Smooth river rocks (available at craft stores), permanent markers
Give each person a stone and a permanent marker. Seat your group around a table, if possible, or in a circle. Ask group members simply to hold the stone while you read the following passage from 1 Samuel 7:7-13:
When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, "Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines." Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel's behalf, and the LORD answered him.
While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Kar.
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the LORD has helped us."
So the Philistines were subdued and they stopped invading Israel's territory. Throughout Samuel's lifetime, the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines.
Then read the following prompt:
The Hebrew word Ebenezer means "stone of help." The help God gives is not just assistance, but strong help that fights our battles for us, as God did against the Philistines. What battles have you fought recently? What challenges have you faced lately?? Perhaps they're relational, financial, or emotional. Take time to reflect on those battles or challenges, and how you have seen God help you. How has God helped you fight your battles or face your challenges? Where have you experienced victory, whether large or small, because of his help?
When you're ready, write a word or two about the struggles God has helped you with. We're going to build an altar of stones, just as Samuel did, to commemorate how God has helped us.
When everyone has finished writing, let group members briefly explain what they have written on their stone. As they do, have them place their stone in the center of your group (in the center of the table if you're at a table, or in the center of the floor if you're gathered in a circle of chairs). By the end, you will have pile of stones, an altar to God.
God, you have helped us thus far, and we trust that you will continue to help us in the battles we fight each day. Thank you for your faithfulness to us. Amen.