Teaching Kids about the Good Shepherd
Here are five fun activities to teach children about Jesus, the good shepherd (John 10:1-18). They were successfully carried out with about 60 preschoolers at MCI Kindergarten Fun Camp on 6-7 June, 2013. Activities 1 and 2 were carried out on Day 1 while the rest were played on Day 2.
Sheep should obey the shepherd. When he leads them, they should follow but sometimes, a sheep does not follow the shepherd, runs away and gets lost.
A good shepherd always counts his sheep (Jer. 33:13) and knows when a sheep is missing, and then he goes to find it. Every sheep is important to the shepherd; he would call and call, search and search until he hears its cry or its answer. When sheep are afraid they bleat (baa) loudly for the shepherd. Have the children demonstrate "bleating with fear".
Slideshow | Video
“Find the Lost Sheep” Instructions
Earlier ... print out pictures of sheep and hide them in the room. Hide one picture of a sheep with the words “The Lost Sheep” in the room and another in your shirt pocket. Have the children pretend to be shepherds and go look for the two lost sheep.
For the lost sheep in your pocket ... give “clues” as you move around the room such as “it’s on this side of the room.” Tell the children whether they are HOT (close to the lost sheep) or COLD (far from the lost sheep). Clues must only be variations of hot and cold, as in "You're getting warmer." Your clues will eventually contradict each other, giving away that the hidden sheep is on the move. You may have to be explicit with younger children by saying, "The lost sheep is moving!" Once the (second) lost sheep is found, the game is over.
Relate: You did a great job finding the lost sheep. What joy there is when the shepherd has found his lost sheep! He gently lifts the tired or wounded sheep close to his chest (Isa. 40:11) or on his shoulder and brings it back to the rest of the sheep.
Do you know that we are like sheep? [Pause] We like to go our own way. The Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isa. 53:6a). We want to do things our way instead of obeying. God calls “wanting our own way” sin.
Did you ever go shopping with your mother and see something you really wanted … a toy or something to eat? “That’s too expensive,” your mother said, “we can’t get it today.” You sit on the floor, start swinging your arms and kicking your legs and cried loudly, “I want! I want!”
Why did you act like that? [Pause] Because you wanted your own way and “wanting your own way” (instead of God's way) is sin. Everybody has sinned. All of us are like disobedient sheep; we all have gone our own way.
Without a shepherd, you and I are in trouble. We are lost in sin. We need the good shepherd, the Lord Jesus, to find us and bring us back to God.
ACTIVITY 2: PROTECT THE SHEEP
When a sheep is lost, it is in great danger. It can fall into a hole or be attacked and killed by wild animals. Sheep are helpless animals; they have no claws, no sharp teeth or horns to defend themselves against wild animals (e.g., wolves). Sheep depend on their shepherd to protect them. A good shepherd is willing to do anything to protect his sheep from wild animals (1 Sam. 17:34-35) even to die for his sheep.
“Protect the Sheep” Instructions
This is a variation of “The Eagle and Her Chicks” game.
A good shepherd loves his sheep and is willing to die for his sheep.
The Bible says that one time Jesus looked at a crowd of people and felt sorry for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36). They were lost in their sins. They had no one to love them and protect them. Jesus loved those people. He wanted to help them like a shepherd cares for his helpless sheep. He loves you, too, and wants to help you. How could He save us? God says sin must be punished. We are sinners and deserve to die for our sins.
Jesus told the people how He would save them. He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” Jesus was really saying, “I will take your punishment for sin. I will die in your place.”
Soldiers nailed His hands and feet to a wooden cross. There on the cross Jesus died for us. Some of Jesus’ enemies called out, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross and we will believe in You.” Could Jesus come down from the cross? Yes, because He is God, He could have. But He stayed on the cross to give His life for us. He died for your sins and mine.
Later friends took Him off the cross and buried His body in a tomb (cave). Because His enemies remembered that Jesus would rise from the dead they placed soldiers to guard His grave. The soldiers stood there day and night. On the third day, there was a strong earthquake and all the soldiers fainted. Jesus came out of the grave – alive!
The punishment for sin was paid by our good shepherd. He rose from the dead and He is alive in Heaven today. He can be your good shepherd. You must believe He died for you and ask Him to forgive your sin. You could do that right now while we talk to Him.
Give an opportunity to the children to believe in Jesus as their Saviour.
ACTIVITY 3: FEEDING RELAY
A good shepherd looks after his sheep. At night he brings them back to the sheepfold.
A sheepfold is the sheep’s home where they would have rest, shelter and safety. It is a space surrounded by four walls made of stone. The walls are high enough to keep wild animals out. There is only one way to go into the sheepfold … an opening.
That opening is the shepherd's bedroom at night. After the sheep have entered the sheepfold, the shepherd will lay in the opening to keep thieves from stealing or wild animals from attacking because the only way to enter the sheepfold is to get past the shepherd.
In the morning, the shepherd leads the sheep out to find grass to eat and water to drink (Psa. 23:1).
Relate: Jesus is our good shepherd. He knows what you need even before you ask Him. Trust Him to take care of you.
ACTIVITY 4: KNOW YOUR SHEEP
Many shepherds give names to their sheep, and the sheep know their names. Have children pretend to be shepherds and see if they know their sheep.
“Know Your Sheep” Instructions
This is the “Behind the curtain” game.
To play the game, all children should have heard the names of all children.
If the children do not know each other names then play the following preliminary game.You may need to play multiple “Behind the curtain” games at the same time to get more children involved.
You need one opaque blanket to play the game (or something similar to separate the children so they can't see each other). The game is best played at a door frame, with one group on each side of the door. If you don't have that, you have to separate the groups in such a way they can't see each other.
The two groups select one player each. Those players are both standing on "their" side of the blanket so they can't see each other. Those two players should also not be able to see the other players of the other group. Then, the referee drops the blanket so both players can see each other. Both have to shout the name of the other player as soon as possible; the faster player earns the other player for his team ... go over to the other side.
Relate: Jesus knows you, your name, what you like, what you are afraid of. The Bible tells us that He even knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7; Matt. 10:30). He knows all the wrong things you have done but He still loves you (Psa. 69:5; Rom. 5:8).
ACTIVITY 5: KNOW YOUR SHEPHERD’S VOICE
When the sheep go outside the sheepfold to graze, the shepherd goes ahead, and the sheep follow. The sheep know the voice of their shepherd. When he calls, they come. They will NOT answer the call of a strange voice.
“Know Your Shepherd's Voice” Instructions
Ask the children if they know how to play "Simon Says". Nobody does anything unless Simon says and if Simon says then you must do it! If you are called out you must leave the game. Are we all clear on that? Are you sure? Okay! We will start now. Everybody stand up so we can get started! ... ALL OF YOU ARE OUT! I did not say, "Simon Says".
Tell the children that we will play "Shepherd Says", a game like "Simon Says". Have one teacher be the shepherd and another teacher (of the same sex) be the stranger. The children are to obey the voice of the shepherd and ignore the voice of the stranger. Now have the children turned around so that they cannot see the shepherd nor the stranger; they can only hear their voices.
The shepherd and the stranger take random turns to shout out commands. The shepherd will shout "sensible" commands while the stranger will shout silly or nonsensical commands like pull your ears, dig your nose, beat your buttocks, kiss your toes, etc. If the children respond to the voice of the stranger, they are out of the game and must sit down.
Relate: Tell the children that it is important to know who to follow ... the stranger asked them to do silly and foolish things. Follow Jesus means to obey Jesus, follow His example. When Jesus was young, He obeyed His parents (Luke 2:51). Remind the children to obey their parents who love them.
Assurance of Salvation
When the sheep go outside the sheepfold, the shepherd goes ahead, and the sheep follow. He leads them to good green pasture grass and beside pools of quiet (still) waters. When they have eaten and drank all they want, they can lie down. The shepherd stays near to watch over them.
Use John 1:12, Heb. 13:5-6 to assure those who had made a profession of faith in Jesus of His presence and help.