The story in John 6:5-14 from the Bible tells the story of Jesus recognising the need of those who followed him to eat not just spiritual food, but physical food as well. With the generous gift of a boy's lunch, Jesus fed more than 5,000 people. The story lends itself to focusing on miracles, caring and sharing to help students have a deeper understanding of both Jesus' love and for our responsibility to others.
The Penny Jar
Bring a jar with 100 pennies in it to class. Set it on the table, but don't explain why it is there. After telling the story of the loaves and the fish, have students work together in groups of three to five. Provide five pieces of bread for each group. Also, provide each group with cutouts, on card stock, of two small fish and scissors, along with a couple of paper plates. Have the students tear up the bread and cut the fish pictures. Ask them to count as they divide to see how many pieces they can make.
As the students work at this project, explain how many people 5,000 really is. Lift up the penny jar, telling students it contains 100 pennies. Explain that it would take 50 penny jars to have 5,000 pennies. (You can also relate 5,000 to the number of people in your town or at a sporting event.) Ask if the pieces they make are large enough to feed that many people, much less fill them up. The obvious answer is no.
Tell students they can divide bread, but they can't make it multiply. Only Jesus can do that. He can, you explain, intervene in this world and take care of you in special ways. He may perform a miracle or he will put people into our lives to help us. Have students talk about ways others have helped them. Give each student a penny to remind them of the lesson.
Jesus didn't just talk about loving, he showed it. Create, either through copying or downloading graphics, a page with two fish on the top and outlines of five bread loaves large enough to write inside. In each loaf, have students write a specific thing they can do to show someone they care, such as saying something nice when someone is discouraged or cleaning their bedroom without being asked. Have younger students draw pictures in the loaves.
Focus on the boy and his willingness to share with others. Because he shared, people got fed. Explain only Jesus could multiply food from nothing, but they can help multiply food in other ways. Explain that Jesus wants us to help others. Talk about those who don't have enough to eat and how if everyone gives a little, many can be fed.
Contact parents ahead of time and have them send one or two food items to class with their child. Gather what the students bring. Be sure to bring extra in case a student forgets. Show how all the items become something worth sharing. Ask the pastor for a name of someone who can use the box of items. Deliver the box and tell the students how their generosity helped a person or family be fed.