How many of you have ever heard someone say, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me"? (Children raise hands accordingly). Now, how many of you believe that - believe that words can't hurt people? (Children raise hands accordingly again).
Boys and girls, words can hurt people. Most grown-ups I know can remember something that was said to them when they were a child that hurt them; I know I can. But in the same way that words have the power to hurt, they also have the power to help and make us feel good. There's a verse in the Bible that talks about how God wants us to use our words to help others. It's I Thessalonians 5:11, and the first part of it says, "Encourage one another, and build each other up."
I looked up the word "encourage" in the dictionary even though I knew what it meant. Sometimes I'll do that with a word that I already know because it helps me to understand it a little better. The dictionary said that "encourage" means to "give courage, hope or confidence to; to give support to or help."
Don't let anyone tell you that you can't encourage others because you are too young; the Bible talks about that, too. I'm a teacher of children just about your age, and sometimes when I'm having a bad day at school, one of the students will come up to me and say something to encourage me, or they'll give me a note or picture that makes me feel better.
I'm going to give each of you a small piece of paper. Would each of you please read the words written on your papers, one at a time? (Each child reads the phrase written on his or her sheet of paper aloud if they can, otherwise you can read it for them. If you have a large group, only select a few of them to read their phrases.The pieces of paper should have things written on them like, "Great job!" or, "You're awesome!", etc.)
Will each of you find someone this week who needs to be encouraged? It may be a neighbor, a person that you know in school, or even someone in your own family. You can use the words on the paper I've given you or even some of your own, to encourage someone and build them up.
Dear Lord, please lead each of these children this week to someone that needs to be encouraged. In Jesus' name, amen.