A strong believer knows his or her words have the power to draw or push others away from Christ and avidly desires to honor God through their speech. In “Strong and Kindly Spoken (The Book of James – Part 3),” children will learn to stop and think about their words, consider how their speech affects others, and come up with positive substitutions for everyday, sinful responses. In addition, they will learn that humility is required to speak kindly spoken words and become a strong Christian.
TARGET AGES: 10-12
OBJECTIVE: To give the children an understanding that kindly spoken words positively influence our actions and help us become stronger believers.
MAIN IDEA: Kindly spoken words positively affect our growth as believers by increasing our desire to serve and helping us battle pride.
SCRIPTURE PASSAGES: James 3:2, & 9-12, Matthew 5:13, James 3:17-18
MATERIAL(S): letter cut outs (download attachment), small plastic baggies, white board or poster board, index cards or quartered sheets of paper, writing utensils
Introduction (10 minutes)
OPENING PRAYER: “Lord, help us understand the power of our words and how we should represent you through our speech. Amen.”
ICE BREAKER GAME: “Shuffled Words” *Attachment (download attachment)
Preparation: Cut out a sheet of letters for each team, shuffle each stack, and place them in a plastic baggy.
Say, “We are going to play a game that will teach us to work together and think before we speak.” Pass out the envelopes with the cut out letters. Explain to the class that they will answer a series of questions by silently finding the right letters with their partner, spelling the answer, and holding the letters up for you to check. Keep score for team by adding a point for the quickest correct answer. Comment, “The key to this game is to participate silently so we can practice thinking before responding. If you talk, then I will take away one of your points.” Play the game by asking the following bible questions (you may add more questions if there is time):
- What was the name of the garden where Adam and Eve lived? (Eden)
- Who built the ark? (Noah)
- Who was swallowed by a whale? (Jonah)
- Who killed Goliath? (David)
- What kind of animal threatened Daniel’s life? (lion)
- Who was Jesus’ mother? (Mary)
- Which sea was divided so Moses and the Hebrew people could run from Pharaoh? (Red)
- Whose is the enemy of God? (Satan)
Reiterate to the class that taking the time to think before we speak, even when we think we know an answer, is important if we want to become strong and mature believers.
Lesson (15 minutes)
- Say, “We are going to start the lesson by reading a verse that addresses how our words influence our actions.” Read James 3:2 and ask for a volunteer to explain the verse’s message in their own words. Emphasize that only Jesus is perfect, but the verse tells us that corrected, appropriate speech will lead to better behavior. Comment, “Kindly spoken words help create a more determined desire to serve.” To help apply the verse, give an example of a scenario where unkind words are replaced with kind speech (for example, if someone takes a possession then we can respond with, “That doesn’t belong to you, and I will ask for an adult’s help if you don’t return it,” instead of, “Hey, I’m going to beat you up if you take my things again”). Acknowledge that a quick, reactive response to others typically results in unkind words. Say, “We must take the time to choose kind words if we want to become stronger believers.”
- Review with the class that the author of this book, James (the brother of Jesus), uses analogies to make his points clear. Comment, “An analogy is when two things are compared so we can better understand an author’s message. See if you can find the analogies in these verses.” Read James 3:9-12 and help the children identify the analogies: fresh water and salt water flowing from the same spring and a fig tree producing olives. Ask, “What would you think if you saw an apple tree producing bananas? Or if you went to get a drink of water from the faucet and it was salty? Likewise, the bible tells us that kind and unkind words do not go together.” Read Matthew 5:13. Compare Jesus’ words on saltiness with the feeling we get when food lacks flavor (disgusted, annoyed, disappointed, etc), and how our actions as believers should “flavor,” or positively influence, the situations we encounter. Say, “Strong believers seek to encourage others through their speech instead of being negative or insulting.”
- Lastly, ask each child to think about a person he or she knows who speaks kind words and list one or two descriptive words about that person on the board (such as patient, encouraging, wise, forgiving, etc). Then read James 3:17-18 and add any additional qualities that may have been left off the class list. Say, “When we focus on showing these qualities then it will be easier to speak kind words. However, selfishness and pride must be pushed from our hearts if we want to honor God through our speech. We need to consistently pray that the Lord would help us use our words for lifting others up instead of bringing them down.” Take a moment to explain that unbelievers have no choice but to use unkind words because Jesus doesn’t live in their hearts. Christians, on the other hand, have the Holy Spirit to show and teach us how to be better examples for Christ. Comment, “If you’ve never accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then today is the day to make a decision. Speak to me or another Christian adult if you want to be forgiven of your sins, believe in Jesus, and spend an eternity in Heaven.”
“Choosing Kind Words” Activity/Discussion: (15 minutes)
Write the following “unkind words” prompts on the index cards or pieces of paper. Ask the children to choose one or two cards and write kind responses to replace each prompt. Then discuss each prompt and the kind responses to encourage the children to keep practicing ways to replace unkind words.
- “Why did you break my pencil? You are so stupid!”
- “You are mean! I hate you.”
- “Can’t you do anything right? You’re useless.”
- “What is taking so long? Why can’t you hurry up?!”
- “Don’t tell me what to do! You aren’t my boss.”
- “My mom is so annoying. She’s always telling me to pick up my room.”
- “My teacher is so boring and dumb.”
- “You’re not cool enough to be friends with me.”
- “The food you made is nasty! Give me something else.”
- “He is so bad at math. Why can’t he learn faster?”
Conclusion (5 minutes)
RECAP: Christians should think before they speak, use their words to encourage and lift up others, and choose humble, servant-like speech over selfish responses. When we are obedient in these ways then we will become stronger believers.
CLOSING PRAYER: “God, give us the desire to use our words to lift others up instead of bringing them down. We know that our obedience will help us become more mature believers and lead others to you. Amen.”