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Pause for Thought: Rebuilding with Thankfulness

How to start again and be thankful

by Alexandra Palmer

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To use the Bible story of Nehemiah to explore how rebuilding can lead to thankfulness.

Preparation and materials


  1. Explain to the children that you’re going to play a word quiz. You’re going to give them a clue and they have to guess the word that you’re looking for.

    - Clue: the teacher made me write out my work again. (Answer: rewrite)
    - Clue: what do we do with plastic, paper and cardboard to be environmentally friendly? (Answer: recycle)
    - Clue: when a match is being recorded and the referee is unsure whether a goal has been scored, he or she might watch a . . . (Answer: replay)
    - Clue: when the same TV programme is shown again and again, we call it a . . . (Answer: repeat)
    - (There are two words to find in this example.) Clue: when the sandcastle was knocked over, the children put more sand into their buckets and decided to make another one. (Answer: refill and rebuild)

  2. Ask the children, ‘What did all the answers start with?’

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Explain that all the answers had the prefix ‘re-’, which means ‘again’.

  3. Tell the children that they are going to listen to a story about rebuilding that appears in the Bible. Before they do, give them the following background information.

    In 586 BC, the Babylonians destroyed the temple that had been built by King Solomon (the son of King David). They also removed the Jewish people from Israel. About 50 years later, when the Persians invaded Babylon, the Persian king allowed some Jewish people to return to Jerusalem. They started to rebuild the temple, finishing it about 20 years later.

    However, the walls that protected the city hadn’t been rebuilt, so it was hard for the people to protect themselves from their enemies. In 445 BC, a man called Nehemiah, who worked for the Persian king, asked for the king’s permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city’s walls. The king agreed, so Nehemiah set off for Jerusalem.

    Show the YouTube video ‘God’s story: Nehemiah’ until 3.44 minutes.

  4. Ask the following questions about the video.

    - At the start of the story, were most of the people following God? (Answer: no.)
    - What did Nehemiah do before he served the wine to the king of Persia? (Answer: he prayed to God to help him so that he could ask the king about going to Jerusalem.)
    - How did the king respond to Nehemiah? (Answer: he was worried because Nehemiah looked sad, so he asked him what was wrong. He gave Nehemiah permission to leave and rebuild Jerusalem’s walls.)
    - Why did the people’s enemies not want them to rebuild the walls? (Answer: if Jerusalem had its walls rebuilt, the enemies would find it difficult to attack the city.)
    - What did the enemies do first to try to stop Nehemiah and his friends from rebuilding Jerusalem’s walls? (Answer: they made fun of Nehemiah and his friends, but Nehemiah prayed about it and then continued to work.)
    - What was the second plan of the enemies and why did it fail? (Answer: the enemies planned to attack the Israelites, but friends of Nehemiah overheard their plans and warned him. This gave Nehemiah time to plan a defence if they were attacked.)
    - Why did Nehemiah refuse to leave Jerusalem’s walls? (Answer: he wanted to finish the job that God had given him to do, which was to rebuild the walls.)

Time for reflection

Ask the children, ‘At the end of the story, why were the people thankful?’

Listen to a range of responses.

Explain that the people were thankful to God for helping them by protecting them from their enemies and allowing them to rebuild the walls. This meant that Jerusalem was a safe place to live again.

It took Nehemiah and his friends only 52 days to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. Some of them might only have rebuilt a small section of the wall, but they all did something and worked together as a team.

How we behave in class or in the playground is important, even if we may not feel like it is. Supporting and helping our friends is always a great thing to do. We should always be thankful for our friends or for whoever helps us. If something goes wrong, it is important to remember that we can always restart and rebuild. We can be thankful that we have this opportunity.

Dear God,
Thank you for our friends.
Thank you for our classroom and for the adults who help us when we have a problem.
Thank you for all the things that we have to be thankful for.
Please help us to work together as a team.
Please help us to realize that little things matter.
Help us to understand the importance of listening to each other and helping.


‘Our God is a great big God’, available at: (3 minutes long)

Extension activities

  1. Give each child a copy of the sheet that accompanies this assembly (Rebuilding With Thankfulness - Extension Activity). Ask them to use the sheet to think about the things that they are thankful for. They can write or draw around the word ‘thankfulness’ and colour in the letters.
Publication date: April 2022   (Vol.24 No.4)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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