“God Gives Jonah a Second Chance”
Introduce the Lesson
Say: Today we’ll learn that God shows mercy even when we don’t. Mercy is another word for forgiveness. That means when someone does something wrong, God says “I forgive you” to the person even though he or she doesn’t deserve it. In the Bible, we’ll read about a man named Jonah who didn’t want to forgive some people for the wrong things they did. Jonah ran away, and he ended up inside the belly of a big fish. That fish must’ve been really big to fit Jonah inside of it! Let’s talk about some other really big animals we’ve seen.
Share about the largest animal you’ve ever seen in person.
Open a Bible, and say: You’ve seen a lot of big animals. Let’s look at the Bible now to see what happened to Jonah when he was inside the belly of a very big fish. The Bible is one way God talks to us. The Bible helps us understand what it means that God shows mercy even when we don’t. Let’s listen to God as we hear from the Bible today.
Pray, thanking God that he shows mercy even when we don’t.
Watch This Video:
Play This Game:
- balloons (1 for every 2 kids)
- trash bags (1 or more, depending on how many balloons you’ll have)
- upbeat music (optional)
- music player (optional)
- Inflate the balloons and put them in the trash bags to keep them contained before the game.
Keep the Balloons Up
Say: We’re learning that God shows mercy even when we don’t. It can be easy to hold grudges against others instead of showing mercy, but holding grudges doesn’t solve anything. It actually makes things harder for you and others around you. Our next game will show you what that’s like.
Invite a willing kid to be “It.” Have kids spread out, and distribute all the balloons. Explain that when you start the game, everyone will throw the balloons into the air and then work together to try to keep all the balloons in the air. Kids will also be trying to avoid getting tagged by It, who’ll be running around among everyone.
When a player is tagged, he or she can still move around and try to keep the balloons in the air by bumping them with head, knee, or foot but must frown and cross arms over his or her chest—the posture of holding a grudge.
Give a signal to start the game. If you’d like, play upbeat music while kids play. When more than half the balloons are on the ground, stop the game and invite a new person to be It. Then play another round. Play as many rounds as time allows.
Talk About It
Say: When you got tagged in the game and had to cross your arms, you looked a lot like you were holding a grudge.
Ask: • How did crossing your arms and holding them that way make the game harder for you and everyone else?
• Tell about a time it was hard for you to forgive someone. What did that person do or say, and why was it hard to forgive? Share a kid-friendly example of your own first, such as loaning something to a friend who returned it to you broken or a mess.
Say: Showing mercy and forgiving others can be very hard for us, but God shows mercy even when we don’t. So if you’re having trouble forgiving someone, ask God for his help. Mercy means you “uncross your arms” and let go of grudges.
Play a Version of Duck, Duck, Goose
Say: Earlier we heard about how God gave Jonah an important job to do. God told Jonah to go to a place called Nineveh to tell the people there about God. But Jonah didn’t want to obey, so he tried to hide from God by going on a boat that was traveling far away from Nineveh.
Think about a time you tried to hide something wrong you did from your mom or dad or grandparent. Pause. Maybe you broke something your mom said not to touch, so you hid it. Or maybe you took a piece of candy without asking and hid to eat it so no one would know.
Share your own childhood memory of disobeying and hiding something from a parent. Say: That’s kind of like what Jonah did. Let’s play a game to remember how Jonah tried to run away and hide from God.
Have your kids sit in a circle with you, and teach them this rhyme:
Jonah, Jonah disobeyed,
God showed mercy anyway!
Choose one child to be “Jonah” first. Have Jonah walk around the outside of the circle and tap the other children on the head as everyone says the rhyme. The person who gets tapped on “3” chases Jonah around the circle, trying to tag Jonah before they make it back to his or her spot. Then the child who was tagged becomes Jonah for the next round. Play several rounds.
Say: Just like the person who was Jonah tried to run away in our game, the real Jonah tried to run away and hide from God in real life. But we can’t hide from God! Read aloud Hebrews 4:13a. That means God sees every little blade of grass (lead kids in swaying their arms like grass) and every little bumblebee (lead kids in buzzing like bees).
Ask: • What are other things God sees in creation?
Say: God sees each one of us, too—his most special creation. God sees all the good and kind things we do, even when no one else does. But God also sees the wrong things we do, like when we disobey. That’s why it’s so amazing that God shows mercy to us! God shows others mercy, too, even when they don’t deserve it. Even though Jonah disobeyed, God showed Jonah mercy and gave him another chance to do the right thing. And God always gives us more chances to do the right thing, too.
Do This Craft:
- large paper plates (2 per child)
- “Jonah and the Big Fish” handout (1 per child) (download here)
- markers or crayons
- googly eyes (2 per child)
- Glue Dots
- child-safe scissors
- Make a sample craft to show kids.
Make Big Fish
Say: In our Bible story, we heard how Jonah tried to run away from God. He got on a boat to sail away, but a huge storm came. Everyone on the boat was so scared. Jonah knew that the storm was his fault because he tried to hide from God. So he told the sailors on the boat to throw him overboard…and when they did, a huge fish swallowed Jonah! Show the sample craft. Let’s make a big fish to help us remember our Bible story.
Give each kid two paper plates, and have kids color the top of one paper plate red to look like the inside of a fish’s belly. Then turn the other plate over and color the bottom side of the plate blue, or another color of their choice, to be the outside of the fish. After they have colored the blue plate, help them glue two googly eyes on one side of the plate.
Next, give each kid a handout, and have kids color the pictures of the fish’s fins and Jonah. When they have finished coloring, help them cut out the pictures from the handout. Then help them tape the tail and two side fins to the inside edges of the “belly” plate.
Then, for each child, place the blue plate on top of the red belly plate so that the top plate forms a dome shape with the eyes on the opposite side from the tail fin. Staple the plates together halfway around the rims, leaving the other half open to be the fish’s mouth.
Finally, help them push the edges of the paper plates together to round them and create a visible opening for the fish’s mouth.
Say: God sent the big fish to swallow Jonah so Jonah would stay safe and not drown in the water. Jonah told God he was sorry for trying to run away, so God made the fish spit Jonah back out on the beach. God forgave Jonah when Jonah didn’t want to show mercy to the people in Nineveh. God shows mercy even when we don’t. And God shows mercy and forgives us when we make wrong choices, too.
Wrap It Up:
- “God Shows Mercy” handout (1 copy per child) (download here)
- Friends With God Story Bible (optional) (order here)
Say: Today we learned that God shows mercy even when we don’t. We learned how God showed mercy and forgave the people in Nineveh even when Jonah didn’t want them to be forgiven. God forgave Jonah even when he didn’t deserve it.
Without sharing a name, tell about something someone did that hurt you recently.
Ask: • Tell about something that hurt you or your feelings. Before kids begin to share, encourage them to share more about the thing that hurt them than the person who did it.
Say: It’s not easy to show mercy or forgive people when they hurt us. You might not want to forgive the person who hurt you. But God shows mercy even when we don’t. God wants us to forgive the people who hurt us, too. Let’s ask God to help us forgive the friends who hurt us.
Lead children in asking God for help to forgive the people who hurt them.
Color a Picture
Say: God can help us show kindness and love to the people who hurt us. We can forgive them, and we can also show them mercy by giving them something nice.
Give each child a “God Shows Mercy” handout. Point out and read aloud “God Shows Mercy” inside the heart, and then encourage children to each color a picture for the people who hurt them. After kids have finished, read aloud “Give this to someone I need to forgive” where it’s written at the top of the page.
Say: You made these nice pictures for the people who hurt you. Now you can show mercy by giving the pictures to the people. You can forgive them, and God will help you. Remember, God shows mercy even when we don’t, and God wants us to forgive others who hurt us.
- parachute or large sheet
Catch “Jonah” Under the Parachute
Say: In our Bible story, Jonah got swallowed by a big fish. Let’s play a game where we’ll try not to get swallowed by a big parachute!
Have kids gather around and hold the edge of the parachute. Pretend the parachute is the belly of a fish. Choose one child to be “Jonah.” When the children lift the parachute over their heads, Jonah will try to run straight across to the opposite side of the parachute before the other kids bring the parachute down to “swallow” Jonah under the parachute. If Jonah gets caught, have kids give him or her a second chance and raise the parachute back up so he or she can run out the other side. Repeat, giving each child a chance to run across as Jonah.
Talk About It
After the game, have kids raise the parachute high in the air and then sit underneath as they bring it down behind them. Debrief the game while everyone sits in the “belly of the fish.”
Say: In our game we tried to keep from getting caught by the parachute. But in our Bible story, getting swallowed by a fish was the best thing to happen to Jonah. There inside the fish, Jonah had a timeout. He prayed and talked to God, and he decided to go to Nineveh to share God’s message.
Tell about a time in your life you or someone you know needed a timeout. Perhaps you snapped at a friend or your child disobeyed directions.
Ask: • When are times we need a timeout? Kids might talk about fighting with a sibling, refusing to eat dinner, or throwing a toy inside the house.
Say: Timeouts are no fun, but they make us stop and listen. Jonah’s timeout helped him listen to God, and God helped him. God shows mercy even when we don’t. That means God is kind, helpful, and forgiving. He loves us and wants us to follow his directions.
Optional Coloring Page: