Young students may develop a habit of faith, following the coat tails of parents. Perhaps they attend church and Sunday School because that is just what they have always done, and they don’t think much of it. But it is important to establish early on how important it is to truly follow Christ. It means more we might have to make hard choices or give things up, but He is with us, and He is the only way to Heaven.
Lesson focus: Following Jesus means more than simply admiring His work or saying that we love Him. Sometimes it is tough to do what He says, but the rewards are endless.
Passage: John 16:12-22
Target Audience: K-6th Grade (adaptable)
Materials Needed: Cardboard or heavy card stock paper, decorative materials, Twister game, yarn
Lesson Opening: Tough to follow…Start off the lesson with a round of the game “Twister.” Have students remove shoes and play a few rounds of the classic game to get everyone “tied up in knots.”
Note: if you do not have Twister available, and/or it is not an appropriate option for the size and age of your group, an alternate idea could be a round of “Simon Says.” As you call off instructions, make them increasingly difficult or undesirable. Just make sure students do not attempt anything too wild or dangerous…
Explain that today we are talking about what it means to really follow Jesus and the directions He gives. Sometimes this is confusing or difficult, but always it is worth the price.
- For bonus ideas, compare this lesson with our other free Bible lessons from John 16. You can also find a helpful lesson plan on the “Word of Life Says” blog
What is the difference between a spectator and a student? Ask students what kinds of things they enjoy watching, whether sporting events or movies or concerts…Are these things that kids also participate in doing? Consider a few questions along these lines to encourage thought about the idea of discipleship:
-Is it more fun to watch a game or to be part of the action?
-Is it harder to watch a sport or to practice and receive coaching?
-Is it harder to listen to music or take lessons?
-Who are famous people that you admire? How would you feel if they were able to talk to you?
-If you could be taught by one of those famous people, would you learn better than from anyone else?
Explain to children that Jesus does not need a fan club. Our job as Christians is not just to watch other people or passively hear Bible stories, but to jump in and participate. It is more difficult, and sometimes even hard to understand, but it is also far more rewarding and worth it. Consider the passage for the week, taken from some challenging words of Christ:
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” -John 16:12-15
Set the stage for this tough conversation Jesus had with His disciples. The Messiah is here warning His friends that the values of the world are not the same as God’s values. He is explaining that following Christ will not be easy, but that Jesus is the way to the Father and to Heaven. He continues this discussion…
Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.” -John 16:15-18
Sometimes the things Jesus said to His followers were tough to understand. Here He is explaining that He will send a Holy Spirit comforter to help them through their pursuits. But still the disciples were confused. They wondered how far Jesus would take them or what would come next.
Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. 27 No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” -John 16:25-28
Jesus promises that all He is saying will soon make sense. He also is showing the disciples that He is the bridge to God. He tells his friends that believing in Him yields following God and knowing God. This is a prospect that would thrill the disciples. But Jesus also warns them that they will be scattered and feel abandoned. There will be confusion and suffering, and the world will not understand. Invite students to discuss values. What do people worship and love? Consider who we think of as most successful or popular. Often these trends do not match up with what Jesus claims is critical. But the final statement of this chapter ought to be a comforting one for us (and leads to our memory verse):
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” -John 16:33
Jesus has already handled it. We do have cares and troubles. The world gives us anxiety. But Jesus has conquered that. If time allows, play a game to remember the verse: take turns passing a ball or balloon around a circle of students.
Don’t forget the way…create a bookmark or door hanger to recall the verse and remind students of the importance of Jesus as the way to God. Cut card stock or cardboard into arrow shapes, and attach the verse (John 16:33). Decorate, and add string if desired. Encourage kids to display or place somewhere prominent.
Close with prayer and reminder of God’s work in our lives. Thank God for giving us Jesus and helping us to serve Him first with all of our hearts.