Depending on our connection with God, the struggles of life whether we caused them ourselves or they simply came to us can either break us or make us.
Read the Student Lesson as well as the Teacher's Guide. This may provide everything you need to teach the Youth Sabbath School lesson.
An icebreaker or something to get people focused as you begin.
Most people have played this simple hand game in the past. It fits this week’s
lesson, "Struggle by a Stream," very well.
Here are the instructions for playing Thumb War. Have your participants team up in groups of two. Have them curl the fingers of their right hand forward with their thumb pointing up, then hook their cupped hand around their partner’s. Both people’s thumbs should be free.
The partners then say together, "One, two three, four, I declare a thumb war." As they say each word, they alternate tapping their thumbs on the right and left sides of their cupped hands. Once the thumb war starts, the goal is for them to pin their thumb down on top of their partner’s before the other person can do it to them. Both partners must keep their fingers cupped the whole time.
The person who manages to pin down the other’s thumb is the winner. You can do a single elimination or make the winner the person who wins two out of three attempts.
When everyone is done, have the people who won against their partners then compete against each other. Continue eliminating people until you end up with a single champion for the day.
If you don’t know how to do a thumb war check out the video below.
Instead of doing a physical activity like wrestling or a thumb war, you can also have your participants match wits with each other. There are many types of games that allow for this. The age-old Tic-Tac-Toe is one possibility, although by their teen years most participants will end it with a "cat’s game," with neither person winning. Another way to match wits is by having one participant face off with another on a page filled with dots. The two take turns drawing a straight line between any two dots on the page, with the object being to enclose as many complete boxes as possible. Whenever someone is able to draw four sides and form a box, they put their initials inside and take another turn. This can continue until the person has drawn a whole series of boxes. When the two have connected all the dots and the entire page is full of boxes, whoever has more the most initialed wins.
This activity can take a lot of time depending on how many dots you have at the start. We have a basic version and an advanced version with a lot more dots as well as a completed example below.
TRANSITION: As you consider our lesson, "Struggle by a Stream," today, think about what little face-offs or competitions you come across in your day-to-day lives, and compare them to what it would be like to be in a big, major showdown with life-or-death consequences. That level of intensity is what today’s lesson is about. The opening activity is kids’ stuff in comparison to the Bible story we’re going to look at today.
This is a short video clip and an idea to help you to create your own video on this week’s topic, plus a few follow-up questions to spark discussion afterwards.
If you do decide to create a video clip yourself, use one that illustrates our world today and how those connected to God live in such a world. Ask someone to create some follow-up questions based on these video clips in advance.
You can also use the following video. You’ll find follow-up questions included
afterward or you can create your own.
You can show this short video clip in your Sabbath School as is or let it give you an idea for you to create your own video on this week’s topic. If you choose to use it as is, here are a few follow-up questions to lead your group in discussion afterwards. If you choose to create your own video, make sure it illustrates the struggles we face in life, whether large, small, or both.
The YouTube video "Jacob’s Family (Lie To Me pt. 2) [iBelieveBible]" is just over 3 minutes. This is a follow-up to one of the videos from last week, when the lesson was about Jacob deceiving his father and brother. This week’s lesson picks up right afterwards and dives into what happens when the estranged brothers cross paths again after twenty years.
If you choose to create your own video, you will also need to create your own follow-up questions to ask your participants afterward.
"Your Kingdom" is an original song written specifically for Youth Sabbath School. Go to the Youth Sabbath School Ideas website and download the lyrics, download the music, or download the video if you would like to learn this song and teach it in your Youth Sabbath School. The lyrics have been added to the collection of items at the end of this PDF. People usually need to repeat a new song several times before they catch on. You may want to have a few get familiar with it in advance so they can lead the rest of the group.
These are more approaches to the same topic as is in the Teacher’s Guide, but just a different way of looking at it. Expect activities to illustrate the topic followed by some questions.
BASED ON GENESIS 27:46–28:27
What in the world were Jacob and Rebekah thinking when they deceived Isaac and Esau into giving Jacob the birthright blessing?
If Isaac had realized what was going on, what would have happened to Jacob? What would happen to Rebekah, the one who initiated this scheme? And what would Esau do when he found out about it? Would he treat it as nothing more than a pot of stew now, or would he stew and stew until he exploded? As a hunter, Esau wasn’t known for his patience or gentle ways.
In an old TV game show from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s called Let’s Make a Deal, host Monty Hall would play with contestants picked arbitrarily from the audience. To get his attention, audience-goers would wear outlandish outfits that screamed, "Pick me, pick me!" If picked, they would trade something they had, such as a bobby pin or a pair of shoes or a $5 bill,
for whatever was hidden on stage. Contestants would always pick what was on the stage, which would be worth hundreds of dollars. And remember, this was decades ago when $100 bought a lot more than it does today!
At the end of the show, contestants who had won the most valuable prizes were given
the option to trade the valuable deal they’d already won for one last shot at three options hidden behind three large, sliding doors on stage. One might have a brand new car. Occasionally there would be a gag gift—a terrible deal the contestant had agreed to without knowing the results in advance. Part of the fun of the game show was the immediate benefits of trading up, but also the risk of losing big time.
When it came to deceiving the old and nearly blind Isaac into blessing Jacob instead of Esau, it seems like Jacob and Rebekah were playing their own high stakes version of Let’s Make a Deal.
Choose a volunteer from your Youth Sabbath School to play this version of Let’s Make a Deal. You can project pictures of the doors via PowerPoint or Keynote on a screen in your Sabbath School room. Tell your volunteer that unlike in the game show, they have four options to choose from instead of three. Remind them that they are playing as Jacob, then ask them to pick a door. Let them choose whichever one they want without warning them what might be behind it.
After your volunteer chooses a door, reveal what each of the four options were one at a time. They are:
Door #1: Isaac isn’t fooled and kicks Jacob out of the family
Door #2: Esau finds out and doesn’t mind being cheated out of the birthright
Door #3: Esau finds out and kills Jacob in a rage
Door #4: Isaac isn’t fooled and bans both Jacob and Rebekah
As it turns out, none of those were very good options for Jacob, were they?
We played Let’s Make a Deal from the point of view of Jacob and Rebekah just before he went into Isaac’s room sounding, feeling, and smelling like Esau so Isaac would give him the birthright blessing. Let’s play it again, but this time from Jacob’s perspective after he and his mother have successfully deceived Isaac.
Once again, you’ll have four doors to choose from and need to pick one—along with the
surprise that comes with it!
Select another volunteer from your Youth Sabbath School and have them play round two of this version of Let’s Make a Deal. Have the participant choose one of the four doors, then reveal the deals behind each door one by one.
Door #1: Jacob is killed or enslaved by bandits
Door #2: Jacob is rejected by his relatives
Door #3: Jacob joins his distant family
Door #4: Jacob starts a new life somewhere on his own
Once again, the options weren’t good for Jacob. He had successfully deceived his father,
but it turned out to be very costly. Esau was enraged and Rebekah, fearing that he would kill Jacob as soon as Isaac passed away, added to the lies and manipulation by going to Isaac and convincing him to send Jacob to live with her relatives. Isaac agreed and sent Jacob away. This turned out to be the last time Jacob saw his mother. Strangely, the aged and
blind Isaac went on to live another 43 years.
Writing a letter to send to friends and family during Christmastime is a custom many families do nowadays. These letters usually give the people they know an update on how a family is doing and what has happened to them over the past year. For this activity, choose one of
the characters in this story—Isaac, Rebekah, Esau, or Jacob—and write a Christmas letter as if you him or her. I know it’s not Christmas time right now, but try to use your imagination! Explain everything that happened with Isaac’s blessing and how Jacob had to leave home.
Print off "Christmas Letter Option 1" or "Christmas Letter Option 2" and hand them out along with pens or pencils to the participants in your Youth Sabbath School. You can also Google other Christmas note templates. Play some Christmas songs in the background while the participants compose their Christmas cards. When the music is over, invite those who are willing to share what they wrote by reading their letters aloud.
So Jacob left his parents and his seething brother to go find his mother’s relatives, who
lived about 450 miles away. Walking the equivalent of a marathon each day would take
15–20 days of travel. That would give him plenty of time to think, but it would also include uncertain travel in terms of bandits or slave traders or wild animals or anything else. What types of things do you think were going through Jacob’s head during his trip? (Feel free to get feedback.)
We can get a very short version of the story. Let’s read Genesis 27:46–28:27. (Take turns having people in your group read the story.)
Many of us have been hearing this story since we were children. Jesus even made a reference to it at the start of his public ministry. You can read about it in John 1:51, when Jesus told Nathanael he would see even greater things than the wow factor that had initially brought him to Jesus—he would see heaven open and angels going up and down upon the Son of Man. Can you think of any times this happened during Christ’s ministry? Has anything like this happened in your lifetime so far?
Jacob and Rebekah took a big risk in deceiving Isaac so Jacob could receive the magical and momentous blessing—which would affect the generations after him—that was Esau’s by birthright. Even though it could have been much worse, it still turned out badly—for the
entire family. Deception is a high-stakes game with low returns. And yet God, in his amazing Old Testament grace, still revealed a perpetual connection between heaven and Jacob in the dream he gave him. The angels ascending and descending that ladder showed that Jacob remained linked with heaven. That is grace!
BASED ON GENESIS 31:1–55
This is a two-page relational Bible study based on Genesis 31:1–55. To save on paper, download it and print it double- sided so there is text on both sides of the sheet.
It starts with an icebreaker question designed to level the playing field and make everyone realize that no one in the group is more of an expert than anyone else. The group will have to depend on the Holy Spirit to speak through them and give them divine insights. If you have more than 8–10 people in your Youth Sabbath School, divide them into groups of 4–8.
Take turns reading the passage out loud. Then give everyone some time to fill out their responses on the handout. Explain that they can choose more than one answer if they need to. When everyone is done, collect the handouts and follow up with a discussion based on the questions and the responses the participants gave. Ask them to explain the reasons behind their responses. If your group has more than ten people, break into smaller groups so more people have the opportunity to share.
Check the Application Ideas section for additional ideas about how to live this out this lesson in the coming week.
Years after running away from home, Jacob made a new home with his uncle Laban and ended up marrying… Leah, and then Rachel. Feeling like his father-in-law had ripped him off repeatedly, Jacob went on the run again, this time with his wives, children, and riches. Oh, and the false gods Rachel took with them. He escaped from the relative who had deceived him so he could return home to where his brother lived—who he had deceived twenty years ago. We don’t know exactly how nervous Jacob was to take this risk, but we do know that God had promised to be with him. God had given him another assurance of His presence.
BASED ON GENESIS 32:1–32
At his birth, Jacob received his name probably because, as the second twin boy out of the birth canal, it appeared he was grasping the heel of his brother (see Genesis 25:26). Unfortunately, Jacob’s name could also be translated as "deceiver." That’s certainly not a trait his parents would have wanted Jacob to develop, yet it seems that’s what he became known for—of the way he deceived his father into giving him the blessing that Isaac had prepared to give to Esau (Genesis 27).
Perhaps deception ran in the family. Jacob’s mother, Rebekah, pushed Jacob to deceive his father and helped him do it. When Jacob left home and went to live with his relatives on his mother’s side, Jacob got to get a taste of his own medicine from Laban, for whom deception seemed to be commonplace. Maybe the name "Jacob" (meaning "deceiver") was appropriate. Would you wear that name like a badge of pride or a moniker of shame?
Pass out a copy of the "Ranking Negatives and Positives" handout along with a pen or pencil to each Youth Sabbath School participant. Ask them to do just the first half of the page for now (or cut the pages in half and hand out the top half first). This is the "Ranking Negatives" section. Have the participants rank the list of things in order of most to least negative. Then lead them in a discussion with the following questions (or questions you create on your own).
After 20 years of living with Laban, marrying his two daughters, having children, and obtaining flocks and herds, Jacob took all he had and headed back toward his homeland. God gave Jacob the message to return, as well as a promise to be present with him (Genesis 31:3). But fearing Laban, Jacob and his family left secretly when Laban was away (Genesis 31:17–21). And demonstrating that deceit wasn’t the only problematic trait in this family, Jacob’s wife, Rachel, stole Laban’s household gods in the process of their sneaky departure. She later lied about it (Genesis 31:34–35). The Bible certainly doesn’t gloss over or cover up some of the unbecoming elements of God’s people. Perhaps that can give us hope when we mess up too. Does it demonstrate to you God’s patience, love, and forgiveness for his people?
Let’s not forget that Jacob received a message from God to head back home. After the showdown with Laban and his agreement to leave Jacob alone, God even sent Jacob an angel escort (Genesis 32:1–2). Even so, Jacob still chose to send five sets of gifts to Esau. He spaced them apart so Esau would receive them as five different waves of offerings—peace offerings.
Take turns reading Genesis 32:1–21 aloud as a group.
Earlier we ranked a set of five negative experiences that Jacob went through. Now we’re going to do something similar and rank a list of positives rather than negatives. Rank this list of gifts from 1–5 in order of what you think Esau would consider most valuable.
Tell the participants to start the second half of their "Ranking Negatives and Positives" handout or, if you cut the pages in half, hand out the lower half.
The title of this lesson is "Wrestling With God." We have now come to that part of the story!
But before we read it, let’s try a fairly brief version of what happens in it. Let’s try some arm-wrestling. Go ahead and partner up.
Most people know how to arm wrestle, but feel free to explain it if needed. Search for WikiHow's article "How to Win at Arm Wrestling." Have those who win then arm wrestle each other. Try to expend the participants’ strength with one contest after another.
This was just arm wrestling. Full body wrestling is also a taxing activity and actually, it’s an official sport! Athletes take part in competitions and face each other in matches that consist of up to three rounds, but with each round lasting between 1–2 minutes depending on the participants. Wrestling is a lot of work and can be very exhausting.
With this in mind, let’s read Genesis 32:22–32.
Take turns reading this passage aloud in your group.
The answer is not as definitive as we’d like it to be. The Bible calls the individual "a man" multiple times (Genesis 32:24–25). But afterward Jacob named the place Peniel, meaning "face of God," because he said, "I have seen God face-to-face, yet my life has been spared" (Genesis 32:30).
Jacob’s ancestors had seen God previously (see Genesis 12:7; Genesis 17:1; Genesis 26:2,
24) and later his descendants as well (Exodus 3:16; Exodus 6:3; Judges 13:8-11; 21–22;
1 Samuel 3:21). Some think of the request of when Moses asked to see God’s glory (Exodus
33:18) and God’s response was that no one can look on his face and live (Exodus 33:19–23). Evidently there’s a glory of God that God veiled when he appeared to people on earth. Sometimes God disguised himself or "closed the eyes" of those to whom he appeared, often so much that they didn’t even recognize him (see Genesis 18:1; Luke 24:13–16; 31).
For those who think this was an angel, the word "angel" doesn’t appear in this passage. Jacob’s struggle with God through the night serves as a prefigure that Jesus, God who came to earth in the form of "a man," struggled with God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32–42).
Perhaps the more important thing to note in this story is that Jacob, formerly known as a "deceiver," gets his name changed to Israel, signifying that he’d "struggled with God." Some might not like that meaning any more than "deceiver." Still, it meant he’d clung to God and refused to release his hold until he received a blessing. With all of God’s supreme power, you’d think he could have overpowered Jacob at any time. But that wasn’t what God was after. What mattered was that Jacob continued to cling to God. When Jacob/Israel met Esau the next morning, it would seem that the limp God gave him before the blessing put Jacob at both Esau and God’s mercy.
Despite his best attempts to appease his brother, Jacob still encountered an opponent in a mysterious stranger who approached him in the night and started wrestling with him. This went on until daybreak—exceptional considering this was a life or death struggle. If this had been a matter of physical power, God would’ve won right away. But it seems choosing to cling to God was what mattered—and it resulted in a physical change to Jacob’s body (a limp) that in turn represented an even bigger change in his life—the changing of his name from Jacob to Israel.
Let this spark your ideas to move from talk to action by living out the lesson in practical ways in your life this week.
The following applications relate to the corresponding Bible Study Guides for Scripture for the lesson above.
A. It’s your turn to make a deal with God. Jacob received a vision with a ladder connecting heaven with earth, with angels ascending and descending along it. What did Jacob do to deserve this? Is this ladder that connects heaven and earth something that is true for you now? If so, what deal/vow will you make with God? What greater things can you expect? Share this with another person in Sabbath School today.
Record it in some way (write it on a note and place it in your Bible or pocket, or take a photo of this with your device or make a short video of your vow so you can refer to it during the coming week). Check with each other one week from now.
B. During this week jot down the things from which you are running. This could be something like a schoolwork assignment, a friend who is no longer a friend, a deadline, a punishment, a responsibility you don’t want, a reputation you can’t seem to shake, a God you don’t trust or love, a family member you just don’t want to be around, etc. At the end of the week, make this list a starting point for praying to
God and listening to what God has to say to you about each one. Respond to God’s promptings.
C. Several times this week do a set of push-ups to physically exert yourself. As you lower yourself all the way to the ground, think of drawing close to God. As you extend
your arms, think of the types of things you do or thoughts you have that push you away from God. When you get to the point of not being able to do even one more push-up, lower yourself to the ground and ask God to bless you, just like Jacob/Israel asked.
This bonus is just for the youth leader—a quick tip and an illustration to enhance your youth leadership. You may already know this, or you may learn it through trial and error, or maybe you just need a reminder of something you already know. Here’s a way to get it with a quick infusion.
While some young people are completely oblivious to how they look, many place tremendous importance on how they look, even if that look is sloppy or a look you would never choose for yourself. Exactly! As teens try out new identities, they need to pick something adults would never pick for themselves. You don’t have to like it, or even pretend you like it. Just acknowledge their look with something like, "This is the first time I’ve seen your new look!" or "It looks like you thought a lot about your outfit today," or "I could never get away with that look, but you sure know how to do it!" Don’t be too surprised when it changes next week.
Here are a few resources to add to your collection as a Youth Sabbath School leader. The fourth week of each month will have a few resources for a variety of
The Youth Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church created a special, youth edition Bible. Starting with the New King James Version (though we’re not sure why they didn’t choose a more youth-friendly English translation), this Bible has loads of helpful materials included for young people. These include short introductions to each book of the Bible, and lots of resources right in the pages. While you’re reading, you’ll come across comments in the sidebar and QR codes where readers can access short articles on that portion of Scripture. It’s an amazing collection that both youth and those who lead them will find helpful. At the back are the maps, but also Bible reading plans and other helpful articles. This product is a bit pricey ($35) but that’s because it’s loaded with helpful resources! It’s available in English, Spanish, or French at safelizbibles.com as well as Adventist Book Stores. For a YouTube overview, go to YouTube and type in "Youth Bible Safeliz."
Get a couple of youth pastors together, mix some online savviness and an entrepreneurial spirit, and their ideas are what you get with Download Youth Ministry. This is a collection of youth ministry ideas from a variety of denominations all mixed into one. While there can be nuanced as well as distinctive differences between Bible studies based on one’s denomination, many things are still universal across all denominations. For example, what’s the difference between an Adventist icebreaker and a Baptist icebreaker?
Check out this online resource at downloadyouthministry.com. Each month a new set of resources gets posted. You can choose your financial level of access, whether it’s a single item, a bronze level membership ($12/month), a silver level ($22/month), or a gold level ($27/month). You’ll be amazed by the great variety of youth ministry resources available.
Dave Ramsey has become the Christian guru for finances. The American proclivity of "buy now, pay later" creates all kinds of difficulties. Ramsey’s Financial Peace University has helped many adults with these difficulties, and now he’s packaged it for other age groups as well, including youth. You can Google "Dave Ramsey" or "Financial Peace University" and then go to the youth curriculum. For a little more than $100 you can get videos and workbooks. It’s geared more for a school setting than a church setting, but you can still adapt it for your situation. Young people may not be rich, but they have access to money and are developing habits that will shape their present and future lives, attitudes, and practices. Click here to see the package.