Although I would’ve liked to spend more time on Paul’s letters, I condensed an overview of them into one lesson. Our 5th graders will be moving out of our class at the end of next month, and I wanted to get through the whole Bible before they leave.
I got several ideas from a couple places on the web and combined them, but wasn’t able to copy the link properly; sorry for no citing of sources this time!
To start out, I wrote the names of all the rest of the books of the Bible after Acts on the board, and asked the kids to guess which ones Paul wrote. We determined that he wrote 13, which is more books of the Bible than anyone else wrote, though they are short and don’t take up a lot of actual space in the Bible.
So, knowing that Paul wrote 13 books, I asked the kids to write 13 things you know about God. I gave out markers and colorful paper, and the kids got to work. After a few minutes, I asked if it was easy or harder than they thought it would be; most said hard and had only gotten about 4 or 5. If we have a hard time just writing 13 things about God, how did Paul write 13 long letters about God? We looked up 2 Timothy 3:16 and learned that Paul was able to write all that because God helped him. I then added that Paul wanted these letters to be shared and it pleases God when others read about him, so several of the kids posted their lists on our bulletin board once they had finished.
Now that we know God inspired Paul’s writings, we had to find out what God wanted Paul to write about. We read Ephesians 3:3-5 and found that God had a “mysterious” or “secret” plan he wanted Paul to share with the world. I each of the kids a piece of white paper and a white crayon, and told them to write something good about themselves that not many people know that they would like to share. So we read Ephesians 3:6-7 to find out that God’s plan is that everyone–no matter your background–is part of the body of Christ, that all people can be part of God’s family if they believe in Jesus. We don’t want to keep good secrets to ourselves, especially if it’s something we are excited about! The kids passed their paper to someone else, and we painted over the white crayons with watercolor paints, revealing the secrets.
A lot of what Paul wrote was about Jews and Gentiles, because that was something the new church struggled with. Most of the Bible was about the Jewish nation, but Paul wanted everyone to know that through Jesus the gospel is for them.
Paul also wrote to encourage the churches in the many cities he had traveled to. He reminded them of God’s love and gave them instructions on how to live better. I wrote down the names of all the kids in class, and had each kid draw another name. The kids wrote a note of encouragement to the person they drew. I told them I would send the notes out on the first week of school, which about a month from now. The kids will probably forget about writing them, and will get a nice surprise in the mail. Most of the kids, especially the boys, just wrote a simple “have a good week,” but I think it was still good to get them thinking about encouraging others, especially people they might not be close friends with.