Use this children’s Sunday School on the eighth Beatitude to teach kids about the different forms of Christian persecution.
Needed: Bibles, Faith vs. Fear cards, a world map, writing and drawing paper, crayons or colored pencil
Intro Game: Despite All Obstacles
Set up an obstacle course with two mirror paths. Divide the students into two teams. One student from each team runs the obstacle course at a time while the other team members line up along the length of the obstacle course. When they’re not running, the members of the opposite team throw soft balls or paper wads at the runner from the sidelines.
If a student makes it through the obstacle course without being hit, they score a point for their team and return to the sidelines. If they are hit, they go to the sidelines to throw but not run again. After each pair runs the course, gather the balls or paper wads again for the next two to run.
The game ends when all the students have run the course. The team with the most points wins.
Afterward, explain that we have to do the right things in life even when it seems difficult. There might be things that get in the way of us doing the right thing. There might be people who try to keep us from doing the right thing, but we have to keep doing what we know is right.
Ask students, What would you do if one of your friends started making fun of you for going to church?
What would you do if one of your friends didn’t believe in God and they thought you were weird because you did believe in God?
What would you do if someone told you that you weren’t allowed to go to church or to believe in Jesus anymore?
Did you know that in the Bible, people weren’t allowed to believe in Jesus? It was against the law. You could be beat up and arrested and even put to death if you believed in Jesus. Jesus Himself was even killed and nailed to the cross. It’s still illegal to believe in Jesus in some countries today.
(Include a contemporary example of foreign persecution here.)
(Read Matthew 5:10-12.)
“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Jesus says that if we will be brave and stand up for Him, even when other people think we’re weird or make fun of us or even hurt us for believing in Him, then He will reward us. We will get to go to Heaven to be with Him and will live with God and Jesus forever. He says that we’ll be like one of His prophets! So, be brave and never be afraid to say that you believe in Jesus!
Game: Faith vs. Fear
Print out or write the words Fear or Faith on a set of index cards. You should have an equal number of cards that say Faith as Fear.
Divide students into two teams, and have the teams line up on separate sides of the room in single file lines. Mix up the cards and give each student a card that says Faith or Fear. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes, depending on how many students you have. When you say “Go!” the first two students run toward each and show each other their cards.
If one says Faith and the other says Fear, the student with Faith scores a point for their team. The person with Fear does not score. If both say Faith, both score a point and if both say Fear, neither does. Both return to the back of their lines and trade their cards for a new card.
As soon as they leave the center, the second two players run up and do the same thing. Play continues until the timer runs out. The team with the most points at the end wins.
Explain that we might sometimes be afraid to say that we’re Christians, but we need to have faith and not let our fear stop us.
Craft: The Persecuted Church
Look up a current news story about where Christians are being persecuted. Show the location on a map and summarize the situation for the children and explain why a certain government doesn’t want the people to believe in God. Then, have students write a prayer for their fellow Christians in that situation, or draw a picture illustrating God’s protection around those persecuted Christians.
Jesus, we pray that You’ll make us brave to say that we believe in You even when others don’t. And we pray that You’ll be with all the Christians in countries where it’s illegal to believe in You. Help them to be brave and please protect them. Amen.
You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Jesus Teaches on the Mountain.