Families have always experienced acceptance and rejection, joy and anguish, hope and despair. What made the difference in Bible times? What makes the difference today?
Read the Student Lesson as well as the Teacher's Guide. This will provide everything you need to teach the Youth Sabbath School lesson.
An icebreaker or something to get people focused as you begin.
Draw a simple target and give participants three shots at hitting the bullseye. Pretend that the participant is getting a ready-made family based on the characteristics they hit. Create a target (two options are available here, or create your own). This can be a dart board with darts, a Velcro target with balls that stick, or some other simple game device.
This takes more time, is more involved, and can be quite personal. You will need a page with a blank coat of arms and colored pencils or markers to create some art on the sheet. Provide a blank coat of arms for each person. (This was also used as part of the February 23 materials for lesson option 3.) In medieval Europe, a knight would have a coat of arms on his shield. This would show his accomplishments and came to represent his identity. Those in the knight’s family would use this coat of arms to represent their family identity.
If you were to create a coat of arms for your family, what would you put on it? What would make a good symbol of your family—some type of animal, or a building, or a talent, or something else?
The blank coat of arms provided has four sections. Use each section to draw something to represent your family. Give each person in Youth Sabbath School a blank coat of arms and write in the description so participants can refer to it after you given them the following four examples. Feel free to substitute your own choices in place of these four. In the upper left, draw an animal that illustrates how you generally relate to one another within your family. In the upper right, draw a sport that you would all agree to play. In the lower left, create the picture of God you’ve learned in your family. In the lower right, draw the kind of food that is preferred at family gatherings.
You can choose to have people share one-to-one or in small groups, or you may prefer to keep something this personal a private matter unless participants choose to share later in Sabbath School.
TRANSITION: As we consider "Family Fiascos" today, don’t try to compete with the strange families and family situations in the Bible. Instead, realize that you’re not the only person who may have experienced family issues of one type of another. Some wonder why these stories of dysfunctional people are in the Bible. Perhaps we can relate to them, and trust in God who is bigger than our family and still very interested in it.
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.
Create a video that illustrates our world today and how those connected to God live in such a world. Ask someone in advance to create follow-up questions based on this video. Or watch "iBelieveBible Favored Son" below for a 3:18 video clip related to this week’s topic. Then use the follow-up questions provided (or create your own).
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 29:15–30:24; 34–35; 37–38; 49)
It probably depends on your family structure, and how you interact with one another. While times and cultures may vary, family and family gatherings can stir up a host of memories and emotions. Just about every family has some "skeletons in the closet" they don’t want others to know about, and at least one relative who is a bit quirky. (If you don’t think you have a person like that in your family, you might be the quirky one!)
We’ll look at what it was like in Jacob’s time and culture, about 3,500 years ago in what we now call the Middle East. You can expect some things to be different, but also some things might surprisingly be similar.
When it comes to family we need to know who’s in and who’s out, and how these relatives are related to each other. We have to keep in mind that Jacob married two sisters. (Was that a good idea or was he tricked, just like he had tricked his brother to get the family birthright?) And both of the sisters used their female servants as surrogate mothers. (Could that happen today?)
We won’t bother with his grandpa Abraham who is dead, nor his mother Rebekah who is also dead, nor his father Isaac who is nearing death, nor his brother Esau since he probably isn’t invited to the family reunion (sound familiar?). We have the makings of a reality TV show, except this one doesn’t involve producers stirring up the drama.
Start with the handout "Jacob’s Family" and write in the various children with their mother and in their order of birth. Do this in teams of two. (Assign the groups or let them form naturally. Check to be sure people aren’t left out and that they have access to a Bible. If your group is large, keep these working groups small—two is better than three.) You can find the answers in Genesis 29:15–30:24. It would probably be a good idea to number the teams just to keep them straight.
Jacob lived in a patriarchal society, so giving birth to a son would be considered a greater honor than giving birth to a daughter. At that time, it was thought that the pregnant mother determined the baby’s gender. This was before the scientific discovery that shows it’s actually the male’s sperm that determines the gender of the baby. Let’s keep this in mind as we consider the dynamics in Jacob’s day.
Let’s imagine that Jacob is going to have a special family reunion with all 12 sons and one daughter, plus their mothers. He has asked you to put together a workable seating chart. There will be 18 people in total. (Technically, Rachel and Benjamin wouldn’t be at the table together because Rachel died while giving birth to Benjamin, but include both Rachel and Benjamin in this seating chart.)
Before you draw a table and assign seats, take into consideration the way they relate to each other and their shared history. Read Genesis 29:15–30:24; 34–35; 37–38; 49. This is a lot of material, and some might be a review for those in your class. But notice the nuances and details you might have forgotten or not heard quite this way from a children’s story version or VeggieTales videos.
It’s up to the leader to decide if the whole class will read through these chapters in Genesis as a group or divide them and have different people search their particular chapter. (There are six segments; if you want a seventh, add Genesis 38 for another odd and ugly chapter in Jacob’s family.) You may want to read aloud or silently. These are all options for the leader to choose based on your particular group.
After reading some of this background to the family and its history, plus Jacob’s dying blessings to his 12 sons (Genesis 49), jot some notes to consider before making your seating chart for the family reunion. Hand out the "Jacob’s Family Reunion" sheet and give time
to write notes for each. After working on this, draw the group together and ask a few questions.
It’s time to make the seating chart for Jacob’s family reunion. Take the sheet "18 Family Members" and cut out the 18 names so you can move them around your chart. Then take the sheet "Jacob’s Family Reunion Seating Chart for 18 People" and begin to place the people around the table(s) you draw. Work alone or in the groups that read the Genesis passages and wrote the notes to consider.
The leader needs to give a timeframe to complete this task, such as five minutes. Give helpful reminders of the time remaining. If some finish early, ask a few questions about how they chose who would sit where. Check to see if they opted to have more than one table, and why. When the time has ended, give a few people the opportunity to share their seating chart with others. It’s best to present more than one seating chart. Notice similarities and differences as well as the rationale for where family members were placed.
A popular Christian song among teens several decades ago was called "His Banner Over Me is Love." Based on Song of Solomon 2:4, the lyrics include, "He sits me at his banqueting table, His banner over me is love." The book of Revelation pictures the wedding supper of the Lamb with God’s people as the bride. Read aloud Revelation 19:6–9.
What makes the difference between Jacob’s family and God’s family? God chose to work through Jacob’s family. Jesus was born through the bloodline of Jacob! The tumultuous history shows that humans are messed up and God is forgiving. It also shows how great things can happen through God’s people when the people rely on God and let God flow through them to others.
You can’t change your biological or adoptive family, and you may have close friends whom you consider to be your chosen family. Just like we see in Jacob’s story, God works through all types of families.
Close with conversational prayer about three topics:
God’s people came through a family line full of major dysfunctions. It’s no wonder that Joseph was hated by his other brothers! And yet God worked amazing miracles through even these dysfunctional individuals that made up the original children of Israel. If God can do this through Jacob’s family, imagine what God can do through your family!
(BASED ON GENESIS 34; 35:1–15)
TRIGGER WARNING: This lesson deals with rape and sexual assault. Be aware that children (under 18 in most places) cannot consent in relationships, so all types of abuse, incest, rape, etc. are the responsibility of the older person. Read the article "Caring for Kids: What Parents Need to Know about Sexual Abuse" from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center before leading this discussion.
This chapter of the Bible is one that most people skip. It’s a horrible story. It’s about family
once again, which means it certainly fits our lesson for this week, “Family Fiascos.”
Before reading the story, let’s catch up on the context. Jacob had been forced to run for his life after deceiving his twin brother and father. During his journey, God appeared to Jacob
in a dream with the message that he was with Jacob and would continue to be with him. Eventually Jacob made it to where his relatives dwelled, which was very far from his own home. He spent twenty years working for his uncle and received payment in terms of two wives and then some animals.
Eventually Jacob returned to his home country, but received word that his twin brother Esau, along with 400 armed men, was coming to meet him. Jacob tried his best to appease the brother he had deceived so shamefully by sending him many gifts. Later during the night, a man approached Jacob and wrestled with him until morning, only leaving after giving Jacob a blessing as well as a terrible limp before he would face Esau. Miraculously, when he went to meet his brother Esau greeted his brother warmly, not giving him the reaction he really deserved.
Now Jacob was faced with the issue of finding a place to set up his tents in this promised land of Canaan. At this point in time, he had eleven sons and one daughter. Jacob decided to move his family to an area outside the town of Shechem. He purchased some land from Hamor, made an altar to “God, the God of Israel,” and prepared to begin a new life in this land of promise. As you may know, however, it didn’t go very well.
Read Genesis 34:1–31 aloud together as a group. Keep in mind that this is for mature audiences. Prepare your teens so they aren’t completely blindsided by this story. It’s real, it happened, and it’s in the Bible, so the teens in your Youth Sabbath School should discuss it. After you read the story together, lead the participants in a discussion with the following questions. This can be done either in small groups who then share their answers with the everyone, or just as one large group discussing it at once
Before we begin our discussion questions, it’s important to note that this situation was not Dinah’s fault, and both women and men can be the victims of rape and sexual abuse. However, the rapists and abusers are the people who are responsible for their actions.
If any of you have been a victim of rape or sexual abuse, I am so sorry. It’s not your fault. If you have had this experience, I encourage you to talk with a safe person such as a trusted family member, teacher, or pastor, and contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at www.rainn.org.
Show the website www.rainn.org on-screen.
This emotionally packed story doesn’t end in Genesis 34. Continue reading it in Genesis
35:1–15. God gave some specific directions and promises to both Jacob and his family, and
Take turns reading the first 15 verses of Genesis 35 aloud.
I am now going to give each of you a rock so you can make a marker like Jacob did when he
declared the space where he was living the “House of God.” For Jacob, this was a renewal at the very same spot where God had appeared to him earlier in life—before he had any wives or children. This renewal was a first-time experience for the rest of his family, however, including Dinah. They joined him in recommitting to God and to living in God’s house. It was also a way to acknowledge God’s presence in spite of all the terrible things that had happened in their family.
If you want to live in the "House of God" too, I invite you to take one of these stones right now to mark the place and pour some grape juice and oil over it to symbolize God’s presence in your life.
Parents often try to shield their children from subjects like rape and murder, so it’s no surprise if you’ve never heard this Bible story before today. However, the reality is that the Bible is full of stories that are as difficult to read as this one. When we do read them, it’s important to remember that God is always with us no matter what happens. He was with Jacob’s family during this incredibly difficult time in their lives, and he will always be with us as well.
(BASED ON GENESIS 37)
In advance put money in 12 different envelopes and place the following money in them: If you use U.S. dollars, use 1 $20, 1 $10, 2 $5s, and 8 $1s. If you use Monopoly money, use 1 $500, 1 $100, 1 $50, 2 $20s, 2 $10s, 2 $5s, and 3 $1s.
If you have fewer than 12 participants in your Youth Sabbath School, either let each person have more than one envelope or just use one envelope per person.
As the leader, make it obvious that you favor one person in the group (your "Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob") more than the others. Explain that you have something special for your children/Youth Sabbath School participants, but you are going to give it to just one person—the one who ends up with the largest amount of money after they open the envelopes that you are about to give them. Since they are all your children/Youth Sabbath School participants, each one gets an envelope. Line them up in order of importance.
Come up with your own explanation, but be sure you make a big deal about your favorite one being first and placing them right next to you.
Before they open their envelopes, explain that after they open the envelopes and take out their money, the person with the largest amount of money has the option of trading with anyone else in the class. Have them open their envelopes and then give Joseph the option of making any trades he or she would like. You might add more by simply handing Joseph an extra bill from your own wallet (a $20 if US dollars or a $500 if Monopoly money). That will give Joseph more than anyone else, and it will be so unfair and such an affront because you spoil Joseph at the expense of everyone else.
Now you’re ready to ask who has the most money. Be sure it is your favorite. When the others don’t have more than your favorite, ask them to give their money to Joseph. Then explain that you have something special for Joseph because he or she has more money than any of his or her siblings.
Give Joseph a large bathrobe and explain that by wearing this coat, he or she is exempt from household chores and always gets to be first. Because you are playing the role of Jacob, explain that as a twin with a brother who is a few minutes older, God still gave you the birthright the way a firstborn son would receive it in most families during Bible times. Because of that experience, you are preparing the rest of the siblings who are older than Joseph for the fact that your birthright will bypass them and go to Joseph. With that, put the bathrobe on Joseph and have him or her parade in front of the rest of the group, with lots of approval and affirmation from you.
Ask for two people in your group to join you in front and give them an opportunity, one at a time, to tell the story of Joseph, Jacob’s son, from his birth up to the time he was sold
into slavery. After the first person gives their 60-second version, invite the second person to add whatever is missing from the story or any corrections that need to be made. Limit both storytellers to just 60 seconds each.
Then read aloud the Bible version found in Genesis 37, taking turns in your group. Some might be surprised what they have forgotten about this familiar Bible story.
Joseph’s "coat of many colors" was long and had long sleeves. The rest of the brothers would have had short robes with no sleeves because of all the manual labor they had to
do each day. There were practical reasons for this. Such was the garb of workers. Only the nobility had long coats with long sleeves. What were the obvious implications for Joseph?
The book of Revelation frequently mentions "white robes" being given to God’s people as well as being the garb of those in heaven. (For example, see Revelation 3:4–5, 18; 4:4; 6:11; 7:9; 15:6; 19:14.) This gift symbolizes Christ’s righteousness—Christ’s perfection covering you. What a gift! Not only does Jesus want to live in us and through us, He completely covers us with His righteousness. We’re free to live for Him, knowing that we can count on His righteousness. All of us can be God’s favorite.
Joseph was very demonstrative of his love for Joseph, the firstborn son of his favorite wife, Rachel. But treating the person born #11 as the firstborn created all kinds of rifts with his brothers. We can scream, "That isn’t fair!" By role-playing this story, hopefully participants have greater empathy as well as understanding about this ancient Bible story. And be sure to thank God that He treats us not as we deserve, but far better than we deserve.
Let these spark ideas for ways you can move from talk to action and live out the lesson in a practical way this week.
The following applications relate to the corresponding Bible Study Guides for Scripture for the lesson above.
A. You don’t have to wait for a family reunion to think about your family and some of the dynamics you experience. Young children who visit another family often wish they could switch families because they see the family they’re visiting for only a short while and the family probably shows its good side when others are visiting. But by the time you’re a teen, you’ve come to see that each family has its challenges.
After this study on "Family Fiascoes" with Jacob’s family, take the time this week to go individually to some members of your family and thank them for the times they have forgiven you, encouraged you, stood up for you, taken a chance with you, celebrated with you, etc. Let them know that after studying Jacob’s family, you’re grateful God put you in this family.
If you aren’t ready or able to do this for whatever reason, do the same thing in prayer to God. In the privacy of talking with God, thank God or question God or rage against God or cry to God about your family. Get it off of your chest and onto God’s. He can handle
it much better than you. When you get it all out of your system, ask God what He would like for you to do for your family and with your family.
B. Take your rock of commitment to live in a "House of God." Tell those who you live with about your decision and invite them to make your residence a place that all present will consider to be a "House of God." Ask what commitments have been made previously, and acknowledge the need to periodically make recommitments because some things change (such as family, ages, maturity, calamity, bad choices, forgiveness, second chances, etc.), and some things stay the same (God is still God, He cares for us, God is present, God calls for our best and draws us to Himself).
C. This week initiate a conversation with someone with whom you can have one-to- one spiritual discussions. If you don’t have someone like that, use this to start on an experimental basis. The topic for you to introduce is based on your Sabbath School discussion last Sabbath about Joseph’s special coat and Christ’s white robe of righteousness offered to us. Read together Revelation 3:4–6 and Revelation 3:17–22 and discuss Christ’s offer of a white robe, what it takes to get it, and whether or not each of you has it. Close with prayer together and check in with each other one week later to ask how wearing Christ’s robe played out for you in the intervening week.
This bonus is just for the youth leader—a quick tip and an illustration to enhance your youth leadership. You may already know this idea, have learned it through trial and error, or maybe just need a reminder. Here it is in a quick infusion:
Those who has a little bit of exposure to young people and the current culture aren’t as likely to be shocked or reactionary when they see or hear about young people. Adults tend to have "selective memory" about their own teen years. Young people might simply be trying to "push your buttons" to see if you still care about them when they do something or look a certain way intended to shock. You can acknowledge their look or action, but will you still put your arm around them? Don’t confuse loving them with condoning their looks or actions.
Here’s a question a teen is asking, with a response from a youth pastor. This might be a question your teens are asking. Use the response to springboard into discussion with your Youth Sabbath School participants.
Question: What does it mean to be "blessed"?
Answer: It’s good, very good!
I’ve heard some form of the word "bless" in a number of settings, such as:
Where have you heard someone mention something about "blessing"? When do you use it? According to the dictionary, the word "blessed" comes from the old English word "blood,"
and it’s used in consecration. It could mean to hallow or consecrate by religious rite or
word, to hallow with the sign of the cross, to invoke divine care (bless your heart), to praise or glorify (bless His holy name), to speak well of, to confer prosperity or happiness upon, protect, preserve, endow, favor (blessed with athletic ability).
The meaning of "blessed" goes back to the Old Testament Hebrew words barak and
ashre that get translated "bless." The New Testament Greek words eulogeo and markarios also get translated as "bless." Here are some examples that I found in The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary:
God’s blessing happens when God gives good gifts to someone (see 2 Samuel 6:11, 12; Job
If every good gift has its origins in God (see James 1:17), then every blessing has its origins in God as well. But the blessings we receive from God aren’t merely for us. We are blessed in order to bless others, which has been God’s intention from the beginning (see Genesis
1:28–31). He repeated it when He promised a blessing to Abram–a blessing that would reach everyone on earth through Abram (see Genesis12:2, 3).
The same is true today. Every blessing that God gives us is for our benefit and for us to share with others. So bless you! Oh, God has already done that? Well, He’s doing it some more. Enjoy it, and pass it along by blessing others, too!