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Build Up One Another

To demonstrate the value of encouragement.

by The Revd Guy Donegan-Cross

Suitable for Key Stage 2


To demonstrate the value of encouragement.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need some large wooden building bricks, such as Jenga.
  • An OHP or board (optional).


  1. Say you are going to talk today about people's talents. Everybody has talents, and sometimes they are surprising. Ask what talents other people have that you don't. Elicit football, painting, singing, etc. Point out that not everyone can do these. Ask for talents that everyone in this room has, e.g. friendship, listening, talking, supporting. You may like to write these on an OHP.

  2. Tell this story:

    A man walked into a talent agency hoping to be hired as a 'speciality' act. The agent said, 'Well, what do you do?'

    The man said, 'I imitate birds.'

    And the agent said, 'Listen, I can't use you. Bird imitations are two a penny. You are just wasting my time. Get out of here!' Whereupon the man flapped his arms and flew out the window.

  3. Point out that often people have talents that we just don't recognize - it's good to be on the look-out for them. Say that you have a special talent. Bring out the wooden bricks. Begin to build a simple tower. As you build, say that people can be like this tower. We can build people up by the things we say to them. For example, 'You did that well.' (Add another brick.) 'You are great at…' (Add another brick.) 'Thank you for being my friend.' (Add another brick.) Ask for suggestions and add further bricks.

    Then point out that the discouraging things we say can pull people down. 'You didn't do that very well.' (Take a brick/some bricks off.) 'You're not very clever, are you?' (Take another brick.) Again ask for suggestions and take bricks away until the tower collapses.

  4. Say that encouraging people is so important. Tell this story (building the tower again as you tell it).

    Dante Gabriel Rossetti, the famous nineteenth-century poet and artist, was once approached by an elderly man. The old fellow had some sketches and drawings that he wanted Rossetti to look at and tell him if they were any good, or at least if they showed talent that could be developed. Rossetti looked over them carefully. After the first few, he knew that they were worthless, so he told the elderly man as gently as possible that the pictures were without much value and showed little talent. He was sorry, but he could not lie to the man.

    The visitor was disappointed, but seemed to expect Rossetti's judgement. He then apologized for taking up Rossetti's time, but would he just look at a few more drawings - sketches by a young art student? Rossetti looked over the second batch of sketches and immediately became enthusiastic over the talent they revealed.

    'These,' he said, 'oh, these are good. This young student has great talent. He should be given every help and encouragement in his career as an artist. He has a great future if he will work hard and stick to it.'

    Rossetti could see that the old fellow was deeply moved. 'Who is this fine young artist?' he asked. 'Your son?'

    'No,' said the old man sadly. 'It is me, 40 years ago. If only I had heard your praise then! You see, I got discouraged and gave up - too soon.'

  5. Say that everyone needs encouragement. The Bible says we should build each other up to be like this tower.

Time for reflection

Quietly say sorry for when you have knocked others down by making them feel bad. Think of two people you can build up today.

Lord God,
Thank you that you give us things we are good at.
Help us to see the good in other people and build them up.


'When I needed a neighbour' (Come and Praise, 65)

Publication date: December 2002   (Vol.4 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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