Rotation.org Writing Team
Paul and the Bright Light
"Faith Eyes Open" Art Workshop
Summary of Lesson Activities
Students will paint two large murals using their feet to illustrate the importance of being truly led by Christ, and not just "following blindly." One mural will be created while blindfolded, the other with their "eyes of faith open."
The following lesson plan may look involved because of the amount of "how-to" we've put into it, but the actual mural-creation is rather straight forward and a lot of fun.
See the "Adaptations and Alternatives" at the end of the lesson for some creative choices and age adjustments.
Acts 9:1-22, Saul/Paul on the Road to Damascus
See the Bible Background at rotation.org for this set's complete list of objectives.
Whereas, other lessons in this set have looked at the "conversion" aspects of the story, this lesson takes it a "step further" —emphasizing that each of us, needs to be guided by Christ, and not merely be like Saul. Saul thought he was doing the right religious thing when he "set foot" down the road to Damascus. This lesson uses the story's metaphors of "blindness," "road," "walking," and "seeing" to explore their personal life application of the story —the need for Jesus to guide, and us to believe and walk in his footsteps.
The scripture and murals are meant to be prominently displayed after the lesson.
Preparation and Materials
- Read the Bible Background and lesson plan.
- Print copies of the scripture page.
- Procure a large tarp (preferably canvas) to protect the floor.
- Cut two wall-mural size pieces of heavy paper, approximately 4 feet x 6 feet each.
- Run a strip of heavy tape around the outside edges of the heavy paper to prevent tearing.
- Prepare "painter's outfits" for students to slip into that will protect their clothing. See notes below.
- Prepare to pour "several colors" of craft paint* into paint roller trays.
- Paint rollers or brushes, one per paint color, to apply paint to feet.
- A good blindfold that they can't sneak a peek through. (A thick sack works well.)
- Feet and hands clean up supplies: soap, paper towels, sink or pan of warm water.
See the Important Painting Tips Below for More Details
Students will create two murals: "Faith Eyes Shut," and "Faith Eyes Open." While there are things to say and point out, do not slow down the creation process with too much talk, as the finished art and experience will speak for itself, and continue to speak.
"Eyes" are a metaphor, of course, but you will need to explain it to your younger students. In this lesson, "seeing" means believing and being guided by Jesus.
See the "Adaptations and Alternatives" for further suggestions about creating murals.
Prepare the room and painting space ahead of time. Start the class seated on the big tarp to create anticipation.
Welcome your students and describe the lesson activities. Stress that everyone will get their turn, and there is plenty to do.
Prepare the Scripture (Bible Study)
Tell your students that after reading the story of Paul and the Bright Light, they will work quickly to CONDENSE the story into six statements. These six statements will be written on the second "Faith Eyes Open" mural, in the designated locations marked, to complete it.
In the attached printable scripture page, we've already split into six sections and provided space for students to "sum up" each section, which can then be copied onto the "Eyes Open" mural after the footprints are painted on it. The handout uses the NRSV version but is in the Word Docx format so you can substitute your own translation and print it.
Hand out copies of the scripture page, read together the scripture, then work as a group to condense, as explained above. Then set the final condensed version aside for later in the lesson.
Mural Exercise One: The "Faith Eyes Shut" Mural
Place the first 4' x 6' mural sheet on the floor and sit around it.
Say: Saul's problem wasn't that he was evil, it's just that he was totally wrong. He thought he was doing what God and the religious authorities wanted him to do, and what he believed was right! He had strong beliefs, went to worship all the time, knew all sorts of scripture, and had lots of people supporting him, but he was blind to the new thing God had done before him in Jesus Christ.
As you say this, use a paint brush to illustrate Saul standing in the LOWER LEFT CORNER of the mural. This will focus their attention on what you're saying too.
Say: Our first mural is going to represent Saul's problem. His faith was not guided by Jesus. He denied that Jesus was the Messiah. He didn't believe Jesus was still alive. He wanted to get to Damascus and arrest Jesus' followers who were obviously making up lies.
As you say this, draw Damascus in the UPPER RIGHT CORNER of the mural.
Do: Have your students line up behind the Saul illustration. One by one, blind fold them, then guide either their left or right foot onto the paint (only paint one foot). Then invite them to try and get to Damascus. Have a helper keep them from wandering too far off, and to stop them when they get to Damascus. Older student option: have two or three helpers lightly "bump" or "tug" the student trying to walk a straight path to Damascus.
Note: The "Faith Eyes Shut" mural is something of a "practice mural." It doesn't matter how well it turns out. Remind your students that they are creating a visual idea which others will see and learn from, so now is not the time to act dopey just because they're going to have fun.
Mural Exercise Two: The "Faith Eyes Open" Mural
See the "adaptations" at the end of this lesson for some interesting variations on creating this "Eyes Open" Mural.
Remove the first mural and put a fresh sheet in its place, then sit around it.
Ask: How important are your eyes in seeing where you are going?
and... What helps you "see" God in your life,, and what God wants you to do?
I.E. What are your "spiritual eyes"⇐ this is an important bridge concept!
Say and Ask: Our scripture reading says that Saul's friends led him by the hand into the city of Damascus, and for three days Saul was blind and couldn't eat or drink anything.
What do you think he was feeling? Why couldn't he eat or drink? (Undoubtedly he was in shock. He realized he had been sinning against God by denying Jesus and persecuting his followers.)
Ask: So what did Jesus do to Saul? Did he want to punish him for all his sins? (or did he want to get his attention and save him?)
Say: The answer is that Jesus saves! ...even people like Saul. Jesus spoke in a vision to a man named Ananias, and told him to go to Judas' house on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, and that he would find him there praying. Yes, Saul was praying!
Ask: What did Jesus tell Ananias to do? (Act 9:12 He told Ananias to put his hands on him to restore his sight.) Does this sound like someone Jesus hated?
Say and Do: No, instead Jesus wiped away all of Saul's sins and gave him a new start.... just like our fresh mural paper gives us another chance to paint this story. Just like Jesus gives us: forgiveness and a fresh start any time we need it.
Over here is all of us (paint a figure in the Lower Left Corner of the mural).
And over there is what the Apostle Paul called "the heavenly call" --following Jesus and telling others about his amazing grace (Phil 3:14). (How would we paint "heavenly call?")
First, we'll have _________ (student) represent Jesus and walk across our mural to create the footprints we are called to walk in. Then each of you will step onto our paint tray and then follow in Christ's footsteps.
Some of you can place your feet between Jesus' steps. Others can place them along side. Remember that we are creating a work of art that others will try to interpret. What do we want them to learn??
A few Things to say while students are adding footprints:
- What things help us "see" (feel, experience, know) Jesus?
- The early Christians were called the "Followers of the Way." What is the "way" of Jesus? (Love, Forgiveness, Reaching out to outsiders)
- Is walking with Christ easy? (Was it easy for Paul? No. Believing can be hard sometimes. Doing the right thing can be hard.)
- What happens when you stumble and lose faith? Sin? (Jesus saves, and saves again.)
Additional thoughts about the mural-making to ask older students...
- What's the paint represent? (maybe..."yes, I believe," "committing," "showing")
- Who helps us apply that paint?
- What were your "first steps in faith"?
- How do you learn how to "follow" Jesus?
Things to Add to the Mural:
Show Footprints "Straying" and Getting Back on path:
After a few students have gone, ask your class "what happens when someone starts to stray from following Jesus? Jesus will act to guide us back to his way. Since he often does that through other people (like a pastor, or friend), let's put _____(student) over here on the edge of the mural, and when ______(student) walks in the footsteps of Jesus, about half way across STRAY from the path, then _____(student) will guide you back to the path. Your painted footsteps will tell that story too!
Other things to add to the mural:
These can be suggested to individual students to add, as others add their footprints. These will be easier for older students to grasp.
- Paint "eyes" that are wide open on the mural. Label them "Eyes of Faith," "Seeing Christ," etc.
- Paint a bright light of faith.
- Paint and label "fish scales" (things we need to leave behind, do away with)
- Paint a representation of "the goal" Christ calls us to (i.e. what we strive for now that we know we're saved and put on the path.)
- Paint baptismal waters flowing.
- Paint something that tries to make you stumble on your walk with Jesus.
- Paint student names or images of "things to do to walk with Jesus" on some of the footsteps.
- Illustrate things that "help us stay on the path" or "help us see Christ and the way we should go," (prayer, scripture, being humble, family, church, etc.)
- If time, swirl some stripes of color to represent the presence and movement of the Holy Spirit holding us and leading.
After everyone has added their footprints to Christ's path,
now add the Scripture Summaries to the mural from your Bible Study.
Close by reflecting on your two murals, and praying that each of us would keep our eyes open for Christ's presence in our lives, and so that we can see the direction/choices/goals he wants us choose.
Mural Prep & Painting Tips
Painter's Outfit: To protect painters as they paint use an old pair of pants and long-sleeved shirts, or a disposable "painter's outfit" sold in many big-box hardware paint departments.
Type of Paint: Use water-based craft paints for kids that are bright and clean up easily.
Mark the location for the five scripture summary statements on the mural ahead of time with a pencil so that no one paints in that area. Scripture and illustrations can be added by students using markers when they are not 'walking' the mural. Having a "scripture helper" will help a lot.
Art Projects always need plenty of time, so keep it moving. The mural-painting activity in this lesson is a highly-orchestrated activity. Students will take turns and this will help you control where the paint goes (and doesn't go). Go over behavior rules ahead of time. Keeping this moving and letting more than one student at a time work on the mural will keep everyone involved. Truly you want them to walk and not just hear you talk.
First apply the paint to a flat tray or thick piece of paper placed at the beginning of the mural, then have students step in the paint and onto to the mural. Hold their hand when they step onto the mural.
You will need at least one helper specifically assigned to "clean up" the painters after their turn in order to minimize collateral paint damage.
Footprint Math: You can fit about 20 footprints on a 6' piece of paper. Thus, if you have 5 students, that means each student gets to contribute FOUR pairs footprints on the more orderly "Faith Eyes Open" Mural --the mural with the clear path of feet representing the stories life application.
It matters less how many footprints you create for the "Faith Eyes Shut" mural as you will want it to appear chaotic and wandering. The lesson suggests having them walk with only one foot painted for the "Faith Eyes Shut" mural.
For larger classes, consider several options: (1) You could have students "step onto" or next to each other's footprints with a different color on the "Faith Eyes Open" mural (still keeping it orderly as the Eyes Open mural footprints are meant to signify one direction/path. (2) You could divide into two or more groups and let each group paint the two murals.
Rotation Art Workshops strive for the sensory, the kinesthetic, and the tactile. Walking with paint on your ticklish feet does that, AND it also mimics what's in this Bible story. "Construction paper feet," or tracing feet is ho-hum, especially for older students.
It is also VERY important that each students gets to walk with paint on their feet while "blindfolded" as this will have the greatest sensory impact on their memory of the lesson's meaning.
The extra set up and prep time for this Art Workshop is one of the reasons we believe in Rotation, ...because you repeat and improve the process and mural results with another class the following week. Go Rotation! Go Art!
Adaptations, Alternatives, and Additional Suggestions
In rotation, schedule the younger students into Week One of this Art Workshop so that the teacher and helpers can get the process down, and then be able to refine and expand based on each successive week's experience. Ideally, the murals will begin to evolve and get more complex as both the teachers and students "get better" each week.
For non-readers, use a storybook Bible and summarize the story on the mural yourself, instead of using the attachment. Simplify the questions and invite them to illustrate their mural with images from the story. They can represent "the goal" on the "Eyes Open" mural with a cross.
For students with "messy-ness" or tactile issues... Because the footprints are not intended as "see my footprints on my mural", invite them to contribute in other ways, such as, adding illustrations.
Consider a "one long mural" option (perhaps in two pieces that get taped together for display). The first part is ours and Saul's wandering the wrong ways without Christ to guide us. "A bright light in the middle transforms us to be led by Christ who's footsteps we see clear and, thus, follow with our own."
Depending on your age group and time allotted, you can add some teaching and painting techniques that "illustrate" key points and additional ideas for your students to consider, and create variations in the murals from class to class, week to week.
For example: Have one student create the first set of footprints as "Jesus" on the "Faith Eyes Open" and then have others "try walking in Christ's footsteps/way/road" --while having "Jesus" walk along side them holding their hand, providing balance. ("Jesus guides, he doesn't force." We can reject that help...etc.) You might even recall Peter's attempt to walk on water, and how Jesus rescued him.
Older students can add additional illustrations and concepts to their murals with paint or markers that represent ideas from the scripture and your discussion.
For example: They could add a wall blocking the "Bright Light" and list sins on that wall, such as, "selfish, pride, sin, lack seriousness." They could draw difficult ground around some of their footsteps. etc.
Written by Neil MacQueen for the Rotation.org Writing Team
Copyright 2016, Rotation.org Inc.
Images used with permission.