Note to the Teacher
As this week’s planning and preaching resources suggest for the pastor, perhaps don’t worry about trying to “explain” the Trinity, as that is a daunting task! When students ask, you can always point out that the doctrine is a teaching that people in the church have developed to try to explain something about the nature of God, who is beyond our full comprehension.
1. Opening Activity (10-20 minutes)
Option 1: Kitchen Wisdom
If your church has a kitchen and your group can meet there, prepare (or, better yet, invite an adult member of the church to prepare) a simple recipe that you can teach to the youth in ten minutes or less. Include, as you can, some wisdom about the recipe and why it works. Examples might include:
- Muffins and how the muffin-making method leads to a quick rise in the dough as it cooks as opposed to yeast doughs that take time to rise before baking;
- Scrambled eggs and how the proteins in the egg yolk and egg white are different and can be used for different applications;
- Chocolate chip cookies, and how white sugar leads to crisper cookies, while brown sugar leads to softer ones;
(Note: I particularly like the kitchen science of Alton Brown, and there are a variety of videos at his website or on YouTube that might inspire you and/or your youth, but these may require more time and technology to integrate into your Sunday class than a hands-on experience in the kitchen.)
Option 2: Play Tic-Tac-Toe (works digitally or in person)
Tic-Tac-Toe is simple enough, but very often players will end in a draw. Why is that? Play a number of games, and then discuss what the students’ strategies are when they play. The rules are the same for everyone; how they choose to play indicates a degree of wisdom (that is, they are applying their knowledge of the rules). Most online video platforms include a whiteboard function that will allow you to play together.
Option 3: Play Pictionary or Hangman (works digitally or in person)
Since we are going to talk about how the movement of the Spirit can lead to wisdom, you can play any number of games and allow the group to be a team while the teacher draws at the board. Whether they play Pictionary or Hangman, the members of the group can offer suggestions and help one another get to the final answer. Most online video platforms include a whiteboard function that will allow you to play together.
Today’s scripture is primarily about the nature of God, but it reminds us also of how God is at work in our lives to help us make sense of the world.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today is from the Gospel of John, and it comes near the end of Jesus’ time with the disciples. Before this, he has predicted his death (John 14), and after this, he will spend a lot of time in prayer for the disciples and others who will learn about him because of them (John 17). Here, he makes a promise to them about what is going to happen as he leaves.
Read John 16:12–15.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- Today is Trinity Sunday, which is a church celebration of God as Trinity, traditionally known as “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” How does this passage of John mention the three persons of God? How do they relate to one another here?
- In the NRSV translation, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of Truth,” though in some translations, other words for the Spirit include “counselor,” “advocate,” or “helper.” What do these terms suggest to you about how the Spirit interacts with us?
- Think about your own life. Can you tell us about a time when someone was a counselor, an advocate, or a helper to you?
Based on Jesus’ words, tradition has linked the Holy Spirit not only with “truth,” but with “wisdom.” (You can, for example, read more about Wisdom in Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31. Some read this passage as a reference to the Holy Spirit while some read them as a reference to Jesus) Some people define wisdom as knowing what to do with knowledge (or truth). For example, as has been shared online many times, “knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is knowing not to put it into a fruit salad.”
In this season of Pentecost, we are emphasizing what it means to live in the Spirit. Part of that life is growing in wisdom, in knowing how to use knowledge and truth. We believe the Spirit teaches and inspires us; and then because of the Spirit, we teach and inspire others.
4. Activity and Discussion (15 minutes)
Option 1: Return to playing Hangman or Pictionary (works digitally or in person)
Play another round (or a few!) of Pictionary and/or Hangman, now using some of the concepts you have talked about today. These might include “Spirit of Truth,” “counselor,” “advocate,” or “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
Talk about how working together contributes to greater wisdom than playing alone.
Option 2: “Robo Spirit” (works best in person)
This is a simple adaptation of the basic mechanics of board games such as “Robo Rally.”
For preparation, you will need a checkerboard, a marker for each player, post-it note(s), and a stack of 3x5 cards with the following written on them:
- 5 cards, “Move backward 1 space”
- 5 cards, “Move forward 1 space”
- 5 cards, “Move backward 2 spaces”
- 5 cards, “Move forward 2 spaces”
- 5 cards, “Move forward 3 spaces”
- 5 cards, “Move forward 4 spaces”
- 5 cards, “Rotate left and move forward 1 space”
- 5 cards, “Rotate right and move forward 1 space”
To play, shuffle the cards and deal each student three. Have each student put a marker on a square at one end of the checkerboard. Then choose one square at the opposite end and mark it with a post-it note as the goal. Students play clockwise, playing one of their three cards to move the marker toward the goal (and drawing a card to replace the one played). They may also discard and draw a new card if they choose. If a student lands on the same square as another, the student’s piece pushes the piece that was already there forward one square.
In this game, knowledge is knowing what the cards do. Wisdom is knowing which one to play, because this game takes into account both the player’s piece and the pieces around it!
Option 3: “Helping Hands, Part 2” (ONLY if “Helping Hands, Part 1 was used last week)
Today’s activity is about growing in wisdom through the wisdom of the church at large. Remind students that just as the Holy Spirit inspired the gospel writers, and St. Paul, and others who gave us the Bible, the Spirit works in our church’s members, too!
Draw one of the “Helping Hands” from last week, now with answers from other church members. You may want to take a moment each time you draw one to share the name of who answered the student’s question and ask students what they might know about that adult member of the church.
Then read the student’s question and share the answer the adult has provided. Talk about what the youth have learned in these answers. You can connect the two weeks’ lessons by asking what the youth have learned that they might have misunderstood before (connecting the work of Pentecost with the presence of wisdom).
Close in whatever manner is typical for you, be that organized prayer or continuing the activity until your time is over.
Total Time: 45-60 minutes
- Kitchen Wisdom
- Easy-to-make recipe and necessary ingredients and tools
- Tic-Tac-Toe, Pictionary, and/or Hangman
- Dry-erase board, marker(s), eraser(s)
- For “Helping Hands”
- “Helping Hands” from the previous week, with adults’ handprints and answers on the back.