The concept of God's all-inclusive and forgiving love can be very difficult for young children to understand. Humans love imperfectly, and the idea that God could be capable of loving a child no matter what they do is hard to grasp. Help Sunday school students understand what unconditional love means by introducing activities that allow them to look into their own lives for evidence of God's love, and to spread it to others around them.
It's important for children to realize that God's love is never-ending; there's nothing that they could possibly do to make him stop loving anyone. To illustrate this point, give each child a large piece of construction paper and have them fold it in half. On the left hand side, ask them to draw pictures of times when they have done something they shouldn't have. This could include hitting a sibling, lying or anything they know to be wrong. On the right hand side, have the children draw pictures of times that they were proud of their behavior. When the papers are filled, have each child draw a cross on the crease. Allow them to share their stories with classmates, and use each child's picture as an opportunity to reinforce the idea that God loved them even when they were behaving badly.
God's Love Shines Through Us
God loves everyone unconditionally, and asks each individual to practice the same type of love towards the people around him. Discuss the different ways that a person can show love. Then, ask each child to choose one person in her life, and have them write down her favorite ways to express love toward that person. This could be a hug or a special treat, like mowing the lawn for a parent or allowing a younger sibling to play with her. Have each child make a coupon booklet with five vouchers for acts of love that the recipient can redeem. Each voucher should list the act of love -- for instance, "good for one hug." This activity helps children consider how they can aspire to live a more loving life, and brings the lesson back into focus each time the children's recipients redeem a coupon.
Having a child repeat a concept back after learning it is a great way to help them express newly acquired ideas. After teaching students about God's love, have them make cards for a parent or grandparent. Ask students to fold a piece of construction paper in half and decorate the front with their favorite things that God has made. On the inside, have them write a note to the parent or grandparent, explaining what God's love is. They can personalize the card by finishing the sentence "God loves me all of the time, even when I..".
Macaroni Friendship Bracelets
It's much harder to love someone you don't get along well with or don't know. God's love, however, extends to everyone. Have Sunday school students make friendship bracelets by passing string through elbow macaroni and tying the ends together. Then, ask them to go out into church and give the bracelet to someone that they don't know or may not get along with. This helps students understand that God's love isn't restricted to people that they like; loving like God means loving everyone. This is also a nice visual reminder for children, because they are able to see the macaroni bracelets worn on church members' wrists, reminding them to that they are all part of God's family.