Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

Acts 1:12-2:47; Matthew 16:13-20

Story Summary

This story (the giving of the Holy Spirit to the first disciples at the Festival of Pentecost) serves as a transition point from the Gospels (the stories of Jesus as he walked on the earth) and the rest of the New Testament, which tells the story of how the early church was established and still thrives to this day. 

The disciples had just seen Jesus ascend into heaven while they were talking with him in the Mount of Olives, just outside of Jerusalem. So they returned to Jerusalem to the room where they were staying. The remaining 11 disciples were there, plus several women (including Mary, Jesus' mother) and Jesus' brothers.

It is striking to see Peter take the leadership of the group already. He had failed Jesus during his darkest hour by denying that he knew Jesus as he was on trial. But Peter received Jesus' forgiveness and was beginning to live out Jesus' prophesy that the church would be established on Peter's confession and that Peter would have the "keys to the kingdom". Peter steps up and suggests to the other disciples that Judas should be replaced as a disciple. He wanted someone who had walked with Jesus since he began his public ministry and also saw the resurrected Jesus. So they chose Mattias to replace Judas.

They continued meeting together in the upper room for several days, until the Day of Pentecost came. To put this into historical context, remember that Jesus was crucified during the Passover celebration in Jerusalem. Fifty days after Passover feast, the Jews were to celebrate another festival that dedicates the grain offering to the Lord. You can read about this festival in Leviticus 23. This festival was known as the Festival of Weeks (because it was to be celebrated exactly 7 weeks after the Passover) and the Pentecost (the Greek word that literally meant "50 days"). By Jewish tradition, the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt Sinai was also celebrated during this feast. Thus, the Passover Feast celebrated the release from bondage at the hands of the Egyptians and the Festival of Weeks celebrated the Israelites placing themselves under God's authority through the Law.

Therefore, we know the disciples were meeting in the upper room for 10 days (give or take) after Jesus ascended to heaven. We know from Acts 1:14 that they spent much of this time in prayer. Well, after many days in prayer, a sudden sound that sounded like a huge windstorm (think the "freight train" sound of a tornado) interrupted their prayers. Then some strange and crazy things happened:

  • Something that looked like tongues of fire appeared and seemed to settle on their heads
  • They began to speak in languages that they did not know

This assembly must have started making loud noises because Jews from all around that were in Jerusalem for these festivals began to gather around the disciples. They were astonished that they were hearing the disciples speak to them in their native language, regardless of where they were from. The only explanation they could come up with was that the disciples must have been drunk.

Peter, once again assuming a leadership position amongst the disciples, rose up and gave a rousing speech to them. He explained to them, using the Old Testament scriptures, how the Holy Spirit was fulfilling prophecy in front of them, and who this Jesus was. His sermon was certainly not of the "feel-good" variety: "So be sure of this, all you people of Israel. You nailed Jesus to the cross. But God has made him both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36). But it had great results!

His words cut straight to their heart and they responded with a most important question: "Brothers, what should we do?" In other words, how should they respond? Peter gives them a very clear call to salvation:

"All of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then your sins will be forgiven. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)

As a result of this sermon, 3,000 people accepted the message, were baptized, and joined with the disciples. Thus, the first church was born. As we continue to read in Acts 2, we begin to see the pattern they settled into as a church: "The believers studied what the apostles taught. They shared life together. They broke bread and ate together. And they prayed....Every day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved." (Acts 2:42,47)

The reason this story is such an important transition point is that this represents the first time the church expanded on the preaching of the word by Jesus' disciples - not Jesus himself. It establishes the pattern of church growth from that point until now. It also represents a stark change that corresponds to the power of the Holy Spirit. Before the Holy Spirit, they are huddled in an upper room for days on end. After the Holy Spirit, the church explodes in growth and outward momentum, beginning to fulfill Jesus' call to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

"How can they call on him unless they believe in him? How can they believe in him unless they hear about him? How can they hear about him unless someone preaches to them?" (Romans 10:14)

(Note: we are focusing on the story aspect of this scripture, not the doctrinal aspects. If your church has specific beliefs about this portion of scripture - like the baptism of the Holy Spirit - feel free to include that teaching in this lesson)

What You Will Need

Video Options

God's Story - Peter Preaches

From Crossroads Kids Club

God Sends the Holy Spirit

From Saddleback Kids

God's Story - Pentecost

From Crossroads Kids Club

Resource Sheet

Peter Preaches to the Crowd Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts Peter preaching to the crowd of Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, the day the church first expanded in Jerusalem.


1. Warm Up get your kids talking and engaged

What is the most exciting news you've ever heard? (e.g. a new baby sister, going on vacation, moving to a new home, etc)

Who told you the news? How did they tell you?

Today, we're going to learn about some very important news Jesus' disciples had to share.

2. Teach the Story teach a holistic story

Consider moving your story time to an "upper room" in your church or facility if it is available.

Read story from a Children's storybook Bible for younger children.

For older children, read the story from an age-appropriate Children's storybook Bible or read directly from the Bible.

3. Bible Mastery give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud Acts 2:1-8, 2:36-42

4. Comprehension Questions make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • Why were the disciples still in Jerusalem?
  • Jesus had told them to wait there until the Holy Spirit came
  • Who was with the disciples?
  • Jesus' mother Mary and his brothers
  • Who did they choose to replace Judas?
  • Matthias
  • Who became the leader of the disicples after Jesus left?
  • Peter
  • What were they doing in Jersualem while they were meeting?
  • Praying
  • What happened on the 10th day of them meeting together and praying?
  • The Holy Spirit came to them, with a sound that sounded like a hurricane or a tornado, and with what looked like tongues of fire resting on their heads
  • What did they start doing as soon as the Holy Spirit came upon them?
  • They began speaking in foreign languages that they didn't understand
  • Who began to gather around the place the disciples were staying?
  • Other Jews that were in Jerusalem to celebrete the Festival of Weeks or Pentecost
  • What did Peter teach them?
  • About the Holy Spirit and about Jesus as the promised Messiah that they killed
  • What did many of the Jews do in response?
  • They accepted Peter's message, they were baptized, and they joined the disciples
  • How many of them joined the disciples that day?
  • About 3,000
  • What did they do after that?
  • The first church in Jerusalem began meeting constantly together in the temple courts and in their homes; they ate together, studied the apostles' teaching, prayed together and shared everything they had

5. Faith Questions open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer

  • Peter gave the Jews in Jerusalem a very clear call to respond to the message that Jesus is the Messiah, the one who came into the world to save us: "All of you must turn away from your sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then your sins will be forgiven. You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 2:38)
  • Have you responded to Peter's call to us? Have you turned from your sins and asked Jesus forgive you? Have you been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ?
  • This is a good opportunity to use our Good News Conversation Guide to lead your kids through a clear presentation of the Gospel and call for a response.

6. Memory Verse hide God's Word in their heart

When I'm afraid, I will trust in you. Psalm 56:3

Reinforcement Activities

Different Languages

Scripture All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. They began to speak in languages they had not known before. The Spirit gave them the ability to do this. Acts 2:4
  • Translate the Bible verse into a different language.
  • Read or memorize the verse and say it to your students.
  • Teach the students to say the verse in another language or
  • teach the students variuos words and phrases in different languages.

Flashlight Object Lesson

Scripture But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. Acts 1:8
Supplies 2 flashlights, one with batteries, one without
  • Try to turn on the flashlight without batteries.
  • Act surprised when it won't come on. Question out loud if it might be broken. It appears to have no power.
  • Try the second flashight. Express your pleasure when it turns on. This flashlight has power.
  • Explain to the students that we need to receive our power from somewhere. What keeps up going? What keeps us focused on God?
  • Jesus left, but he sent the Holy Spirit in his place. The Holy spirit gives us power.
  • How can we tell from the story that the disciples had the power of the Holy Spirit?

Licking Flames

Scripture They saw something that looked like tongues of fire. The flames separated and settled on each of them. Acts 2:3
Supplies matches or lighter
  • Read Acts 2:1-3 again for your class.
  • Ask them what they think it looked like when the flames came and rested on them.
  • Light the match or lighter and have them watch it and observe how the flame moves and sort of looks like a tongue.
  • Probe them and ask open ended questions that will get them to really think about what happened that day. We don't know exactly what it looked like, but we can guess!
  • Do you think the flames hurt the disciples?
  • Do you think it was real fire?
  • What about the wind? Do you think it was a real wind or just something that sounded like wind?
  • How long do you think those flames lasted?

Pray for Missionaries

Heads up! Refer back to the activity in The Great Commission lesson
Scripture But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you. Then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem. You will be my witnesses in all Judea and Samaria. And you will be my witnesses from one end of the earth to the other." Acts 1:8
Supplies paper and crayons, pens
  • Encourage your students to continue praying for the missionary family.
  • Write a letter or send draw pictures to send to your family.
  • Be mindful of restrictions if they are in a closed country. Get permission from the family before the cards are sent.

Flaming Headbands

Scripture They saw something that looked like tongues of fire. The flames separated and settled on each of them. Acts 2:3
Supplies Construcion paper, flame cutout, stapler
  • Cut a strip of construction paper, long enough to go around a child's head. If necessary, staple two strips together.
  • Have the children color and cut out their flame.
  • Staple flames to the headband.

Four devotions of the Early Church

Scripture The believers studied what the apostles taught. They shared life together. They broke bread and ate together. And they prayed. Acts 2:42
  • Develop your class time around the four devotions of the early church.
  • Teaching: Teach your students through their Bible lessons.
  • Fellowship: Play games and have fun together.
  • Breaking bread: Share a snack
  • Prayer: Spend time praying together. Develop a way for students to share their requests. (This can be done verbally, writing them down on strips of paper, or in a notebook)

Your church history

Scripture Those who accepted his message were baptized. About 3,000 people joined the believers that day. Acts 2:41
Supplies an older member of your church, or one who was there when the church started
  • Find someone in your church who was around when your church was founded.
  • If you are in a church that has outlived its founding members, find someone who has been there a long time and can tell stories about how the church was formed and important parts of its history.
  • Have them bring pictures or videos and tell interesting stories and encourage the students to ask them questions.
  • In this lesson, we are learning about the creation of the world-wide Church after Jesus ascended. We are all part of that global Church, but we have founding stories just like this one.

Guess the Leader

Scripture Then Peter stood up with the Eleven. In a loud voice he spoke to the crowd. "My Jewish friends," he said, "let me explain this to you. All of you who live in Jerusalem, listen carefully to what I say. Acts 2:14
  • Peter became the leader of the early church (see Matthew 16:13-20). Play a game of "Guess the Leader".
  • Pick one child to be the guesser. Have that child leave the room or otherwise not see or hear what is going on.
  • Arrange the remaining children in a circle and choose one child to be the leader.
  • When the guesser comes back in the room, the leader begins making a gesture and everyone else begins to follow as quickly as possible so the guesser can't tell who is the leader.
  • Some ideas for gestures:
    • Tap your nose
    • Pull on your ear
    • Stick out your tongue repeatedly
    • Clap
    • Make a clucking noise with your tongue
  • When the guesser correctly identifies the leader, that round is over and the child who was the leader now becomes the guesser for the next round.