Session 1: Our God is a Loving God


By the end of this session participants should be able to . . .

1. Define God as the One who loves all people and who teaches us to love Him and each other.

2. List particular ways God shows His love for us in our daily lives.

3. Name at least three places in the Bible when God showed His love for people.

Useful Texts:

Look through St. Paul’s definition of love in 1 Corinthian 13:4-8a. Read through it a few times, replacing the word “love” with “God” and then “I”. Reflect on how God truly does love in these ways and how, while we are called to love in the same way, often we fall short.

Also: see outlines


A: Easy care plants (one per child), plant pots, planting soil

B: Medium-sixed boxes, magazines, construction paper, glue/tape, rocks (one per child) that they can hold comfortable in one hand, journals,

Both: Paints, glue, sea shells, etc. to decorate pots and/or rocks, bibles.



A: Who are the People Who Love Us?

Say, “For the next (period of time of program) we are going to talk about all the persons with whom we have special relationships and how our relationships with them effect choices we make in our life.”

Get a big piece of butcher paper or newsprint. Write on the top of the paper “Who are the people who love us?” Brainstorm with the students all the people they can think of who love them. [Parents, grandparents, friends, God, teachers, etc.]

When they have exhausted all possible answers ask, “What is it about how these people treat us, that makes us think they love us?” [They take care of us, feed us, buy us clothes to wear, correct us when we are wrong, protect us, etc.]

Exploration: God’s love is all around us

If they haven’t mentioned Him yet, ask “Does God love us?[Yes.] Why do you think so?” [He made us, makes food grow for us to eat, etc.]

Read the attached Parable of the Prodigal Son and discuss the questions at the bottom of the sheet.

Say, “The entire Bible is full of examples of God’s love for us His creatures. We’re going to have a kind of scavenger hunt now to learn about some more of the ways God shows us His love for us.” Split participants into groups of 3 or 4. Give each group a set of texts. Be prepared to give a quick lesson on how to look things up in the Bible.

Say, “In your group read through your set of readings. For each reading write down one or two things it says about the way God shows His love for us.” Next to each reading is listed one possible answer.

A. Genesis 2:4-24 [God created us and gave us each other to help us through life]; Psalm 104 [God created the whole world in such a way that it can give us what we need.]

B. Exodus 1:1-14; 6:1-8 [God is the One who saves us and calls us His own.] , Psalm 30 [God helps us when we ask Him.]

C. Matt 18:10-14 [God will seek us out if we stray from Him] ; Psalm 23 [God is there helping and protecting us when things get hard.]

D. Matt 18:21-35 [God is forgiving to us as much as we are forgiving to others.] ; Luke 13:1-9 [God, through Jesus, warns us what will happen if we do not lived good and godly lives], Psalm 32 [When I admit when I sin and do wrong, God forgives me.]

Say, “Now think about all the things we do in church. What are some ways that the sacraments and other liturgical services show God’s love for us.” [Baptism and Communion let us be close to Him, Confession helps us get back on track when we do the wrong thing, ]

Say, “Close your eyes. Lastly, think about your life and the world: all the special people in it, all the things you do from day to day, and the things that happen to you. How have you seen God show His love for you and other people?”

With the title “How God Loves Us,” compile all their responses on a large writing surface.

Using the list they have compiled, have the students create thank you notes to God expressing their gratitude for the different ways He shows His love for us. Have a number of different types of materials available (construction paper, magazines, markers, crayons, glitter, etc.) with which student’s can make their cards. Encourage them to be as creative as possible.

Explain to parents what you have discussed and have students take their cards and list home so that they can include the contents in their daily prayers or at the meal table after the usual prayers.

Activity: Love helps things grow. You may want to do this as a separate session.

Say, “To help us learn more about love we are going to do a little experiment” Find some easy care plants. You can find them at your local nursery, plant shop, or sometimes grocery store. Purchase enough so that each child can have his or her own plant.

Say, “Each of us is going to get a plant for us to take care of.” Have students decorate their pot, put dirt in it, and insert their plant. Say, “Each of us has been given a plant. We have the chance to take care of it and help it grow, or neglect it, hurt it and let it die. What are some things we need to do to take care of our plant and make sure it doesn’t die? [Water it, make sure it gets the right amount of sun, etc.] At the end of our study unit we will take another look at our plants and see how we did.”

Depending on your program you may want to have students take their plants home with them along with a note explaining to parents what you are trying to do, or you may want to find a special place to keep the plants where the students can come and take care of their plant. Make sure students understand that this is their responsibility and tell parents that it is ok if the plant dies. If the child is interested, get him or her a replacement plant so that he or she can try harder.

Ages 10-12

B: Introduction: Two worlds, one planet

Break students up into groups of 2 or 3.

Have various types of materials available (current event magazines, construction paper, glue/tape, markers, leaves, flowers, etc.).Give each group a medium-sized box that is open on one side. Each group is to decorate the outside of the box with pictures and symbols that show a world without love, and the inside with pictures and symbols that show love in the world.

After the groups are finished, have them share their boxes, explaining how their box shows a world with and without love.

Say, “For the next (period of time of program) we are going to be talking and learning about all the persons with whom we have special relationships and how our relationships with them not only effect choices we make in our life, but also the state of the world itself. On the outside of your boxes you showed a world without love. These are the things we see a lot on the news and hear people talking about most of the time. On the inside of the box you showed love in the world. Very often we don’t see or hear about these things too much. For some reason, it is harder for us to see them even though they are all around us. Hopefully over the next (period of time of program) we will learn how not only to notice love in the world, but add to it.”

Questions to Discuss

Ask, “Looking at your boxes, choose one picture from the outside and one picture from the inside. What kind of relationship does each picture show? Who or what is relating to each other?” Ask for volunteers. When a few people have volunteered ask, “Now think of your own life. Who are some people that effect how we see and treat the world and everyone in it? [God, teachers, parents, friends, people we see on the street, etc.]” If they haven’t mentioned God yet, ask “How do you think having a relationship with God effects how we see and treat the world? [If you have a relationship with God you see Him acting in the world. You understand that it is His world that we are supposed to be taking care of.]

Discussion: The Loving God of the New and Old Testaments

Have someone look up and read 1 John 4: 16-19. Ask, “What do you think St. John means? [God is more loving than anyone else. God teaches us how to love. God made us, loves us, and therefore wants us to love Him and each other. Etc.] Now look inside your boxes. Are there any pictures there that show how God loves us? If so, how do they show that?”

Ask, “If I gave someone a Liturgy Book who could find the part in the Divine Liturgy called the anaphora?” If no one can, ask, “Who can find the part when we sing, ‘A mercy of peace. A sacrifice of praise’?” Once someone has found it say, “ During the priest’s prayer that starts ‘It is meet and right to hymn Thee’ there is a list of descriptions about God. What does it say God is? [Ineffable, inconceivable, invisible, incomprehensible, ever-existing and eternally the same.] Briefly go over the definition for each.

Say, “Very often, even though we only believe in one God, who we say in the Liturgy is ‘eternally the same’ and therefore doesn’t change, people say things like God is harsh in the Old Testament and forgiving in the New Testament.”

Debate: The Old Testament and New Testment: Did God Change?

For this activity students will need a bible, pad and pen.

Divide participants into two groups. Tell participants that they are going to have a debate. You are going to give them both a set of texts from the Bible: some from Old Testament before Jesus was born; and some from the New Testament. One group will argue that, based on the texts, the Old and New Testaments talk about the same loving God, and the other group will argue that God is harsh in the Old Testament and forgiving in the New Testament.

As preparation for the debate, each person in a group will read one or two of the texts and explain to the group how it supports their point of view. One person is chosen from each group to speak for the group. Teams can use knowledge of other biblical accounts to help their case

The teams will flip a coin to see who goes first. The teacher will present the question. The first team will present, the second team will respond, the first team will respond to that, and the second team will then finish. When both speakers are done, they will go back to their group for five minutes to come up with short concluding remarks.

At the end, discuss what they personally believe. Ask, “According to some of the texts, especially in the Old Testament, it sounds like God only loves people who do what He says. Do you think this is true? Why or why not?”

Discuss how a loving God must be both forgiving as well as firm and disciplining. You may wish to make the analogy that our parents who love us, are sometimes very firm with us, so that we will understand that what they are saying is very important. You may also want to discuss how God never leaves us. Because He loves us we can talk to Him at any time. Ask, “When are sometimes we can talk to God? [Always, when we need help, or are lonely or thankful.]

Genesis 6:5-14; Genesis 11: 1-9; Genesis 22: 1-14; Exodus 20:1-17, Psalm 5, Proverbs 3:11-12

Matthew 22: 34-40, Mark 11: 12-26, Luke 6:27-36, Luke 6: 37-42, John 8:3-11, John 12:47

Activity: Pet Rocks You may wish to do this as a separate session.

Say, “To help us learn more about love we are going to do a little experiment” Take the students outside to find a “pet rock” for themselves. Tell them the only requirement is that they must be able to carry it with one hand.

Say, “Each of us is going to get a pet rock for us to take care of.” Have students decorate their rock using paint, markers, glue, construction paper, etc. and give it a name. Have students share their pets with the rest of the group. Say, “Each of us now has our own little creature to take care of. Think about what your pet needs: what kind of environment does it need?, what does it eat and drink and how much?.” Share with students about your “pet”.

Say, “For the next [period of program] we are going to need to take care of our ‘pet.’ We have the chance to take care of it and help it grow, or neglect it, hurt it and let it die.”

Pet Rock Journals: For the course of this study unit have participants keep journals that explain how they cared for their rock. Everyone (including yourself) is to keep a journal each day listing things like how often they fed it and gave it what it needs, took it to do the things it likes to do, corrected it if it misbehaved, etc. Remind them that this is supposed to be fun. It can even be a little silly. Tell them you will be checking their journals each session and sharing with the class some of the funnier entries.

On the first page or cover of their journals have students list their “pet’s” name, needs, and things it likes to do.

Depending on your program you may want to have students take their pets home with them along with a note explaining to parents what you are trying to do, or you may want to find a special place to keep them where the students can come and take care of them. Make sure students understand that this is their responsibility and tell parents that it is ok if they lose the rock. If the child is interested, get him or her a replacement so that he or she can try harder.

Session Conclusion

Say, “Our God is the God of love. He is the One who shows us what it means to really love someone. He loves us enough to care for us and give us everything we need, even when we don’t always do what we should. He also loves us enough to give us rules by which to live our life so that we don’t hurt others or ourselves. He even loves us enough to discipline us when we think we know better than He does. Starting today let’s look harder to see God’s love in our lives and thank Him for all that He has done and continues to do for us. Everyday during your prayers, try to remember one way He showed His love for you and thank Him for being in your life.”

The Story of the Prodigal (Wasteful) Son

Jesus always taught people about our relationship with God. One day He told a story that teaches us how much God, the Father, loves us even when we have done something wrong.

There was a man who had two sons. One day the younger son said to his father: “Father, give me my share of all your belongings.” He meant that he wanted his father to give him then and there all the money that he was to receive after his father’s death. This was a very rude and presumptious thing for the son to say, but his father, nevertheless, did as he was asked.

A few days later the younger son took the money his father had given to him and left his father and brother. He left his happy home, and went into a strange country far away. There, he made new friends and tried to have a very good time. The friends he chose didn’t really care about him, but taught him to do many bad and evil things. He lived there for a long time, trying to enjoy himself by doing all these wicked things. Finally, all the money that he had received from his father was spent.

When his new friends say that he had no more money, they didn’t want to have anything to do with him. They were not really good friends, because a good friend is someone who likes you even if you don’t give them anything. Now the young man found himself alone, hungry, without friends, and without money. He began to look for work, but the only job he could find was watching over a herd of pigs in muddy fields. It was not a very good job. In fact, it didn’t pay enough for him to buy food for himself. He had to eat all the messy pig food just to stay alive!

Then, one day, the young man said to himself: “Here I am, hungry and unhappy. In my father’s house, there are many servants who work for him and have plenty to eat. I have behaved so badly that I am not worthy to be me father’s son any more. Maybe, if I ask him, he will let me come back to become one of his servants. This is better than watching and eating with these pigs!”

He got up right away and started on his journey home, but he had to walk because he had no donkey to ride. He was dressed in his worn-out clothes, feeling very hungry and miserable, and thinking all the way how he would ask for forgiveness from his good father.

He was still a long way off from his home when his father saw him. The father felt so sorry for his son that he ran out to meet him. He hugged him and took him home. The son said: “Father, I have behaved too badly to be called your son!” But the father didn’t scold his son for all the bad things he had done, but rather said to one of the servants, “Bring the best clothes for my son. Put a ring on his finger, and shoes on his feet. Prepare the very best dinner for us. We shall have a feast and be happy, because my son who was lost is found again.”

When the older son came back from the fields, he heard music and dancing in the house. He called one of the servants and asked him what had happened. He learned that they were feasting because his younger brother had returned home. This made him very angry. He thought; Had not the younger brother behaved badly and left his father’s house; while he, the older brother, had stayed at home like a good son to do all the work? But when the father heard that the older son did not want to join them, he came to him and said, “My son, you have always been with me. All I have is yours. But today we are glad because your brother was like one dead, and he is alive again; He was like one lost and he is found again.”

Remember Jesus told this story to help us understand how God loves us, even when we do bad things.


1. What was the bad thing the younger son did? [Demanded money that wasn’t his, left his father, and went and wasted the money on wicked things.]

2. How did the father react? [Seeing that his son understood how badly he behaved and that he would think twice before he would do this again, He didn’t even scold him, but rather hugged him, gave him new clothes, and had the entire house celebrate his son’s return.]

3. What does this tell us about how God loves us? [Even when we make bigmistakes we can always come back to Him and He’ll run to meet us and welcome us back. Many times God is more loving than we might be.]