Jesus the king? Stories of the Kingdom: an event for schools

Kingdom season is the informal name given to the four weeks that end the church year, starting with All Saints Day and ending with the Sunday of Christ the King, the week before Advent.

This exhibtion was offered to two classes at the school and to children and families after school.

It focussed on stories of the Kingdom - some of the parables that Jesus told that begin with the words: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like..." and was based on a Church Schools of Cambridge event.

The three parables chosen were the Mustard Seed, the Great Pearl and the Great Banquet.

These were all presented to the children in gold boxes using the Godly Play and Young Children and Worship materials. Each station had a display that created a setting for the story.


We gathered the children in the south transept for the introduction.

This rather bare part of the church had been brightened by using green organza draped across the altar with a small jewellery tree hung with doves as a centre piece.

Nearby the large altar table was spread with a black cloth and symbols of Jesus life and kingship placed upon it.

We used crowns, a cross and a basket of nails, the wooden figure of Jesus on a donkey and the model of the baby in the hand. Shimmer stones and small crosses were scattered across the cloth.

"I wonder what you think a kingdom is? I wonder who might be the king we are thinking of and what his kingdom might be like?

In Christian churches, November is Kingdom Season. The colour of kingdom season is red... a colour of power... a colour for a king.

Kingdom season ends on the last Sunday before Advent, when Christians celebrate the feast of Christ the King, Lord of the universe, who has power over heaven and earth.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for the third time, he felt like he was on a high mountain, looking down at all the kingdoms of the world.

He heard a voice saying: 'If you follow me, you can be king over all these countries.'

But Jesus said: 'No. I am going to be a king, but I will be a different kind of king.'

What kind of king is Jesus?

He is a king who was born in a stable... who was a refugee... who rode a donkey, and walked the paths of peace... who cared for the poor, the sick and the outcasts

People gathered to hear him speak. But the words they heard were not easy to listen to. Once he said that he had come to change everything..."

We showed pictures of Jesus in the manger, the flight to Egypt, Palm Sunday and Jesus healing the sick to accompany the introduction. After the introduction the class was split into three groups that rotated around the different stations.

Station 1: The Mustard Seed

We draped the font and surrounding area with green cloths. Small birds and nests were placed on and around the font while behind we placed branches.

We were lucky to have an African cloth with a large tree pattern that was also placed behind the font. To mark the entrance to this space we placed two small wooden obelisks, entwined with greenery and hung with birds.

The storyteller told the Godly Play parable of the Mustard Seed which can be watched here.

We kept the questions to three:

I wonder how the person felt when the birds came?

I wonder what the person was doing while the shrub was growing?

I wonder how many birds could really live in this tree?

The children were offered the opportunity to plant mustard seeds. They used spoons to put the compost into plant pots and then added seeds which we had already set out in individual shot glasses. We also had plastic bags to make it easier for them to be carried.

Station 2: The Pearl

The children walked through the archway to the chancel which had been set up in white and blue, using organza and netting.

One of the nativity king figures had been cast as the merchant, the centrepiece of the display. In his hand he held an oyster shell, complete with pearl bead.

We also had piles of oyster shells on display, that one of the Cambridge team had got from their local fishmonger, boiled and cleaned.

We borrowed a large wooden dolls house, complete with furniture, symbolic of everything the merchant had given up in his search for the pearl. We had a round "pearl" ball that could be weighed against a number of plastic cows on wooden scales.

The storyteller told the Godly Play story of the parable of the Great Pearl, which can be seen here.

We asked: I wonder how the merchant feels now he has nothing except the pearl?

I wonder how the seller feels?

I wonder what could be so precious that the merchant would exchange everything for it?

As a reflective activity we asked the children to choose a pearl bead and thread it onto a piece of elastic that was then tied round their wrists to make a bracelet.

Station 3: The Great Banquet

The north transept was draped in gold and red cloths organza and velvet.

Symbols of kingship - crown, sceptre and orb were displayed. Goblets, imitation fruit and other food were arranged on gold and silver platters to give the impression of a rich feast.

This story was adapted from the script in Young Children and Worship (Sonja Stewart and Jerome Berryman).

As with the other two parables, a gold box was used, with a field, oxen and wedding rings which were presented with the words: "Please excuse me" as each in turn made their excuses for not coming to the feast.

At the end of the story, when the outcasts had been invited to the feast, the children were asked:

I wonder how it felt to be invited to the great feast?

I wonder why these people came and the others wouldn't?

I wonder how the master feels about the guests?

I wonder how the guests feel about the master?

The storyteller then showed the children a picture of the Dalits, the untouchables of India.

"There is a group of people in India called the Dalits, which means broken ones. Other people don't want to have anything to do with them.

No one wants to come close to them in case they accidentally touch them. Sometimes they are called the outcasts or untouchables.

If they have a drink from a cup from a stall in the street, the cup has to be broken so that no one accidentally touches a cup they have used. (The cup was shown and smashed)

Many of the Dalits have become Christians, because they heard the message that Jesus loves everyone.

There is a charity that has taken all the broken pieces from the broken cups, stuck them back together, and made them into candles to sell to raise money for the Dalits. (show candle) It is a symbol of bringing light to the dark places in the world."

The children were given a piece of pot to take away and invited to light a candle and think about someone who might need to be made welcome.

Creative response

We kept the children in their three groups for the next round of activites

One group were given small bottles and containers to fill with different coloured sand.

The second group worked together to decorate a large card circle, symbolic of the pearl. This was a whole class effort, each subsequent group adding to the decoration.

The final group were given a drink and special pearl covered biscuits. Then they were sent off to choose five different symbols to put in a small organza bag to remember the stories.

The symbols included a small button house, a pearl and a chair as reminders of the Great Pearl, seeds, birds and foam leaves to remember the Mustard Seed, a mini scroll, a tiny chalice and a plaster to remember the Great Banquet and a piece of red cloth and a crown to remember the Kingdom Season.

Sending out

We brought the children back together and talked briefly about the kingdom values: justice, peace, forgiveness, truth, hope

We then asked the class to stand in a circle and passed a ball of red wool around the group. Each child unrolled the ball and continued to keep hold of the wool while passing it on to the next child.

While they did this the leader prayed with the class joining in the response "Pass it on, pass it on"

"The kingdom of God ... grows slowly, carefully, small at first.
Pass it on, pass it on. Pass it on, pass it on

The kingdom of God... arrives person by person, one by one, and on and on
Pass it on, pass it on. Pass it on, pass it on

The kingdom of God... seems weak and thin, but reaches ever outwards, weaving in through the world.
Pass it on, pass it on. Pass it on, pass it on

The kingdom of God... is justice and joy and love, starting now and reaching forever.
Pass it on, pass it on. Pass it on, pass it on

God is love, and those who live in love live in God and God lives in them.

And now may the kindness of God surround us, the wisdom of God help us to think in new ways, the nearness of God keep us safe this day and forever. Amen"

© Words Rachel Nicholls

How well did it work?

For the first time ever, we came out of an event feeling that everything had gone well!

Two classes came to the event -the 7 - 9 year olds and the 8 - 10 year olds (as a small village school, all our classes are mixed year classes).

Both the team and the school staff were amazed at the depth of listening and responses to the wondering questions shown by the children.

Walking round I was struck by how intently the children were listening to the stories, the church seemed to have an air of quietness and stillness over it.

Stories of the Kingdon: an alternative version

The original Stories of the Kingdom was an event offered to Cambridge primary schools by the Cambridge Church Schools Trust in November.

The event took place in a large city church, with a variety of spaces that could be used for the different stations.


As a focus we had a large arrow, placed on the floor and pointing towards the altar. Tiny wooden arrows, red felt tipped onto small wooden pieces, were placed around the arrow, pointing in different directions.

This was in keeping with the them of journeying and exploring God's kingdom.

The classes began by sitting in the pews to listen to the introduction.

Station 1: The Mustard Seed

The yellow felt underlay and the green tree from the Godly Play story were laid out in front of the altar in the side chapel.

To one side was an LED tree, lit up and hung with birds. Pictures of the Mustard Seed parable were placed around.

Gold and silver birds were hung from the metal obilisks.

Cut out birds in bright colours were on the blue kneelers by the altar rail at the front.

Station 2: The Great Pearl

Two cane archways, one either side of the font, were hung with blue and white organza to create an entrance way into this station which was situated under the tower.

The oyster shells were piled up at the base of the font, and a large white dove placed on top.

Fairy lights were scattered in the dim space inside. Pictures of the story of the pearl, and Jesus as the Light of the World, created a focus.

The wooden dolls house, pearl ball and weighing scales were placed along one side.

Station 3: The Great Feast

This was set up in the church's children's corner.

The area was draped in red and gold cloths and set up for a the feast with a mix of artficial food and real food (for example bread). Goblets, jugs and candlesticks were used to create a rich atmosphere. Crowns and golden chains were included in the display.

To one side were pictures of the Dalits, including a pottery candle holder, sold in aid of charity.

Coming together

When the class came back together after visiting the storytelling stations they were shown a brief clip from the film Les Miserables (the part where the bishop chooses to let Valjean go free). (We left this out of the Footsteps event due to lack of time.)

"You have heard three parables - three special stories about choosing the kingdom of God and how the kingdom of God grows.

But the thing about parables is that they raise more questions than they give answers - they ask things like:

What do you see? What do you think? What are you going to decide? You work it out!

What might it be like to live with the choices of God's kingdom day by day? I wonder what kind of surprising choices you might make? I wonder what other people might think about those choices?

We are going to watch a story about a surprising choice made by a bishop, someone who serves God by working in a Christian church. It is a made up story, but it shows a decision like the ones that some people have to make in real life. Let's watch a clip from 'Les Miserables' and you see what you think about what the bishop does.

The kingdom of God is justice and joy and new life through God's love.

After the creative response and the closing prayer each class was given a wooden figure of Jesus holding out his arms to welcome people into his kingdom to take away with them to remember the event.


(with thanks to Rowena Berridge, Ali Booth, Sue Parr and the team and also to Victoria Goodman, Rachel Nicholls and the Cambridge Church Schools Trust events team)