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What True Greatness Means

by Simeon Whiting

Suitable for Key Stage 3


To challenge students to help others rather than seek recognition (SEAL themes: Goals and targets, Rights and responsibilities).

Preparation and materials

  • There are two options for games you could play. For the first, you will need three helpers, three further helpers or teachers, a table and three chairs, three small bowls filled with cold baked beans and three cocktail sticks, plus three notepads and pens. You might also want to use some fairly large napkins or tea towels to protect the participating students’ clothes. If you choose the second, you will need a coin for the ‘Coin of Destiny’ game.
  • Have available your choice of one or two of the following YouTube videos of examples of awful X Factor auditions and the means to show them during the assembly:

They are 5.55, 2.55 and 3.26 minutes long, respectively.

  • If you choose not to sing the hymn suggested for the end of the assembly, have available either ‘Man in the mirror’ by Michael Jackson or ‘Where is the love?’ by the Black Eyed Peas and the means to play it.


  1. If you have chosen to play the first game, call your three helpers up to the front.

    Announce that the world record for the number of baked beans eaten in three minutes using a cocktail stick is 152 (correct at the time of writing). Your helpers are going to see how many they can eat with a cocktail stick in one minute.

  2. Set out the three bowls of beans on the table with a cocktail stick by each one. Have each player sit at the table with a bowl of beans in front of them.

    Have your further three helpers or teachers ready with their notepads and pens to keep a tally of how many baked beans each player eats. 

    Say that, on the word ‘Go’, the players will have one minute to eat as many beans as they can, each using only a cocktail stick.

  3. If you opted to play the second game instead, ask everyone to stand up.

    Produce the coin you chose from your pocket. Explain that this is the ‘Coin of Destiny’, which has already chosen one person in the room to be its new guardian. This game will reveal who that new guardian is.

  4. The students must guess what the result of a coin toss will be by choosing either ‘heads’ – by putting their hands on their heads – or ‘tails’ – by putting their hands on their bottoms.

    The students who guessed correctly remain standing and play again, while the students who chose incorrectly sit down.

  5. Repeat until there is only one player left. Announce that this player is the new ‘Guardian of the Coin of Destiny’. Encourage the students to show the Guardian appropriate respect and admiration.

  6. Some people are desperate to be famous – desperate to look big, important and impressive. That game was a silly example, but some people will do anything to make themselves look good. A lot of people will try to become famous, even if they’ve got no real talent to get them there.

  7.  Show the one or two videos of awful X Factor auditions.

  8. Why are people so obsessed with fame? Why do we so often want people we don’t even know to think we’re something special? 

    Jesus turned this whole idea on its head. He told his followers, ‘Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant’ (Matthew 20.26, NRSV). In other words, true greatness means putting other people first. To be great, we must be ready to help other people.  

Time for reflection

So, how can we help the people around us?

Who do you know who’s finding life hard at the moment? How could you help and encourage these people?

There is a famous prayer attributed to a man called Francis of Assisi. Listen to it and think about how you can help the people around you.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.


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


‘Man in the mirror’ by Michael Jackson
'Where is the love?’ by the Black Eyed Peas 

Publication date: October 2014   (Vol.16 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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