Empathy is an essential topic for children as they go back to school. Use this free Bible lesson from John 8 to help kids understand this Christian value.
While at school children face many challenges. Getting along with others is one of those challenges. Whether children deal with being bullied or being a bully, a lesson in empathy can help them understand the people around them. Having empathy leads to understanding and forgiveness.
Throughout the New Testament we see Jesus treating others with empathy in situations where we would not naturally act as kindly. In John 8, Jesus finds an adulterous woman who is about to be stoned. The crowd asks Jesus to join them in condemning her but Jesus instead shows the others that they are sinners also and should not judge her. This lesson aims to encourage children to think twice before they judge their classmates.
Lesson: Back to School Lesson on Empathy
Bible Reference: John 8:1-11
- Target Age Group: Elementary
- Learning Context: Sunday School
- Target Time Frame: 1 hour
- Learning Aim: I know that empathy is understanding how other people feel and being able to share their feelings. I can show empathy like Jesus did.
Teaching Empathy for Kids
Before Class: Write Empathy on the chalk board or on a piece of construction paper and put it where the class can see it. Get 3 pairs of children’s shoes and put them in shoe boxes.
Point to the word Empathy on the wall and ask if anyone knows what this word means.
Say: Empathy is understanding how other people feel and being able to share their feelings. It means that for a little while you more worried about how they feel than how you feel. Here is an example: Your classmate is making fun of a girl who wore dirty shoes to school. You might want to laugh with your classmate so that she will like you, but that is not the right thing to do. You should stop and take a minute to think about how the girl feels. Maybe she can’t afford to buy new shoes and that is ok. Think about what Jesus would do and act like him. How do you think He would act? Maybe you should try to quickly change the subject or befriend the girl with the dirty shoes. Empathy is thinking about how the other person feel and treating them with kindness instead of just doing whatever you want to do.
Show the class the shoe boxes one at a time. Tell the class about the owner of each pair of shoes and ask them how they could show empathy to that person, even if they don’t deserve it.
- Shoe Box 1: In gym class a boy trips on a shoe string and falls while playing basketball and be begins to cry. Everyone is staring at him. How can you show empathy to him?
- Shoe Box 2: A girl in your class is very grumpy and says something unkind to you. Later you find out that her Grandmother died yesterday. How can you show empathy to her?
- Shoe Box 3: A girl shows up to school crying because her dog ran away last night. How can you show her empathy?
Say: In all of these situations you had to put the other person’s feeling before your own. It is more natural to put your own feelings before your own but that is not what Jesus wants you to do. Let’s see how Jesus handed a situation in which He had to show empathy to someone.
Jesus Shows Empathy
Before Class: You will need a Bible for each student.
Read John 8:1-11
Read John 8:1-4. Say: Imagine how this woman feels right now. She is standing before all of the teachers and Jesus and everyone knows that she has sinned, or done bad things. How do you think she feels? What do you think will happen next?
Read verse 5. What do you think Jesus is going to do? If Jesus loves everyone then that means He loves this woman too, even though she has messed up.
Read verses 6-9. What Jesus does here is pretty tricky. He doesn’t tell the woman that it is ok to sin, but He does remind the crowd that they have sinned too. No one is perfect right? We all make mistakes. Remember that the next time you get mad at someone for doing something wrong.
Read verses 10-11. Jesus has the woman’s best interest in mind. He doesn’t just say that she is a sinner, He saves her from the crowd, then tells her to change her ways. He doesn’t embarrass her or make her feel even worse about the things that she has done. He just helps her out and points her in the right direction.
Show Empathy When You Go Back To School
Before Class: Take a beach ball and write different emotions on it, covering the whole ball. For example: Sad, Mad, Tired, Grumpy, Happy, Excited, Depressed, Nervous, etc.
Have everyone stand in a circle. This game is a mixture of charades and catch. Throw the ball. Whoever catches it should look at the emotion that is written closest to their right thumb. Without says what it is, they should try to show this emotion. Once others figure out what it is, they show that emotion too. Keep playing until everyone has had a turn.
Say: When showing empathy you have to figure what the other person is feeling and share that feeling with them. Whenever I see my friend and she is sad, I am sad too because I want her to be happy. We can show empathy just like Jesus did.
Bring the class together and ask them to recall some of the things that they learned today. Pray that they would be able to show empathy to others as they go back to school. Encourage them to talk to you or a parent if they see someone being teased or someone teasing others. Pray that they would have the strength to put others first even when it is hard and make the right choices.