There are a couple major challenges to writing a children’s sermon on John 4:5-42, the story of “the woman at the well.”
First, the conversation is long and convoluted. It is not confusing, but it keeps taking twists and turns as Jesus tries to redirect her to what matters most for her salvation. It is very hard to explain all that to children without losing their interest or running way over your time limit.
Second, most of the issues at stake are not especially child-friendly. Animosity between nationalities and religions? A sexual history that seems to have left the woman isolated and ashamed? The ancient history of the well they are sitting beside?
It is all really fascinating — but only to a grown up with time and attention to spare.
I considered two potential angles: One would be Jesus’ desire for her to focus on her relationship with him as Messiah and source of living water. The other would be Jesus’ willingness to cross social boundaries to show her that he cared.
I’m taking the easy path here and dealing with the second option. Some might object to skipping a chance to call children to a personal relationship with Jesus. Another text or another day would tip the balance in that direction.
Think of it this way: I’m going to assume that my desire for a genuinely caring, and genuinely personal relationship with the kids is going to communicate something about relationship with Christ. And I’m going to assume that there will be other days, with other texts, where that is the obvious and most central topic.
Feel free to use this children’s sermon if you want to. I’d love to hear how it goes for you!
A Children’s Sermon on John 4:5-42 — The Woman at the Well
One day, Jesus and his friends were on a long walk. They were traveling, a long way from home, and it was hot. Jesus was tired.
“I’m going to sit here by this well,” he told them. “How about you all go into town and get us some food.”
So there he sat, hot, and tired, and thirsty.
About lunch time, a woman came up the road with her empty water jar. People in that place didn’t have faucets with running water in their homes. They had to walk to a well and bring home the water they needed for the day.
Usually groups of people would go to the well together. It was hard work, but that way they could talk with their friends and make the best of it. And usually they came early when the day was still cool.
But this woman came all alone, and at the hottest time of the day.
When she got there, Jesus talked to her. First he asked her to help him get some water to drink. Then he talked with her about a whole lot of other things.
The woman was very surprised that Jesus talked to her.
She thought, “Why is this man being so friendly to me? He’s from the country of Judea and I’m from the country of Samaria. People from our two countries are enemies! They hate each other! He shouldn’t be talking to me!”
But Jesus was friendly and kind to her.
She thought, “Why is this man being so friendly to me? He’s a man and I’m a woman and a stranger. Men and women stay separate in our culture. Men only talk to women if they are relatives! He shouldn’t be talking to me!”
But Jesus was friendly and kind to her.
She thought, “Why is this man being so friendly to me? Nobody likes me! Everybody thinks I’m a bad person! That’s why I have to come to the well alone, in the hottest part of the day! If he knew about me he would never be talking to me!”
But Jesus actually knew all about her. And Jesus was friendly and kind to her.
Jesus was kind to all kinds of people. If people were from other countries, Jesus was kind to them. If people were different from him, as women and men are different, Jesus was kind to them. If people were unpopular, and other people were mean to them, Jesus was still kind to them.
- I wonder if you’ve ever felt lonely, and wished people would be kind and friendly to you?
- I wonder how Jesus responds when you are feeling alone, and hurt, and sad?
- I wonder if there are people in your world who other people don’t want to talk to?
- I wonder how Jesus’ friends decided to treat other people, after they saw how kind and friendly he was to the woman at the well?
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