Compassion Unleashed

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Compassion Unleashed
Topic Compassion
Group Size 10-40
Prep Time 2-5 Hours
Setting Anywhere
Age Group Kids
The Point Kids can feel compassion and can respond by serving others.

Back to Experiential Learning

Supplies Needed

This is designed to be a retreat for 5th and 6th graders. Room environment Chairs and tables Floor space for activities

Relationship Needs One adult per every 4 students

Materials Needed Nametags Play dough Art Supplies – A resource center would be helpful. Pens, Pencils Extra Bibles, different translations Newspapers, magazine Newsprint paper on large roll

Students need to bring Bible Registration form/Signed permission slips for off site activities. Let parents know where you are taking their children. Do not tell students. Also inform students not to eat supper before they come. Clothes to donate to a clothes closet (clothing pantry) Food to donate to a food pantry

How to Set Up

Follow the plan. You will need to create promotion material and registration forms/permission slips for your students.

Objective: Fifth and sixth grade students will study Jesus’ compassion, experience need, experience compassion, reflect on compassion, and respond to compassion with a plan for serving others.

Curriculum Overview: This is designed for 5th and 6th grade students to spend Friday night/Saturday retreat to develop a ministry where they can respond to their feelings of compassion in a meaningful way.

Ice Cream Extravaganza? Water Fun? Pasta Feast?

No, to all of these. Splangnizomai Unleashed is a Friday evening/Saturday retreat experience for 5th/6th grade students. The Greek word for compassion is used to create interest and hopefully a buzz about what this learning experience will be about.

Friday evening Timing for this learning experience will depend on the number of participants. The teacher will have to adjust for this. This plan should work for 30 students, but as always when working with children, be flexible.

Gathering – 6PM

Getting to Know One Another Create your favorite food out of play dough. (Depending on the number of students you may need to create small groups for Splangnizomai.) Ice Breaker – Share the best gift you ever received with those at your table or in your group.


Examine – 6:20PM

Introduction to Splangnizomai Read Mark 8:1-10.

Break into small groups to reenact this passage. Be creative. (Some suggestions to get participants started – drama, mime, song, poetry, rap, advertising jingle, newscast, re-write in today’s language and setting, human sculpture, etc.)

Presentations - 6:45PM

Presentations of Mark 8:1-10

Examine – 7:15PM

Read Mark 6:30-44

Do a compare and contrast analysis of the two miracle feedings.

McKenna condenses the similarities with this statement that “thousands of hungry people who come to hear Jesus are fed in a desert setting where food is scarce. In each instance, human hunger pulls at the heart of Jesus so that He invokes a miracle of thanksgiving to feed them all with a few loaves and fishes and still have plenty of food left over” (McKenna, 164).

Focus on Jesus’ compassion in relation to hunger.

No supper or snacks tonight or tomorrow. Let’s experience hunger together to understand what these crowds might be experiencing. Discover what physical hunger feels like.

Discuss why the crowds were hungry. What was happening in these two accounts?

Compassion is a feeling, a “gut-wrenching” experience. Jesus is deeply moved and responds with a different type of action than in Mark 8. With this group Jesus begins to teach. “Jesus is moved with compassion toward the thousands, not because they are hungry, but because they are leaderless, ‘ . . . like sheep not having a shepherd . . . ‘ (6:34)” (McKenna, 164). “As a metaphor, the shepherd of sheep was a common figure of speech in Israel for a leader of Israel like Moses or more often of a Joshua-like military hero who would muster Israel’s forces for war” (Edwards, 191). In Mark 8:2 Jesus is deeply moved and feeds them because of their hunger and inability to travel home safely. In both cases, Jesus’ compassion results in action to meet the needs of people. “. . . both kinds of hunger move the heart of Jesus with compassion” (McKenna, 165). In ministry the physical well-being and spiritual well-being of a person are connected, and needs in either aspect deserve compassion as well as response. “Compassion is the bridge from sympathy to action” (Donahue, 205).



Share Splangnizomai meaning. Greek word and meaning

“The Greek word for ‘compassion’, splangnizomai, comes from splangnon, meaning entrails or vital organs. In ancient animal sacrifice, the splangnon, . . . were eaten by priests and sacrificers before a sacrificial animal was offered on the altar. As a consequence of this practice, splangnizomai takes on a metaphorical meaning of being moved deeply within, in the seat of emotions” (Edwards, 230). Jesus is experiencing a “gut-wrenching” emotion for these people (Edwards, 230). Today, Jesus might say, “My heart goes out to them” (Wuest). “Equally important in Mark this word (compassion) is not used of people for whom one would naturally feel compassion (such as friends or compatriots), but those far removed and even offensive: . . . “ (Edwards, 230).

Show a map of biblical times to reveal ethnicity of each audience. Jews in the first feeding, and Gentiles were fed the second time.

Discuss Jesus’ compassion in these two stories. Why did Jesus feel compassion?

Leader and Provider elements of these accounts

These narratives provide a picture of Jesus as compassionate towards the leaderless and the hungry. Both of these narratives need to be studied together to give a complete picture of Jesus’ compassion. Jesus serves the whole person and pays attention to the details of individuals. These narratives complement one another and give the student a better understanding of Jesus’ compassion and his intentions. He speaks to the spiritual and the physical aspect of people. This is apparent in these two feeding miracles. Jesus loves me. Jesus feeds me. Jesus invites everyone to follow and to eat.


There was a little girl named Madison who was very sensitive to the Holy Spirit. She was a typical first grader. However her relationship with God was not typical for a first grader. One morning during a fog delay she was watching a Christian network. On this program they were discussing children in Africa who did not have enough food to eat. Madison was very upset by this, and her mother found her crying in front of the television. Madison told her that there were kids who did not have enough food to eat. After her mother comforted her, Madison went on to school. Her mother figured that she would forget about it. Madison did not forget. She had just had a birthday and had not spent her birthday money yet. She told her mom that she wanted to give it to kids who did not have anything to eat. Her mom was rather surprised, because Madison had been saving her money for a special item. Then Madison told her mom that she thought that other kids at church might want to help hungry children. Madison brought her idea to me, her children’s pastor, that we should do a missions project to help hungry kids. We did it. We raised $800 in a year to send to a mission project that fed hungry children. Madison told the story about hungry kids everywhere she went. She had lots of adults giving to this project as well. Kids with a compassionate heart can make a difference. Madison did.

Who do you feel compassion for?


Look through magazines and newspapers to find pictures and stories of people who students feel compassion for. Create a compassion collage.

Create scenarios for students to experience physical challenges for the rest of the evening. Hearing loss – cotton balls in the ears Blindness or loss of sight – blindfolds or plastic wrap over eyes Loss of limb, arm, leg, hand – bind them Wheel chair bound – use of wheelchair Arthritis in hands and feet – bind them with clothes

Activity - 8:45PM

Play games. The students will continue to exhibit their “physical challenge.” Team Obstacle Course Team Relay Games Team Scavenger Hunt

Reflection – 9:15PM

Allow students to reflect on their particular physical challenge for the evening. How would life be different if you had this particular challenge? How would others treat you? How would you feel?

Closing – 9:45PM

Review teaching and activities of the evening.

No eating to experience hunger just like the crowds in the Scripture passages. How many days did crowds go without eating? 1 day and 3 days


Saturday Gathering – 9AM

Wake-up Activity With physical challenges in place, do an exercise routine. Jumping jacks Toe touches Running in place Sit ups Push ups

Fasting continues to experience hunger.

Prayer time together as the day begins.

Students will create outfits to wear out of clothes that they brought to donate to the clothes closet. They will wear these outfits for the rest of the day. To experience those who do not have choices in fashion.


Review the two Scripture passages concerning Jesus’ compassion and his response.


Students develop a short questionnaire/evaluation form in response to the Scripture passages as they hear about different ways to meet the needs of our community and church as well as visit.

Encourage them to consider both physical and spiritual needs. Are both areas of need meet? How? Encourage them to see how people can serve in these ministries. Do they just want funds? Do they want volunteers?

10AM Compassionate Ministries

Community The students will visit these organizations and experience the care they provide.

• Second Harvest Food Bank – food distribution (field trip visit) • Christian Center – soup kitchen and short-term housing for men • Operation Love – serving the emergency needs of the poor and hurting


Church Representatives from these ministries will give a 5-10 minute presentation. Students will be able to ask questions about each of these organizations.

• Imagine Christmas – providing Christmas for needy families in the community • Missions/Missionaries • Children of Promise – child sponsorship program for children in other countries • Servanthood Saturday – helping with needs of people in the community and congregation such as lawn care, minor household maintenance, etc. • Special Needs Ministry – providing buddies for our special needs children • Packing Meals – February missions project being planned • Orphan Ministry – new ministry under consideration • Red Gold Kids Camp – 8 week Saturday camp for children of migrant workers


Snack will consist of food donations brought in by students. Discussion about what our giving says about our compassion for others. How do they feel about the clothes they have been wearing? How do they feel about the snack they have been offered after going hungry?


What can a 5th/6th grade student do in response to their compassionate feelings?

Students gather their compassion collage, their feelings of compassion about their clothing and snack, and begin to create an action plan.

Review with them about Jesus’ compassion and his response. Review with them about the disciples’ response and their role in serving.

Roll out newsprint paper on tables and let them write down or draw all their ideas. Sometimes children may not want to verbalize their idea, but they might write it down or draw it.

As students work in small groups, adult volunteers can assist them.

The goal is for all the participants to come together to create a way to serve others. This retreat is just a beginning for 5th and 6th graders to serve the church and the community. The goal is to assist them in finding ways that they can serve others, individually and as a group.


Come together as a group and share what each small group has discovered and learned. Who can they serve immediately? What needs to happen next? Schedule another gathering so that students realize that this is a beginning.


Coffman, James Burton. James Burton Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament. (accessed September 30, 2010).

Donahue, John R. and Harrington, Daniel J. Sacra Pagina Series: The Gospel of Mark. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2002.

Edwards, James R. The Gospel According To Mark. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002.

Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, Good News Publishers, 2001.

Holy Bible, NIV/The Message Parallel Bible, The Holy Bible, New International Version and THE MESSAGE, The Bible in Contemporary Language. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.

McKenna, David L. The Communicator’s Commentary Series, Volume 2: Mark. Waco, TX: Word, Inc., 1982.

What Happens Then

After this learning experience, you will need to continue to follow-up with your students on their group plan as well as their individual serving ministries.

Possible Problems

It's a retreat with kids. Be flexible on the schedule with time. Don't push activities if students are engaged. Move ahead if students are not engaged. The size of your group will affect the schedule times as well.

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