Lesson: Paul’s Shipwreck

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Use this children’s Sunday School lesson teach students about God’s protection.

Needed: Bibles, wads of paper, index cards with the names of various animals written on them


Tell students, Remember that in the Bible times and in other countries still today, it was against the law to believe in Jesus. It was against the law to be a Christian. And that’s why many Christians were arrested and put in jail and sometimes even killed. One time when Paul was arrested—and it was actually the last time he was arrested before he died—they had to take him on a ship to Rome so that he could go to court and be judged by the Emperor, the King of Rome.

(Read Acts 27:9-20.)

“Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Day of Atonement. So Paul warned them, ‘Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also’ But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.

“When a gentle south wind began to blow, they saw their opportunity; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the Northeaster, swept down from the island. The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.

Game: Bailing Out the Boat 

Make an outline of a boat on the floor. Crumple a lot of paper. Divide students into two teams and set a timer for 3 minutes.

One team stands inside the boat outline. The other team is the storm. They pick up the crumpled papers and try to throw them into the boat outline. The team inside tries to bail out their boat by removing the papers.

After 3 minutes, tell everyone to stop and count how many wads of paper are inside the boat versus outside. The team with the lowest number of paper wads in their area wins.

Switch roles and play again.

Lesson continues…

Read Acts 27:21-28:1.

“After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: ‘Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, “Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.” So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as He told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.’

“On the fourteenth night we were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, ‘Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.’ So the soldiers cut the ropes that held the lifeboat and let it drift away.

“Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. ‘For the last fourteen days,’ he said, ‘you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven’t eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head.’ After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board. When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

“When daylight came, they did not recognize the land, but they saw a bay with a sandy beach, where they decided to run the ship aground if they could. Cutting loose the anchors, they left them in the sea and at the same time untied the ropes that held the rudders. Then they hoisted the foresail to the wind and made for the beach. But the ship struck a sandbar and ran aground. The bow stuck fast and would not move, and the stern was broken to pieces by the pounding of the surf.

“The soldiers planned to kill the prisoners to prevent any of them from swimming away and escaping. But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land. The rest were to get there on planks or on other pieces of the ship. In this way everyone reached land safely.

“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta.”

If you were out on the ocean and your boat got stuck, and you didn’t have any food or water, what would you do?

What if your boat started breaking apart? Would that be scary?

All of the men with Paul were very scared because they thought they might drown, but God helped them all get to the beach.

Why do you think God kept Paul from drowning in the storm? (God wanted Paul to go to court and see the Emperor so that he could tell the Emperor about Jesus.)

Do you think God wants you to tell people about Jesus too? (Yes.)

God wants us all to tell people about Jesus so that they can believe in Jesus and go to Heaven when they die.

(Read Acts 28:2-6.)

“The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, ‘This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.’ But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.”

Why do you think Paul didn’t die when the snake bit him? (God protected him.)

Do you think God could protect you like He protected Paul from dying in the storm and from dying from the snake bite? (Yes.)

God can always protect us. But we have to remember that God doesn’t always protect us. People do get hurt, and people do die. God can protect us, but sometimes, He won’t decide to.

Game: Picking Up the Snake 

Write the names of various animals on index cards and mix all the cards up facedown. When you say, “Go!” all the students pick up one of the cards and flips it over. Everyone chases the student with the snake card. Once someone tags them, mix up the cards and play again.

(Read Acts 28:7-10.)

“There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored us in many ways; and when we were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed.”

How do you think Paul was able to heal the man who was sick? (God gave Paul the power to heal him.)

Do you think God can give you that kind of power? (Yes.)

But again, we have to remember that God doesn’t always give us that kind of power. Sometimes, He doesn’t want us to be healers like Paul was. Sometimes, God simply wants us to believe in Him and do the right things in our life without doing any miracles like that. It’s up to God if He gives us the power to heal or not, but He always gives us the power to resist the devil’s temptations and to do what is right.

Game: Doctor, Doctor! 

In this game of Freeze Tag, students will go to “Paul” for “healing” to get back in the game.

First, divide students into two teams. One team starts as It, chasing the other. Choose someone to be “Paul” on the team that is being chased. They can’t be tagged.

Set a timer for 5 minutes. When a student is tagged, they have to pretend they’re sick or injured and hop on one foot to where “Paul” is or wait for “Paul” to come to them. If they make it to “Paul” before they’re tagged again, they are “healed” and continue as a normal player. If they get tagged before they can reach “Paul,” they’re out.

The round is over when your timer goes off or when the It team tags all the members of the opposite team before they can hop over to “Paul” for healing. Have the teams switch roles and play again.

Closing Prayer

Father God, we believe that You can protect us and give us the power to miracles if you want to. We also know that You don’t always choose to do those things, so help us to have faith in You no matter what happens. 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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