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Sweets in the Jar?

All different, but all special

by Penny Hollander (revised, originally published in 2005)

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore the Christian belief that God cares for us in all situations.

Preparation and materials

  • Have available a large jar of sweets or marbles (pre-counted!) and a small jar of sand or rice grains.

  • Optional: you may wish to have a wig available for the ‘Assembly’, Step 4.

  • Optional: you may wish to use the sketch in the ‘Assembly’, Step 8, in which case you will need to do some preparation, particularly if you plan to use a child in the role of the shepherd.


  1. Ask the children if they have ever taken part in a game of ‘Guess the number of sweets in the jar’.

    Show the jar of sweets or marbles to the children.

    Ask some of the children to guess how many sweets or marbles there are in the jar.

    Listen to a range of responses.

  2. Tell the children the answer and congratulate the child who was nearest to that answer. If you wish, you could ask some children to count the sweets during the assembly to check that you had the correct answer!

  3. Show the jar containing the sand or rice grains.

    Ask the children if they can estimate how many grains are in the jar. Discuss why this is more difficult to estimate. Ask if there are any volunteers to count all of the grains of sand during the assembly – it is, of course, impossible!

  4. Ask the children to imagine counting the number of hairs on someone’s head. Discuss the impossibility of the task.

    Optional: produce a wig and ask someone to try counting the number of hairs.

  5. Explain that Jesus made some amazing statements in the Bible about the hairs on our head. Quote Luke 12.7: ‘Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.’

  6. Ask the children why Jesus would say this. Explain that it illustrates the fact that Christians believe that God cares so much about us that even the tiniest part of us is important to him. God knows more about us and cares more about us than we can ever imagine.

  7. Another amazing thing that Jesus said is: ‘Let the little children come to me . . . don’t keep them away. God’s kingdom belongs to people like them.’ (Matthew 19.14)

  8. Jesus also compares his care for children to being like a shepherd caring for his sheep. The sketch that we are about to show you is about how God cares for every individual. (If you prefer, you could read from Matthew 18.10–14 rather than using the sketch below.)

    The Good Shepherd

    Shepherd: It’s time to get these sheep back to their field for the night. They’ve had enough of grazing out here in the mountains. Right, I’d better count them to make sure that I’ve got all 100 of them.

    Shepherd starts counting: 1, 2, 3 . . . 98, 99 . . .

    Shepherd: Oh, no! Where’s the last one, number 100? He’s always going missing. The others come at my first or sometimes my second call, but he’s always wandering off by himself.

    The missing ‘sheep’ has wandered off to a different part of the assembly room, preferably half hidden from view.

    Shepherd: It’s no good, no matter how late it is, I can’t go home without him.

    Shepherd starts looking and calling, and eventually finds the missing sheep.

    Shepherd: Thank goodness he’s safe now and we can all go back home. (Speaking kindly to the sheep) You naughty sheep, you were going off on your own again! Still, no matter where you go, I’ll never leave you to look after yourself. I’ll always rescue you and bring you home. You’re just as precious as the other 99 good sheep to me; I just wish you’d learn to stay with them.

Time for reflection

Jesus ends this story by saying that children are just as precious to God as that lost sheep and that he wants to look after each one; he knows each by name.

Each one of us is important, no matter who we are or what we do. We all count, we are all individual and valuable and we are all part of something bigger – just like the sweets or marbles in the jar!

Dear God,
Thank you for showing your love for each one of us in the story of the lost sheep.
Thank you that we are all special and all different.
Thank you that each of us is part of something bigger and that we work best together.


‘Cross over the road’ (Come and Praise, 70)

Publication date: May 2018   (Vol.20 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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