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BIBLE SKILLS & GAMES Workshop Ideas and Lessons for Psalm 23
Based on a game concept in 2001: A Sheep Odyssey, by Neil MacQueen at this site.
Divide in groups of 4-5 kids
Group 1 goes first, the rest of the groups says the 23rd psalm aloud, while the ‘race is run.’ It is not timed; all are ‘winners.’ The racers may have to wait for the Psalmist to finish reading their lines. (Teacher points to the Psalmists when it is their turn to read) When gathering supplies, note that you will need 5-10 staffs, 5 cans of ‘mercy,’ 5 ‘goodness,’ etc.
1. To start the race, say, (arms in the air, one holding a staff/stick) “The Lord is my shepherd.” a. The rest of the groups – now called Psalmists – say, I shall not want
2. Roll down a grass hill (or roll on the floor), end up by a bucket/pan of water a. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside the still waters, He restoreth my soul.
3. Walk the ‘straight and narrow’ on a 2x4 board laid on the ground a. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
4. Crawl under/through a black sheet, blanket, or tarp. a. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
5. Pick up a rod (Baseball bat) or staff and hug it. a. For thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.
6. Sit at a ‘table’- piano bench, footstool- and eat 2 crackers. a. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.
7. Dab a bit of oil -Baby oil, Vaseline- on forehead. a. Thou anointest my head with oil.
8. Fill cup until it overflows – set large cup on metal chair. Have bucket 6 ft. away with water in it. Fill large cup by bringing water in Dixie cups, dumping in the large cup, till full/overflowing (If inside – place large cup in a 9x13pan, use 8 oz cups filled no more that half full – marked with a marker) Have a towel available. a. My cup runneth over.
9. Tie ‘goodness’ to one ankle and ‘mercy’ to the other. (Construction paper covered soup cans or Pringle chip cans – one marked ‘goodness,’ the other ‘mercy.’ String long enough to trail behind as you run. If you could make a fixed loop big enough to put your foot with a shoe through, it might help with the flow of things) Race to the finish line. a. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
10. At the finish line, sit in a chair labeled “God’s house.” a. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
11. The racers end the Olympics by saying, “God is good” followed by a huge sigh of relief.
The following Psalm 23 gameshow and quiz was originally posted by Neil MacQueen from his church's Rotation-style VBS. Some references are made to that program in the lesson below.
Divide the group into three equal teams. Have an adult be a team captain for the team. Provide each team with a marker and paper for some answers. Set each team at a table. String some "chaser" or blinking Christmas Lights around the chalkboard/scoreboard.
Have various sound effects ready for correct and incorrect answers
In the past, I've used my laptop with a set of speakers attached to it. On my desktop I had various "gameshow" sound files I clicked on signaling correct and incorrect. Bells, buzzers, whistles and other noise makers will work too.
The Gameshow consists of 30 to 35 questions about Psalm 23. As you can see, we threw in a few fun questions about something funny that happened at the VBS on previous nights. When you get to the last five questions, double their point value and institute a rule change that allows slower teams to catch up (make it up as you go folks). For fun, you can make some questions worth extra points for "better answers" --asking each team to try and answer it to the best of their ability--writing it down and you judging the best answer.
These were written on a transparency and projected for all to see. (Nowadays you'd probably make them on powerpoint slides and project them.) You can award 5 points for each right answer on first try, and 3 points if the first team gets it wrong and your team answers it right.
Make it up, create wild bonus point questions. Keep the kids' focus off the competition.
Group split into four teams. Game show "audience" composed of adults provided all the sound effects. Gameshow host had microphone for kids to give answers. Prizes awarded almost every answer ..some were goofy prizes. We wrapped the scoreboard and other things in XMAS lights. In round one each team sent one player forward to be the first to complete one of the following questions. Round two had each team talking then writing down the best answer to the question. Judges decided which team had come up with the most correct answer. We had a total hoot.
Questions we used in our Game Show:
What is a "psalm"?
The Lord is my shepherd _______________.
He makes me lie down _______________.
He leads me beside _____________
He restores ______________
He leads me in right paths for _____________. PRIZE
Even though I walk through ______________________.
I fear no __________.
For you are __________.
Your rod and your staff ____________
You prepare a ___________ before me.
You prepare a table before me in the ______________. PRIZE.
You anoint my head with oil ________________.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me ___________________.
And I shall dwell _____________________. PRIZE
Quickie team thought questions: (you can award 5 for a complete answer or 2 for trying)
In Psalm 23, what do the sheep fear (no evil
In Psalm 23, what comforts the sheep (rod and staff)
What is the difference between a rod and staff?
What does the verse mean: he restores my soul. PRIZE
>Why does God prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies?
In Psalm 23, who is the Good Shepherd?
What does the verse "my cup overflows" mean?
Why are sheep afraid in the darkest valley?
Why do sheep like still waters? PRIZE
>What does having your head anointed by God with oil mean?
Who is said to have written Psalm 23? PRIZE
Find Psalm 23 in your Bible, first team to run up here and show me wins 5 pts. 2nd team to show me wins 3 pts.
Who does tradition say WROTE this Psalm?
What instrument did David play?
The Bible calls Jesus the Shepherd, and the people are like, what?
What is the LAST line in Psalm 23?
What is the FIRST line in Psalm 23?
How many psalms are their in the Book of Psalms?
Name one other book of the Bible which has a psalm/song in it? (Ex Jonah, Lamentation, Exodus)
On Monday in Mrs. Epperson's sheep pen, what did the sheep try to get off of them?
On Monday in Mrs Eveland's "restore my soul" sheep pen, what activity did you do?
What was the name of the television studio you made a news broadcast in Wed night?
What was the name of the computer program you used Wednesday night?
Final Bonus Questions:
What was the snack we had on Tuesday night? (Lemonade and pretzels dipped in chocolate.)
What is the name of the mission project we are collecting money for to buy sheep for poor families?
excerpted from an older lesson plan by Kirk of Kildaire.
The game is pretty simple and can easily be adapted
"He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.”
After playing this "lead the blindfolded sheep" game, invite the students to make the obstacle course HARDER. Try some different versions, such as, leading with voice, or leading with stick, and definitely, "try to get through the course without help."
WHILE YOU PLAY you'll have ample opportunities to talk about "how we need to be led" "what blindfolds us?" "how God speaks to lead us" "what are the distractions and other voices confusing us?" "how can we hear better?" and "Is the right path always the EASY path?"
The basics of the game:
Assign several children to be the “sheep,” one child to be the voice of God, and five or six others to be a distracting voice – friends, TV, music, video games, etc. (If you have a very small group you can have just one sheep at a time, but most groups will need to have more than one sheep in order to let more children play).
Take the sheep out of the room, blindfold them, bring them back in and have them find their way through a maze made of chairs and tables lined up with several dead-end paths. The distracting voices will talk to the blindfolded children all at the same time, mostly giving wrong directions. They could also play music on a boom box, sing, pretend to be a TV ad urging the sheep to buy something, tell them “it’s more fun over here,”etc. God will also be giving directions but will be difficult to hear because of other voices. One at a time have the voices go silent, ultimately leaving only God's voice to guide the children through the course.
Repeat with another group of sheep and voices. Be sure those who didn’t have a role the first time get to participate this time. While the sheep are out of the room, have the children help rearrange the maze.
If the children are enjoying the game, repeat it as long as time permits, giving as many kids as possible a chance to be sheep. With the younger children, keep the maze very simple. With older kids, you might add more dead-ends and some obstacle-course features (things to climb over or under, etc.) Might also space the chairs a few feet apart so they can’t just feel their way through, have to listen to directions. With large groups, consider having two mazes to give everybody a chance to play.
Wrap-up: Gather on the floor and recite the key Bible verse: "He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.”
For the 23rd Psalm Olympics, we changed the "straight and narrow" path to a more circuitous one by using a portion of our human-sized game board (marking out boundaries would work as well). God's path for us contains twists and turns more often than not and the term "straight and narrow" is offensive to many LGBTQ+ individuals and so doesn't fit with our Affirming congregation. (no board for little ones to fall off of either)
We did a "clue hunt" around our church looking for clues at each location that led us to the next clue and eventually back to the classroom. Put the clues on big bright paper. Your version of the list of clues will obviously need to be adapted to your church's surroundings and great ideas. You can play this in teams separated by four minute starts. Have a "follower" make sure the clues aren't tampered with by "clever" players.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
Clue 1 is taped to the outside of any empty/available classroom where you send the first players to:
Clue 1 reads: Psalm 23 makes a lot of promises beginning with "The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want." Somewhere inside this room is an object in which we can read more of God's promises. Find it and you'll discover clue 2.
(Solution: Clue two is hidden in the classroom Bible.)
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
Clue 2 is found sticking out of a prominent classroom Bible. It reads:
"He makes me like down in green pastures." Green pastures are places where we feel close to our Good Shepherd, where we get fed and rested. Where in our church during the summer is a green pasture like that? Go there to find clue three.
(Solution: The church yard where we hold outdoor worship. )
Clue 3 is found in the church yard and reads:
Psalm 23 tells us that "God leads us beside still waters." Question: Where do we baptize babies?" Go there to find clue four.
(Solution: Clue 4 is found in the baptismal font.)
Clue 4 is found in the baptismal font and reads:
The psalmist says the Good shepherd "restores my soul." Where do people go to be quiet with God?" Go there to find clue five.
(Solution: Clue 5 is found in the chapel, prayer corner.)
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake.
Clue 5 is found in the Chapel prayer corner and reads:
"He leads me in right paths for his name's sake. Where can we walk along a pathway and feel God's presence?" Go there to find clue six!
(Solution: Clue six is found in the prayer labyrinth.)
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.
Clue 6 in the labyrinth reads:
"Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil for you are with me. Find the large sign where Jesus tells us He will never leave us. There you will find the 7th clue.
(Solutions: clue 7 is found at the sign in the entryway.
Clue 7 is at the sign in our entryway and reads:
"Your rod and your staff they comfort me. What room in the Carriage House has a rod and staff?" Go there!
(Solution: clue 8, the rod and staff, are in the drama room.)
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Clue 8 is in the drama room and reads:
"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; Where do we prepare meals for the congregation, for Street Church and for Kairos?" Go there to find clue 9!
(Solution: clue 9 is in Church kitchen.(
Clue 9 in the church kitchen reads:
"You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Can you find both in the kitchen? There you'll find clue 10!
(Solution: Clue 10 is set near a cup of oil and a full cup of water that has overflowed onto the counter.)
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
Clue 10 next to the oil and water reads:
"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. You will find clue 11 if you follow Goodness and Mercy."
(Solution: Have goodness and mercy footprint signs along the hallway that leads them back to the classroom.)
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Clue 11 is at the end of the path of footprints and reads:
"And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. Go back to where we "dwell with God" each Sunday morning and learn God's word together.
(Solution: Go to the classroom.)
In the classroom...
Kids find a snack and a fun scripture memory activity related to remembering the entire psalm.
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