Lesson: Paul and Barnabas Have a Fight

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Use this children’s Sunday School lesson to teach kids about how to handle differences they have with someone.

Needed: Bibles, To Forgive or Not to Forgive cards

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. One of the things we have in common with people is when we agree on something. When we disagree about something, that’s a difference we have with them.


Ask students, Have you ever had a fight with one of your friends? (Invite them to share their stories. The teacher should also share a story.)

Can two people have a fight and both of them be right? (Simply listen to their answers at this point.)

Can two people who both love God have a fight about something? (Again, simply listen to their answers.)

(Read Acts 15:36.)

“Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’”

What did Paul want to do? (He wanted to go back to all the churches they had started to see how the people were doing.)

(Read Acts 15:37-38.)

“Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.”

What problem did Paul and Barnabas have? (Barnabas wanted to take John Mark on the journey with them, but Paul did not.)

Why didn’t Paul want to take John-Mark with them? (When Paul and Barnabas were starting the churches before, John Mark left them and went home. Paul thought that John Mark would leave them again if they took him.)

Why do you think Barnabas wanted to take John Mark with them? (Barnabas wanted to give John Mark a second chance. He thought maybe John Mark would do better this time.)

(Read Acts 15:39-41.)

“They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.”

Did Paul and Barnabas talk about it and finally come to an agreement? (No. They disagreed with each other and got angry and left, both going their separate ways.)

Does anyone know what John Mark did later in his life? (John Mark wrote the first story of Jesus’ life, the book of the Bible we call “Mark.”)

Even though Paul and Barnabas had a disagreement, do you think both of them could still do good work for God? (Yes.)

Even though they disagreed, God continued to use both of them to start new Christian churches.

Do you think it’s okay for you to have a disagreement with someone sometimes? (Yes.)

We can disagree with people, but we have to remember to keep our tempers under control and not hit or call names or anything like that. We simply need to understand people will not always agree with us and make the same decisions we do. God can still love and be friends with and use both people to do His work.

Game: To Forgive or Not to Forgive 

Explain that when we disagree with someone, that doesn’t mean we need to be angry with them. We can forgive our differences and still be friends.

Print out or write the words Forgive or Don’t Forgive on a set of index cards. You should have an equal number of cards that say Forgive as Don’t Forgive.

Divide students into two teams, and have the teams line up on separate sides of the room in single file lines. Mix up the cards and give each student a card that says Forgive or Don’t Forgive. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes, depending on how many students you have. When you say, “Go!” the first two students run toward each and show each other their cards.

If one says Forgive and the other says Don’t Forgive, the student with Forgive scores a point for their team. The person with Don’t Forgive does not score. If both say Forgive, both score a point and if both say Don’t Forgive, neither does. Both return to the back of their lines and trade their cards for a new card.

As soon as they leave the center, the second two players run up and do the same thing. Play continues until the timer runs out. The team with the most points at the end wins.

Activity: Acting It Out 

Explain that one difference Christians with other Christians is the kind of church that they go to. People might do things differently in those churches, and all Christians don’t agree on everything, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work together to do what God wants us to do.

Divide students into groups of three or four. Have each group decide on and act out a scene in which a group of Christians from other churches can work together to do something.

Closing Prayer

Father God, help us to remember that it’s okay to disagree with someone, but help us to forgive those differences and not let them stop the good work that You want us to do. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Paul: The Odd Apostle.

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