Teaching Paul to Children in Sunday School

Scripture selections, Lesson ideas, and Software suggestions
from (Rev.) Neil MacQueen, www.sundaysoftware.com

paulThe life and teaching of the Apostle Paul often get scant attention in Sunday School curriculum, and it’s no secret why:

  • TIME: Most Sunday Schools don’t get around to teaching something about Paul until late spring or summer, -after the resurrection, when attendance declines and teachers are wearing out.
  • LIMITATIONS:  There are only so many stories you can teach, especially if you’re using the Rotation Model.
  • UNFAMILIARITY: Most teachers are themselves unfamiliar with Paul’s letters.
  • DIFFICULTY: Many of Paul’s scriptures are theologically dense.
  • SCARY-NESS?:  Some people think Paul is kinda scary and stern.

Often, we teach children “about” Paul using the Book of Acts, and indeed we should.  The stories of Paul’s conversion, journeys, and shipwreck are rich stories. Perhaps we shy away from other Paul content because it isn’t “story”?

But here’s my point:

there are wonderful passages in Paul’s writings
such as 1 Cor 13 and Romans 8
that are as important to teach to children
as anything in the Gospels
and certainly more important than some of
what we’ve traditionally given time to
from the Old Testament

Rotation Model Sunday School folks will recognize this “priority” argument, –that some scripture should be higher priority than others, especially with new Christians such as our children.

The idea that some scriptures are “more important than others” kindof freaks some people out. Yet we all practice prioritization when selecting what to teach and when. For example, we choose to teach “major” stories at peak attendance times, and relegate others to lower attendance spring and summer. And we repeat certain stories over the years, such as Advent and Holy Week. In part, prioritization is driven by the Church Year, or “Lectionary” –which are themselves, “choices” someone has made about what scripture to preach/teach each week during the year. But what’s good for a preaching schedule is not necessarily good for children and youth.  We need to teach the majors, or the minors don’t matter, and we only have so much time to really teach the majors.

Below is a list of Paul stories and teachings we should teach our older children and youth.

One of the BEST things about these passages is that Paul is getting into the nitty gritty of BEING a Christian. These passages are “Christianity 101” and transformative-life-application stuff. The choices are yours. I hope the following suggestions spur your discussion and good choices.


In order of priority:

  1. Acts 9 ~ Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus ~and what about our own conversion?
  2. 1 Corinthians 13 ~ How does real love act?
  3. Galatians 5 ~ Fruits of the Spirit ~ Paul’s list of how we should act as Christians
  4. Philippians 2 ~Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited/understood. ~a great lesson for kids about the meaning of Jesus on the cross.
  5. Romans 8 ~ What can separate us from the love…?   ~what we can depend on come what may
  6. Ephesians 6 ~ Armor of God ~how to prepare ourselves for life and troubles
  7. Hebrews 11 ~ What is faith?

What’s interesting from a creative teaching standpoint, is that each of the above passages has great visuals and all but the conversion story have strong memory verses. I.E. They are very teachable to kid by creative methods. I consider the top four to be essential Paul. Yes, there is more great Paul, but there is only so much we can fit into the schedule for children, especially if you’re like me and believe in spending several weeks on each.

Notice too that I’m not pulling the old curriculum trick of “lumping together” stories about Paul. I’m not teaching “Paul the Letter Writer” or “Paul the Shipwrecked Missionary.”   I have made that mistake in the past, but I’ve come to believe that we need to teach what Paul TAUGHT, and not merely stories “about” him.

 ►See our Life of Paul CD for kids. It covers the Book of Acts.



Here are the stories I would reduce or eliminate in favor of higher priority Paul scriptures.

“My reasons” are briefly mentioned below, but the point is that something has to give if you agree that “we need more Paul.”  The decision is yours.

I would not teach the following Old Testament if it meant not getting to Paul’s important passages:

  • Cain and Abel  (a story of murder, whereas, “sin” is taught about in many other stories)
  • Noah (a story that isn’t about cute animals if taken seriously and doesn’t share the compassionate God we know in Jesus)
  • Samson (dramatic but too legendary for today’s audience and its meaning for our kids is thin)
  • Deborah (pretty violent and not a lot of ‘faith’ meaning)
  • Ezra and Nehemiah (interesting history, but not for kids)
  • Ezekiel and or Jeremiah (other prophet stories are more kid-friendly, such as, Elijah, Isaiah, Jonah)
  • Fiery Furnace (almost identical in meaning to Daniel and the Lion’s Den)

If I had to choose between Paul and some Gospel stories, here’s what I would not teach:

  • Rejection at Nazareth  (other stories talk about the rejection of Jesus)
  • Woman at the Well  (complex story with an adult theme)
  • Healing of blind man, woman, child…   (There are many other ‘bigger’ healing stories to teach, such as, man let down through the roof.)
  • End time parables:
    The parable of watchfulness – 10 girls with the 10 lamps. (good visual, but “end time watchfulness” is not a children’s subject.)
    The parable of the workers in the vineyard. (there are much more important parables with more child-appropriate meanings.)
  • And if push came to shove, I would shorten the amount of time each year spent on Jesus’ birth. The kids will get to know that story very well through worship and throughout the years.

Nothing in the Noah, Deborah, or the Healing of Bartimaeus stories even comes close to Paul’s wonderful words about the “fruits” or “real love.”   I would even go as far to say that stories like David and Goliath PALE IN COMPARISON to Romans 8, “nothing will be able to separate us…” -or- “if I have not love, …I am nothing.”  And if you had to choose, would you rather teach a 10 year old to “pick up a smooth stone to sling it at giants“?  — or “put on the armor of God” ??

What do I think are the MAJOR stories of the Bible we should teach to children?
see my article and list on the subject at Rotation.org


 

LESSON SUGGESTIONS BELOW! for…

  1. Acts 9 ~ Road to Damascus
  2. 1 Corinthians 13
  3. Galatians 5 ~ Fruits of the Spirit
  4. Philippians 2 ~Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Paul explains Jesus on the cross)
  5. Romans 8 ~ What can separate us from the love…?
  6. Ephesians 6 ~ Armor of God
  7. Hebrews 11 ~ What is faith?

Acts 9 ~ Road to Damascus

See my four lesson set on “Paul and the Bright Light.”  They include lessons that use software, games, drama and video.


 

I Corinthians 13 — Real Love

Two Computer Lab lesson ideas:

1. Assign a verse to the kids and have them use Kid Pix to illustrate the visual idea found in each verse and present to the class. Kid Pix has many built in sound effects which you can use to give your poem pages sound effects, such as “Noisy Gong.”

2. Use Cal & Marty’s Scripture Memory Game CD. Have the students “edit in” the verses to the passage. Then have the game scramble the words. Add comments and 3 question quiz to each.  1 Corinthians 13 is a wonderful memory verse to teach your kids.

Game Ideas:

Concept:
Work on sequencing the various images, verses in the passage. It’s scripture that’s a bit of a laundry-list. Work on memorizing it. (1 Cor 13 is arguable one of “those” passages young people should be very familiar with).Concept-to-Game:
Create a series of small games which your class rotates through every 5-10 minutes. If they get done with their individual game, TIME them to see how fast they can do it a second time. (kids like that).Possible Games:
1. Put the pictures in order. Pictures are prepared in advance, one per verse.2. Create a timed relay game.At each station in the relay students must ‘do something’ that represents a phrase in the passage. Example: clang a cymbal, put faith/hope/love in the correct order.3. Game Show Quiz
1 Cor 13 has a lot of details in it. Have students “complete the phrase” or “explain the phrase”.

SITUATION Drama Cards

Give each student a set of index cards with the numbers of the verses written on them. One card for verse 1, a second card for verse 2, and so on. Give each student their Bible.(Prior to class) Take each verse and create a “situation statement” for it. Then read the situation statement aloud to the class and have students raise a card to vote on which Verse they think the situation is about.Example: “I’m a big contributor at church, but I’m not known as a loving person.” Which verse in 1 Cor 13 do you think best describes/matches this problem?Part of your lesson here is in the discussion/debate.

Fruits of the Spirit lesson ideas:

Software:

Use Cal & Marty’s Scripture Memory Game CD to do the following:

  • Have the kids edit-in the verse using the game’s verse editor.
  • Add their own 3 question quiz.
  • And tell them to add a “comment” in the comment section that explains to someone what they can DO to get/grow all these fruits in their own life.

After they’ve done these things, have them play their own game on the screen, and then switch computers and play someone else’s game at another workstation.  Finish by reflecting on what each team came up with as far as “how do you GET and PRACTICE these fruits?”

Art: 

See the Art Project I posted at rotation.org

Video: 

DVD #12 in the What’s in the Bible? series covers the Book of Acts. In Part 2 there’s a section on Fruits of the Spirit and “how to be a Christian” done in very kid-friendly terms.


Philippians 2 ~ Paul’s explanation of the cross

Philippians 2: 5-11 ~ Paul’s explanation of what Jesus was doing on the cross, and Jesus’ relationship to God, –is one of the BEST explanations ever. I’ve taught it to my kids several times, and it’s especially good around Easter time.

I like to teach this passage so much I created it’s own resource page devoted to Philippians 2. It suggests the fun and discussion creating software game “How Few Can You Do?” (using Let’s Talk CD), other lesson activities and a great video. Go now!


 

Romans 8 ~ What can separate us from the love…?

This is one of my personally important verses as it speaks to love, perseverance, hope, and trust –especially in difficult times.

Software:

Use Cal & Marty’s Scripture Memory Game CD to do the following:

  • Have the kids edit-in the verse using the game’s verse editor. Romans 8:35-39
  • Add their own 3 question quiz.
  • And tell them to add a “comment” in the comment section that answers the question, “Why is this one of the most important passages in the Bible for people who are in trouble?

After they’ve done these things, have them play their own game on the screen, and then switch computers and play someone else’s game at another workstation.  Finish by reflecting on what each team came up with in the comments section, and practice saying the passage out-loud by “lining” verses to them (you say, then they say).

Art Project:  Pounding nails so nothing can separate

View this fellow’s youtube video illustration showing two boards nailed together which cannot be separated. He did it as a children’s sermon.  Prepare such a board and demonstrate it as he suggests to your kids.  (if the link doesn’t work, search youtube for Kids sermon – Nothing can separate us from the love of God).

Then give your kids two 2×4 pieces of wood and two old-fashioned square nails approx 1.5″ long.  Have them nail their two pieces together just like you see in the video. Then have them write the verse on the back of the wood to go home.

If kids need some help, you can pre-drill the hole in the top board which will help hold the nail as they pound it into the second board.

Comment on the use of “nails” to bind us with Christ and ask the kids what the nails represent (his sacrifice/forgiveness).


 sundaysoftwaresharing

Ephesians 6 ~ Armor of God

Software lesson:

Use Cal & Marty’s Scripture Memory Game CD to do the following:

  • Have the kids edit-in the verse using the game’s verse editor. Ephesians 6:10-18
  • Add their own 3 question quiz.
  • And tell them to add a “comment” in the comment section that ADDS a new piece of armor… something the kids come up with that would help a young person in their faith.

After they’ve done these things, have them play their own game on the screen, and then switch computers and play someone else’s game at another workstation.  Finish by reflecting on what each team came up with in the comments section, and practice saying the passage out-loud by “lining” verses to them (you say, then they say).

Art Project:

Create Paul’s suits of armor out of cardboard with string to fasten it on kids. Let each kid put it on and get their picture taken in it. Or for older kids, have an “armor” competition, giving them 20 minutes to read the scripture, make and put on the labeled pieces.

Come up with NEW pieces of armor that answer the question:  What can you do to protect your faith when others try to pull you away from it?


 

Hebrews 11 ~ What is faith?

Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being sure of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1

Software lesson:

Use Cal & Marty’s Scripture Memory Game CD to do the following:

  • Have the kids edit-in the verse using the game’s verse editor. Hebrews 11:1
  • Add their own 3 question quiz.
  • And tell them to add a “comment” in the comment section that ADDS a new verse of their own creation answering the question “what is faith like?”

After they’ve done these things, have them play their own game on the screen, and then switch computers and play someone else’s game at another workstation.  Finish by reflecting on what each team came up with in the comments section, and practice saying the passage out-loud by “lining” verses to them (you say, then they say).

List their answers and expand on the idea of “what is faith like?”  Recall that Jesus said it was like a mustard seed.

Game:

The ‘old blindfolded faith walk’ is a fun activity that illustrates something of what Paul was saying, and gives the teacher plenty of opportunities to discuss.  You’ll set up two courses for blindfolded students to be guided by a partner’s voice. The first course is simple obstacles to navigate around. Take your time and let partners guide from the sidelines while everyone else is quiet.    (Note: obstacles can simply be signs on chairs.)

After every has gone on time, have the students help you set up the SECOND COURSE:  a “life” course.  It starts with birth and travels past life “obstacles” and/or “checkpoints”, such as, dealing with temptation, graduation, making time for prayer, picking a spouse, choosing to go to church, avoiding substance abuse, serving others, choosing to worship God with your whole heart. etc etc.   Once again have the pairs take turns navigating each other to the checkpoints. This time, however, ask the kids “who the guide represents?”  Jesus/Holy Spirit, Bible, fellow Christians are all good answers. At some point, invite the other kids to try and offer wrong directions to the blindfolded person trying to make the checkpoints –ilustrating competing messages such as those the culture gives, or a person/temptation trying to steer you away from God.  And what happens when you miss or run over or don’t listen, etc etc.  This type of exercise is always a bit free-form and full of kid-generated insights.


 

Our Life of Paul CD covers Paul in the Book of Acts. 

Life of Paul CD in brief:

Here’s a quick outline of the CD’s sections:

–Main Story: Saul’s Conversion on the Road
–Theater: Saul’s Conversion, Paul heals a Lame Man, Paul is shipwrecked.
–20 read-aloud chapters from the Book of ACTS with illustrations and some study notes
–View/print the Life of Paul PDF student lesson handout
View the full Paul outline pdf here

It contains a number of memory verse games as well. Here are the ones that cover sayings from Paul’s letters. Together, they give your students an interesting overview of Paul’s themes and enthusiasm:

Romans 3:22 …trust in Jesus…to take away our sins.
Galatians 5:22 fruit in us: love, joy, peace….
Philippians 4:13 I can do everything with the help of Christ who…
Acts 9:13 …something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes….
Romans 10:17 Faith comes from listening to ….
Ephesians 5:2 Live a life filled with love for others.
Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer…
Acts 16:31 Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.
2 Corinthians 5:17 …the old life is gone, the new life….
Philippians 2:5 Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.
1 Thessalonians 5:16 Always be joyful. Keep on praying.

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