to the boat! Man walks out to the boat!
Newspaper seller 2: Yes indeed, shortly before dawn, Jesus walked out to his disciples in the boat. Hold on a second, that can’t be right…
Newspaper seller 1: No it is right! He walked out to them.
Newspaper seller 2: On the water?
Newspaper seller 1: On the water.
Newspaper seller 2: He didn’t sink?
Newspaper seller 1: He didn’t sink
Newspaper seller 2: How did the men in the boat react?
Newspaper seller 1: Let me see (reading paper) they were terrified (screams).
Newspaper seller 2: (screams)
Newspaper seller 1: (screams)
Newspaper seller 2: (screams)
Newspaper seller 1: (screams) They thought it was a ghost
Newspaper seller 2: (screams) Must have been have been scary!
Newspaper seller 1: But Jesus told them not to be afraid; it was him.
Newspaper seller 2: Read all about it! Read all about it! Man gets out of boat! Man gets out of boat!
Newspaper seller 1: Yes indeed, having been calmed by their leader Jesus, one of the disciples – we’re told it was the one named Peter, said to Jesus that if it really was him, to call him to come.
Newspaper seller 2: Which Jesus did. And so Peter walked across the water to Jesus!
Newspaper seller 1: Come again… Peter walked on the water?
Newspaper seller 2: Yes, he did.
Newspaper seller 1: It’s one thing Jesus doing it, what with all the amazing things he did, but… Peter? It can’t be possible?
Newspaper seller 2: Let us see (get two or three some volunteers to come and try to walk on water at the front. Try to ensure you get a mix of ages. Build each attempt up with everyone doing a ‘drum roll’ on their knees).
Newspaper seller 1: That is amazing then - if Peter really walked out to Jesus.
Newspaper seller 1: Don’t get ahead of yourself though… read all about it! Read all about it! Man starts to sink! Man starts to sink!
Newspaper seller 2: Yes indeed, it was all looking so good one moment for Peter; stepping out in faith, walking on water, but then…
Newspaper seller 1: Then, he saw the wind and took his eyes off of Jesus. He was afraid and began to sink…
(Pre-organised volunteers throw the buckets with little scraps of paper rolled up in them over the congregation pretending they’re full of water).
Newspaper seller 2: But as he was sinking, Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.
Newspaper seller 1: ‘You of little faith,’ Jesus said, ‘why did you doubt?’
Newspaper seller 2: They both climbed into the boat, the wind died down and they headed on across the lake.
Newspaper seller 1: (Speaking to congregation) Can we have a ‘wow’?
Newspaper seller 2: Those in the boat worshiped Jesus, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
Reflective Response to Story
Resources: have someone draw a large picture (for example on a piece of flip-chart paper) of a wooden rowing boat on some waves with a stormy sky, as per the story. Colour in the boat and the sky, but leave the waves blank. Paint, paper plates, wet wipes
Ask some to read aloud Matthew 14:27- 29. Explain how Peter had to step out of the boat; it was a decision he had to make. In the same way, we all have to come to a decision to step out and follow Jesus in our lives. Invite people to come forward and do a thumb print within the sea of the picture as a symbol of wanting to ‘step out of the boat’ in faith. Encourage families to come forward together. Be sure to emphasise that their thumb print could represent the choice to want to get to know Jesus, it could be about wanting to know more or it could be about deciding to follow Jesus again, having decided to in the past, but drifted away. Have some music playing from a CD whilst people come forward.
If you used option 2 as your worship activity, ask everyone to find their feet outlines. If not then everyone needs to create these by drawing around one of their feet and writing their name within the outline. Encourage the congregation to share within their small groups some of the situations they face in life where they have choices to make and where they might struggle to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus (for example, the language we use, the way we treat others or our choices at work or school). Invite people to write down one thing within the foot outline that they would like Jesus to help them with. Everyone needs to then swap outlines with someone else, where possible this should be across the ages. They can take the footprint outline home and use it as a reminder to pray for that person throughout the week.
Group discussion questions
Split your group into smaller all-age groups if you have not done so already. Discuss the following questions:
- I wonder what part of this story you liked the best?
- I wonder how the other disciples would have felt seeing Peter walk on the water towards Jesus?
- I wonder what things in our lives cause us to keep our eyes on Jesus?
- I wonder what the story tells us about Jesus?