Lesson: The Story of the Prophet Jonah

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Use this children’s Sunday School lesson about Jonah to teach kids about the need to obey God and the richness of God’s forgiveness.

Needed: Bibles, towel or blanket, action figure or doll or stuffed animal, trashcan or bucket or box

Intro Activity: Acting It Out

Divide students into groups of two or three. Have each group decide on and act out a scene in which someone can be nice to a person who’s been mean to them.


Read Jonah 1-4 with your students or read the following story as a summary.

Summary Story

One day, God told the prophet Jonah, “Jonah, go preach to the people of Nineveh. Tell them that they better start believing in Me and doing the right things I want them to do or else I’m going to send fire down from Heaven to destroy their city and burn them up.”

But Jonah didn’t want to go preach to the people of Nineveh. He didn’t them want to believe in God and start doing the right things God wanted them to do because the people of Nineveh were Israel’s enemies. Jonah wanted God to send fire down from Heaven to destroy their city and burn them up.

Do you think it was nice for Jonah to want the people of Nineveh to die? (No.)

But Jonah did want the people of Nineveh to die, and he didn’t want to preach to them. So, he got on a boat and went far away from Nineveh instead of going to Nineveh as God told him to.

Do you think it was good for Jonah to go far away from Nineveh when God told him to go to Nineveh? (No.)

Jonah disobeyed God, so God sent a very bad storm to attack Jonah’s boat. The wind was blowing…

Everyone, blow as hard as you can to show what the wind was like.

The waves were going up and down….

Everyone, show me with your arms how the waves went up and down.

And everyone on the boat was so afraid. They thought they were going to drown. Jonah knew that it was God who had sent the storm and he knew that it was because he was disobeying God. Jonah told the other sailors, “If you want the storm to stop, you have to throw me overboard into the sea.”

The sailors didn’t want to throw Jonah overboard because they thought he would drown, so they kept trying to row back to land. But God made the storm even stronger, so the men had to throw Jonah into the sea.

Jonah was almost going to drown, but God sent a huge fish to come and swallow him, and God kept Jonah safe inside the fish’s belly for three days and three nights.

On the third day, God told the fish to spit Jonah out, and the fish spit Jonah out on the land. Then, God said, “Jonah, go preach to the people of Nineveh. Tell them that they better start believing in Me and doing the right things I want them to do or else I’m going to send fire down from Heaven to destroy their city and burn them up.”

That’s the same thing God told Jonah to do before, isn’t it? God was giving Jonah a second chance to listen to Him. Aren’t you glad God always gives us a second chance too? God always forgives us and gives us more chances to believe in Him and to obey Him.

Jonah listened to God this time and went to Nineveh. Even though he still didn’t like the people of Nineveh, Jonah went and preached to them and warned them to start believing in God and doing the right things or else God would destroy them.

Do you think the people of Nineveh will listen to Jonah and start believing in God?

The Bible tells us that when Jonah preached to the people of Nineveh, they all believed in God and started doing the right things. They prayed to God and asked Him not to destroy them.

God was happy that the people started believing in Him and so He did not destroy them. But Jonah still didn’t like the people of Nineveh. He was mad that they believed in God and that God didn’t destroy them.

Do you think it’s nice for Jonah to be mad that God didn’t destroy the people of Nineveh? (No.)

God said, “Jonah, you should not be mad. I care about the people of Nineveh and their animals. I didn’t want to destroy them. That’s why I sent you to preach to them. Now, I’m happy that they believe in Me and I don’t have to destroy them.”

And that’s the story of Jonah. Jonah wanted God to kill the people of Nineveh, but God wanted to forgive them. God always wants to forgive people instead of punishing them, and if people will believe in God and start doing the right things that He wants them to do, then God will forgive them.

Game: Listening to God 

Have students line up at one side of the room. The teacher gives instructions, saying “Teacher Says” as in “Simon Says.” Do the motions as you say the instruction. Every once in a while, do something and give the instruction without saying “Teacher says” first. Anyone who does something without the teacher having said, “Teacher says” has to pretend that they’ve been swallowed by a fish and taken to Nineveh at the other side of the room. You can also give an instruction that doesn’t match your motion to catch kids off guard. Students who are out wait there until the end of the round and then, join back in. The last student in the game becomes the new leader.

Game: Reverse Fishing 

Place a large trashcan, bucket, or box, at the end of the room. Give students a blanket or towel and an action figure, doll, or stuffed animal. Students try to launch their action figure (Jonah) into the trashcan (fish’s mouth) using only their blanket (waves of the sea).

Remind students about how Jonah disobeyed God and had to be thrown into the sea to make the storm stop. Then, God saved him by sending a fish to swallow him.

Closing Prayer

God, we thank You for being a good God and caring about all people. Help us to be like You and love even the people that we don’t like. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Kings and Prophets.

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