Activity time: 20 minutes
Materials for Activity
- "Welcome" posters begun in Session 6, Faith in Action: Congregational Hunger Awareness, and color markers
- Optional: Poster board to make additional "Welcome" posters
- Newsprint, markers and tape
- One copy of the Singing the Living Tradition
- Optional: Guitar, piano or other instrument
Preparation for Activity
- If you are a new leader, read Session 6, Faith in Action: Congregational Hunger Awareness and find out from your director of religious education or Moral Tales co-leaders which aspects of this project are underway and what needs to be done in this session.
- If this has not yet been done, contact local food pantries to find out what kind of food drive will help them and what volunteering or visiting opportunities they have for children ages seven and eight.
- If this has not yet been done, plan the date(s) for a staff member or volunteer from the food pantry to visit your congregation at coffee hour and/or for the children to bring donated food to the food pantry or to volunteer at the food pantry.
- Invite parents to participate, using email, telephone, a handout, and personal invitation as families drop off or pick up their children. Encourage parents to take children grocery shopping to pick out some healthy food items to donate.
- Set up location(s) at your congregation for food collection.
- Announce the plan to the congregation through the newsletter, email and announcements during worship and in the order of service.
- Create a sign-up sheet and recruit volunteers to transport food to the food pantry, and if needed, to volunteer at the food pantry with the children and help with transportation.
- Arrange the visit by a food pantry staff member or trained volunteer to talk with the children and the congregation about local food needs. If this will take place at a coffee hour, communicate with the person who hosts that coffee hour to arrange details. Be ready to explain the food drive and volunteer opportunity at the close of the food pantry visitor's presentation.
- Optional: Plan to gather the children five or ten minutes before the informational session to brainstorm some questions they would like to ask the worker from the food pantry.
- If you will sing it with the group, review Hymn 407, "We're Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table," in Singing the Living Tradition. Write the words on the newsprint and post it where the children will be able to see it. If the hymn is unfamiliar to you and you do not read music, consider asking your music director to teach it to you. If you are uncomfortable leading the song, invite a musical volunteer to do it for you.
- If children will continue working on "Welcome" signs, place materials they will need on work tables.
Description of Activity
This Faith in Action activity introduces the idea of extending welcome to others as children make welcome signs for a food pantry, visit or volunteer at a food pantry, and/or hold a congregation-wide food drive. In addition to welcome, the spiritual practices of generosity, gratitude and humility are all activated in this activity as participants confront the local realities of poverty and hunger.
Children in second and third grade are often very compassionate and concerned when they encounter injustice. Participation in a concrete service project provides them with an outlet for their concern and empowers them as agents of justice. Moreover, they will experience what it means to translate into action our Unitarian Universalist principles, which promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person as well as justice, equity and compassion in human relations.
Update the group regarding your plans for the food drive and/or visit to a food pantry. You may say:
We learned today about seeing other people with awe and recognizing their inherent worth and dignity. In the story the children in the class treated each other differently because they believed one of them was the messiah. Perhaps one of the people that we will give food to is a messiah.
If you will be doing a food drive, tell the children which foods are especially needed, so they can tell their parents.
Invite the children to finish their "Welcome" posters or make some now, if you have not yet made any. As they work, talk about the importance of making the guests at the food pantry or soup kitchen feel welcome.
You may like to teach Hymn 407 in Singing the Living Tradition, "We're Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table, and plan for the children to sing it for the congregation to welcome a visitor from the food pantry or to promote the food drive. If you have chosen to do this, sing it one or two times through as practice.
Make sure plans for a food drive are coordinated with your minister to involve the entire congregation. Consider collecting food every Sunday for a month in a special offering during the worship service.
If you have set up a visit from a food pantry staff member or trained volunteer, be sure this person understands their audience will include young children.
If you are bringing children to the food pantry, make sure all who will accompany the group can join a post-visit discussion of the experience. Let parents and the wider congregation know when and where that discussion will take place. Ideally, you can convene at your congregation immediately after the visit.
At the food pantry, deliver the food collected by the congregation and present the "Welcome" signs before beginning a tour or volunteer work.
After your visit to the food pantry, gather the volunteers to discuss their experience. This opportunity to share experiences and ask questions will be especially important for the children as they seek to make meaning of the activity. You may wish to ask your minister and/or director of religious education to facilitate a discussion, or lead it yourself, using these questions.
- Did anything surprise you?
- What was one thing you learned?
- What feelings did you experience or are you experiencing now?
- How was this activity connected with being a Unitarian Universalist?
- Is there interest in continuing an on-going relationship with the food pantry? Who would coordinate this?
During the discussion, encourage participants of all ages to share their thoughts and questions in simple language, to be inclusive of the youngest in the group.
Including All Participants
It is important to remember as you plan and lead this activity that some families in your congregation, and some children in the group, might be homeless or living below the poverty line. Be careful to use language that includes this possibility and that does not assume all of the children come from financially wealthy homes. You can help normalize the experience by saying something like, "Some families in our congregation sometimes go to the food pantry and lots of families need the help of food pantries at some time or other." However, be respectful of the right to personal privacy and do not identify particular individuals without permission.