Almost every setting has a set of rules or guidelines children are asked to follow. Schools, sports teams and even households have expectations for how those involved will conduct themselves. While some guidelines are consistent across settings, many are specific to the activity or situation. Children may wonder why there isn’t just one overarching collection of rules. God offered such a set to God’s people. As they were traveling to the land that God promised, God provided ten commandments or ways of living for their community. In this lesson, children will explore God’s commandments and consider how God calls them to live together as Christ’s modern disciples.
You will need
- A Bible
- Several sheets of chart paper and crayons or markers (optional)
- A computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector and the video “Mutual Responsibility” (optional)
Greet the children as they arrive.
Divide the group into pairs and ask each pair to play several rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors. Remind them of the rules: 1) Rock wins over (“crushes”) scissors, 2) Paper wins over (“covers”) rock, and 3) Scissors wins (“cuts”) paper. Have them keep track of how many rounds each person wins.
After about 5 minutes, ask each pair to share the name of the winner (the person who won the most rounds of the game). Then ask them to reflect on the rules of the game:
- Are the rules of this game important? Why or why not?
- How would you have reacted if we changed the rules halfway through the game?
- How do rules help us have fun when we are playing a game?
Exploring the passage
Say a prayer.
Provide context for the lectionary reading (Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20):
- This reading comes from the Old Testament book of Exodus. In this book of the Bible, God releases God’s people from slavery in Egypt. They are led on the long journey from Egypt to a land God promises to them by Moses. God chose Moses to serve as their leader. As they travel, they encounter many difficulties. Moses speaks to God asking for guidance and for words to offer to the people.
- When Moses and God’s people reach Mount Sinai, God calls Moses up the mountain. There God shares ways for the people to live in relationship with God and with one another. God’s list includes ten items. These are often referred to as the Ten Commandments.
- Today’s reading recounts those ten commandments.
Read aloud (Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20). After reading, ask:
- What do the first four commandments focus on? (Ways to live in relationship to God)
- What do the last four focus on? (Ways to live in relationship with one another)
- What does it mean to “keep Sabbath”?
- Which of these is most challenging to keep?
- Which is most difficult?
- Why do you think God chose these commandments?
Relating the passage to our lives
Help the children connect the Scripture reading to their own lives through one or more of these activities.
- Community commandments: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: several sheets of chart paper and crayons or markers. Divide the children into small groups. Give each group a sheet of chart paper and a few markers or crayons. Ask them to brainstorm a set of commandments or ways of living together for their group. If your group does not regularly meet, they can focus their list on the larger church community. Have each group write or draw their “commandments” on the chart paper. When they are done, ask each group to present their lists. Drawing from the work of the small groups, create a set of church community commandments. Write these on a sheet of chart paper hung on the wall.
- Mutual responsibility: Gather the materials you’ll need for this activity: a computer with Internet access connected to a television or data projector and the video “Mutual Responsibility.” Remind the group that commandments five-ten focus on how we should live together. Have the group review the commandments for common themes in these guidelines. Note that care for and protection of all people in the community are important elements of these commandments. Show the video. Discuss whether mutual responsibility is part of our life as Christ’s disciples. (You may want to note that Exodus is part of the Jewish Bible so the Ten Commandments were given to the Jewish people. Jesus was part of the Jewish community, so he would have followed the Ten Commandments. We adopt these as part of our faith tradition because our faith grew out of the Jewish tradition.)