Use this children’s Sunday School lesson to teach students about the need to forgive others.
Needed: Bibles, soft balls or paper wads, two “basketball hoops”
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, Do you think people are ever hurt or killed for doing the right thing? (Help them think of some examples. Examples could include Jesus, who was killed by the priests for telling the truth about God, Abraham Lincoln, who was killed because he ended slavery in the U.S., and Martin Luther King, Jr., who was killed because he wanted black and white people to all be treated equally.)
Explain that one of Jesus’ followers, Stephen, who was one of the men chosen to help with handing out the food in the church, was arrested by the priests because he was doing the right thing. He was teaching people about Jesus.
(Read Acts 7:51-8:3.)
“‘You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered Him—you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.’
“When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’
“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.
“And Saul approved of their killing him.
“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.”
What did Stephen see right before he was killed? (He saw God and Jesus standing in Heaven.)
Why do you think God let Stephen see that? (So that Stephen would know that God was proud of him and that God was with him.)
Why did the priests kill Stephen? (Because the priests didn’t believe in Jesus, and Stephen told them that they were wrong not to believe in Jesus.)
When they were killing him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Why do you think he prayed that? (He was trusting Jesus to take his spirit (his soul) to Heaven. Everyone who believes in Jesus goes to Heaven when they die.)
Stephen also prayed that God would forgive the priests for killing him. Do you think you could pray for God to forgive someone who was hurting you?
When Jesus was on the cross, He prayed that God would forgive the people who killed Him, too. God wants us to show love and forgiveness to everyone, even people who are mean to us or hurt us. If we pray to God, He can help us forgive anyone, no matter what they did to us.
Game: Neighbors and Enemies Basketball
Set up two basketball hoops. If you don’t have basketball hoops, you can use buckets, trashcans, or boxes to catch the balls. If you have a large group, you can split the students into two or more groups and set up two “baskets” for each group.
One by one, students come up to shoot two balls. They have to shoot one ball at Basket A and the other at Basket B. If they get a basket in each, they score a point. If they get a basket in only one, or neither of the baskets, they do not score a point.
Play long enough for each student to have three turns.
Then, explain that students had to make a basket in each of the “hoops” to show that we need to treat everyone the same. We need to treat our enemies the same as our friends, the people who are mean to us the same as the people who are nice to us. It’s not good enough to be nice to one and not the other. Jesus wants us to show love and forgiveness to both kinds of people, just like they had to get a basket in both “hoops” to score a point.
Game: Disciple Tag
Remind students that Stephen was arrested because he was a Christian and was helping to teach other people about Jesus.
Choose one student to be It. When they tag someone, that person links hands with them and joins their team. They continue adding people to their team, linking hands with each one until all but one student is part of their chain. That remaining student becomes It for the next round.
Play two or three rounds and then, explain that when we tell people about Jesus, we want them to believe in Jesus too. If they do, they become a Christian and join our team. Then, they help us tell more people about Jesus.
Father God, we thank You for the example of Stephen, who was brave for You and taught other people about Jesus even when he knew he could be killed for it. We also thank You for his example of forgiving his enemies. We pray that You’ll help us to do the same thing… Let’s take a minute right now for everyone to close their eyes and think of someone who might have hurt you or been mean to you before… Now, ask God in your heart to help you forgive that person. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
You can also find this lesson for Kindle or in print in my book, Followers of the Christ.