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To explore what it means to be a leader, in the light of Jesus washing the disciples' feet at the Last Supper (John 13)

by Tessa Mann

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To explore what it means to be a leader, in the light of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper (John 13).

Preparation and materials

You will need:

  • A bowl of warm water, towel and flannel.
  • Some feet to wash! This could be a real person (a colleague not a child as this could lead to a misunderstanding, and you could also wash hands instead of feet if that’s more appropriate), but perhaps it would be more fun to use a doll/action man.


  1. Explain that we will be thinking about leaders today – lots of different kinds of leaders in our communities and world. They are people who help shape our lives, give guidance and are meant to be examples to us.

  2. Play a short guessing game. Give the initial letters of jobs that involve being a leader and a clue to help the children guess. For example:

    HT – someone who leads a school? – Head Teacher
    C – someone who is the leading player in a team? – Captain
    PM – someone who leads our country? – Prime Minister
    C – Someone who directs an orchestra? – Conductor

    Explain briefly the kinds of things these leaders do. If the school has a school council, talk about the role of school councillors.

  3. Explain that Christians believe that Jesus was a very special leader and that he showed his friends very powerfully what it meant to lead. Explain that in hot countries it was a custom that when a visitor arrived at someone’s house they would have their feet washed, because they would be hot and dusty, and this would be done by servants.

    Tell the children about Jesus’ special meal with his friends, where he, though he was their leader, chose to wash their feet. His friends were not happy about him doing this, because he was taking on the role of a servant. As you talk, demonstrate by washing feet in your chosen way (see Preparation and materials).

Time for reflection


Explain that this story does not mean we should all go around washing each other’s feet literally, but that we should have the attitude of Jesus towards other people, serving them, respecting them, not bossing them about; treating each other as special people. Encourage the children to think how they could serve others today, in simple ways such as caring for a younger child in the playground, helping clear the table at home, and so on.


Thank you, Lord, for all the leaders in our communities,
for our teachers, policemen and women, and so many others.
We thank you for all those who serve with the same attitude as Jesus.
Help us to serve each other with gentleness and respect.


‘The prayer of St Francis (Make me a channel of your peace)’ (Come and Praise, 147)

Publication date: July 2005   (Vol.7 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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