Skip to main content

(WT) Peter Sink, Jesus Saves! ~ Boat & Butter Workshop Writing Team

Peter Sinks, Jesus Saves!

The story of Jesus walking on water

Boat & Butter (Food) Workshop

Summary of Activities

communionStudents will fill their "boat" container with heavy cream, then shake, rattle and roll their boat –through a variety of teacher-led exercises, until it produces butter. This "object lesson" focuses their attention on the metaphor of the boat as a place where we share the experience and challenges of believing, and what it means to be a disciple according to Jesus.  (Oddly enough, it doesn't mean we have a lot of faith!) The result of these faith activities is a tasty message that needs to be spread!   

The "Shaking" Activity includes the use of a wonderful music video, Finding Favour's "Shake the World." The Reflection activity spreads some of that butter on Communion bread.

Scripture for the Lesson

Matthew 14:22-33. (Matthew's version of the story includes Peters attempt and Christ's rescue.)

Key/Memory Verse:  "But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (NRSV)

Lesson Objectives

See the Bible Background at for this set's complete list of objectives. 

Background Notes and Key Concepts:

boatceilingThe symbol of the Church as a boat has a long history in Christianity —no doubt dating back to Christ's call to fisherman along a seashore, and stories of the disciples on the sea. Indeed, many church buildings incorporate boat symbols, including wood-beamed ceilings designed to evoke the appearance of a boat hull.

Matthew 14's story of Peter sinking and being rescued back INTO the boat by Jesus is a powerful metaphor. Christ rescues. Christ joins us together. Matthew 8:23-27 has the very similar story of Jesus being awakened in the back of the boat to calm the storm.  In both stories, Jesus comments on how small the disciples' faith is. In both stories, the disciples (the Church) is amazed and sees in this story the truth that Jesus is the Savior. Shaking heavy cream in a container simulates the Cream becoming Butter which mimics (reminds) the transformation disciples need to undergo.

Key Question: Are "disciples" those who have faith? Or those who seek it? 

Key Answer: Isn't it interesting that Peter and the other disciples were ALREADY called "disciples" but didn't fully believe or understand who Jesus really was until he revealed it to them.  Similarly, when Jesus called Peter on the seashore to "come follow him" and later to step out into the waves, Jesus undoubtedly knew Peter would fail. And then there's Peter's denial at the cross. Peter's experiences with Jesus point us to important concepts about discipleship that you will want to share with your students in this lesson:  

  • FAILURE as a disciple does not EXCLUDE you from becoming one!    
  • A disciple is someone who seeks to know, not someone who knows everything.
  • Faith is not a requirement for following Jesus. It's the result of following Jesus. (It's the butter.)
  • A disciple is someone who learns that they need Jesus to rescue them, and will sink if they think they have all the faith to do it on their own.
  • Life's challenges and churning can transform us and make us stronger.
  • A disciple is someone who learns that "the boat" is where we need to be in the midst of the storm.

Preparation and Materials

  • a Rubbermaid container that will workRead the Bible Background and scripture.
  • Listen to and download the music video "Shake the World" by Finding Favour. (View downloading instructions).
  • Gather the following materials:
    • Cylindrical plastic food containers with screw-top lids (important feature!) one for each student as these will go home with the kids - 1.2 to 1.5 cup size is good (Rubbermaid® 1.2 cup "take-a-longs" work nicely). Wash these ahead of time.
    • Heavy cream (1 cup per student) -- Preferably "heavy" cream though "whipping" cream can be substituted (it will just take longer)  Helpful hint: take it out of the fridge 30-45 minutes before you do the lesson (so that it will churn faster—if you forget you will just have to shake a little longer!)  
    • Large basket (to hold all the food containers in Activity 2)
    • Container to collect separated buttermilk from butter
    • Salt
    • Utensils to spread the butter
    • Bread which looks like the bread used for your church's Communion; to put the butter on during the reflection - enough for everyone
    • Permanent Markers (to write and draw on the containers) - one per student
    • A large enough monitor (so that everyone can read the lyrics shown on the screen), with a computer/tablet to play the music video as one of your shake activities (how-to-do hints)

Lesson Plan


Welcome your students and explain how today's lesson will unfold. 

Give each of them a container and lid, and tell them to listen carefully to the story you are about to read —so that they can draw the story on their container when you finish.

After reading Matthew 14:22-33, pass out some permanent markers and have them write their initials or their name, on their jar's bottom. Next give them 5 minutes to decorate their container with scenes from the story - using stick figures is okay! Tell them to leave room for words and phrases from the story. As they draw, begin to write some key words and phrases on the board, and call your students' attention to them. Have them choose which they want to include on their container. 

Some key words and phrases from the story:

“It is a ghost!”  
“Take heart, it's me; do not be afraid.”
“Lord, save me!”
“You of little faith,"
"why did you doubt?”
When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Note: The 'shake' activities and Reflection will continue the Bible study. 

Next add one cup of cream to each jar, then have the students screw on their lids tight. (Drawing on the jar before adding the cream let's the students know which one is theirs.  For younger students also check that their lids are tight.)

Tell them the cream represents our and Peter's faith, and through the following shake-activities we are going to learn what it takes to turn our runny faith into solid buttery faith.


butterHere is a set of activities, questions, and teaching points you can walk your "shakers" through as they churn their cream into butter.  It takes about 10 minutes for the cream to become butter. You need to be sitting on the floor for these activities.

There are many insights you may wish to share through this activity. Feel free to add to the following suggestions.

Begin with about a minute of shaking, looking at each other and making funny faces, then walk through the following three shaking activities.

Shake Activity 1: Rolling, scooting, and shaking the jars "across the sea"

Students sitting on the floor will roll their container across the sea to another student who shakes it and then rolls it back. Do this one pair of students at a time, asking questions in-between. Go easy and expect some fun results from the containers rolling around. And remember: If they are not rolling they are shaking their container! 

Say and Do: Difficult or challenging things in your life are like waves and wind threatening to sink you or send your life out of control. When you roll your butter container, name something that scares people, for example, losing a friend or a pet.

Q: When Jesus told Peter to step out of the boat and into the water, do you think Jesus believed Peter could really walk on water?  Or did he want to teach him a lesson?

Q: What was the lesson that Jesus wanted to teach Peter?  (Who Jesus was, and that we need him!)

Let's try rolling our containers all at once across the circle, then pick them up and give them a few shakes.  Sometimes we get caught in other people's problems!  How are we supposed to respond to other people when they are caught in the wind and waves of life?  (Do as Jesus did, extend a hand!)  Let's extend our hands with the container in it and give it a few shakes.

Shake Activity 2:  "We're in this boat together"

Say: Jesus knew he wouldn't always be here on earth, walking around, so he left a different kind of "body" for us to be part of. We call that body "The Church." Sometimes we in the church describe that body as a BOAT, did you know that?  So when we read about Peter and the disciples in a boat, we can imagine saying, "Peter and the disciples in the Church" ...floating on the sea, fishing for people, trying to get somewhere together as a group, maybe rowing together, and definitely sharing food they brought. 

Gather up all the containers into a large basket. Pick it up and keep shaking/rolling it. Then slide it across the floor to another student. Have that student pick it up and shake it, then slide it to another student. Urge them to do this faster and faster to keep the butter churning.

Say: Jesus put you in the boat, just like he put Peter in the boat. He knows we're better off when we're together than when we're alone.  The Church Boat helps us cut through the wind and waves. (Slide it across.) We have people on the boat to help steer us, help row, and even help BAIL if we need to!  (Keeping sliding it to different students.)  And who else is on this boat with us?  Jesus. Jesus keeps our boat moving!  

(Roll a container out of the boat.) fell overboard. I need everyone to help me pick it up and put it back in!  When you feel like you are sinking in your life, like your doubts and problems are pulling you down, the Church is a place that can reach out its hand to you in the name of Jesus. Remember: we are the "body" of Christ!

Shake Activity 3:  "Shake (Transform) the World!"

Have this awesome music video ready to go on your monitor or tablet. The lyrics are visible in the video, so be sure your screen is big enough for all to be able to read them.  

Introduce the video by saying:  Jesus works through his disciples to transform the world and transform people's lives. Transform from bad to good, from weak to strong, unbelief to belief. Disciples are people who shake the world! In this song, you're going to hear that message load and clear.  As we listen to and watch the song,  use the music to move your containers to the beat, and whenever you hear the word 'shake' —SHAKE BIG to help TRANSFORM our cream into butter."

Finding Favour's "Shake the World" official lyrics video is on YouTube.  

Now Check for Butter!

If it needs another minute or two, restart the music video.

When their cream has become butter, they will also havebutter2 some liquid (buttermilk) which they can pour off into the bowl provided. (The shaking action causes the fat molecules to clump together, that's what forms the butter.)

Now give each student's container a pinch of salt, and let them mix it in, with their knife. Then let them taste it.

Butter Notes:

  • Cold heavy cream takes a few minutes longer to turn into butter. If you need to save time, take your cream out of the fridge about 30-45 minutes before the lesson. If you can't find "heavy" cream, "whipping" cream will work, but it may take longer to turn into butter.
  • Homemade butter will be light in color and may be a bit curdish. (It's called "popcorn butter.")
  • Salt enhances flavor and preserves.


Your Faith Butter makes communion taste even better!

Most bread tastes better with butter on it, especially if you made the butter yourself. In this reflection, you will want to use bread that is just like your church's Communion Bread in order to make your point. And that point is this:

Communion (the sacrament we share with Jesus and with each other) is "better" (more understandable, more deeply felt and understood) when we bring to it what we've learned from this story.  The Table is another metaphor for the Church, just like the boat is. It's a place where we gather to know Christ and be fed by him. 

Take a piece of bread and begin buttering it, taking a dip into your butter container for each statement you are about to make. Then give your students a piece of the bread and have them butter it as you read the statements again, then enjoy their piece of bread with FAITH butter on it.

Just like in the boat, at the Table we:

  • Bring our relief —knowing we are rescued/forgiven for sinking, and in Christ's hands. 
  • Bring to Christ our life churning experiences, storms and troubles. Faith can bring calm.
  • Look around the Table and see inspiring people who have overcome wind and waves in their own lives, and are ready to help us with our struggles.
  • See that we are all in the same boat —sinners forgiven, fed, and taught by Christ.
  • Share with others, ...helping them through the waves and into the disciple boat, sharing some of the butter (life experiences, challenges) that have made our faith sweeter.

A comment about the butter metaphor

Since we're teaching metaphors (boat, storm, etc), the question might arise, "what does the butter represent?" Does butter = more faith ?? Do "storms" turn cream into butter, so to speak?  The answer is: not for everyone. In some people's lives, trouble and fear makes them doubt and lose faith. Indeed, that's exactly what happened to Peter.

It's when you turn to Christ, and realize "he's got your life," that the storms, and even your doubts, no longer make you afraid.  That's the butter on your bread, the calm amid the storm, the humility at the heart of what faith is

For Younger Students:

Being able to understand "metaphor" is something of a developmental issue with younger children who think more concretely. To bridge this, you need to be very visual. The butter on the bread will help do that, as will the drawing on the container.  Since their drawing skills may not help explain the story on their container, you might "pre-draw" the figures of Jesus and Peter on the container, and let the kids draw the boat and waves.

For Extended Time:

Finding Favour's song "Love Stepped In" (YouTube link) tells the story of people who have been broken and down but felt the rescue of Christ. "You'll never know just how far love has brought me."  "In the darkest hour grace got a hold of me."   ...Sounds like Peter's song, doesn't it.

Mercy Me's upbeat song "Shake" (YouTube link) tells students to "shake like they've been changed." "He found me and set me free...."

Written by the Writing Team
Copyright 2016, Inc.


Images (5)
  • butter
  • butter2
  • communion
  • rubbermaid
  • boatceiling
Last edited by CathyWalz
Original Post Inc. is a volunteer-run, 100% member supported, 501(c)3 non-profit Sunday School lesson ministry. You are welcome to borrow and adapt content for non-commercial teaching purposes --as long as both the site and author are referenced. Inc reserves the right to manage, move, condense, delete, and otherwise improve all content posted to the site. Read our Terms of Service. is rated 5 stars on Google based on 51 reviews. Serving a global community including the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, S. Africa, and more!