This resource is part of a series of interactive, intergenerational ideas for engaging people in faith practices through worship and/or midweek gatherings, brought to you by Worship Ministries and Faith Formation Ministries as part of the Faith Practices Project.
Justice and mercy are the tangible expressions of loving our neighbors as God has loved us. They are the ways that we live like Jesus here and now, affirming the goodness of God’s image in others and anticipating the overflowing shalom—peace and flourishing—that characterizes God’s coming kingdom.
Below you’ll find a variety of intergenerational ideas on this faith practice. Choose from and then use the ideas to shape a summer series, plan a midweek gathering, weave into an all-ages small group study or house church gathering, and more.
There are so many ideas here that you probably won’t need them all. To help make choosing easier, we’ve organized them into three categories:
- Gather activities provide an introduction to the practice through reflection and connection.
- Grow experiences offer an opportunity to explore the practice in community in a way that can be repeated at home.
- Go resources encourage and equip participants to live out the practice.
For a list of other Scripture passages and songs you might also include during your gathering, see the Build-Your-Own Worship Service (or Series) on Justice and Mercy.
Doing and loving. Read Micah 6:8. Describe the practice of doing justice and loving mercy as tangible expressions (actions) of loving our neighbors as God has loved us. Invite everyone to keep those “justice” and “mercy” action words in mind as they listen to the story Room for Everyone by Naaz Khan. (If you prefer to watch a reading of the story, you’ll find a delightful video version of the author reading it here.) Where did you see justice and mercy being practiced in the story? Where do you see yourself in the story? How might God be calling you (and us all!) to “make room for everyone” in your church? Your community? Your country?
Read the picture book You Matter by Christian Robinson. What do you notice about who and what matter? Then read Genesis 1:26-28 from Scripture as a reminder of why all people and all creation matter. Provide small groups with large sheets of chart paper on which to create their own “_________ matter” lists. When finished, invite representatives (of all ages) from each group (include all ages) to read their list aloud to the full group. Tip: Read the lists as part of a prayer, acknowledging the ways and times we all fall short of practicing justice and mercy, and asking for the Holy Spirit’s help in living faithfully. Display the lists as a reminder that all matter.
Explore where God might be calling each of you to practice justice and mercy as you participate in a world cafe.
- Prearrange for several people (including children!) who are engaged in justice locally and/or globally to show and tell about their experiences, using the following questions as a guide: What are you learning? What is difficult? What brings joy? Where are you seeing God? How can others get involved? Note: For ideas of topics you might include and for more conversation starters, check out the #kidstalkjustice page by author Lisa Van Engen.
- Set up a different station in the room for each presenter.
- Explain that all ages will travel for timed intervals to various stations around the room to learn more about some of the tangible ways in which we can practice justice and mercy.
End the activity with a prayer, acknowledging the ways in which we all fall short of ensuring justice and mercy for all, and asking the Spirit to nudge you toward loving your neighbor better (perhaps through something you just learned about during the world cafe!).
Retell and reflect. Provide each table group with a Bible and a container filled with various odds and ends from around the house, such as a tissue, fabric scraps, string, a piece of foil, rocks, pipe cleaners, toothpicks, clay, some Lego blocks, rubber bands, a small cup, paper, pencil, and so on.
Read the story of the good Samaritan from Luke 10:25-37. You may wish to read it twice, perhaps using an excellent children’s storybook Bible for one of the readings. Wonder about the story together in small groups, using questions like the following:
- Where did you see injustice in the story?
- Where did you see mercy?
- Why do you think Jesus told this story?
- Does this story remind you of anything about where and how we live today?
- When might this story be important to remember?
- How might you use the gathered items at your table to recreate a scene from the story? Do so together!
End with a table tour in which each small group can show and tell about their story scene, their conversation, and how they might live what they learned.
In the post Seeking Justice Inch by Inch: Practical Ways to Honor the Image of God in Everyone, Jill Benson describes how the image of a small frame helps her when she feels overwhelmed by the amount of injustice in the world and her ability to make a difference. Sharing her idea and providing each household with a small frame to take home may be a hopeful way to close your time together.
Send people home with faith practice resources they can use to continue the practices they’ve experienced during your time together. Some ideas:
- Link to the Bible Project’s video on Justice and their free 3-day Bible-reading plan on biblical justice.
- 5 Ways to Practice Justice and Mercy with Your Family—a free, printable resource for households with children. If your budget allows, you might tuck this resource into a copy of the book And Social Justice for All.
- Faith Practices: Holy Habits That Help Us Love God and Our Neighbor, Listen to the Spirit, and Become More Like Jesus—one booklet per person or household