This free kids Sunday School lesson is based on the story of Stephen in Acts 6-7. It is targeted for older elementary students. It highlights the role of the Holy Spirit in giving courage to Christians, especially when they are suffering. It also shows that believers who suffer for obedience to Jesus will be rewarded. You can also adapt this lesson plan to be used in Children’s Church.
Bible Story: The Stoning of Stephen (Suffering for the Savior)
Scripture: Acts 6:8-7:60
Target Age Group: Age 9 – 11 (U.S. 3rd – 5th Grade)
Learning Context: Sunday School
Target Time Frame: 60 minutes
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Supply List: Notebooks or notebook paper that can be put in a folder. True or false statements on index cards and Bibles.
Learning Goal: Students will learn from the story of Stephen that when persecuted for their faith in Christ, believers receive courage and perseverance through the power of the Holy Spirit.
- Students will also learn that Jesus warned His disciples that they would suffer for following Him.
- Believers who suffer for obedience to Jesus will be rewarded.
Learning Indicator: Students will demonstrate their comprehension of the lesson by being able to answer the review questions and participate in a drama re-enacting the story.
Learning Activity #1: As an activity for students to participate in while waiting for others to arrive play a game of True or False? Have statements on index cards of what life for a believer looks like. Place the Scripture reference on the card so they can look at the Scripture to see if their answer is correct. Examples: Believers will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:10-12; John 15:20 Everyone loved Jesus so believers will be loved by all too. John 15:18-19; Luke 21:17 Those who are persecuted should be sad. Matthew 5:10-12; Luke 6:22-23 Believers need to follow Jesus daily. Luke 9:22-23
Learning Activity #2: After the story allow students to act out the story. If there is enough time pose the idea what Stephen might have done if he was not filled with the Holy Spirit and let them act out the story with how they think the story would have turned out. (If Stephen would have avoided suffering God would not have received glory. I Peter 4:12-16)
Learning Activity #3: Before class starts have this statement on the board or poster visible to the students: “If I am a believer I can trust God when I suffer because of my faith in Jesus.” At the close of the lesson allow the students to write the statement and the Memory verse in their notebooks. Each week a new truth with Scripture can be added to the notebook. At the end of the year the students will have made their own Promises from God notebook. If timing is an issue then it can be written in the notebooks when the students arrive.
Test: Review Questions
Memory Verse: Luke 6:22-23 “Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.” (Depending on your students you may want to memorize only one of the two verses. This verse was chosen because it embodies the truth that believers will be persecuted. Jesus promised that those who suffer for Him will receive a great reward in heaven.)
Bible Lesson: Suffering for the Savior-Stephen is Martyred
(Give Bibles to any students who didn’t bring their own. Encourage the students who are familiar with the Bible to help those who may be having trouble finding the passage.)
How many of you have put your hand on a stove burner that is turned on? Why haven’t you knowingly placed your hand on the hot burner? Many of us have been told that we will be burned and to avoid pain we are careful not to put our hands near the hot stove. Some of us have accidently touched the hot burner and burned our hand and suffered pain as a result. That pain reminds us to pay more attention when we are near a hot stove.
We can try to avoid suffering pain as much as possible but did you know there is a pain that is unavoidable if you are a believer? If you participated in the True/False activity what did you learn about being a believer and suffering? (Allow students to respond.)
Introduce Memory Verse.
Jesus clearly said that anyone who was a follower of Him would suffer. He also promised that anyone who suffered for obedience to Him would be blessed.
If you are a believer how does it make you feel to think about suffering because you are obedient to what Jesus has asked you to do? What are some things Jesus asks us to do that may cause others to insult us?
As believers we have two choices. We can avoid suffering like we would avoid a hot burner. To make this choice a follower of Jesus would not speak up about their faith to others. They would be afraid that others would make fun of them and they wouldn’t want to lose friends. The second choice is to be obedient to Jesus and trust Him to give us the courage and comfort we need when we face difficulties because we didn’t try to avoid speaking freely about our faith in Jesus.
This morning we have a person who did not allow fear of suffering keep him from speaking boldly the Words of God to people who didn’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God. Let’s turn in our Bibles to Acts 6:8.
From our lesson last week who can remember some of the names of the 7 men chosen to help serve in the Jerusalem Church? (Stephen, Philip Procurus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas)
Today we are going to learn more about one of those men. Let’s read Acts 6:8. Look over at Acts 6:5 and see what else is said about Stephen. From what we have learned so far in the Book of Acts, what does it mean for a believer to be full of the Holy Spirit? A person full of the Holy Spirit is controlled by God’s power. God’s work cannot be done in our own strength. Only by allowing the Holy Spirit to have full control of our lives can the Holy Spirit use our lips to speak His Words, our minds to think His thoughts and our bodies to go and do what He wants us to do. Those things that seem impossible for us to do (speak boldly about Jesus, be kind to our enemies etc.) are possible when the Holy Spirit lives in our heart and is allowed to control us.
We have been seeing that God’s enemy, Satan does all he can to stop God’s work. God is using Stephen in a mighty way allowing people to see His power. Let’s read Acts 6:9. Another word for opposition is conflict or battle. The enemies of Jesus began to argue with Stephen. Because Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit he had wisdom to know how to answer these men who were arguing with him. We do not read that he argued back. (God’s word tells believers not to argue. Philippians 2:14) Let’s read Acts 6:10 together. Here is how the Amplified Version says this verse: Acts 6:10 “But they were not able to resist the intelligence and the wisdom and [the inspiration of] the Spirit with which and by Whom he spoke.”
Since they lost their argument with Stephen they came up with a plan to try to get Stephen in trouble. Read Acts 6:11-14. You may remember before Jesus was crucified people made up lies about Him too. As Stephen was being falsely accused I wonder if he remembered what His Savior suffered and the Holy Spirit inside his heart enabled him to have courage.
As Stephen stands before the Sanhedrin (a council of religious leaders) they saw something unusual about his appearance. Let’s find out what it is. Acts 6:15
The high priest asked Stephen if the things he was being accused of were true. Stephen answers him by giving a history lesson of God’s work in the lives of His people. He tells that throughout history the Jews have rejected God’s servants. He starts at Abraham and God’s call to him and the promises to his descendants. Stephen tells of how Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and persecuted him by selling him as a slave in Egypt. God used Joseph in Egypt to rescue his family from famine. Stephen goes on to talk about Moses and how God used him to lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt into the land God had promised Abraham. Stephen told his audience that God’s people rejected Moses. Read Acts 7:39
Stephen brings the history of the Jew’s rejection of God’s servants to the present time. Let’s read what he says in Acts 7:51-53. Do you think it would have been easy for Stephen to speak these words to Jesus’ enemies? How was Stephen able to say those truthful words with such courage? (He was filled with faith and the Holy Spirit.)
God’s truth convicts men, women, boys and girls. The reason God convicts people of their sin is because He wants them to put their faith in the Lord Jesus so they can have their sins forgiven. When a person hears the truth that Jesus is God’s Promised Savior and He died for their sins they can believe in Jesus and accept Him as their Savior. Sometimes people have a different reaction. As the religious leaders heard Stephen tell them they were guilty of murdering Jesus they didn’t respond in a positive way. Let’s read Acts 7:54. Now Stephen is staring in the faces of angry people. A cartoon image of steam coming out of their ears comes to mind. If you were standing before a group of angry people what would be a very natural human response? (Fear and the desire to run away as fast as you could) Once again we are encouraged of what power we have if the Holy Spirit lives inside of us. He is able to give us the ability to do what we cannot do in our own power. Read Acts 7:55-56. Stephen did not allow fear of these angry men keep him from bringing honor to Jesus. He continued to point the audience to Jesus as the Son of God who was standing at the right hand of God.
Let’s look at the first part of Acts 7:57. Let’s re-enact what is happening here. Choose a volunteer to read Stephen’s words in verses 55-56. As the volunteer reads the words the rest of the class covers their ears and yells at the top of their voices.
These were very angry, stubborn people who were still rejecting the Good News about Jesus. They rushed toward Stephen grabbed him and dragged him out of the city. They were so angry with Stephen and God’s message they all began to throw rocks at him.
Even as Stephen was suffering as a result of sharing God’s truth listen to his dying words. Acts 7:59-60 Because Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit he was able to respond in the same way Jesus did as He suffered on the cross. Luke 23:34 tells us that Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
In our study of Acts the persecution of believers has gone beyond being put in jail and commanded not to teach in Jesus’ Name. The persecution has risen to the level of having followers of Jesus put to death. Stephen’s death would not be the last for believers who share the Good News about Jesus.
This lesson seems to have a sad ending but it doesn’t. Stephen was stoned to death but he was not alone as he suffered. He saw Jesus in heaven waiting for him. Stephen left his life on this earth and went to heaven to spend eternity with his Savior Jesus. You and I can be comforted that if we are believers the Holy Spirit lives inside of our hearts. Whatever God asks us to do while serving Him on this earth we will have the power to do because He lives inside of us. One day when we leave this earth we will spend the rest of eternity with our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Close in prayer. Pray for students who may not be saved to accept Jesus and pray for those who are believers to allow the Holy Spirit to give them courage to stand up for Jesus.
- Who said that believers would suffer? Jesus
- Who was a man full of God’s grace and power? Stephen
- Why couldn’t Stephen’s enemies win their argument against him? They could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.
- When the Sanhedrin looked at Stephen’s face what did they see? A face of an angel.
- Why did Stephen tell his enemies about God’s history with the Jews? He was reminding them that the Jews have always rejected God’s servants and they have rejected and murdered Jesus.
- How was Stephen able to be bold to speak the truth to his enemies? The Holy Spirit gave him courage.
- What did Stephen tell the crowd he saw? Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
- What did the enemies do to Stephen? Stoned him.
- How can this lesson help you this week to stand up for Jesus?
Voice of the Martyrs has materials of modern day believers who suffer for their faith in Christ. By sharing these present day believers to your students you can pray for the persecuted church.