Acts: God Helps Silas and Paul Escape Prison
Dig In to the Bible
- Read: Acts 16:16-40
- In This Passage: When Paul and Silas heal a slave girl, her owners lose their source of income. Angry, they have Paul and Silas beaten and arrested. But God sends an earthquake to remove their chains and open the prison doors. Paul and Silas stick around to tell the jailer about Jesus. They trust that God’s in control no matter what.
- Bible Point: God’s in control no matter what.
- Summary Verse: “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior” (Philippians 3:20).
- You’ll Be Teaching: God’s in control no matter what. Kids’ lives are more and more out of control all the time. They face hectic schedules, divorcing parents, economic uncertainty in their families, worries about school, bullying, and more! In the midst of all the chaos, help kids see that God’s in control no matter what.
- Think About: What feels out of control in your life right now? How have you seen glimpses that God is in control of that situation?
Dig In to Prayer
- Pray specifically for kids you know are going through difficult situations. Ask God to show those children that he’s in control.
Introduce the Lesson
Say: Today we’re going to learn that God’s in control no matter what. Let’s think about something that feels out of control: amusement park rides!
- Tell kids about the wildest amusement park ride you’ve been on.
- Have kids form pairs. Ask kids to share about the wildest amusement park ride they’ve been on.
Open a Bible to Acts 16, and say: Roller coasters and other amusement park rides sometimes feel out of control…but they’re still fun! Sometimes our lives feel out of control, and it’s not so fun. Let’s look in the Bible to see how Paul and Silas trusted that God’s in control no matter what. The Bible is an amazing book. God can talk to us through the Bible. He’s ready to talk to you right now. Let’s pray and listen.
Pray, thanking God for being in control no matter what.
Play This Game:
- 40 paper or plastic cups
- 4 rubber or foam balls
- masking tape
- upbeat music (optional)
- music player (optional)
- Split your play area in half by taping a line on the floor.
- Divide the cups into 2 stacks of 20.
Build, Protect, and Topple Cup Towers
Say: In our Bible story today, things didn’t work out for Paul and Silas the way they’d maybe imagined. They ended up in jail! They tried so hard to do everything right, and things still got out of control. Let’s see what that’s like with a fun game.
- Form two roughly even mixed-age teams.
- Give each team a stack of 20 cups and two balls.
- Invite the older half of the kids on each team to be the Tower Builders.
- The Tower Builders will try to stack cups in a tall tower using three or a few more cups at the base to support the tower. Cups cannot be stacked sitting inside of each other. See photo below as an example.
- All the younger players will work to defend their team’s tower while also trying to knock down the other team’s tower by throwing the balls.
- When a tower is knocked over, the Tower Builders can start over.
- The goal is to build a tower using all the cups and keep it standing until time is up.
- If you’d like, play upbeat music while kids play.
Talk About It
Ask: • Shout words that describe what this game was like.
Say: Wow, even your answers sounded out of control!
Ask: • Was it easy or hard to be a Tower Builder? Explain.
• Was it easy or hard to defend your team’s tower and knock down the other tower? Explain.
• What was it like to see your tower fall despite all your efforts?
Say: We’ll all have times in life when no matter how hard we try, things just don’t work out the way we’d like. Paul and Silas ended up in jail even when what they were doing was right, but God was still in control. When things in your life or around you feel like a toppling tower, remember that God’s in control no matter what.
Watch This Video:
- “Out of Control” teaching video (watch or download here)
Discuss and Watch “Out of Control”
Say: Today we’re learning that God’s in control no matter what. But sometimes things in our lives—or in our world—feel out of control.
Ask: • What feels out of control to you?
Say: As we watch this reflective video, focus on the fact that God is in control despite everything you see.
Watch “Out of Control.”
Ask: • Which out-of-control scene in the video did you identify with most? Why?
• When your life looks like a scene from this video, what can help you remember that God’s in control no matter what?
Say: Our world can seem out of control sometimes. There are bad storms, fighting, people being mean to us, and more. When things seemed out of control for Paul and Silas, they got to see how God had a bigger plan. When things feel out of control in our lives, we can trust in God’s bigger plan.
Core Bible At Home:
- 4 rolled-up socks
- sheet or blanket
Ask: • What are your plans for the rest of the day? Tell kids what your plans are for the rest of the day; then have everyone share.
Say: In today’s Bible story, two followers of Jesus—Silas and Paul—had normal, everyday plans for going to the place they liked to pray. We usually like to be in control of our plans. But for Silas and Paul, things got more and more out of control. They might have felt a little like this!
Spin in Circles
Have everyone spin in circles until they start to feel dizzy, but don’t spin yourself. Then have them sit.
Ask: • How do you feel right now?
Say: Since you were spinning around in circles, it seems as if the room is out of control. It might seem as if it’s spinning! But I didn’t spin, so I know the truth: Nothing is really wrong with the room.
Sometimes things feel out of control. But we can focus on the fact that God’s in control no matter what. Even when it feels like our lives are spinning out of control and there’s nothing we can do about it, the truth is that God’s in control.
In the Bible, things got out of control for Silas and Paul when they met a girl who had a bad spirit in her. Some people were using her to make money! That was a mean way to treat someone. When people are mean to us, it can make us feel out of control.
Have everyone spin in circles again until they start to feel dizzy; then have them sit.
Say: The girl kept following Silas and Paul around and shouting about them. This went on for days and days. That was not part of Silas and Paul’s plans! Finally Paul called on Jesus’ power to get rid of the bad spirit. Paul knew God’s in control no matter what, and God was in control of getting rid of the bad spirit in the girl.
Stand on One Foot
Say: But Silas and Paul’s out-of-control adventure was just beginning! With the bad spirit gone, the people who were making money off the girl couldn’t do that anymore. They were mad! They wanted the money! So they captured Silas and Paul. Listen to what happened next!
Read Acts 16:22 and the first phrase of verse 23.
Say: That sounds painful!
Ask: • Tell about the most physical pain you’ve ever been in. Share your own example first. Maybe you fell out of a tree and broke your arm, or maybe you were in a car accident and hurt your neck. Then have kids share in their pairs.
Say: People hurt Silas and Paul with wooden sticks. Silas and Paul couldn’t control the people beating them! Let’s see what it’s like to feel knocked off balance by things that are out of our control.
Have kids stand on one foot. Then have the oldest person walk around the room, pushing them gently to knock them off balance. (Tell that person to help make sure they land safely.)
Say: When bad, painful things happen, we can feel knocked down—emotionally and physically! But God’s in control no matter what. Even when we’re hurting, we can trust him.
Say: Things kept getting worse for Silas and Paul.
Read Acts 16:23-24.
Say: Jail! That was definitely not in Silas and Paul’s plans. Call out some of the things Silas and Paul might have felt about being thrown into jail. Let kids call out emotions. If that happened to me, I’d probably be juggling a lot of emotions and feeling a lot of things at once, like being afraid but also mad. Or I might feel glad because I was with my friend but also worried.
Let’s see what it might be like to have all those emotions bouncing around inside you! Have each person take a turn trying to juggle four socks at once. This will be especially impossible for preschoolers—that’s okay. That helps make the point! When everyone has had a turn, have them set the socks aside.
Ask: • Call out one word that describes your juggling experience.
Say: Even when things feel completely out of control or frustrating or like we’re trying to juggle a lot of problems and emotions, God’s in control no matter what.
Say: Next, the jailer clamped Silas’ and Paul’s feet into stocks. That’s like wearing heavy chains on your feet.
Have family members sit with their legs extended in such a way that they can each hold someone’s ankles down.
As families hold each other’s ankles, have them share answers to this question.
Ask: • Tell about a time you felt stuck in a situation you didn’t want to be in or you had to do something you really didn’t want to do.
Say: God’s in control no matter what. He’s in control even when we feel stuck or trapped.
Silas and Paul remembered that God was in control. Listen to what they did when things didn’t go the way they’d planned.
Read Acts 16:25.
Say: Let’s try that right now. Still holding your partner’s ankles, talk to God silently about a part of your life that may seem out of control or frustrating.
Allow time for silent prayer. Then have everyone repeat this prayer after you. Pray: Dear God (pause), we trust you. Pause. We know you’re in control no matter what. Pause. In Jesus’ name, amen. Pause.
Make an Earthquake
Say: Let’s see what out-of-control thing happened next in Silas and Paul’s day.
Read Acts 16:26.
Have families gather around a blanket and put the balled-up socks in the middle. Then have each person hold an edge and wave the blanket up and down to create an “earthquake.”
Say: Whew! That was wild! Silas and Paul probably didn’t know why there was an earthquake. But God’s in control no matter what. He was in control of the earthquake, too—it was his plan to get Silas and Paul out of jail.
Say: With all those prisoners freed, things must have seemed really out of control…especially if you were the jailer! Let’s imagine we’re the jailer trying to herd prisoners.
Crumpled papers will be the prisoners. Whoever is the oldest person in the room will keep tossing more and more prisoners, and you’ll try to heard them all into one corner.
Allow time for families to play.
Ask: • Call out a word to describe trying to herd those papers.
Say: Herding papers that just kept coming felt out of control! But listen to this, and tell me how you see that God’s in control no matter what.
Read Acts 16:27-32.
Ask: • How did you see that God was in control of the situation?
Say: The jailer thought he would get in trouble if all the prisoners got out, so he was going to kill himself! He needed help, and Silas and Paul helped him. God’s in control no matter what. He’s in control when we need help, and he’s in control when other people need help. We can trust him just like Silas and Paul did.
Say: Think back on our story about all the things that seemed out of Silas’ or Paul’s control. There were a lot of things! Pause. Now spin around one time for every out-of-control thing they faced. Allow time.
After everyone spins, have them press both palms on a table or wall.
Say: When it seems as if our world is spinning out of control, we can center ourselves on the truth that God’s in control no matter what. Sometimes we just need to pause and hold on to that fact. Whether you feel like it or not, God’s in control no matter what. Take a moment to reflect on that as you hold on to the wall or table.
After about 30 seconds, pray: God, thank you that you’re in control no matter what. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wrap It Up:
Hold Tight and Let Go
- Have kids clench their fists and think about something they’ve been trying to have control of.
- Have kids pray silently about those situations, unclenching their fists gradually as they pray until they have open hands.
Pray: God, thank you that you’re in control no matter what. Help us not try to take control but to instead trust you. Help us have open hands to receive your will. In Jesus’ name, amen.