To explore the issues of loyalty and peer group pressure with reference to the events of Holy Week and the experience of Peter.
by The Revd Alan M. Barker
Suitable for Key Stage 2
To explore issues of loyalty and peer-group pressure with reference to the events of Holy Week and the experience of the disciple Peter.
Preparation and materials
- A golf club or alternative item of sports equipment and three easily recognizable football scarves, together with some awareness of how the respective teams are performing! Children will probably be able to supply both scarves and information. (These items should be kept hidden until each is required.)
- Colleague(s) prepared with suitable taunts and jibes for the first part.
- Reader(s) for the Bible reading.
- Note: This assembly is a case of 'know your audience', since the merits and achievements of football teams can produce excitement bordering on riot! The suggested outline below can be adapted to keep things cooler if necessary; you could, for example, cut down on the personal element by cutting out the jibes and being more factual. Or tell it as a story about different teams - perhaps made-up ones or those from another European country or an African league.
- You could also change the main sport from football to tennis or motor racing.
- Bring out the first of the scarves, e.g. Manchester United. Inform the children that you are an enthusiastic supporter ... believe that Alex Ferguson is the best manager in the premiership ... that there's no better team. Look surprised when a colleague interjects: But they're not in the FA Cup any more. They were knocked out by Middlesbrough. Anyway everybody supports Manchester United. Get a life!
- Throw to one side the first scarf and reveal the second, e.g. Liverpool: Actually, not everyone supports Manchester United. I'm planning to get a season ticket for Liverpool. Liverpool supporters are the best in the land. You should be in the crowd when they sing: 'You'll never walk alone ... Walk on ... Walk on.' Look taken aback when a colleague again interjects: You should walk on! You've never been to Liverpool. Have some respect and support a local team!
- The scarf should again be thrown to one side. Reveal the third scarf, e.g. of a local team. Of course, you do support your local team as well, and you always wear their colours. Football's far bigger than the premiership. It's a matter of local pride. You'd never miss a match. Appear pained when a colleague comments: But what a bunch of losers. Who'd ever support a 1st/2nd/3rd division club? What a way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Were you there when they lost to ...? They'll never get promotion or even manage to stay in the division!
- Throw the scarf to one side and take up a position with the golf club. As I was saying ... I'm very enthusiastic about golf ...
- Invite the children to consider whether they have ever 'changed their colours' because of other people's insults. Have there been occasions when they have 'joined the gang' and been unkind just for the sake of it? Reflect upon the very real pressures that are felt when we wish to be accepted and to fit in with the crowd.
Refer back to the behaviour demonstrated earlier. Surely a true football supporter would be ashamed of deserting their team. Loyalty matters.
Explain that loyalty means being true to your beliefs and to your friends. It can mean being a 'supporter' during difficult times, without giving up.
- Remind the children that the story of Holy Week highlights important issues of loyalty:
On Palm Sunday Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He was surrounded by his friends and welcomed by crowds of supporters. They waved palm branches, cheered, and chanted: 'Hosanna! (Hurray!) Welcome to the one who comes in the name of the Lord.'
But only a few days later, on Good Friday, Jesus stood alone before a crowd who shouted: 'Kill him! Kill him!' What had happened?
Jesus had been arrested by his enemies and his friends and supporters had run away.
- Highlight the experience of the disciple Peter by inviting someone to read from a modern translation of the Bible the story of how he denies Jesus (Luke 22.54-62, GNB version below). This could be arranged as a dramatic reading using a number of voices.
They arrested Jesus and took him away into the house of the High Priest; and Peter followed at a distance. A fire had been lit in the centre of the courtyard, and Peter joined those who were sitting round it. When one of the servant women saw him sitting there at the fire, she looked straight at him and said, 'This man too was with Jesus!'
But Peter denied it, 'Woman, I don't even know him!'
After a little while a man noticed Peter and said, 'You are one of them, too!'
But Peter answered, 'Man, I am not!'
And about an hour later another man insisted strongly, 'There isn't any doubt that this man was with Jesus, because he also is a Galilean!'
But Peter answered, 'Man, I don't know what you are talking about!'
At once, while he was still speaking, a cock crowed. The Lord turned round and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered that the Lord had said to him, 'Before the cock crows tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me.' Peter went out and wept bitterly.
Peter had discovered how difficult it is to be a true supporter. But, Jesus did not give up supporting Peter. After Easter Day, Jesus asked him to help care for others. Then, Peter's tears were turned to happiness. He had learned from his mistakes.
Loyalty mattered in the friendship between Peter and Jesus. And it continues to be vital within faith and friendship, whichever football team we follow!
Time for reflection
Lord God, help us to be loyal friends.
We are sorry that sometimes we say one thing and do another.
Thank you that you promise to help and support us, today and always.
'I have decided to follow Jesus' (Junior Praise, 98)
'At the name of Jesus' (Come and Praise, 58)
Scriptures quoted from the Good News Bible published by The Bible Societies/HarperCollins Publishers Ltd UK © American Bible Society, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1992.