Note to the Teacher
The scripture we read today is the story of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. The ice breaker involves a quiz on sheep and shepherds that is sure to get your group talking. The discussion portion will get your students thinking about how Jesus takes care of us as the Good Shepherd of the flock. Finally, the activity will get students moving as they adventure through four prayer exercises as they encounter scripture through silent meditation, outdoor scripture reading, holy conversation, and journaling. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.
1. Ice Breaker: Sheep and Shepherd Quiz (10 minutes)
In this ice breaker, students answer a series of questions about sheep and shepherds to test their knowledge of the subject. If you are meeting in person, you may want to divide the class into groups and have them compete against one another to see which group can get the most right. If you are doing this quiz virtually, you may want to have students write their answers on a piece of paper with pen (NOT PENCIL) and have them hold up their answers after each question. You can also have them hold up a red object for false answers and a green object for true answers. If they are using red and green objects, remind youth that they need to make sure the objects are visible to all others on the video conference. Choose the best variation that works with your size and type group. Here are the quiz questions and answers:
- Question 1 – If you have multiple sheep, you call them sheeps. (False – always, sheep)
- Question 2 – A shepherd is a person who tends to groups of sheep while they are out in pasture. (True)
- Question 3 – A group of sheep is called a herd. (False – It’s called a flock.)
- Question 4 – In the New Testament, shepherds were normally young men in their twenties and thirties. (False – Most often, they were younger boys and girls in their teens.)
- Question 5 – Sheep have rectangular pupils. Just like goats. (True)
- Question 6 – Shepherds made a lot of money back in the day. (False – The key words are “a lot,” it would have been very difficult to find a rich shepherd. Some got paid, some did not, but much of their living had to do with survival and sustenance instead of material wealth.)
- Question 7 – There are over 1,000 different breeds of sheep all over the world. (True)
- Question 8 – Biblical shepherds would build very tall fences around their flocks to keep the wolves from getting in. (False – There were no fences)
- Question 9 – Sheep do not have teeth in their upper front jaw. (True)
- Question 10 – Shepherds would sometimes drink the milk and eat the meat of the sheep they watched over and cared for. (True)
Depending on how your students were graded, award bragging rights and congratulate everyone on taking their first ever “Sheep and Shepherds” Quiz! Transition over to the scripture by saying, “Today we are going to read the story of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.”
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today comes from the Gospel of John, and it is the story of the Good Shepherd. Jesus refers to himself as the “good shepherd” twice in this passage. As you read it, ask students to think about the qualities a “good shepherd” must have to lead a flock or flocks of sheep.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- Ask a few students to put John 10:11-18 into their own words.
Twice Jesus refers to himself as what? [Answer: The Good Shepherd (v. 11, v. 14).
- What do you know about shepherds and sheep (besides answers from the quiz we just took)?
- Why do you think Jesus refers to himself in this passage as the “good shepherd”?
- What other scriptures can you think of that talk about sheep and a shepherd? (i.e., Psalm 23)
- Who is the other person or type of person referred to in this passage and what does he do? How does that person treat the sheep? [Answer: The hired hand. He does not own the sheep and would not lay his life down for the sheep (v. 12).]
- In verse 15, Jesus says “And I lay down my life for the sheep.” What is the significance of Jesus saying this?
- Whom do you know who might lay down his/her life for you? This may be a challenging question for some to answer. Be prepared for some challenging discussion.
- We still obviously have people who work as shepherds, but they are not as common as in the culture and location where Jesus was. Do you think there is a modern equivalent of a shepherd? Is there a profession that shares a lot of characteristics or behaviors with shepherds?
- Jesus says in verse 16 that he has other sheep that do not belong to him. What do you think he means? [Answer: He’s probably referring to non-Jews; however, this is important because everyone is to be included in the flock.]
- In verse 16, Jesus says, “They will listen to my voice.” How can someone hear the voice of God?
- If you were able to ask God one question, what would it be? Why did you choose that question?
- If you were able to have a “face-to-face” conversation with God, what would you talk about? Would it be an easy conversation or a hard one? Why?
- Would you hold anything back from God, or would you let it all out? Why?
- Reread verses 17 and 18. What other stories in the Bible do these verses remind you of?
- What is significant about these verses during the Easter season? [Answer: They show that Jesus has power of both his death and Resurrection.]
- How does it make you feel to be a part of the flock of the Good Shepherd? Sheepish? Or something else?
As we spend some time in this next activity listening to the voice of God, read and reread this passage several times. Try to understand the Good Shepherd and how deeply he loves you. Think about the great lengths he will go for you and understand that he does it all in a manner of love.
4. Activity and Discussion: Listening to the voice of God (20 minutes)
In the activity, youth will spend some quiet time listening to the voice of God. This activity is broken into four parts: silent meditation, outdoor listening, hearing from other Christians, and journaling.
Here are a few ways people can start to listen to the voice of God.
1. Silent Meditation (5 minutes)
In this exercise, invite students to simply sit in silence. This is not easy for students to do, so encourage them to try their best. If they need to, they can just close their eyes and rest. Ask them to try and block out the noises of this world and focus on listening to Jesus. If you are doing this activity virtually, you may want to encourage students to turn off their cameras if that will help them focus. (You may want to play some light instrumental music while doing this exercise.) You can also use breathing apps or a sound that happens every sixty seconds to help students refocus.
2. Outside Listening (5 minutes)
In this exercise, invite students to go outside (weather permitting) and walk around. As they do, encourage them to reread the Bible passage or simply spend some time talking with God. If you are doing this virtually, make sure everyone sets a timer, so they come back to the meeting on time.
3. Hearing from Other Christians (5 minutes)
In this exercise, students will gather in small groups and discuss the following questions: “Where have you felt God at work in your life this week/year?” “When have you heard God speak?” “What did God say?” “If God could answer one question for you and one question for a family member, what would those questions be?” (Virtual Note: If you are doing this activity virtually, you may want to use “breakout rooms” in Zoom. Depending on the size of your group, you will want to make sure you have enough time to set these groups up during the first two exercises. Encourage people to keep their answers brief so that multiple people can share.)
4. Journaling (5 minutes)
In this exercise, invite students to find a quiet spot where they can spend the next few minutes reflecting and writing about their experience today. Invite them to keep their journaled thoughts and reflect on them during the week.
After the activity is finished, invite everyone back together and close your time together in a manner that is typical for you. Consider taking joys and concerns, then asking for a volunteer to close in prayer.
Total time: 50 minutes
- Paper and pencils or pens