Use this children’s Sunday School lesson on John the Baptist to teach children about repentance and sharing the good news about Jesus.
Needed: good fruit and twigs or leaves
Intro Game: Good Fruit Relay
Divide students into two teams and have them line up at one side of the room. Give each team a bowl. At the other end of the room, place a bowl full of fruit mixed with twigs and leaves. One by one, the members of each team run to their bowl and bring back a single piece of fruit, leaving the twigs and leaves in the bowl. They then add their piece of fruit to the team’s bowl. The first team to retrieve all their pieces of fruit wins.
Say, You put all the good fruit in your team’s bowl, but now, we have all of these leaves and twigs leftover. What should we do with them? (Suggest that kids could eat them along with their fruit. Then, let them convince you to throw them away.)
Ask students, Does anyone remember how John the Baptist was born?
His father, Zechariah, was a priest and his mother, Elizabeth, couldn’t have kids. But one day, an angel came and talked to Zechariah and told him that he was going to have a son named John. And that’s what happened. God did a miracle and made it so that Elizabeth could have a baby.
And does anyone remember what God said John’s job was supposed to be when he grew up? (John was supposed to be a prophet, or a preacher.)
So, today, we’re going to learn about what happened when John grew up and became a preacher.
(Summarize Matthew 3:1-12 with the following story, asking the included questions as you read.)
John the Baptist began preaching in the desert of Judea. He said, “Repent, because the Kingdom of Heaven has come close to us.”
What do you think John meant when he said, “The Kingdom of Heaven has come close to us”?
He meant that Jesus had been born. Jesus came from Heaven, and He is the King. For the Kingdom of Heaven to come close to us means that Jesus has come close to us.
And the Bible says that John also told people to repent. What do you think it means to repent?
(Have students stand up and run in place. After a moment, yell out “turn,” and have everyone turn around and jog in place in the opposite direction. Call “turn” a couple of more times and then, tell the students that instead of yelling “turn,” you’re going to yell “repent” but that they should do the same thing they would do if you had called “turn.” Call “repent” a couple of times and then, have the children sit back down.)
What does “repent” mean? (Turn!)
To repent means that you turn. You turn away from sin, and you turn toward God. You change. You change how you’ve been living. You stop doing the wrong things that you do, and you start doing the right things. You start living the way God wants you to live. So, John told people to repent, to change.
“John was the one who the prophet Isaiah said would come and get things ready for Jesus. John wore clothes made out of camel’s hair and all he ate were bugs and honey that he pulled out of beehives.”
How would you like to wear camel hair for your clothes and eat bugs for your food?
Why do you think John wore those kinds of clothes and ate bugs like that?
John didn’t care about having nice clothes or eating good food. All John cared about was preaching and telling people about God. It’s okay for us to look nice and have nice things, but we have to make sure that the most important thing to us is God and doing what God wants us to do.
People from all over the country came to hear John preach and to be baptized by him in the Jordan River. But when John saw some Pharisees coming to see what he was doing, he said to them, “You bunch of snakes! What are you doing here? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance if you want to be saved. And don’t think you can be saved just because you’re descendants of Abraham. God can turn rocks into descendants for Abraham. The axe is ready to chop, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and burned up in the fire. I baptize you with water to show that you have repented, but one is coming after me who is more powerful than I am. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He will bring the good plants into His barn and burn up the bad crop in the fire.”
John told people to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance,” and he said that “every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and burned up in the fire.” What do you think it means to produce good fruit for God?
To produce good fruit means to do the good things that God wants you to do. It’s like we’re a tree and if we’ve repented, if we’ve changed from bad to good, then the things that we do, our fruit, will be good. Producing good fruit means doing good things for God.
But what if we haven’t repented? What if we’re still doing wrong things all the time? Then, what will God do to us?
John says that every tree – that means every person – who does not produce good fruit – who does not do the right things – will be cut down – or killed – and thrown into the fire. That means Hell.
So, we have to make sure that we’re living the right way like God wants us to so that we can produce good fruit for Him and not go to Hell.
It’s kind of like how we kept the good fruit in our game but threw the leaves and twigs away. God wants us to produce good fruit for Him. If we don’t, we’ll be like useless leaves and twigs.
We need to turn, or repent, so that we can live how God wants us to.
Game: Disciple Tag
Remind students that Isaiah the prophet said that John would come to get things ready for Jesus. Explain that we can also help get things ready for Jesus by telling other people about Him.
Choose one student to be John the Baptist. When they tag someone, that person links hands with them and joins their team. They continue adding people to their team, linking hands with each one until all but one student is part of their chain. That remaining student becomes John for the next round.
Play two or three rounds and then, explain that when we tell people about Jesus as John the Baptist did, we want them to believe in Jesus too. If they do, they become a Christian and join our team. Then, they help us tell more people about Jesus.
Jesus, we pray that You’ll help us to repent. Help us to turn from the wrong things that we do and start doing the good things that You want us to do. And help us to do what we can to prepare the way for other people to believe in You. Amen.
You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Jesus Starts His Work.