Continuing in our study of the book of Acts, we covered the story of the stoning of Stephen. If you’ve been following When One Teaches, Two Learn, you’ll see two additions to the typical lesson plan format that I use. First, I’ve created a specific section of the lesson plan where I explain how the kids will show what they’ve learned (keeping in line with my new year’s resolution). Also, I’ve decided to work in a prayer activity for the kids each week, so there’s a specific section of the plan dedicated to that. So, without further ado, here’s the lesson!
Goal: Today we will learn that sometimes God asks us to do difficult things, but He will always help us through them.
Key Scripture: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8, NIV
Here’s What You’ll Need:
- Stones (enough for each child to have one)
- Permanent marker
- Bible character cut-outs of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, and Stephen (Printables available here)
- Masking tape
- Large basket
- Several objects labeled with hurtful things that children might do to each other
- Pitcher of water
- Alka Seltzer tablets (or equivalent)
- Copies of Stoning of Stephen review sheets (Available for download here)
- File folder review game (Available for download here)
- Copies of Stoning of Stephen coloring page
- Lego verse building set for Acts 1:8
Introduction: Have the children gather in a circle on the carpet and discuss the following questions:
- What would you do if someone came up to you and told you that anyone who believes in Jesus is stupid?
- Would you be quiet or tell them that you believe in Jesus too?
- What would you do if they laughed at you?
Explain that today’s lesson is about a man named Stephen who told people that he believed in Jesus, even when it was difficult
Lesson: Ahead of time, gather several stones, enough for each child to have one, and write the word “forgive” on the bottom using a permanent marker. Place a stone in front of each child with the side with the writing on it facing the floor, but ask everyone to leave the stones in front of them until they are told to pick them up.
Also, prepare a set of Bible character cut-outs. You will specifically need Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, David, and Stephen. Distribute these character cut-outs (except Stephen) to the children and also instruct them to leave their character on the floor until they are asked to pick it up.
Hold up the cut-out of Stephen. Explain that the Bible tells us that Stephen was a man full of God’s grace and power. He performed many miracles and signs of God. One day, some men decided that they wanted to debate Stephen (Discuss what it means to “debate”). Stephen was very wise and full of God’s spirit, though, so he had an answer to all of their questions about God and Jesus.
This made the men very frustrated, so they convinced some people to lie about Stephen. They went to the religious teachers and told them that Stephen was cursing God (Have the children pretend to whisper to each other, as if they were spreading a rumor). The religious teachers called Stephen to the high council to figure out what going on. As soon as the men started to tell their lies, something strange happened. Stephen’s face became as bright as an angel! The high priest asked Stephen if what the men were saying was true and Stephen replied by reminding him of all sorts of people from the Bible.
Have the children who have been given Bible character cut-outs hold them up. Explain that Stephen reminded the people at the council of all that God had done to provide for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, then later for Moses and the Israelite people, and also King David and his son King Solomon. Stephen told the people at the council that, even though God had done so many good things through these people, they still choose to disobey God. God sent His son, Jesus, to us and, even though Jesus had never done anything wrong, they still crucified Him.
The people at the council were not very happy that Stephen was saying these things (Have the children make grumpy faces). After all, they knew that they had done wrong things, but they didn’t like it when someone else pointed out their sins. That was embarrassing! The people of the council were so angry that they shook their fists in rage (Have the children shake their fists in the air).
Even though the people at the council were very angry with him, God was with Stephen. In fact, Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and when he looked up Stephen could see God and Jesus standing right next to Him. Stephen was so excited that he said, “Look! I can see God! And Jesus is standing right next to Him!”
This made the people of the council even angrier! They covered their ears so they couldn’t hear what Stephen was saying (Have the children cover their ears while still making a grumpy face). The people rushed toward Stephen and dragged him outside. Then, they picked up stones and started to throw them at Stephen. Have the children pick up the stones in front of them and ask how they think it would feel if someone threw one of those stones at them – hard.
Explain that while the people were throwing stones at him, Stephen prayed and asked Jesus to receive his spirit. That meant that he was asking Jesus to take him to heaven. That’s probably something you would be asking Jesus to do too if people were throwing stones at you! But, then Stephen did something incredible. Just before he died, Stephen asked Jesus to forgive the people for what they were doing (Have the children turn over their stone so they can see the word “forgive” written on the bottom). Forgive them? Stephen hadn’t done anything wrong, but the people still decided to kill him. Can you imagine someone hurting you for no good reason and still asking Jesus to forgive that person? That’s pretty amazing.
Note: This was probably the most powerful moment of the lesson. The kids could actually feel how heavy the rock is in their hands and imagine how much it would hurt to have someone throw one at them. This idea is also used on Debbie Jackson’s blog. She’s a fabulous resource!
Tell the children that Stephen did a very difficult thing. He was killed because he stood up for Jesus. You and I might not die for telling other people about Jesus, but He does ask us to stand up for Him, to not be ashamed that we believe in Him. Think back to what we talked about in the beginning of our lesson. If someone says something like “Anyone who believes in Jesus is stupid,” we shouldn’t be afraid to say that we believe in Jesus and that it isn’t kind to say things like that. It might mean that we get teased, but it’s the right thing to do and God will help us through it.
Game: Play Forgiveness Relay. Ahead of time, mark out a heart on the floor using tape or chalk. Inside the heart, place several objects (blocks, etc.) with labels listing different hurtful things that children might do to teach other (i.e. lying, calling someone a mean name, being selfish, cheating in a game, etc.). On the opposite side of the room, place a basket on the floor that is large enough to hold all the objects. Tell the children that when someone does something wrong to us, it hurts us, but Jesus commands us to forgive them, just as Stephen forgave the people at the council, even when it was difficult to do. Explain that in this game we’re going to practice forgiving others and clean up our heart.
Have the children line up on the wall on the opposite side of the room from the heart. Explain that when it is their turn, they will run over to the heart and bring it back to where everyone else is standing. Read what is written on the object aloud, then throw it in the basket on the floor and altogether say, “I forgive you!”
Note: I left two bean bags blank. Whoever picked up the blank bean bag had to come up with something on their own that they would find hurtful.
Prayer Station: Have the children participate in a “Forgiveness Fizz.” Give each child an Alka-Seltzer tab and instruct them to hold it and think about someone that they need to forgive. Explain that when we are hurt and angry it hurts us too, but we can ask God to help us to let go of those feelings. Pour some water into the bowl and have the children place their Alka-Seltzer tabs in the water. As they watch the tablets bubble, have them imagine giving their hurt feelings to God. Have everyone say together, “Thank you, God, for helping us to forgive.”
What Did You Learn?: Distribute the Stephen review sheet and crayons to the children. Talk through each question and have the children circle their responses. Review these later to determine how well the children retained the information.
Conclusion: Have the following service projects available for the children to complete as time allows.
- File Folder Review Game: Print a copy of Debbie Jackson’s file folder review game on the story of Stephen. This game focuses on the facts from Stephen’s speech, so provide Bibles and the reference to Stephen’s story for the children to look up the information.
- Stephen Coloring Page: Provide crayons and a coloring page on the stoning of Stephen.
- Play Forgiveness Relay: Allow small groups of children to continue to play Forgiveness Relay.
- Lego Verse Building: Provide the Lego sets for the children to review the memory verse – Acts 1:8.
Haven’t been keeping up with our series on the book of Acts? Here are the links to the previous lessons.
- A Miraculous Catch (John 21:1-25)
- Jesus Ascends to Heaven (Acts 1:1-11)
- The Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13)
- The Holy Spirit Can Live in Your Heart (Acts 2:1-13)
- There’s a System in Place (Acts 2:14-21)
- Go, Team Fillmore! (Acts 2:42-47)
- Peter and John Heal a Lame Man (Acts 3)
- Healing in the Name of Jesus (Acts 3)
- There is Power in the Name of Jesus! (Acts 4:1-22)
- Sharing in the Early Church (Acts 4:32-37)
- Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)
- The Choosing of the Seven (Acts 6:1-7)