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Lesson Prep

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

Acts 16:16-40

Story Summary

This story happens during Paul's Second Missionary Journey. (See Paul's Mission for a summary of all three journeys).

Paul ran into opposition during his missionary journeys from two main sources. First, the Jews in these towns that did not come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament opposed him regularly. Second, Paul's preaching sometimes had a negative effect on businesses in the area, and those business leaders opposed him. This story falls in that second category.

While Paul and Silas were in the city of Philippi (where the church was that Paul wrote the letter that became the book of Philippians in the Bible), they came upon a female slave. She had some sort of evil spirit that allowed her to tell the future, and her owners were exploiting her by making money off this "gift" of hers. She kept following Paul and Silas around and shouting. Now, what she was shouting was in fact true: "These men serve the Most High God. They are telling you how to be saved." This seems similar to the way people with evil spirits treated Jesus when he walked the earth - they couldn't help but to speak the truth, even though they didn't like it.

Paul eventually became irritated at this woman who was constantly shouting at them. It probably made it very difficult for them to preach! So Paul, most likely guided by the Holy Spirit telling him that his woman had an evil spirit, commanded the spirit to come out of her and it immediately left.

Once her owners found out about this, they were furious that their source of income was gone! They had Paul and Silas arrested based on lies (that they were encouraging people to break Roman laws). The crowd joined in the riot and had Paul and Silas beaten, whipped and thrown into prison. The jailer was told to watch them closely, so he put them deep into the prison and shackled their feet so they couldn't get away.

About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns together for the other prisoners. Suddenly, an earthquake shook the prison and the doors came loose and their chains fell off. They were free, but they didn't leave! The jailer woke up, saw all the cell doors open, and thought all the prisoners had escaped. He thought he was going to be in big trouble!

When they turned the lights on, he saw Paul and Silas still in their prison cell and fell down at their feet asking how he could be saved. You see, he must have been listening to those prayers and hymns too. He believed in Jesus and took them to his house for them to hear the word of the Lord as well. His whole family believed and were baptized and they shared a meal together. Then apparently they went back to jail together!

Overnight, the judges must have come to their senses and realized that they had whipped and jailed these two men for no reason. So they ordered them to be freed first thing in the morning. But Paul wasn't happy about being treated so unfairly for no reason. He demanded that he and Silas be brought back before the judges so they could explain themselves to Paul and Silas. You see, Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, and in those days they were protected with certain rights as citizens. When the judges found out about this, they were doubly afraid. Not only did they treat them poorly, they could get in big trouble because they were Roman citizens. The judges apologized and led them out of the prison.

Paul and Silas went to meet with the believers in Philippi and then went along their way.

What You Will Need

Resource Sheet

Paul & Silas in Prison Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts the jailer finding the prison doors open and Paul & Silas still in their cell after the earthquake.

Lesson

1. Warm Up

get your kids talking and engaged

Has there ever been an earthquake where you live? What did it feel like? If not, what do you think it would be like?

Today, we're going to learn about a time when Paul and Silas were in prison and an earthquake happened!

2. Teach the Story

teach a holistic story

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 16:16-40

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?

  • Where did this story happen? (in Philippi, on Paul's second missionary journey)
  • They met a slave woman who had an evil spirit. What did this evil spirit allow her to do? (tell the future for people)
  • What was this woman doing to Paul and Silas? (following them around and shouting at them)
  • After Paul commanded the evil spirit to leave her, why were her owners upset? (because they were making money off her telling people the future)
  • What did they do to Paul and Silas? (they had them arrested - based on lies - beaten, whipped and thrown into prison)
  • What were Paul and Silas doing in the jail at midnight? (praying and singing hymns)
  • What happened next? (an earthquake rattled the prison, opened the doors of all the cells, and broke the chains off their feet)
  • Why was the jailer worried? (he thought all the prisoners escaped)
  • What did the jailer ask Paul and Silas? (how to be saved)
  • Where did the jailer take Paul and Silas next? (to his house, where his whole family believed and were baptized)
  • When the judges sent the word to free Paul and Silas the next morning, why did Paul demand to be seen by the judges again? (because they had been treated unfairly, especially as Roman citizens)

5. Faith Questions

help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
  • In this story, even though Paul and Silas were in prison, they were praying and singing hymns well into the night.
  • Do you think you would react like Paul and Silas if you were in their situation?
  • How can we learn to praise God no matter what our situation is?

6. Memory Verse

hide God's Word in their heart
He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8 (ESV)

Reinforcement Activities

Paper Chains

Heads up! This is a repeat lesson from Jesus' followers are persecuted.

Scripture When he received his orders, he put Paul and Silas deep inside the prison. He fastened their feet so they couldn’t get away. Acts 16:24

Supplies paper cut into strips

  • Make paper chains by gluing, taping or stapling paper strips.
  • Have students stick their feet into the chains.

Prison Bar Sewing

Heads up! Punch holes before class. If using, glue toothpicks to yarn before class, so they have time to dry.

Scripture When he received his orders, he put Paul and Silas deep inside the prison. He fastened their feet so they couldn’t get away. Acts 16:24

Supplies paper or this week's coloring sheet, hole puncher, yarn, plastic needes or toothpicks

  • Punch holes along top and bottom of paper.
  • Draw a picture of Paul and Silas in the middle of the paper. Or, use this week's coloring sheet.
  • Thread plastic needes with the yarn or use toothpicks glued to the yarn.
  • Sew up and down paper to make bars.
  • It is easier if you tape the string to the paper, so the students don't pull it all the way through the paper.

Listen to and Write Hymns

Heads up! Doing research about the songwriter that wrote many of the hymns will help the students understand the emotions behind the hymns.

Scripture About midnight Paul and Silas were praying. They were also singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25

Supplies hymn books and recored hymns

  • Read and talk about the meaning of commonly known hymns.
  • Listen to some hymns.
  • What do they mean?
  • What is the difference, if any, from the songs you sing in church?
  • Choose some Psalms and have the students write their own songs based on the scriptures.

Prison Break Game

Scripture About midnight Paul and Silas were praying. They were also singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. It shook the prison from top to bottom. All at once the prison doors flew open. Everybody’s chains came loose. Acts 16:25-26

Supplies hula hoops or rope

  • Divide students into two teams.
  • Designate a play area, with a safe zone opposite the prison.
  • Lay a couple of hula hoops or rope made into circles in the play area. These are the small safe zones.
  • Team 1 starts in prison. Team 2 are the prison guards.
  • To begin the game, the adult yells "prison break!"
  • Team 1 tries to run across the play area to get to the safe zone on the opposite side of the play area without getting tagged. They can stop in the small safety zones, but can be tagged anytime outside of the circles.
  • Team 2 tries to tag team 1. If tagged, they must go back to the prison.
  • Team 2 wants to tag all of Team 1 without letting anyone get to the safe zone.

Act out Lesson

Scripture Acts 16:16-20

Supplies chains made out of paper

  • This is a great lesson to act out.
  • Choose students to be Paul, Silas and the Guard.
  • Other students can be other prisoners, the guard's family and the judges.
  • Place the paper chains around the prisoner's feet.
  • Break the chains during the earthquake.

Simple Prison Game Tag

Scripture About midnight Paul and Silas were praying. They were also singing hymns to God. The other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. It shook the prison from top to bottom. All at once the prison doors flew open. Everybody’s chains came loose. Acts 16:25-26

Supplies large play space, area of the play marked off with masking tape, sticks or rope

  • Students will play tag. One person will be chosen to be "it."
  • All players must crawl or do the crab walk, including "it."
  • It you are tagged, you must go to the area marked off as the jail.
  • You must sing until a friend comes and rescues you from the jail.