This lesson teaches kids the importance of putting God first! Through this, they will learn that if we do not put Him first in our life, he will likely get pushed aside and left out entirely. God also has special blessings for those that make it a priority to put Him first!
Disclaimer: this is not a lesson I created. This is simply my take and version of this lesson and how I made it work for my group! There are Amazon affiliate links included if you’d like to easily prepare for this lesson!
This is an object lesson that really grabs kids’ attention and makes your older kids truly think! I try and do this one every 3-4 years to remind my “older group” of this important life lesson. Repeating lessons in this way is beneficial because kids learn in different ways at each age and maturity level. Plus, hopefully your group has grown and there are new kids that have never heard/seen it before!
First, begin with an empty container. It can be any shape or size, but it needs to be transparent so the kids can see everything that is going on. It is, however, best for it to be taller than it is wide. Something like this is what I used, but again, anything transparent that you can close will work! While holding up your container, explain to the kids that it represents their life! This represents who we are and what we do.
The first thing you’ll add is sand. I used colored sand this time, but the last time I did this I found sand on our church’s property! This doesn’t have to be a complicated or expensive project – use what works!
While slowly pouring in the sand, mention that the sand represents all of the little things in our lives. You can mention anything you want, but some ideas include: your hairstyle, your favorite candy or treat, your favorite pair of socks, the music we listen to, the sports we play, ect. Make this one fun and relevant to your group – the important thing here is that they are the smaller, more insignificant things of life. For example, if we get a bad haircut our hair will grow back. I usually keep bringing up the more silly ones as we go to keep the kids engaged and paying attention to the rest of what we’re talking about.
The next items to add are rocks/pebbles. Again, this particular time I used colored rocks I found at Hobby Lobby, but the time before I used the gravel from our church’s playground – keep this easy for yourself.
With this step you can slowly pour them or you can drop in handfuls. These pebbles represent the more important things in our lives. Again, adjust your examples to fit your group, but you can include: your favorite food, your job/school, your chores, your pets, etc. The most important thing is that these are more important than the smaller sand, but that you also leave room for things to be more important in the next step. One way to make this point is reference how “having a job and learning at school is more important than if you have your favorite socks on”!
Finally, the “last” and even bigger item. I used ping pong balls this time but you can also use golf balls – which would actually be a better choice because the weight of the golf balls would keep them down in the second half of this lesson the is coming up. I just happened to have ping pong balls lying around so I used them rather than buying something new – again, work smarter not harder 😉
These balls represent the most important things in our life! Emphasize that these are the things that matter above all the other things we’ve put. Some examples would include: your family, your friends, your home, being healthy, etc. You can reiterate that you would rather have your family and friends be healthy than have any particular job to show how these are more important.
Now you can put the lid on your container of life and begin talking about how this is a really good and really full life while repeating some of the crowd favorite items you mentioned before. Once the lid is on, say something like “this is how a lot of people go through life” – emphasizing the good. Then ask the kids if something is missing..
We were so busy filling our lives with things – both big/important and small/less important things – that we forgot about God. Disclaimer – this time I used this plastic ball with holes for “God”. The main idea is that it is a bigger ball than the ping pong balls and that it looks like it will take a lot of room. I don’t like that this one had holes in it. I would prefer to use a tennis ball instead for this section, but again – this is what I could find. Now that we have filled our lives, we don’t seem to have room for Him. Lots of people get so busy living life that they are closed off to including God..emphasize the lid on the top meaning their life is closed off. You can even take the lid off and say “even if someone decides to be open to having God in their life, it is too full to add him in as an afterthought”.
At this point the kids usually start suggesting we take some things out so He can fit. You should ask if God wants us to take away our family or not have a house so that God can fit? (the answer is obviously no!) Say “let’s empty the container and start over with putting God first and then see what we need to leave out in the end”.
While you’re emptying it out and separating each item (having a bigger bowl and a colander handy is helpful for this) begin to discuss what can be done to make sure God can fit in our lives. Ask the kids what they think – take a few suggestions as you work. The main point during this time is to be sure the kids know that having family and friends and houses and a job and favorite socks/candy are all good things. God wants us to have good things – He doesn’t want us to go through life without these things.
When you’re ready to begin again, put God in first emphasizing that we will decide to put Him first in our lives and find out what follows. It’s helpful to play up that you think all these things are good, but that we will see what needs to be included or left out.
Next, put in the most important items. Reiterate what these represent from whatever you said in the first half of the lesson. Note that, “hmm, all of these most important things seem to fit in our lives with God.”
Now add in the pebbles – again reiterating what you said they were last time. When pouring these in, it is helpful to hold the “life container” in your hand and gently shake it so that the pebbles shift down further into the container filling in all of the extra nooks and spaces. This part in particular is why I said golf balls would be better than ping pong balls. The ping pong balls seem to float on top of the pebbles a little bit much rather than being heavy enough to force the pebbles to find their space – hopefully that makes sense.
Lastly, add in the sand again while reiterating the least important things you mentioned. Again, shaking the container while you pour is helpful here for the sand to slide into the extra spaces. You should seem pleasantly surprised that it all fits so well even with that “big God” being put in there first. You should hold it up and emphasize that God does not want us to have less in life or a lesser life because we put Him first. In fact….
The coolest part of this lesson is not only that everything fits, but it actually fits better this way. If you test it first (before doing it with the kids) and measure correctly, there will be extra space after the second time. With the extra space, I like to pull out something else to surprise the kids with that they haven’t seen before…
I like using some bigger rocks that are about the size of the ping pong balls. Tell the kids that if we put God first in our lives, not only will we still have room for everything we had before doing so, God will add extra cool blessings to our lives that we don’t even expect! You can use an example from your own life when God did something that could only happen after you made the decision to put God first in your life! You could also use a bible story like Joseph’s position with Pharaoh.
Most importantly, have fun with this lesson. It is one that the kids will definitely remember. I like to display the closed, finished container in our Kids’ Chapel so that each week the kids can see it as a reminder of the importance of putting God first in their lives!