Lesson: Paul and the Philippian Jailer

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Use this children’s Sunday School lesson to teach kids how God can bring good things out of bad situations.

Needed: Bibles, cookie ingredients and cookies

Intro Activity #1: Complaining Communication 

The leader starts off telling a fictitious story about something bad that happened. The students’ goal is to then think about all the good things that might have happened afterward.

An example might be, “I went to the fair the other day and dropped my ice cream cone.”

The students could then add, “But the ice cream vendor saw what happened and gave me a new ice cream cone for free. Then, someone stole a lady’s purse, but the thief slipped on my spilled ice cream, and the police caught him. One of the people who saw it was an old friend of one of the police officers. They hadn’t seen each other in years, but when the person saw the police officer arresting the thief, they gave each other their phone numbers. Another person…”

Let kids be as imaginative as possible and ask them questions to prompt their creativity. The only point of the game is to think of how good things outweigh the negative in most situations.

Intro Activity #2: Delicious from Disgusting 

Show students a raw egg. Ask them if anyone would like to eat it. Do the same with some raw flour and then baking soda. When no one wants to try any of your ingredients, say, You’re right. These would all taste pretty bad if we ate them like this. But we can use them to make something really good! They’re all part of the recipe to make cookies. (Give the students a cookie or two as you start the lesson.)


Read Acts 16:16-18.

“Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.’ She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her.”

What did the girl have inside of her? (A spirit.)

What kind of spirit do you think it was? (A demon.)

What is a demon? (A demon is a bad spirit.)

How did Paul make the demon come out of the girl? (He said to the demon, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out of her.’)

Because Paul had faith in Jesus, Jesus made the demon come out and leave the girl alone.

(Read Acts 16:19.)

“When her owners realized that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace to face the authorities.”

Why were the girl’s owners angry at Paul?

Paul made the demon go away, which meant that the girl couldn’t tell people their fortunes anymore. The demon used to pretend to tell people their future, and people would pay the girl’s owners to hear it. The girl’s owners were mad now because people wouldn’t pay them anymore since the girl couldn’t tell them their fortune anymore.

Do you think the girl’s owners cared about her, or did they only care about making money? (They only cared about making money. They didn’t mind that the girl had a demon living inside her.)

Do you think Paul cared about the girl? (Yes. He made the demon leave the girl so that she would be better.)

(Read Acts 16:20-24.)

“They brought them before the magistrates and said, ‘These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.’

“The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.”

Why were Paul and Silas put in jail? (Because they were telling people to believe in the real God instead of fake gods.)

(Read Acts 16:25.)

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”

What were Paul and Silas doing during the night? (They were singing and praying to God.)

What do you think they were praying about? (Maybe that the people would believe in Jesus, maybe that God would help them get out of jail, maybe thanking God for giving Paul the power to make the demon leave the girl, etc.)

(Read Acts 16:26.)

“Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.”

What happened to free Paul and Silas? (An earthquake started, and then, all of the prison doors opened, and their chains fell off.)

Who do you think made the earthquake happen? (God. God sent the earthquake to get Paul and Silas out of jail.)

(Read Acts 16:27.)

“The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped.”

Why do you think the jailer was going to kill himself?

In those days, if you were supposed to be guarding someone and they escaped, you would be killed for letting them escape. The jailer was going to kill himself because he thought he was going to be killed anyway for letting the prisoner’s escape.

(Read Acts 16:28.)

“But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’”

Why do you think Paul and Silas didn’t run away when they had the chance? (They stayed because they didn’t want the jailer to get killed for them escaping.)

(Read Acts 16:29-34.)

“The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’

“They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.’ Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.”

When the jailer saw that the prisoners were all there, he believed in God because he knew that God had sent the earthquake to get Paul and Silas out of jail. What did he ask Paul and Silas then? (He asked how he could be saved.)

And what did Paul and Silas tell the jailer when he asked how he could be saved? (They told him to believe in Jesus.)

If we believe in Jesus, God forgives us for our sins, and we get to go to Heaven and be with God forever when we die.

So, what were the bad things that happened in this story? (Paul and Silas got arrested for teaching about Jesus.)

What were the good things that happened in this story? (Paul made the demon leave the girl, and the jailer believed in Jesus.)

Would the jailer have had a chance to believe in Jesus if Paul and Silas hadn’t been arrested? (No.)

So, God used the bad situation of Paul and Silas being arrested to save the jailer and his family.

Game: Jail Tag 

Designate an area to be the jail and pick one student to be It. They are the Jailer. The rest of the students are Paul and Silas. The Jailer must tag the rest of the students.

When the Jailer tags them, the students go to jail, just like Paul and Silas did. The leader may pick more than one student to be the Jailer if the Jailer is having a hard time tagging everyone.

Every once in a while or whenever everyone has been caught, the leader calls out “Earthquake!” and the students in the jail are freed and re-enter the game. Rotate students to be the Jailer so that one student doesn’t get too tired.

Closing Prayer

Lord, we thank You that You can always bring good things out of bad situations. Help us to remember to trust You when something bad happens to us. 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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