Rotation.org Writing Team
Paul and the Bright Light
A "Popcorn" Workshop
Summary of Activities
Students are led through a series of short video clips and discussions to examine the difference between "unbelief and belief," and how they can prepare themselves for their own "Road to Damascus" experience(s), ...that of Jesus coming into their life in a powerful way.
This "Popcorn" Workshop works a lot like a "Demonstration" or "Object Lesson" workshop (or what some might call "Science Workshop" in rotation parlance). In this lesson, the "object" is popcorn (both real and through video clips).
The multiple video clips in this lesson were posted online at Youtube. Below are instructions for viewing them in your classroom even if that classroom doesn't have an internet connection.
Scripture for the Lesson
Acts 9:1-22, the story of Saul's transformative encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus.
The scripture for this lesson is seen and heard in the opening video.
See the Bible Background at rotation.org for this set's complete list of objectives.
A big goal of this lesson is help students remember it whenever they see popcorn. Ultimately, that's what the "object" is in an object lesson: a great memory hook.
This lesson deals with a big and important subject: "how to become a believer," "how to prepare yourself for a life changing encounter with Christ." The subject is certainly bigger than one lesson, and you may have some of your own theological needs to add. See the discussion about "Children and Belief" at the end of this lesson.
Preparation and Materials
- Read the Bible Background and scripture.
- Print out the Belief and Unbelief image handouts and make copies.
- Save and share the PDF version of this lesson with your teacher.
- Download or bookmark --the Youtube videos (seen below and playable on this lesson page at rotation.org). If you have an internet connection/WIFI in your classroom, just load this lesson page or bookmark the URLs and show them on a laptop or tablet or projector. If you do not have a connection available, download the videos onto your computer and bring to class. See the "how to download videos from Youtube" instructions at the end of this lesson.
- Air-popper (not an oil popper, and not microwave popcorn.)
- Popcorn and bowls.
- Salt and/or sprinkle-on butter flavoring.
A PDF copy of this lesson is linked here and at the bottom of this page. It has the video links embedded in it, and copies of the printable image handouts on its last pages. To use it, save the PDF to the computer you are bringing into the classroom. The links to the videos in the PDF will launch the videos if you have an internet connection. You can print the PDF for a reference as well.
See the notes at the END of this lesson for how to copy the Youtube videos and bring them into a non-internet connected classroom.
This lesson is a greatly expanded version of a popcorn reflection used in the Computer Workshop lesson in this Paul lesson set.
1. Opening Activity: What's the story behind these pictures?
1. Pass out copies of the "Pictures of Unbelief" handout. Have your students look at the photos and pick one to explain why they think it is a picture of someone who doesn't believe in Jesus. (This is open ended.)
2. Now pass out copies of the "Belief" picture handout. Let each student pick one and explain to the class why that picture is of someone who "believes" and what they are doing to show their belief in Jesus.
Say: Today we're going to read a story about a man who didn't believe in Jesus, but after meeting him, he became one of Jesus' greatest followers! His name was Saul, and when he became a believer, he became known as Paul. How did Saul the unbeliever turn into Paul the greatest believer? Let's watch a short video of the Acts 9:1-22 story for some clues.
2. Watch the Brief "Paul's Conversion" Video
Say: This video was created by two girls named Kazelle and Emily. In just two minutes, the girls tell the entire story of how Saul became a believer named Paul. Let's watch!
(You can watch it online or download it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpnefiePkSU. See "how to download Youtube videos" notes at end of lesson.)
Questions after the video:
- Why did Saul hate Jesus and his followers?
- What made him so "hard" like a popcorn kernel), i.e. "strong" ?
- Why would Jesus want Saul as a disciple?
- How did Jesus get through to Saul?
- How do you think Saul felt after he realized Jesus really was the Messiah and he had been persecuting him.
- What do you think Saul was praying for during those three days before Ananias came and restored his sight? (forgiveness? admitting he was wrong?)
- What important thing does this story tell you about JESUS?
Say and Ask: When we read a Bible story like this, we can read it as a story about US, and not just a story about Jesus and Paul that happened long ago.
We start out as unbelievers. How do we become believers? The story gives us some clues about how each of us can be transformed from an unbeliever into a believer, ...from a hard useless kernel to a tasty piece of popcorn in Jesus' Kingdom.
Oddly enough, a video clip of a popcorn kernel holds the clue to part of the answer.
3. Show the Slow-motion Popcorn Video
Ask: Does anybody know how a hard kernel of corn turns into fluffy popcorn?
See if you can figure it out by watching this video...
Answer: Popcorn pops because inside the kernel is a small amount of water. And when it is heated, the water rapidly turns to steam and the kernel explodes, turning it inside out.
Just like the popcorn, inside each of you is something God has planted that's ready to EXPLODE into faith. The question is: what will make it explode? If you're popcorn, the answer is "heat." But if you are a human being made in the image of God, the answer is, "meeting Jesus," ...just like Saul was met by Jesus on the Road to Damascus.
Ask: Where and how do you meet Jesus?
...Look again at the believer and un-believer handouts for clues:
- Each of the unbelievers are doing something that keeps them from believing (not listening, being angry, acting dis-interested, clinging to their old religion, etc.).
- What are the believers doing that help them believe in Jesus? (serve, pray, study, help)
Important Point: We prepare ourselves to meet Jesus, but still need to meet him. Jesus is personal. Simply coming to church isn't the same. And the cool thing is that Jesus promises to respond to us. Oddly enough, Saul WAS prepared to meet Jesus. He knew scripture, he worshiped God, he prayed. Jesus saw all those things as gifts inside of Saul. Saul just needed a personal encounter with Jesus for his faith to explode.
4. Show "Four Kernels Popping At Different Times & Results" Video
Here's a very short video of four kernels popping in slow motion. As you watch it, think about what it says about how each of us is different when it comes to faith, and yet the same.
It demonstrates that not everyone "pops" at the same time or into the same size or shape. Some of you may have a stronger or bigger belief. Each of you will be uniquely shaped (unique gifts) in Jesus' Kingdom. Not everybody's faith explodes at the same time. (In the final video in this lesson, some kernels don't pop at all.)
- Does time "run out" on the unpopped kernels?
- Does Jesus reject the unpopped or broken kernels?
An answer: Not at all. Jesus' love is unconditional and he has all the time in heaven to reach lost souls.
5. Show the Video of Popcorn "UN-Popping" !
This amazing video clip shows popcorn going back into its kernel. It primes the following discussion point:
Ask: How can a person become an UN-believer in Jesus?
The photo handouts have already touched on this subject, so just reinforce it. It may be a surprise to some of your students that (sadly) some of them WILL become un-believers. One of the biggest things that drives children away from belief is their natural desire to separate themselves from their parents' control. Another things that drives kids away from faith is their desire to "be like their friends" who don't think believing or going to church is very cool. But the biggest hurdle for children is simply making their faith their own, seeking Christ on their own. This is where faith practices come in: preparing yourself with scripture, prayer, and other good things to expect Jesus in their life.
Ask: Do you think Saul could have REJECTED Jesus after that and stayed an unbeliever?
Yes, Saul and each of us has a choice to accept or reject the gift of faith Jesus bring us:
- You can take the gift and neglect it.
- Like a seed, you can refuse to plant it, or water it, or tend to it as it grows.
- You can let yourself be distracted by other goals.
- You can act "too cool" or embarrassed by it, and fail to grow it or share it.
Point: Does that mean Jesus "rejects" us? No! Jesus continues to look for his lost sheep, remember? Jesus will come again and again to you.
6. A Little Popping Fun with a Big Meaning
Have each student hold their empty bowl while seated around a hot-air popper that doesn't have a lid. Tell them to catch as many pieces of popcorn as they can!
Tip: You may want a tarp or large blanket on the floor for this
After the popcorn is done flying, ask a few questions and then eat it.
- Are all the pieces the same size? (no)
- Are all the pieces the same shape? (no)
- Are there a few kernels that didn't pop? (yes)
- What does that tell you about people's faith?
Now sprinkle a little bit of flavored-butter (or salt) over your popcorn. What could that buttery salt represent? Does each piece get the same amount?
Thought: The "added flavors" might be different ways of worshiping Christ, Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, etc. Personally, I like a little bit of cheese added to mine!
What else could it be?
For a little added video fun, here's a Youtube clip of the man who held the 2011 Guinness Record for "most popcorn caught."
Invite each child to fill a baggie with unpopped kernels of popcorn that they can take home. Have them write a short summary of "Things that help us prepare for faith," and place it in the bag. Close with prayer.
Children, Belief, and Popcorn
Children who grow up in the church may not yet have thought about being an "un-believer" --but they soon will. Wrestling with "what do I believe" is natural, and indeed, a needed component of faith. Faith research indicates most children "decide" about the church by age 12, and by extension, "for or against belief." The practices and ideas that make for belief AND un-belief, are thus, important to explore with children.
Our faith is in a personal God who seeks to encounter us personally as individuals. This is a truth that is sometimes lost in the church and in some traditions. Jesus personally calls us as individuals to come work together.
I have met many adults who have a strong faith but to whom the language of "personal encounter with Christ" is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. In this author's experience, it is not that they haven't had a personal encounter with Christ, it's that they simply didn't realize the encounter was personal because they were not raised to expect Jesus, ...just to follow him.
As teachers, we can be Christ's body, but we cannot be his presence. That is the work of Christ's Holy Spirit.
Saul would have made a great Sunday School student! ...but the one thing he lacked was a personal encounter with the Risen Lord. Jesus took care of that. Jesus still takes care of that.
It's also an on-going process. Not one, but many encounters that we continue to prepare for, expect, and experience. In that sense, we continue to pop into something tasty for Christ's Kingdom.
(Rev.) Neil MacQueen
How to download or make a copy of a video from Youtube
(If you don't have an internet connection in your classroom, you can download any video from Youtube for "face to face teaching purposes or commentary" without infringing on its copyright.)
1. Go to http://www.clipconverter.cc/ and paste the URL of the Youtube video into the converter window.
2. Save the video as a standard "mp4" to your computer, tablet, or to a USB memory stick.
3. Show the video on your computer or tablet to the class. Or, plug the memory stick into your smart TV to show the video.
Written by Neil MacQueen for the Rotation.org Writing Team, based on a shorter reflection Neil wrote for an earlier lesson.
Copyright 2016, Rotation.org Inc.
All images in the public domain. Videos are the copyrighted property of their owners posted for public use.