A Problem Shared . . .
Sharing a problem reduces it in size
by Tessa Mann (revised, originally published in 2002)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider the things that worry us and the idea of God’s peace.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a pair of binoculars and a magnifying glass. If possible, you will also need a small spider or insect in a jar/bug bottle, and (optional) a larger toy spider. (If a living spider or insect is being used, please make it clear that it will be returned to its habitat immediately after the assembly.)
- Familiarize yourself with the Bible passage Philippians 4.6-7, which is about presenting our worries to God in prayer.
- Optional: you may wish to have available the song ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ by Bobby McFerrin and the means to play it at the end of the assembly. It is 4.03 minutes long and is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU
- Show the binoculars to the children.
Ask the children what the binoculars might be used for. Make the point that they help us to see things that are a long way off more clearly. Birdwatchers often use them so that they can see details of faraway birds.
Invite a few volunteers to have a go at using the binoculars to see something at the opposite end of the room.
- Show the magnifying glass to the children.
Discuss its uses, such as when detectives look for clues or people need to read small print. A magnifying glass makes small things bigger and helps us to see them in detail.
- Invite several children to look at the small spider or insect by using the magnifying glass. Talk about how much bigger it seems when it is magnified. If you have a larger toy spider, show it to the children. (If you have neither of these things, make the same points by talking through them.)
- Point out that some people are frightened of spiders. Ask the children to think about how small the spider is. It will be much more worried about us than we are of it.
- Reflect on how sometimes, our minds can make things that worry us seem a lot bigger and more frightening than they really are, rather like the magnifying glass. Ask the children for ideas about things or situations that we sometimes make bigger in our minds, which leads us to become frightened of them.
Listen to a range of responses.
Examples could be shadows in the dark, tests in school and lessons that we find difficult.
- Point out that worry can expand small things into big things. Rather than continuing to worry, it is far better to talk to someone about any concerns that we might have. Often, another person can help us to overcome our fears, whereas bottling them up inside makes them grow bigger and bigger.
Time for reflection
If we are worried, it is always best to talk to someone about it. This could be a parent, grandparent, teacher, friend or someone else we trust. Talking helps to get the problem back to its actual size rather than the size it becomes when we worry about it all the time. Worrying magnifies a problem.
Christians believe that God’s peace can help us when we get nervous or frightened. God’s peace is a bit like what happens when you turn the binoculars around and look through the wrong end. Ask a child to look through the wrong end of the binoculars and describe what happens. It makes things seem smaller; it brings them down to size.
Read Philippians 4.6-7: ‘Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers, ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe.’
‘Peace is flowing’ (Come and Praise, 144)
Optional: ‘Don’t worry, be happy’ by Bobby McFerrin, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU