Reply to "Psalm 23 "A Sheep Odyssey" -Rotation Style "Sheep Pen" Lessons"

Continuation of the Sheep Pen lessons from Neil MacQueen's "

2001: A Sheep Odyssey VBS". 


There are 8 pens in total, we originally did them over two different nights, each "pen" taking about 20 minutes. You could easily adapt them to a Sunday Morning Rotation Schedule, doing two or three pens per Sunday.


Prior to beginning today/tonight's Sheep Pen Rotation:


IN THE SHEEP WOODSHOP each student will construct a small table  using pre-cut shelfboard (6" x 8") and two 4"x4" legs/pedestals which they will nail the shelf board onto. All this needs to be precut. Have a drill read to pre-drill nail holes. You may screw the table onto the two legs but let the kids do it!!


As they go to Pens 5 through 8 they will be ADDING to their table and writing parts of verses on it. In Pen #8 their church family will autograph their table!

Pen Lessons 5-8


Pen 5 Lesson:

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff— they comfort me.



Open Bibles and read the entire Psalm one word at a time per person going around the circle of sheep. Focus on this verse in Pen 5. Ask your sheep for a definition of "darkest valley" and "evil." Please note that the evil here is NOT capitalized (as in "The Evil One"). Not every child has been raised to articulate the difference between "wrong" and "evil." For our purposes, define evil as truly bad things and bad people, not just people who do wrong things. There are evil people in this world, some of whom appear as a wolf in sheeps clothing. God loves evil people too, but also wants to protect us from their evil attitudes and acts. Be prepared to list evil attitudes and evil acts.


Tell the story:

Sheep herds need to keep moving to new pastures otherwise they will eat the pasture's grass, roots and all and destroy it. Sheep are often herded in hilly or moutainous country. During summer months the shepherd will move them up the mountain to take advantage of cool green pastures there. This means moving through ravines and valleys on their way across the hillside.... a perfect place for sheep to get lost and attacked by predators. Sheep naturally get nervous when moving between pastures. The Good Shepherd must be on the look-out for any trouble, any sheep going the wrong way and wild animals. Sheep will calm down in the presence of the shepherd. The shepherd will reach out and guide sheep with the staff. (The kids can relate to this: Sheep are like cats & dogs --they are happy to see their owner and upset when you leave them).


Ask: What are some of the dark valleys people must walk through? (-bad people, bad problems, death, grief, pain, divorce, health problems. Don't sugarcoat it with the sheep).


Ask: How does God guide and comfort us?



Play the "Darkest Valley" Game. In a totally dark room create a winding pathway along which you'll send each sheep one at a time spaced in intervals. Their only guide is glow-in-the-dark symbols on the floor. If they follow the symbols of rod and staff going in a straight line from one to the next, they won't run in to anything (like folding chairs). Also place some other symbols made with glow-in-the-dark material that are meant to confuse the students. These can be arrows or pictures of a wolf. Give each a glow-in-the-dark rod and staff sticker when done for use at home. Yes...darkness is scary for some children, but this is the POINT. Let them go with a teacher hand in hand if they have a problem.


**We are thinking of putting down a large tarp in a dark room to apply the glow in the dark pointers to.....then pouring uncooked macaroni, spaghetti and rotini pasta on the tarp and making a winding PATH through it. If the kids step off the path they CRUNCH. Will they rather crunch than stay on the path? Probably going to have to award "points" to encourage them to make it through without crunching.



Write the words "your rod and your staff --they comfort me" along one edge of the table.

Use GLO IN THE DARK MARKERS and STICKERS to decorate the TOP of the TABLE.

Pen 6 Lesson: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies


Open Bibles and read the entire Psalm one word at a time per person going around the circle of sheep. Focus on this verse in Pen 6...."table...."


Tell the story by Doing:

Ask the children to set this verse's scene with you. Have a student help you place a small toy table on a cloth in front of you and begin setting it with good things. Ask the sheep what God would put on the table to "prepare" it. The psalmist is thinking "feast." Ask students to help you place feast items on the table. Include little snacks the kids like to eat -enough for each to do so during the lesson. Ask: "Is the psalmist talking just about food?"


Pull out a toy chair and place it at the table. Set a beanie babie in the chair. Ask: "How would the enemies of the sheep feel seeing this table?" Ask the sheep "what's wrong with this picture?" (the point: God is preparing a feast for sheep AND enemies to come together over. This is the image you want to reinforce.) Place extra chairs at the table. Bring some beanie babies and place them at each chair. Make up a story for each "enemy" beanie babie --why it doesn't like the sheep and how they haven't been getting along).


Discuss the image of feasting at a table together and their own family dinners. Are these joy-filled occasions? They are a place we can get to know each other. And remember, this is God's table he has prepared so he is there. How can God turn enemies into friends? What table do we have in a our sanctuary? How does Christ's table bring us together? What does the "table before me in the presence of my enemies mean to you now?"


What is the Psalm trying to tell you that the Good Shepherd wants to do for us? (reconcile us with each other). The younger kids will think "food" is what brings us together. Stress that it is God's presence in setting and overseeing the table that makes the difference. Please also note that the enemies SEE God setting the table for the sheep! As you're munching the table snacks ask: How do others see God with us?


Note: bring a variety of "good things" to place on the table at different times. Ask different sheep to help you place these items and share the extras (such as small pieces of bread/doughnut holes and candy) with the group as you're telling the story and asking questions.



Write this pen's verse on one of the edges of the table: "you prepare a table before me in the presence of my bring us together.". Now give each student FOAM PAPER PLACEMATS and FOAM PLATES of FOOD and GLUE THEM to their table top.  To save time, have pieces already cut.


Pen 7 Lesson:

you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.



Open Bibles and read the entire Psalm one word at a time per person going around the circle of sheep. Focus on this verse in Pen 7...."oil...cup...."


Tell the story and Do:

Ask: Who else in the Bible had oil put on their head? (it was a sign used to make someone King, King David, Jesus was given MYRRH oil at his birth, and was anointed by the woman with the jar of nard.) Oil was also the way men and women cleaned their hair back them. The oil was sweet smelling. The word "anointed one" in Hebrew language is "messiah." At it's root, it means "he who smells pleasing to God." Sheep really smell bad. A shepherd wouldn't put perfume on their sheep, but they would put a special mixture of oils (linseed, sulphur, spices and tar) on the sheep's head during "fly time" to reduce "sheep scab" caused by mites, and to kill fly larvae that were laid in the mucous membranes of the sheep. Hence the phrase "sheep dip." Once the oils were applied, sheep would settle down and eat better.



Give each student a tiny sealable plastic cup (like a specimen cup found online) and a stirring stick. Have them mix in it cinammon spice with some Vaseline.


Sin is sometimes described in the Bible as something that smells bad. It is definitely irritating to commit sins if they smell bad! Go around to each sheep and ask them to describe one irritating thing in their life they'd like to feel better about. As they tell you, place a dab of sweet smelling Vaseline on the end of their nose, dabbed on their hair in one spot and behind their ears. Talk as you do this so that the smells are smelled!


Ask if anyone is having a bad fight with someone. Tell them that some shepherds will apply greasey oil to Ram's horns so that two fighting Rams will slide off each other when they collide and stop fighting. Offer to place a big glob of Vaseline on their head! (for fun), then ask them how God could help them end the fight. Note that even when you're not the combatant fighting can make you feel bad when it is close to you.


Add that the "cup" is often called a "cup of contentment" the sheep are content when they aren't scratching, infected or fighting. The Good Shepherd wants us to be overflowing with contentment, but to do that, we need to let God make us pleasing, not fighting or irritable.


Table: Write the verse on one of the legs or edge of the table.  Then using quick setting glue, GLUE THEIR CUP of good smelling anointing oil they just made to the TOP of the Table. Caution them to let the glue harden for 2 minutes.

Pen 8 Lesson:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long



Open Bibles and read the entire Psalm one word at a time per person going around the circle of sheep. Focus on this verse in Pen 8...."Surely...dwell....." Note: the older reading of this verse is " the house of the Lord forever." Please use the new reading here of " whole life long."


ASK: "What do goodness and mercy mean?"


Tell the story:

Sheep eat everything in a pasture, grass AND weeds. And then they leave fertilizer behind. If the sheep keep moving to new pastures led by the Shepherd, the grass grows back stronger than before and there are fewer weeds. Goodness follows a well led flock!


Ask: Do sheep live in houses? (no) Then what kind of "house" is the sheep talking about?
In the Bible, the word "house" can mean the same thing as "family." Have everyone read the last line of the Psalm together again changing the word "house" to "family." Wherever the family goes and loves each other, you feel at "home."



Play the "Follow me to the Lord's House" Game.

Divide into two or three teams. On 'go' each team races to four stations in this order:


Station 1: They place a sheet that has several holes cut in it so that they can all fit their heads through it and become one SHEEP (draw a sheep on the sheet for fun).


Station 2: They tie a piece of yarn around each teammate's ankle.


Station 3: Each teammate must tie a tin can to the end of their yarn. The tin can is marked "Goodness." The tin can has a hole in it for easy tieing.


Station 4: Each teammate must tie a tin can labeled "Mercy" to the end of their yarn next to the other tin can (love that loud clanking noise!). First team to do all four stations and then make it back to "dwell in the house of the Lord" with all the right cans still tied to their ankles WINS. If a can falls off, they must stop and put it back on.



Have each sheep write "I shall dwell in the house (family) of the Lord my whole life long." on the UNDERSIDE of their table.  Have them then INVITE OTHERS to "AUTOGRAPH" the bottom of their table.  The sheep can also list important people in their lives. This is their "family of God."

More about Rods and Staffs:


The meaning of the Hebrew word for "rod," SEBET, and "staff," MISHENA, are very special. The Hebrew word SEBET has the idea of a "stick." It originally referred to a part of a tree. In the Old Testament the "stick" was used to count sheep (Lev. 27:32). It was also used to protect the sheep from other animals. In the book of Proverbs the stick is used for discipline (Prov. 13:24). SEBET has a sense of authority.


The Hebrew word MISHENA has the idea of "something to lean on," "trust," "support," or "staff." Together, the two words paint a picture of a strong, protective shepherd whom we can trust. One who not only cares for us but who will protect us. Sheep are stupid animals compared to other creatures. If we are following the shepherd and danger, trouble, and the threat of death come in the form of life's foxes and bears, He is there with His rod and staff. He protects us with His rod and we can trust the leading of His staff.



"2001: A Sheep Odyssey" was written by Neil MacQueen


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