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Lesson Prep

Story Summary

We learned in the Paul's Mission lesson that Paul spent much of his life after becoming a Christian traveling around to different cities preaching and establishing churches. He spent a lot of time at some of the churches (over 2 years in Corinth, 2 years in Rome, 3 years in Ephesus) and just passed through other towns. Although he was never the full-time leader of those churches, he worked very hard and raising up leaders and getting the churches established before he moved on to the next location. He also stayed in touch with the churches after he left. He wasn't the only one traveling around to these churches.

Other church leaders would visit from different towns and give him a report on what was going on. Or, Paul would write letters back and forth to the churches to encourage them and correct issues that were occurring. Some of these letters were written by Paul during his missionary journeys, and some were written while Paul was in prison. Many times, Paul would write these letters and send them with trusted members of his team. For instance, when Paul wrote one of his letters to the church at Corinth, he gave it to Titus to deliver. Most likely, he wanted to make sure he had a representative there who could handle any questions or misunderstandings right away.

Church Location Name of the Letter(s) Main theme of the letter
Rome Romans God gives us all his righteousness based on our faith, not our works
Corinth 1 & 2 Corinthians Correcting issues in the Corinthian church concerning divisions, acceptance of sin, some who were questioning Paul's authority.
Galatia Galatians Obedience to Jewish laws and customs is not required to be a follower of Christ
Ephesus Ephesians Helping the readers understand the purpose and functions of the church
Philippi Philippians How to live the Christian life in joy
Colossae Colossians Correcting false teaching that was happening in the Colossian church
Thessalonica 1 & 2 Thessalonians Encouraging the church in Thessalonica to persevere through persecution.

Paul also wrote letters to some of the church leaders that he left in charge of the churches. These are known as the Pastoral Epistles. "Pastoral" - because these were written by Paul in a pastoral capacity, leading these men. "Epistles" - just a fancy word for "letters".

Pastor Location of the church Main theme of the letter
Timothy Ephesus Paul encouraging Timothy to be bold and preserve the gospel in the face of opposition and heresy
Titus Crete (among others) Paul encouraging Titus on how to deal with false teachers, how to deal with opposition, and instructions about faith and conduct
Philemon Colossae Paul encouraging Philemon to welcome back a slave (Onesimus) who had run away and become a Christian.

These letters were not written to these churches and to these men just to be stuffed on a shelf somewhere. They were written to be read aloud. For instance, most people believe that the letter to Ephesus was not just to one church, but it was written specifically to be sent around to all the churches in the region and read aloud.

Some of Paul's letters reference other letters he wrote that are not part of the Bible. Also, there are other letters in the Bible that were not written by Paul, but are still important! 

What You Will Need

Resource Sheet

Paul Write's Letters to Churches Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts Paul writing letters to the churches he helped establish on his missionary journeys

Lesson

1. Warm Up

get your kids talking and engaged

Have you ever gotten a letter in the mail that was addressed to you? What was it? Who was it from? What did it say?

Today, we're going to learn about many letters that Paul wrote to the churches he helped create during his missionary journeys.

2. Teach the Story

teach a holistic story

Like Paul's Mission, this lesson is a summary of the letters Paul and others wrote to the churches in Greece and modern day Turkey. The Egermeier's Bible Story Book has a nice summary of this portion of the Bible, starting on page 564, that can be read out loud to your class.

Or, read the story summary above and teach it as a story to the children.

3. Bible Mastery

give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Colossians 4:18

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?

  • Who wrote most of the letters contained in the New Testament? (Paul)
  • Who did he write the letters to? (the churches he helped create when he was on his missionary journeys, and to some of the church leaders he left behind)
  • What were the main purposes of the letters? (to encourage the churches to continue in faith, and to correct problems that were occurring)
  • Where did Paul write these letters? (some he wrote while he was still on his missionary journeys, and some he wrote while he was in prison)
  • How did Paul get these letters to the churches? (he sent them with people who hand delivered them)
  • What did the churches do when they received these letters? (they read them out loud in front of the whole church)

5. Faith Questions

help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
  • Paul wrote letters to the churches he helped establish because he wanted them to grow up in their faith.
  • How are you growing in your faith? Are you using the Bible to help you grow up in your Christianity?

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

Write Letters to Your Class

Scripture I, Paul, am writing this greeting with my own hand. Remember that I am being held by chains. May grace be with you. Colossians 4:8

Supplies paper, pencils or pens

  • Have students write a letter to their class that will encourage them and challenge them to become closer to God or write a letter as a group.
  • Make it specific to the class, but do not single out a specific student. For example, if the class has a difficult time listening during the lesson, include that in the letter. Or: if they are struggling with showing respect to the teacher or others, not giving a tithe, or not participating during class discussions
  • Have the teacher read the letters to the class, being careful to censor anything that is directed at a single student.

Bible Table of Contents Activity

Supplies Bibles

  • Provide each student with a Bible.
  • Turn to the table of contents.
  • Read through the books of the New Testament.
  • The first 4 book are the gospels that chronicle the life and death of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)
  • Acts was written by John (same John that wrote the gospel of John). Acts describes the beginning of the early church after Jesus went to heaven.
  • Talk about which books were written by Paul to churches in different cities.
  • Discuss background information about the churches (Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Phillipi, Colassae, Thessalonica)
  • Other books that Paul wrote were written to individuals. (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus and Philemon)

Write letters

Heads up! This would be a good intro to the lesson

Scripture I, Paul, am writing this greeting with my own hand. Remember that I am being held by chains. May grace be with you. Colossians 4:8

Supplies paper, pencils or pens

  • Ask students to write a letter to someone. (Or draw a picture, if students cannot write)
  • What things do you usually include in a letter to someone?
  • In our Bible Story today, Paul wrote a lot of letters to people he knew to encourage them and correct them.

Invite People of Different Ages

Scripture Brothers and sisters, I couldn’t speak to you as if you were guided by the Holy Spirit. I had to speak to you as if you were following the ways of the world. You aren’t growing as Christ wants you to. You are still like babies. The words I spoke to you were like milk, not like solid food. You weren’t ready for solid food yet. 1 Corinthians 3:1-2

Supplies baby, preschooler, older kid, grown up and supplies for each (see below)

  • Provide items that people use at different stages of their lives.
    • Bottle
    • sippy cup
    • plastic cup
    • glass
    • crayon
    • fat pencil
    • thin pencil
    • pen
  • Have the students match up the supplies with the appropriate aged person.
  • To be funny, you could have the adult drink out of the bottle and write with a thick crayon.
  • What would happen if the grown up still needed the bottle or the sippy cup to drink?
  • Or a crayon to write with?
  • As we get older, we learn to do thing in a new more mature, grown up way.
  • The same behavior should happen in our relationship with God. Paul writes to the churches to encourage them and challenge them to grow up in their faith.
  • Your faith should look different now than it did when you first accepted Christ.

Writing Letter Relay

Scripture I, Paul, am writing this greeting with my own hand. Remember that I am being held by chains. May grace be with you. Colossians 4:18

Supplies paper, pencils, tables or chairs to place paper on, For younger students: Colossians 4:18 cut up into individual words, one set per team, and glue

  • Teach Colossians 4:18 to the class.
  • Divide class into two teams.
  • Each team must run down, one at a time, and write one word of Colossians 4:18.
  • The first team to get the entire verse written, wins.
  • If your students have a hard time memorizing the verse, you can leave a copy of the verse near the paper.
  • For younger students, they can glue the words onto a piece of paper, one at a time.

Deliver Letters Relay

Supplies large play area, envelopes with the names of churches, signs with the names of the churches

  • Write the names of the churches (and individuals, if using) on envelopes. Make a set for each team.
  • Place signs around the play area with the names of the churches (Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Phillipi, Colossae, Thessolonica)
  • If you have a large group, you can include the individuals that Paul wrote individual letters to. (Timothy, Titus, Philemon)
  • Divide class into two teams.
  • Place a sign with the name Paul a good distance from the teams.
  • Place both piles of envelopes in front of Paul (should be in a different order).
  • One person from each team runs to Paul and gets an envelope.
  • They must run to the correct church sign and leave (deliver) the envelope then run back and tag the next teammate to get another envelope.

Read a Letter to the Class

Scripture I, Paul, am writing this greeting with my own hand. Remember that I am being held by chains. May grace be with you. Colossians 4:8

Supplies prewritten letter by someone the students know and respect

  • Ask someone the students know and respect to write a letter to them.
  • The letter should include encouragment in their faith and correction, if appropriate.
  • Read the letter to the class.

How Can I Grow Up?

Scripture Brothers and sisters, I couldn’t speak to you as if you were guided by the Holy Spirit. I had to speak to you as if you were following the ways of the world. You aren’t growing as Christ wants you to. You are still like babies. The words I spoke to you were like milk, not like solid food. You weren’t ready for solid food yet. 1 Corinthians 3:1-2

Supplies Growing Up worksheet

  • Print out the Growing Up worksheet below and give to the students.
  • Read the Bible verses on the left side of the sheet.
  • Have the students consider which of those instructions could apply to them, or how they might grow up in their faith.
  • For example, some of them should commit to reading their Bibles so they can learn how to grow.
  • Others should think about a particular area in their life that they need to offer to God (like using foul language, being in conflict with others, etc)
  • Have them write their ideas on the right side of the sheet.