Use Them for God!
Sunday School Lesson: Spiritual Gifts
God has given us special gifts that allow us to work together as the church, the body of Christ. Children should learn early on that the Lord loves them and has blessed them with talents and abilities. We can give thanks for these, and discover how to use them to give back to Jesus. This lesson explores how we can work as a team, focusing on how our spiritual gifts can be treasured and used for the church.
All that we have comes from Jesus. Although it might sound as though this passage is encouraging us to focus on “works”, as we use our spiritual gifts for God, the truth is that He enables every good thing, and leads us in all we do. Christ has blessed us with more than we could ever ask for or imagine. We demonstrate our gratitude by serving Him with the talents He has granted us.
Passage: 1 Corinthians 12:3-31
Target Audience: Kindergarten-6th grade
Materials Needed: Construction paper; glue; markers or crayons; tape; scissors; decorative supplies; gift boxes and bags; items to complete tasks; puzzles; music; recycled craft materials; Bibles.
Lesson Opening: This lesson focuses on how we have special spiritual gifts that can be used for God’s work, just as special body parts have meaningful functions. Start off with some activities that relate to the body or gifts. Consider a few simple activities to kick things off:
- Have a mini talent show, and invite students to share or demonstrate a special ability. Encourage them that there are all sorts of talents. Something as simple as snapping fingers or curling a tongue is unique!
- Pass around gift boxes or bags for students to unwrap. Inside the “presents”, place words that describe a gift such as faith, kindness, music, etc. Explain how there are many types of gifts that God gives us.
- Play “body part tag”: begin with a couple of “it” students, and provide a body part (one finger, a shoulder, etc.) that must be used to tag another student. The “it” will hold that body part high to designate tagging status. When another student is tagged, the original “it” will decide the next body part. Reminds kids to avoid things that would be especially challenging or painful for either party, such as kicking with feet or smashing a nose.
- Do the hokey pokey! Sing and dance to the hokey pokey song, making it “freeze dance” style. Or make it competitive by switching up the body parts (don’t go in order) and calling out students who play the wrong body part. The same can be done with the “Father Abraham” song.
- Body part musical chairs: play musical chairs with a twist: call out a body part when the music stops, and make sure students place that particular part on the chair (rather than just sitting down).
- Hands-tied group effort: group students and have them perform a simple task like coloring a picture or putting a puzzle together. However, students can only use one body part each (a left hand/right hand/etc.), and work as a team to complete the task.
Explain that this lesson reminds us how we all have abilities that can be used together to work for God and help other people!
This passage comes from one of Paul’s letters to the church of Corinth, urging them to consider how they could work together as the body of Christ, and use their gifts to serve the church. Take turns reading verses, or read them out loud for younger children. Explain what these important words mean as you go through the passage.
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. -1 Corinthians 12:3-11
Paul wants to remind the people of the Corinthian church that every blessing comes from the Lord. Many of these people were formerly pagans who worshiped idols and made-up gods, and thought that they somehow could get themselves great things on their own power. Paul tells them that all gifts and powers and abilities are given through the Holy Spirit. He gives different unique talents and treasures to different people, but they all come from Him first and foremost.
Decide how in-depth you wish to go with students in describing these various gifts. Some of them could be harder to explain for younger students (tongues, healing, etc.), as far as how those are manifested today, but they could still be discussed. Consider talking about other gifts and abilities that God gives to us, and how we might figure out what our gifts are. Some think there’s a magic formula or secret way to discern our giftings, but it can be as simple as what we enjoy or do well!
Ask: What are some things that you are extra good at? What kinds of gifts has God given you?
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. -1 Corinthians 12:12-13
This is a pretty classic, but wonderful illustration. Invite students to think of how our bodies work. Everything that we do, from eating a sandwich to throwing a baseball, involves a lot of parts working together. If all of the body parts are not cooperating, things don’t happen like they should. It’s the same way with the church. The church is the body of Jesus, and we all contribute different things to make it function properly. Note that this verse does not say “we should try to be a body”, but indicates that we already are! We need each other.
Ask: Do you think one of your body parts is the most important? Which one?
For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. -1 Corinthians 12:14-20
Sometimes we start to feel like our role is less glamorous or important than someone else’s. The truth is that all parts are essential. In our human bodies, we might not think too much about something like a pinky toe, until it gets broken on a doorjamb and suddenly renders walking difficult. There is no most or least critical body part. In the same way, there is no best or worst church member or contributor. Even kids have a purpose and a job in the church! We cannot think we aren’t important to Christ’s body. We also can’t look down on others or tell them that they are less significant. Perhaps being an usher or janitor doesn’t feel as “cool” as choir director or Sunday School superintendent, but every job is necessary to the church.
Ask: What are some things that you can do in the church right now? How can God use your talents?
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. -1 Corinthians 12:21-26
We need each other! There might be times (okay, there will be times) when we don’t get along with everyone else around. There will be people we might prefer not to work with or even hang out with. This does not mean we should avoid them, or that they don’t also have important jobs to do in God’s church. If we ignore people or push them away, they might stop coming to church, which could deprive the body of a needed part! God has put us together in a certain way, and we are to help one another, rejoicing with those who rejoice and suffering when another suffers. This is not something we choose, but a design God has already set for His church!
Ask: How can you be more welcoming to someone you don’t always get along with well?
Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.
And I will show you a still more excellent way. -1 Corinthians 12:27-31
These verse might make it seem like there is a “ranking” order or hierarchy to spiritual gifts, which is not true. Paul is merely pointing out that not everyone has the same gift. It would be pretty boring and pointless if we were all exactly the same! We don’t all do the same thing, but the things we do are all important. Desiring “higher gifts” does not mean we should be envious of others or want abilities we do not have, but simply that we should want to use our talents in the best way, and to ask God to help us use the gifts we are given.
When Paul says that he will “show you a still more excellent way”, it is preparation for the next passage! 1 Corinthians 13 (following 12, as numbers go) is the great chapter on love, which will show how love is even more important than all of the other spiritual gifts, and is the very highest and greatest thing we can do as Christians.
Ask: How do you think God can use some of the things you are good at? What’s something you might want to be even better at?
Close with prayer, thanking God for His gifts and asking for His help in discerning how to best use them for His glory.