Note to the Teacher
There is not one key phrase in this scripture (for this lesson), but instead an understanding to be reached that is derived from the overarching theme of boundaries that God places on us. The ice breaker gets students moving if they are meeting in person. If they are meeting online, it gives them an opportunity to talk about themselves. The discussion encourages students to understand that the boundaries God gives us are positive things, not just rules we have to follow. The activity allows students to ponder what life might be like without any boundaries through a game of dodgeball. Times are based on a fifty-minute lesson period but can be adjusted.
1. Ice Breaker (10 minutes)
If meeting in person:
Play Balloon Soccer. Blow up ten balloons of any size or color. Designate an area to be a goal at each end of the room, and drop all ten balloons into the “field” of play at once. Divide students into two teams, and have the teams compete to try to put the balloons in their team’s goal. The first team to have all ten balloons in the goal is the winner. In the discussion, you could bring up this activity related to the Ten Commandments by noting the number of balloons each team needs to win this game. Add to the discussion by asking about how trying to keep each of the Ten Commandments can help us make life better for ourselves and others.
If meeting online:
Build a birth map. Ask students to tell you where they were born; drop a pin on that location in Google Maps. When you have completed the map, share your screen so everyone can see; then ask students to tell the group something about the place they were born. In the discussion, you could bring up this activity related to the rules that we each agree to live under to make our communities work, even if we were born in different places. Add to the discussion by asking about what kinds of expectations and rules we put on ourselves as a youth ministry, church, school, community, town, state, country, etc. so that we can more easily do life together. The Ten Commandments come from a section of the Bible where people attempt to figure out how to best do life together while moving from one place to another, often to places that are not their birthplace.
2. Read Scripture (5 minutes)
Our scripture reading today happens after the Israelites have been brought out of slavery in Egypt to the base of Mt. Sinai in the desert. They are camping there while Moses goes up on the mountain to hear a word from God. The word Moses hears is what is known today as the Ten Commandments.
3. Discussion (15 minutes)
Today’s scripture passage is commonly referred to as the Ten Commandments. What do you know about them?
- When was the first time you remember learning about the Ten Commandments? Why do you think they are introduced so early in church life?
- Why do you think that many courthouses list or display the Ten Commandments in some way?
- Say something like, “The Ten Commandments were put into place as just one part of a larger set of rules and teachings that were meant to help a diverse group of people learn how to create community and care for each other as they established a new nation.” Are there any “rules” (whether written and official or informal and culturally understood) in place at: school, church, home, our community, our country, etc., that help people live in harmony and do life well together?
- Rules can be constraining. Rules can be unfair. Rules can be changed. Rules can be helpful. Rules can be just. How do you know which rules for living are helpful and which ones may be harmful?
- How would you go about changing a rule that is unfair and causes harm?
- Do you think that rules from God through Scripture are generally good or bad? Why?
- For better or worse, rules create boundaries for behavior. How were boundaries helpful for the time, place, and people to whom the Ten Commandments were given?
- Are God’s boundaries still important for Christians to try and follow today?
- What does this verse tell us about what it means to be a community of faith?
- What do boundaries from God do for us as a community of faith? In what ways do they help us stay united or divide us?
- What difference can it make in your faith-life if you know you share that faith with a family, rather than trying to do it all on your own?
For the next four weeks, our class is learning about the power of the Holy Spirit. Where do you see the Spirit acting in this story?
4. Activity and Discussion (20 minutes)
If meeting in person:
Play dodgeball. Divide the students into two teams and play a traditional game of dodgeball. Rules can be found here. If you have students who are strong enough to hurt someone with a typical dodgeball, consider using a different ball or go really crazy and use things like dish towels tied in knots or even stuffed animals. During the game, act as the referee and be extra strict about the boundaries. If a student steps out of bounds or crosses the center line even just a little bit, then that person is out.
After one game, make the boundaries smaller, using masking tape.
On the third game, play without boundaries at all. Students are allowed to go to any place in the area you are playing to try to get somebody out.
On the fourth and final game, play with no boundaries and tell students that they are allowed to decide for themselves whether or not they are actually “out” when they get hit with a ball.
- What did it feel like to have the boundaries become smaller and then become less and less existent?
- What resulted by the fourth game when people could run anywhere and make up their own rules?
At the beginning when there were boundaries and rules were enforced, the game was likely more fun. There was purpose; you had a clear objective to get the other team out; and you felt accomplished if you won. By the end, when there were no boundaries, it was just chaos. People could go wherever they wanted and decide for themselves whether or not they would comply with the traditional rules.
This experience shows us that boundaries give us guidance, purpose, and direction. Without them, it’s just chaos. God gives us boundaries for the same reason. God wants us to have order in our lives and to orient ourselves toward living for God. The boundaries God gives us helps us stay united as the people of God with our focus on God. The boundaries God gives us also helps us stay united as the people of God who can reach into a hurting world and bring people into God’s community, even if they are different from us.
If meeting online:
Tell students to gather paper and something to draw with: markers, crayons, colored pencils, pens, whatever they have. Play this clip from the movie Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and share your screen with the group, making sure to share your computer’s audio as well. Tell the students to draw on one side of the paper what the movie clip makes them feel or think. [Please check to be sure your church has the correct licenses before using any video clips. See https://www.umcdiscipleship.org/articles/online-worship-music-resources-for-livestreaming for information.]
Show the movie clip a second time. This time tell them to turn the papers over and write words that come to mind as they watch the clip. Allow students to share what they drew and the words they wrote. Finally, ask the students what this game of dodgeball would be like if there were no area of play and no boundaries. Allow time for discussion.
- What do you think this movie would have looked like if this final match of dodgeball had no boundaries?
- How do you think people would react if they were invited to watch a dodgeball match without any boundaries or rules?
The first time we watched the movie clip, there were boundaries and purpose. You could follow along and understand what each team was trying to do. There was purpose. They had a clear objective to get the other team out, and they felt accomplished if they won. When I asked you to imagine what it would be like with no boundaries, we imagined chaos. People could go wherever they wanted and decide for themselves whether or not they would comply with the traditional rules.
This exercise shows us that boundaries give us guidance, purpose, and direction. Without boundaries, there is chaos. God gives us boundaries for the same reason. God wants us to have order in our lives and wants us to orient ourselves toward living for God. The boundaries God gives us helps us stay united as the people of God with our focus on God. The boundaries God gives us also helps us stay united as the people of God who can reach into a hurting world and bring people into God’s community, even if they are different from us.
Total time: 50 minutes
If meeting in person:
- Ten balloons, blown up.
- Six dodgeballs (the soft, Rhino Skin or Gator Skin kind). If you don’t have dodgeballs, use pairs of socks. Increase the number of balls or socks based on the number of students you have.
- Masking tape or painters’ tape
If meeting online:
- Drawing utensils
- Device to connect to Zoom or other platform