Use this children’s Sunday School lesson to teach kids about the unity we have in Christ.
Needed: vegetable oil, vinegar, tablespoon, liquid dishwashing soap, jars with lids, balls or paper wads, “basketball hoops”
Intro Game: If You…
This game is similar to Upset the Fruits Basket. Students sit in a circle with one less chair than players. The person without a chair stands in the middle of the circle and names something that some of the players might have in common.
They might say something like, “If you’ve never worn a pink sock…” Or, “If you’ve ever ridden on a plane…” Or, “If you have brown hair.” Anyone sitting down who matches what the person in the middle says has to get up and run to a different chair. The person in the middle also tries to find an empty chair. Whoever doesn’t find a seat is in the middle.
At the end, comment about how the students all had a lot of things in common and a lot of things that weren’t in common.
The following lesson is based on Acts 15:1-35.
Ask students, What are some ways that one person could be like another person? What kinds of things could people have in common? (Suggestions could include hobbies, country, religion, race, social class, etc.)
How could people be different? (Again, try to use some of the more obvious divisions.)
Do people usually get along better with people who are like them or people who are different from them?
(Divide students into groups of four and give each group a jar with a lid, a cup of vegetable oil, a cup of vinegar, a cup of dishwashing soap, and a tablespoon.
Everyone, pour half of the vegetable oil into the jar. We’re going to pretend that we’re like this oil.
Pour the other half of the vegetable oil into the jar. Put the lid tightly on the jar and shake the jar around.
What happened to the first and second halves of oil? Did they mix together or not? (All the oil mixed together.)
When we find other people that are like us, we get along and mix really well together, just like the oil mixed with the other oil because it was the same.
Now, we’re going to add some vinegar to the jar, and vinegar is not like oil. What do you think will happen?
Everyone, put a tablespoon of vinegar into the jar. Then, put the lid back on and shake it up.
What happened to the oil and vinegar? (The two didn’t mix.)
When we meet someone who is different from us, we might think, “This person is just too different from us,” like the vinegar is different from the oil, and we might decide that we don’t like that person because they’re different.
But Jesus tells us that is not the kind of attitude we’re supposed to have. Jesus wants to clean us from having bad thoughts about other people, and He wants us all to get along, even if we are different.
So, everyone, add some of the soap, replace the lid, and shake the jar the around.
What happened this time? (The oil and vinegar mixed together.)
Jesus cleans us our thoughts and attitudes, like soap cleans our bodies, and helps us all to get along.
Jesus’ first followers, people like Peter and Paul, had to learn this lesson early on. Jesus was born in the country of Israel, and the people who live in that country are called Jews. Jesus and Peter and Paul were all Jews, and most Jews didn’t really like people from other countries. And most people from other countries didn’t really like the Jews.
But even though Jesus was a Jew, He didn’t come to save only the Jews, did He? No, God loves everyone, not only the Jews! And Jesus wants to save everyone in the whole world, not only the Jews!
That’s why Jesus told us that we have to be nice to everyone and tell everyone about Jesus, not only the people who are like us. We have to get along with everyone because God loves everyone, and so that we can tell everyone about how Jesus wants to save them.
Game: Neighbors and Enemies Basketball
Set up two basketball hoops. If you don’t have basketball hoops, you can use buckets, trashcans, or boxes to catch the balls. If you have a large group, you can split the students into two or more groups and set up two “baskets” for each group.
One by one, students come up to shoot two balls. They have to shoot one ball at Basket A and the other at Basket B. If they get a basket in each, they score a point. If they get a basket in only one, or neither of the baskets, they do not score a point.
Play long enough for each student to have three turns.
At the end, explain to students that they had to make a basket in each because God wants us to love people who are like us and people who are different from us. We need to treat both the same, just like they had to make a basket in each hoop.
Game: If You…
Play the intro game again and remind students that it’s okay to have things in common with people and that it’s also okay to have things you don’t have in common with people.
Lord, we pray that You’ll help us to love all people the same, just as You want us to. Clean our attitudes and help us not to think bad thoughts about anyone who is different from us. Amen.
You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Paul: The Odd Apostle.