Quarreled & Tested

For the Long Haul

Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A

How do we deal with conflict in the church? Certainly not by pointing fingers and calling folks out during worship. But worship can be the place where we remember under whose authority we stand.

Note to the Teacher

The keywords and phrases in this lesson are “needs,” “social holiness,” and “generous.” One icebreaker invites youth to guess how countries around the world rank when it comes to meeting basic human needs. Another icebreaker invites students to interact by talking about things they would want versus things they would need if they were on a desert island. Both icebreakers get the youth thinking about basic human needs—which may make them more empathetic with the Israelites in Exodus. The Bible discussion invites students to think about what these stories tell them about God, one another, and the world around them. Students consider how God relates to them and how they relate to one another. The activity allows youth to look at their church through the lens of basic human needs while engaging with the United Methodist goal of social holiness. Students will be reminded that God wants everyone to have enough and that our church can help. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.

1. Icebreaker (5 minutes). Two options: ‘Basic Human Needs’ or ‘On a Deserted Island’

If your group likes learning, choose the high-tech option 1. If you’re more of an interactive group, choose the low-tech option 2. Either way, enjoy connecting!

Option 1: High-Tech: “Basic Human Needs”

For this activity, the group will work together to fill out this puzzle (Countries by Basic Human Needs Quiz - By josephjoppich) from Sporcle[1] listing countries’ rankings based on basic human needs being met. After five minutes, let students see the rankings and discuss.

You will need to have the link pulled up and have a screen or way for the group to see the list. If you don’t have a screen and have a smaller group, you could have a student pull up the quiz on a smartphone, or you could pull it up on a tablet or laptop.

If they want to try to remember the rankings and try to fill out the puzzle again, just reload the page and test their memory. This will help them remember the rankings and put their own situations into perspective.

Make sure to thank everyone for participating and say something kind, like, Great guessing.” If they weren’t that great at guessing, you can say, “Great enthusiasm,” or “You thought of so many countries–great work!”

Option 2: Low-Tech: “On a Deserted Island”

For this game, the group discusses what they would need if they were stranded on a deserted island. They also discuss what they would want.

To help them grow in understanding the situation of the Israelites in the wilderness, allow students to contemplate what they would need versus what they would want if they were stuck on a deserted island. This may help them have more empathy for the Israelites in the Exodus story where the Israelites cry out to God for water. Ask students to name the things they would need the most and one thing they would want.

Some younger students may not be aware of basic needs. Don’t shame anyone for what they think they need or want on a deserted island. Thank everyone for participating. Encourage other students not to criticize anyone’s answers.

2. Read Scripture (10 minutes)

In our first scripture reading today, the Israelites are stuck in the desert after they’ve escaped slavery in Egypt, and they are thirsty. In our second reading, Jesus is tested by his peers and wonders about what it means to put words into action, taking into account that God loves us, no matter what. While you read, focus on three things: 1) Are these readings connected by a shared theme? 2) How do these stories make us see God? 3) What do these stories tell us about how we relate to God and one another? Write or doodle to express your feelings, thoughts, and connections as these two stories are read. Share your findings with one another after reading, using the discussion questions below.

Read Exodus 17:1-7 and Matthew 21:23-32.

3. Discussion (20 minutes)

  • What do the Israelites cry out for in this chapter of Exodus?
  • How does God respond to the Israelites?
  • Why do you think God wanted to rename the place where they got water from the rock?
  • How would you feel if you were Moses in this story?
  • Have you ever been in a leadership position where the people following you were not happy with you? How did that feel? Can you tell any of your own story?
  • How would you feel if you were God in this story?
  • How do the first verses of the scripture from Matthew create a setting so that you know there is a conflict happening? Who is the conflict between?
  • Why do you think Jesus told the story of the two sons and the vineyard to the people he was talking to?
  • What can you learn for your life from the parable Jesus told? Have you ever said “no” to something that was important to do and later ended up doing it anyway? How did that feel?
  • Have you ever said “yes” to doing something, but then changed your mind and didn’t do it? How did that feel?
  • Why do you think Jesus says that God prefers the people who come around and end up repenting, as opposed to those who say the right things but don’t follow through with their promises?

We will continue to discuss God’s presence with us no matter what, in everything we go through. Just as the man with two sons loves them no matter what they do, so God is with us and loves us. What do you think the Spirit of God is speaking into your life and heart as you hear about how God relates to the Israelites and the two sons in the vineyard?

4. Activity and Discussion (15 minutes)

Take this lesson to the next level by thinking about your church as a community of people with basic needs. This will be a scavenger hunt of sorts.

Give each student something to write on and write with. Have them write the words, “basic needs,” on their papers. Then, walk together around your church, inside and out (weather permitting). Tell students to write down the things in their church that meet our basic human needs–water, food, shelter, and friendship.

Return to the youth area and discuss the church’s call to social holiness, where we interact with our communities–our world–as servants, just as Jesus did, who came as a humble servant for all people. Encourage students to think about how we can show our love in practical ways to people in our families, in our churches, in our community, and in our world. God generously and unconditionally provided for the needs of the Israelites out of love, and we can likewise be generous children of our generous God.

Option: Post a picture on social media of all the basic needs that your church meets with a caption like, “We all have needs and God wants everyone to have enough. We pray that our church can be part of making sure everyone has enough.”

Discussion: Encourage everyone to write their findings or post them in a common space so that everyone can share what they found with the group:

  • Have you ever thought about how the church can help people in need?
  • Did you know that the United Methodist Church calls us to be disciples of Christ who practice social holiness and personal piety? Google or define those terms. Hint: Search those terms with the words “United Methodist” for clarity’s sake.
  • The United Methodist Church strives to bring more people into discipleship for the transformation of the world by practicing social holiness and personal piety. How do you think those two practices create transformation in the world?
  • (If you as a leader are interested in a deeper-dive into this topic, we encourage you to explore Everyday Disciples: Covenant Discipleship with Youth, https://store.upperroom.org/product/everyday-disciples.

Close in the manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys/concerns or highs/lows from the students, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.


  • Computer and/or screen and the Sporcle link listed with the high-tech icebreaker (option 1)
    • If you need to use a smartphone, tablet, or laptop instead of a large screen, do that!
  • Something to write on and write with (Activity/Discussion)
  • Bibles or smartphones to look up verses of Scripture.
  • Scrap paper and pens for students who like to take notes or doodle.
  • Fidget toys for those who need something to do while listening.


In This Series...

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes


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In This Series...

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A - Lectionary Planning Notes