Note to the Teacher
The scripture we read is the story of the baptism of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke. The opening activity is a classic game with a wet twist. The discussion encourages students to think about the baptism of Jesus and what happened afterward. The activity has students watching two videos about baptism and allows students to really think deeply about what it means to be baptized. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but may be adjusted.
Leader note: Baptism is a sacrament in The United Methodist Church, and since this lesson deals with that subject, it would be good for you to familiarize yourself with The United Methodist perspective on baptism. We recommend the articles below as well as the short book, By Water and the Spirit by Gayle Felton.
- “What Do I Need to Know about Baptism in the UMC?”
- “Renewing Waters: How United Methodists Understand Baptism”
1. Ice Breaker: ‘Drip, Drip, Drop’ (10 minutes)
This opening ice breaker is designed to get your group up and moving around! If you don’t mind students getting a little wet, this game will be a lot of fun! If your group doesn’t like getting wet, check out the digital option below. “Drip, Drip, Drop” is basically the children’s game “Duck, Duck, Goose” with water.
- Have everyone sit in a circle.
- Choose someone to be “it.” Provide a cup filled with a little bit of water. (Having a cup that easily bends to allow for a little and a lot of water to come out is the best. You can control how wet it is possible for students to get by how much water you put in the cup.)
- Have a student walk around the circle dripping a small amount of water on each of the students’ heads. As the student does this, have him/her also say the word “drip.”
- After a few “drips,” the student will “drop” the rest of the water on the next person’s head and say “drop.”
- That person will then get up and chase “it” around the circle. If he/she tags “it” before “it” gets back to the empty space in the circle, then that person gets to be “it.”
- Now the new “it” fills up the cup (or you fill it if you are trying to control the amount of water), and the game continues.
- Continue playing as time allows. Then transition to the scripture reading.
Digital/Art Option: Baptism Drawing Contest
Ask your students to gather a sheet of paper and something to draw with (crayons, pencils, markers, etc.). Once they have collected their supplies, tell them they have 5-7 minutes to draw a picture of what they think baptism is. Once everyone has finished their drawings, ask the group to share. Try and note some of the similarities and differences in everyone’s drawings. Make sure to be encouraging; remember that everyone will have a different view of what baptism looks like. That is totally alright!
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today is the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. While it is being read, invite students to think about what it would have felt like to watch Jesus being baptized. Ask them to try to imagine themselves in the story. What do they see? What do they hear? How are they feeling about what is going on in the text today?
Read Luke 3:15-17, 21-22.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
- What nouns (people, places, or things) stood out to you today? How are the elements of air, water, and fire, present in the passage?
- Was anything confusing or unfamiliar? Did anything not make sense? (Definitely ask this, because how John describes Jesus (the Messiah to come) is very unique.
- What do you know about, or what are your experiences with, baptism? (Leader note – take a minute to write these down on a whiteboard or posterboard. If your church has baptismal traditions, it could be interesting to see what youth know or remember about baptisms from within your own congregation.)
- What questions do you have about baptism? (Leader note – take a minute to write these down on a whiteboard or posterboard. You may want to come back to these at the end of the lesson or ask your pastor to come and answer these questions at your next gathering. For starters, why was Jesus baptized if he was Jewish? Why do we do baptisms as Christians? If Jesus was baptized as an adult, why does the UMC baptize babies?)
- John baptizes Jesus in verse 21. Who else does it say is baptized at this time? (All the people.) What does this tell us about John? What does this tell us about Jesus? What does this tell us about God?
- What reportedly happened during Jesus’ baptism? (See verses 21b and 22) Who in the passage (if anyone) do you think recognized the voice of God?
- Have you ever had a powerful experience of the presence of God, or perhaps heard God’s voice?
- What did the voice that came from Heaven say? *Compare different translations to have a rich conversation on this point. (You are my Son, whom I dearly love; in you I find happiness.) What is important about each of those statements from the voice?
- Have you ever felt like you heard God speak something directly to you? If so, how can we tell God’s voice apart from our own consciousness? (Ask for students to share and for everyone to be respectful during this time.)
- Do you believe God performs miraculous signs and wonders today like God did in this passage? Why or why not?
Transition to the activity and remind students that you will circle back to their questions about baptism next week or at a later date.
4. Activity and Discussion ‘Baptism and the Baptismal’ (20 minutes)
Explain to your students that they are going to watch two videos about baptism. The first video is about baptism and the second video is about the baptismal font. After watching the videos, go back to those questions you had students write down at the beginning of your discussion time. If you’re able to have a pastor come in and share with the group about baptism, that would be an added bonus.
Ask these questions:
- What did we learn about baptism?
- Is there still some confusion about baptism?
- How would you answer the question, “What is baptism?”
- Why is it important to be baptized?
- What is unique about The United Methodist Church and baptism?
Ask these questions:
- What did we learn about the baptismal font?
- What questions do you still have about baptism?
- What is unique about The United Methodist Church and the baptismal font?
- Are there things you know about baptism that come from other churches or faith traditions?
Remember that some of your students will have been baptized as infants and others later in life. Some of your students may not have been baptized. Go back to those opening questions and see if there are any your students can answer after watching the videos and learning more about baptism. If time allows, ask students to think about more questions they may have about baptism and write those down. If you’re able to have a pastor come in to answer some of those questions, that would be great!
Finally, if your church uses baptismal vows for the family and congregation, consider having copies of those that you could send home for the youth to read. Encourage them to come back with questions the next week.
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
- Pens or Pencils
- Whiteboard or Posterboard
- Small cup
- Pitcher of water
- TV and/or computer to watch a video