Introduction: The Feeding of the 5,000, sometimes called the feeding of the multitudes or the miracle of the loaves and fishes, is somewhat unusual among Gospel stories in that it is mentioned by all four Gospel writers. Though each tells the story differently, the authors seem to think there is something significant about Jesus’ feeding large crowds with only a few items. In John’s account, a child becomes the unlikely source of the materials for Jesus’ miracle. Children may appreciate that it is a child who offers the gift which ultimately becomes Jesus’ blessing for the crowd. What role might our children play in living out and participating in Jesus’ ministry? What kind of ministry might they have?
This story is rich with connections and offers opportunities to talk about God’s provision of manna in the wilderness, and the Church’s practice of the Eucharist. Additionally, your class may want to explore themes of thanksgiving, abundance, and provision. What do all of these have to do with who Jesus is?
(1.) Children will tell the story of the feeding of the 5,000 in their own words
(2.) Older children will make connections between the feeding of the multitudes and the salvation story, in particular God’s provision of manna to Israel in the wilderness, and God’s provision of the Eucharist–the bread of life– to the church.
Gather: You may want to have a coloring sheet available as everyone arrives and gets settled.
Hear the Word: Read the story from John 6:1-13. You can also read the story in The Children of God Storybook Bible under the title “God Provides Enough for Everyone: Jesus Feeds the Crowd” (page 88) which uses the text from John 6.
Respond to the Word:
(1.) Create a Mosaic: Early Christians found the story of Jesus feeding the crowds with meager portions of loaves and fish important too. Use this mosaic as a template for the children to create their own loaves and fishes mosaic. For younger children, a black and white printout of the photo will give them the background on which to glue small squares of paper in various colors. These can be found in the supply closet. For older children, you can put one photo in the center of the table and ask them to draw their own version of the loaves and fish and then use small squares of paper to create their own colorful mosaic.
(2.) Act out the story: After reading the story to the children, ask the Children to tell the story to one another in small groups. Ask them what they found most interesting or important about the story. Then, as a class, act out the whole story of the loaves and fish. If your children are young, you can assign roles and then prompt them through each part of the story by asking them what their character did next (ex: Johnny, you are playing the boy who brings loaves and fish to Jesus. What do you think you would say if you were bringing these items to Jesus?). If your students are older, they may want to read the roles. If you would like to do this, Here is a script.
(3.) Sequencing the story: After telling the story, give the children these cards (the last page of the document) to color and cut-out, then ask them to put the cards in the correct order. The class can work together to sequence the story or children can work individually. When all of the cards are in the proper order read the story together again, pausing at each scene change to ask, “and then what happened?”
(5.) Connections to Eucharist: In verse 11, Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks, and distributes the bread. He does the same with the fish. In what ways is this story similar to and different from the story of Jesus breaking bread with his disciples? In what way is it similar to or different from our own practice of the Eucharist? Does it remind you of other stories in the Bible (for example, God’s provision of Manna in the wilderness)?
(6.) Loaves and Fish Craft: Some of the classes may want to make this loaves and fish basket craft, and then go around the room and talk about what God has provided in our lives and what we might give thanks for.
(7.) Noticing the Details: Older classes might notice that at the end of the story, the crowd wants to make Jesus a king, but he leaves them to be on his own because he does not want to be made their king. Why do you think the crowds wanted to make Jesus into a king? Why do you think he turned them down? What does it tell you about Jesus and what kind of savior he is?
Close in Prayer