The invitation of friendship
by Revd Sophie Jelley (revised, originally published in 2009)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider the importance of friendship at the start of a new school year.
Preparation and materials
You will need a large envelope with your name on it, containing a large letter or invitation card, inviting you to the assembly.
You will also need to be familiar with the story of Zacchaeus found in Luke 19.1–9. You will need to retell or read this during the assembly.
Ask the children the following questions.
- How did you feel about coming to school today?
- How did you feel at the start of the new term?
- How did you feel about going into a new class?
- How did you feel about having a new teacher?
- How did you feel about arriving at a new school?
Explain that everyone feels strange going into new situations. Sometimes, it can be frightening; sometimes, exciting. Sometimes, we can feel like we won’t be welcome somewhere, and that isn’t a nice feeling for anyone.
Show your invitation to the children.
Ask a volunteer to come to the front and open the invitation. Read the words on the invitation and explain how good it felt to come along to the assembly when someone had taken the trouble to invite you.
Ask the children how they feel when they receive an invitation to something like a party or sleepover.
Listen to a range of responses.
Retell or read the story of Zacchaeus. The main points are given below.
- Zacchaeus was a very small person.
- He was a tax collector. This meant that people didn’t always like him.
- Zacchaeus heard that Jesus was coming to his town and he really wanted to meet him.
- He decided to climb a tree to get a better look over the crowds.
- When Jesus passed by, he saw Zacchaeus.
- Jesus greeted Zacchaeus and went home with him afterwards for tea.
- Zacchaeus was thrilled that he had made a new friend called Jesus and Jesus was happy to make friends with him, even though some people thought that Zacchaeus wasn’t a very nice person.
At the start of a new year, no one knows everyone. There is always somebody new to meet, whether in class, at lunchtime or in the playground.
Let’s be on the lookout this week for new friends we could meet. They may not be up a tree, but they may be feeling unsure and unpopular, a bit like Zacchaeus was. Let’s try to get to know someone we don’t know very well. We could invite them to play with us, or sit with them at lunch.
Jesus was good at making friends, even with the people others didn’t like very much. Let’s try to be good at that, too.
Time for reflection
Think about your friends – what is it that makes you happy spending time with them? Maybe you laugh together, play together, make up games and do special things.
Think about what life would be like without friends. Friends are a very special part of life.
Thank you for new friends.
Help us to be good friends.
Help us to get to know people well this year.
Help us to be inclusive and always to encourage others to join in.
‘Nobody liked Zacchaeus’ (Kidsource (Kevin Mayhew), 261, 1999 edition)