Post your Games Workshop Lessons or ideas on Doubting Thomas (John 20:19-31)
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Summary of Lesson Activities:
Play three different games for your Sunday school class on this story, that point out how sometimes we can personally need more information in order to make a decision; it's not that we don't necessarily trust those who are telling us the "facts" but we need to "see" for ourselves. The three games are: a "Questions" game, a "Draw your own conclusions" game, and "I doubt it" card game.
John 20:19-31 (14:5-7)
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” John 20:29b
- Faith is a lifelong process that leads us from unbelief to a belief in a risen Christ.
- As we struggle with doubt or unbelief, we need the support of others.
- Jesus shows great compassion for us when our faith becomes weak.
- Our identity, our sense of self-awareness and esteem, comes from Christ.
- By grace we are blessed with faith.
In this workshop the learners will play some games that will help them understand Thomas and his unbelief in the story.
- NRSV Bibles or The Children's Bible in 365 Stories;
- a box which is big enough for the props (one at a time) and can be closed
- objects for props:a picture of a sunflower,
a picture of a flower,
- deck of cards (playing cards with jokers removed), or UNO cards with only the numbers 0-9
- Read the Bible passage.
- Read over the background material included in your teacher packet as you review the lesson plan. Familiarize yourself with the games to be played.
- Gather the materials.
Greet the children and introduce yourself. Tell the students what they will be doing today. What words can you add that will spark their interest in this lesson?)
Dig- Main Content and Reflection:
Have the students sit where you would like them to during the reading of the story from the Bible. Hand out Bibles. (You may use The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories or the NRSV Bible that is in the room, whichever you prefer.)
Read the story to the younger children. Let the older children take turns reading. If they have heard the story in previous workshops let them tell you the story. Make sure the information they have is correct if it is not read from the source you are using. Some questions to guide the retelling are:
- What did Thomas say when he was told that Jesus was alive?
- Where were the disciples the week after Jesus’ resurrection?
- How did Jesus get in the room?
- What did he say to Thomas?
- How did Thomas react to seeing Jesus?
- What did Jesus say about people who believe and have not seen that Jesus was alive?
- Did he fuss at Thomas because he had said he would not believe until he saw for himself?
Say: At times, like Thomas, we all need to see things to believe that they are true. Sometimes we believe something because others tell us it is true, or it is something we know to be true from experience. Today we are going to play some games that will help us to remember that Thomas did not believe and then he did when he saw Jesus, that Jesus did not become angry with Thomas because he did not believe, and that the other disciples did not leave Thomas because he did not believe.
The Question Game
Say: This story seems to suggest to us that as we grow in our faith it is okay to question things we are not sure of. We are going to have some fun with questions. Let’s see how many questions we can ask about this story without giving answers.
Let the children take turns asking random questions about the story, giving no answers to the questions. The older children can take turns asking questions but the youngest may not need to be put on the spot. It would be better with them to let them respond at random as they are ready. The teacher and shepherd can join in and ask questions. Some possible questions are:
- How big was the room they were in?
- Was it the same room as they were in for the Last Supper?
- What were they wearing?
- How many were there?
- Were they quiet or were they talking?
- What color eyes did Thomas have?
- Were there any women in the room?
(These are meant as ideas for the teacher and in no way are you limited to, or have to use, these.)
Play the Question Game for about 2 or 3 minutes or until there seems to be no more questions. Have fun with this.
Talk about how many questions the group has, and remind them that it is okay to ask questions. You might want to paraphrase a statement in a book that some of them might have read by James Reynolds Gardiner titled Stone Fox. A young boy lived with his grandfather. The grandfather told him not ever to be afraid to ask his teacher a question. He said if the teacher could not answer it, ask him, and if he could not answer the question they would ask at the library and if the library could not find an answer then the boy would have a really good question. Remind them again that Jesus did not seem to mind when people asked questions.
Draw your own Conclusion” Game
This is a group game--the class plays together. You will have a collection of objects as your props. With each prop, you will ask the whole class to guess what color it is, what it is like, what it is, etc. They will vote on a correct answer. After voting, one child will experience the object in some additional way – seeing it, feeling it, shaking the box, etc. – and give a more educated guess. Another vote will be taken before the object is revealed to the class.
The purpose of the game is to demonstrate that, like Thomas, we all need information and experience in order to draw accurate conclusions. Sometimes we can’t experience something for ourselves but, unlike Thomas, we can still believe it to be true because of other information we are given, our past experience, our trust in the source of information, and things we already know or believe to be true. The game goes as follows:
- Hold the picture of a sunflower so the children can’t see it. Tell the children you are holding a picture of a sunflower.
Ask the following:
- What color is it? Let the class vote if they agree with the color or colors that are said. (They can vote by agreeing with thumbs up or disagreeing with thumbs down. If they don’t know they can turn their thumb sideways. If you have them do this right in front of their bodies with all facing you then they won’t be waiting to see how their friend votes before they do.)
- Have one child come up and look at the flower. Tell them not to let anyone see it. Ask the child, “What color is it?”
- Next, have the children vote as to whether or not they believe the child. Then show the picture to the class.
- Next do the same with the picture of the other flower.
- With the next 2 objects, place them one at a time in the box without letting the children see what they are. Have them guess what the object is without any clue. After 3 or 4 guesses have them ask you questions to narrow it down (like the game Twenty Questions.) After a few questions have a child come up and let them feel the object and tell if it is smooth or rough, hard or soft, firm or squishy, etc. The class can guess, then vote to agree or disagree after each guess. You can then let the child see the object. He or she can then tell the class what it is (or make up something to fool the class) and the class can vote to agree or disagree.
After you have played this 5 to 10 minutes ask the following:
- Which items were the easiest to guess? Answers will vary but generally they are the things they have seen or know about or have information from witnesses that they trust.
- Which items did you have to guess about without having any idea whether you were right? Answers will vary but the ones where there was not enough information to know the right answer, like the color of the flower or objects in a box, will probably be said.
End the game by saying: Some questions were easy because we knew more about the item or had experience that made us sure of our answers.
The "I Doubt It" card game.
Next play the “I Doubt It” card game for 5 to 10 minutes. Be sure to leave time for closure and journal writing, then if there is time left you might have time to play another round of one of the games they liked. The rules are as follows:
- One standard pack of 52 cards, or UNO cards 0-9, is used. All the cards are dealt out to the players; some may have more than others, but not by much. The object is to get rid of all your cards by playing them on the discard stack. Select at random who should go first and continue clockwise. (Directions for UNO cards are in parentheses.)
- In the middle of the table is a discard pile, which starts empty. A turn consists of discarding one or more cards face down on the pile. The first player must discard any Aces they may hold in their hand. The second player discards Twos, the next player Threes, and so on. After Tens come Jacks, then Queens, then Kings, then back to Aces, etc. (0’s can be used after 9 with UNO cards or you may start with 0’s instead of 1’s).
- Since the cards are discarded face down, you do not in fact have to play the rank you are calling! For example, if it is your turn to discard Sevens, you may actually discard any card or mixture of cards; in particular, if you don't have any Sevens you will be forced to play some other card or cards.
- As you discard your card(s), you announce how many of that card you are playing. For example: “4 Ones.”
- Any player who suspects that the card(s) discarded by a player do not match the rank called can challenge the play by calling "I doubt it.” Then the cards played by the challenged player are exposed and one of two things happens:
- If they are all of the rank that was called, the challenge is false, and the challenger must pick up the whole discard pile.
- If any of the played cards is different from the called rank, the challenge is correct, and the person who played the cards must pick up the whole discard pile. With the youngest children you may have them pick up only the card they played rather than the whole pile as it might upset them. You know your children and can decide how to do this.
- After the challenge is resolved, play continues in normal rotation, i.e., the player to the left of the one who was challenged plays and calls the next rank in sequence.
- The first player to get rid of all their cards and survive any challenge resulting from their final play wins the game. If you play your last remaining card(s), but someone challenges you and the cards you played are not what you called, you pick up the pile and play continues.
Say: The games were fun but they also showed us that sometimes we need experience to believe what we are told is true. Let’s think about Thomas. Did he have the knowledge and experience he needed to believe Jesus was alive? (Accept any answer but be sure that it is stated that he did not believe Jesus could be alive because he knew he had died on the cross.)
Say: The only evidence Thomas had was the other disciples’ word that Jesus was alive. I wonder why he didn’t believe his good friends when they told him Jesus was alive? (Accept any answer; lead them to the fact that he needed to see for himself.)
Say: When you were playing the game, was it easier to make a decision when you were the one looking at or feeling the object, or when somebody else was looking or feeling and telling you about it? Did you ever NOT believe what the person said? Why or why not? (Accept all answers.)
Say: Sometimes, no matter what somebody tells us, we need to experience the evidence for ourselves, like Thomas. But sometimes we can believe something because we trust the person who tells us, or because we have other knowledge or experience that tells us something is true. Some people can believe that Jesus is alive because it’s in the Bible. Some people need more knowledge and experience. We can’t see Jesus, but by learning about him and trying to live the way he did and experiencing his love for us, we all can come to know Jesus. Jesus promises to make himself known to us. Do you remember what Thomas said when he realized it was Jesus? ‘You are my Lord and my God.’ Jesus is our Lord and our God, too.”
Do you remember what Jesus said about all of us who WERE NOT in the room? (Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe!) Why are we called "blessed"?
Close the class with a prayer of your own, or use the following:
Dear God, help us to believe even though we have not seen you. Help us to use our questions to learn more about you and strengthen our belief. Amen.
Help the shepherd pass out the journals. Have the children complete the following:
One question I have about this story is . . .
Adjustments for younger/older children: Be sensitive to feelings when playing the games. Vary the rules for the youngest children so that they do not get upset if they can’t “win.” Also, be careful about responses when asking if you believe another child. Make sure answers don’t become personal and hurtful. May wish to reduce the number of cards in the "I Doubt It" card game - for example: only use cards one through 10 and/or use only 2 of every card.
A lesson written by Jan Marshall from: Brenthaven Cumberland Presbyterian Brentwood, TN
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