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The Time of Our Lives

Time is precious - don’t waste it!

by Helen Hinxman (revised, originally published in 2005)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To reflect on the fact that time is a precious commodity and should be used wisely.

Preparation and materials

  • You may wish to display the sums mentioned in the 'Assembly', Step 6, to make it easier for the students to keep track, but this is optional.
  • You might like to organize for a student or other person to read the passage Ecclesiastes 3.1–8 (NIV), on which the song 'Turn! Turn! Turn!' by The Byrds is based, in the 'Time for reflection' part of the assembly, but this is optional.


  1. Let me tell you a riddle written by J.R.R. Tolkein, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. See if you can work out what the answer is.

    What is it that overwhelms everything: birds, beasts, trees, flowers; gnaws iron, bites steel; grinds hard stones to meal, slays kings, ruins towns; and beats the highest mountains down?
  2. The answer is, of course, time.

    Time is the most precious commodity we possess, but it moves on relentlessly and nothing we can do can stop it, slow it down or reverse it. All we can do is measure it, waste it or use it wisely.
  3. In the past, time was measured using the elements of sun, water, fire and sand, in the form of sundials, water clocks, candle clocks and hourglasses - also known as egg timers. Then mechanical clocks were created: grandfather clocks, pocket watches and wristwatches. More recently, digital clocks were invented and technology has moved on so quickly that many people no longer wear watches, simply using their phones or other gadgets to tell the time.

    Earlier in history, telling the time was something people had to estimate. Today, though, we can tell the time incredibly accurately, to within microseconds!  
  4. Of course, regardless of how we measure it, time seems to go by quickly or slowly depending on what we are doing. If you’re stuck in bed with chickenpox, for example, time seems to drag. If you’re at an amusement park, though, it flies by and, before you know it, it’s time to go home.
  5. Raise your hands if you feel that you spend too much time in school. Well, I am going to demonstrate that you don’t really have time to come to school at all!
  6. I want you to concentrate now and try to keep up with the calculations I will do in just a moment.

    Display the sums below, if doing so.

    There are 365 days in a year. You have, on average, 13 and a half weeks' holiday in a year, which is 95 days.

    So  . . .

    365 - 95 = 270 days.

    On average, you sleep for nine hours each night. In a year, this makes 3,285 hours, which is the same as 136 days.

    So  . . . 

    270 - 136 = 134 days.

    You spend about two hours of every day eating. In a year, this makes 730 hours, which is the same as 30 days.

    So  . . .

    134 - 30 = 104 days.

    You don’t come to school on Saturdays and Sundays, though, and, with 52 weeks in a year, that makes 104 days.

    So  . . .

    104 - 104 = 0.

    So, in fact, as I said, you don’t seem to have time to come to school at all!
  7. Can you work out what is wrong with my calculations.

    Take some responses from the students.

    I have actually counted a lot of days twice. For example, Saturday and Sunday are included in the holiday numbers and separately. Also, some of the hours you are asleep are on Saturday and Sunday also and so on.
  8. The conclusion from this calculation, therefore, is inaccurate – but it does make the point that time is precious.

    How we
    tell the time is very interesting, but it is not as important as how we use our time. Do we use it thoughtlessly - being irritable and grumpy when we can’t have your own way - or do we use it thoughtfully - being happy and making the most of life?

Time for reflection

There is a famous passage in the Bible - Ecclesiastes 3.1–8. It emphasizes the importance of time and challenges us to spend our time wisely.

If you have organized a reader, invite him or her to read the following passage at this point.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Dear God, 
Thank you for our lives and the opportunities that come our way.
Please help us to be good stewards of your precious gift of time.
Please grant us the wisdom to use our time wisely.


‘Time is a thing’ (Come and Praise, 104)

Publication date: March 2016   (Vol.18 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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