This session is the first in a series designed especially for all-age homegroups, those who meet intergenerationally with members from babes in arms to great grandparents included in the mix and is based on the fiction book, Tales of Tommy Twitchnose by Terry Waite, with links to the book of Romans. The activities and discussion points are designed to include all members, as they feel able.
This first session explores how Tommy, the central character in the book, reacts when he discovers that some distant cousins from London are planning to stay with him, alongside this, we reflect on the teaching of Romans 15:7, that we should ‘accept one another’ or ‘welcome strangers.’ In this session, we explore what it means for us to welcome strangers in our midst.
Key Bible text: Romans 15:7
Tales of Tommy Twitchnose reference: Chapter 1, (Excerpt from pages 5-9).
Where possible, begin the time together with a shared meal, or if this is not possible, some light refreshments. If this is the first time this group of people have been gathered together, take the opportunity to model the teaching of this session, living out what it means to welcome strangers together and encourage the members to get to know each other better. Talk about your experiences from the past week. Use this time to introduce an all-age atmosphere, by gathering all members together in a shared time of food and friendship.
Introduce the book, Tales of Tommy Twitchnose and the central character. You may like to provide copies of the book for families to read a chapter each week at home, as you work through this series. Share the story and read from pg. 5. “How much further,” to pg. 9. “that would take several weeks.”
Ask the group if this story involving Tommy Twitchnose reminds them of any particular stories or verses in the Bible. The theme of welcoming others is a strong Biblical narrative and there may be many stories that come to mind. Talk briefly about the messaging in these stories.
Explain that over the course of this series, we are going to be looking at some of Paul’s teaching in the book of Romans. Explain that this was a letter Paul wrote to the church in Rome to encourage them to continue to follow Jesus’ teaching in their lives. Through this series, we may discover that Paul could have written this letter for Tommy Twitchnose to read and learn from, but then he could also have written it for us to read and learn from too! Thankfully, we are able to read this letter in the Bible and discover more about what it means for us to live as followers of Jesus today. Encourage the members of the group to have access to their own Bibles and read together Romans 15:7.
Provide a story basket with a selection of play figure or puppet people for very young children to play with. You could also provide some picture story books, and perhaps some toy mice, perhaps.
Invite the group to discuss some of the following questions as are most appropriate. Be intentional about including all ages in this time of discussion, so far as you are able, rather than expecting the children to listen quietly while the adults talk. Allow the conversation to flow naturally, rather than rigidly following the questions below. Alternatively, you may prefer to set up the response activity and encourage participants to discuss these questions as you complete the activity.
Spread out a large roll of paper and invite participants to create a large ‘welcome’ banner together. If you prefer, you could provide smaller cards or small planks of wood for families to work together to create a welcome sign for their own home. As you do so, continue the conversation about what it means to show a welcome to others, and to accept one another. How do we do this here in this group? What would it look like in our homes? At our schools or places of work?
Some groups enjoy a time of shared sung praise together, whilst for others this is not helpful. Treat this time as optional, depending upon the needs of your group. For younger children, this can be a great time for joining together with the adults in praise, perhaps using percussion instruments, scarves or ribbons as you sing.
Gather the group together in a circle facing inwards and invite the members of the group to pray for one another, thanking God for each member of the group and committing them to Him. Now invite each member of the group so that the circle is now facing outwards. Ask the members of the group to think of someone not in our group and to pray for them, asking God to help you to show them a welcome and acceptance, particularly in the week ahead. Give all members of the group the opportunity to pray aloud or in the silence, as they prefer.
Provide copies of the text of Romans 15:7 for members of the group to take away and put up on display somewhere they will see it and be reminded of the things you explored during this session. Challenge the members of the group to perform practical deeds this week that live out the teaching of Paul in this passage and to come back to the next session ready to talk about their experiences.