Whole schoolCollective Worship
One of a series of Core Values assemblies with Bible stories

Key Bible passage: Nehemiah

1 This assembly is based on the idea that we all have a God-given creative impulse in us.

It takes a simplified version of the Old Testament story of Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. The repeated line of being ‘makers and menders not breakers and benders’ helps emphasise the theme. During the story there are points where you can pause and ask the children to reflect on part of the story and on their own experience. With a class assembly, you might want to hear some answers, but with a whole school assembly, it’s best to make it clear that you just want everyone to think quietly.

2 You’ll need some construction toys – Lego, K’nex, play dough or similar

3 As children come in, invite two of the early arrivals to come and sit at the front and play with some construction toys. When everyone is sitting down, ask the two children to show what they have made so far.

Isn’t it odd that Joe and Freda didn’t need to be told what to make. They just got on and made something fantastic out of this pile of bricks. And I expect you all have lots of ideas about what you would make if you were up here at the front. But nobody’s told you: you know it already, instinctively. I wonder if that might be because there’s something inside you that makes you want to make things?

I want to tell you about a man who wanted to make and mend something. His story is in the Old Testament of the Bible. He lived a long time ago, about 500 years before Jesus was born. His name was Nehemiah and he was a very important man who lived in Persia, a long way away from his home city of Jerusalem.

One day his brother arrived with news from Jerusalem. ‘It’s a mess! he said sadly. ‘The wall around our city is broken down and the gates have been burnt.’ Nehemiah was so sad to get this news that he went without food and prayed to God to help him. The king saw him looking miserable and asked him what the matter was. ‘Oh your majesty’, said Nehemiah. ‘My city is in ruins. Please let me go and mend it.’ The king amazingly said that Nehemiah could go back to Jerusalem, and not only that, but he paid for all the wood that Nehemiah needed to do his building. Nehemiah understood that God was helping him. So Nehemiah set off on the long journey to Jerusalem with his timber. At last he arrived there. He rode around the city and saw with his own eyes the wall in ruins and the burnt gates.

(You could pause here and ask the children to reflect on one or more of these questions:
I wonder what made Nehemiah give up his job and make that long journey?
I wonder why nobody else had started to rebuild the walls?
I wonder if you’ve ever seen something broken and longed to make it as good as new?)

Nehemiah called the people together and persuaded them to start making the walls and mending the gates.

Now, in this part of the story, there are lots and lots of people who joined Nehemiah. Lots of people who wanted to be makers and menders, not breakers and benders.

Encourage the children to join in with the following actions as you say them.
There were the people who …

  • chiselled the stones to the right shape (mime chiselling)
  • mixed the mortar to stick them together (mime mixing)
  • built up the walls stone by stone ( mime sloshing on mortar and plonking a stone in place)
  • sawed wood (mime sawing)
  • hammered wood (mime hammering)

So they set to work to make the walls and gates again. They chiselled, mixed, built up the walls, sawed, hammered, built up the walls, mixed, hammered, sawed, chiselled (etc, getting faster and faster!)

And with all these makers, amazingly, the walls grew and grew.

(Pause to reflect:
I wonder if you’ve ever made something with someone else?
I wonder what you enjoyed about working together?
I wonder what was difficult about working together?)

But there were some people who didn’t want the walls to be rebuilt. They weren’t makers and menders, they were breakers and benders. And they started attacking the builders and trying to break down the wall. So Nehemiah said, ‘We can’t stop making and mending. We’ll just have to defend ourselves. From now on we hold a sword in one hand and do our work with the other.’
And that’s just what they did! So put up one hand as if you’re holding a sword up high… And they mixed and built and sawed and chiselled and hammered (etc as before, but with one hand in the air). It was very hard work, and very dangerous work, but they didn’t give up. They made and they mended until at last the walls and gates were finished!

(Pause to reflect:
I wonder how you feel when you’ve stuck to a job and created something really great?)

Then Nehemiah and all the makers held a huge celebration. Ezra the teacher read from God’s Law, the Levites explained what it all meant, and Nehemiah told everyone to be happy and to go and have a really good holy day – a holiday! – with lots of celebrating and plenty to eat and drink. They had bands playing and marching round the walls, and people sang and offered sacrifices to God. And do you know? They made so much noise that the sound of happiness in Jerusalem could be heard far away!

(Pause to reflect:
I wonder how you celebrate finishing making something?
I wonder if you thank God for helping you?)

There was something in Nehemiah that made him want to make and mend, not break and bend. Christians say that when we make something, or mend something, we’re being a bit like God, because God is a God who loves making, just like he made the whole Earth. And he loves mending, just like he always tried to mend broken hearts and homes and countries. So when you make something in school or at home today, think about Nehemiah and think about how wonderful it is to be a maker and mender, not a breaker and bender.

4 Prayer:
You could hold up the constructions that the children made at the start of the assembly and say:
‘Dear making and mending God,
Thank you for sharing your wonderful work of making and mending with us. Thank you for Nehemiah and the way he made the wall of Jerusalem. Thank you that we can enjoy making and mending just like you and like Nehemiah. Help us to be makers and menders in all that we do.


Photo by Iker Urteaga on Unsplash