Anna's Hosannas!
Free Worship Resources for Use with the Lectionary
 
"Time Out!"
 
Scripture Passage: Jonah 3: 1-5
 
First Thoughts:  Although this passage from Jonah begins after his stint in the belly of the whale, we know that striking image is always in our minds when we talk about this eccentric story.  We're going to take the time to talk about why God disciplines us, and to what purpose, by using a familiar experience in many kids' lives: time out.   As adults we might find we take self-imposed "time outs"; we count to ten when we're angry, we take time to pray before a stressful meeting, we check in with our friends to get their perspective on a situation.  In other words, we step back - to back up from an emotional response and to see things a little more clearly.  This is also the philosophy behind time-outs as they're used for children.  Can you remember a time in your life when you were MADE to take a time-out?  Perhaps you were suffering an illness or injury, or found yourself unemployed.  What did you do during that time to help you gain a new perspective or understanding of your life's direction?  Do you recognize a shift in your direction?  Take these thoughts with you in your time with the kids.
 
Props Needed: Kitchen timer (optional)
 
Teaching As a Team
(Leader 2 has kitchen timer)
Leader 1: What do you have there?
Leade 2:  (showing it) A torture device.
Leader 1: It looks like a kitchen timer.
Leader 2: That's right.  It hangs on the refrigerator at my mom's house.  When I was younger, whenever I disobeyed my mom she would set the timer and put me in time out.  Icouldn't play anymore, or watch TV, or even talk.  Oh, it was horrible!
Leader 1: Being in time-out isn't a lot of fun, I know.  But I don't think your mom was trying to torture you.
Leader 2: Then what was she doing?
Leader 1: Giving you a chance to think about your decisions.  While you were in time-out, didn't she give you any instructions?
Leader 2: As a matter of fact, she did.  She would tell me to consider what I was doing, and then after it was over she asked me if I was ready to make a different decision.
Leader 1: Time-outs are important even for adults sometimes.  Our story today is about a man named Jonah, who definitely needed a time-out.
Leader 2: Did he forget to clean his room?
Leader 1: Worse.  God asked Jonah to travel to another country named Ninevah, and to share with those people how much God loved them.  But Jonah didn't like those people, so instead of taking a boat to Ninevah, Jonah got on a boat heading the other way.
Leader 2: I bet God was angry.
Leader 1: Maybe, but I think mostly God just wanted Jonah to think about what he was doing.  While the boat was on the water, a big storm came up.  Jonah knew that God had sent the storm to get his attention, so he told the other people to throw him overboard.  And here's where the time-out comes in.  Once Jonah was in the water, a great big fish opened its mouth and swallowed him.  Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish.
Leader 2: What did he do all that time?
Leader 1: He thought about his decisions, and he prayed.  He remembered how much God loved him, and that God wouldn't ever ask him to do anything that wasn't good for him.  So, finally, after three days, God told the fish to take Jonah to the shore.  When Jonah was back on land, you know what he did?
Leader 2:  Took a bath?
Leader 1:  Probably.  But then he headed straight for Ninevah, to do what God asked him to do.  Sometimes time-outs are just the break we need to help us make better decisions.
Leader 2: (looking at timer) So I guess this isn't a torture device after all?
Leader 1: Nope.  Just a chance to think, pray, and make better decisions.
 
Teaching On Your Own: (holding out timer) Hey, guys.  Do you know what this is?  I know it looks like a kitchen timer, but it's really a torture device!   It hangs on the refrigerator at my mom's house. When I was younger, whenever I disobeyed my mom she would set the timer and put me in time out. Icouldn't play anymore, or watch TV, or even talk. Oh, it was horrible! Have you guys ever had to sit in time-out?  It isn't much fun.  But I guess maybe my mom wasn't really trying to torture me.  Because, whenever she put me in time-out, she told me it was so I could think about things.  So I could make better decisions.  And then, when the time was over, she would ask me what I had come up with, and what I was going to do differently.  So it turned out it wasn't really a punishment - it was a time to think.  You know, time-outs are important even for adults sometimes. Our story today is about a man named Jonah, who definitely needed a time-out.  God asked Jonah to travel to another country named Ninevah, and to share with those people how much God loved them. But Jonah didn't like those people, so instead of taking a boat to Ninevah, Jonah got on a boat heading the other way.  But while the boat was on the water, a big storm came up. Jonah knew that God had sent the storm to get his attention, so he told the other people to throw him overboard. And here's where the time-out comes in. Once Jonah was in the water, a great big fish opened its mouth and swallowed him. Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish.  And do you know what he did all that time?  He thought about his decisions, and he prayed. He remembered how much God loved him, and that God wouldn't ever ask him to do anything that wasn't good for him. So, finally, after three days, God told the fish to take Jonah to the shore. When Jonah was back on land, you know what he did?  He headed straight for Ninevah, to do what God asked him to do.   So you can see that time-outs can be really good for us.  They can help us make better decisions and live better lives - if we use them for prayer and reflection.
 
 Closing Prayer: Thank you, God, for loving us, and for helping us make good decisions.  Teach us how to pray and to be quiet, so we can hear your voice and know how to lead loving and faithful lives.  In Christ's name we pray, Amen.
 
Follow-Up Lesson: To follow up this lesson in a home or classroom setting, continue the discussion about when it is a good idea to take a time-out.  Perhaps when we're feeling sad or angry, or confused.  Encourage the kids to give you examples of when they might feel this way.  Explain that when we're feeling these things we are more likely to take actions which harm others or ourselves.  Again give the kids time to speculate on their own experiences of when they've known this to be true.  How might we give ourselves a time-out when we need one?  Help them think of a variety of response: spending time alone, praying, talking with a friend.  Introduce the idea of "Stop, Drop, Pray!" (patterned on "Stop, Drop, Roll" response to fire).  One craft idea is to provide the kids with letter beads, along with spacer beads and string, and encourage them to make necklaces or bracelets with the words on them.  This will help remind them, throughout their week, that they can always take a break from what's going on - to get quiet, and talk to God.