Jesus is the master teacher. Through parables, He repeatedly made the Kingdom of Heaven accessible to everyone, connecting spiritual truths with concrete elements of human life. Matthew 7:24–27, the parable of building your house on the rock, is a wonderful example of Jesus explaining spiritual matters in everyday terms.
The simple nature of parables make them ideal candidates for Sunday School lessons—so here are a few teaching strategies for teaching the parable of building your house on the rock to younger and older students.
Rain Will Fall
Younger students might not have yet experienced any challenging life events, but as they grow and mature in their faith, they’re sure to come face-to-face with heartbreak, loss, and injustice. If students have trouble thinking of examples of tough times, give them some situations to consider:
- Death of a parent or grandparent
- Not having enough food
- School shootings
As you teach this parable, connect these troubling experiences with sin. Sins are represented by the falling rain, beating winds, and raging floods.
In the center of a chalk or dry-erase board, draw a small child (yes, it can be a stick figure!) to represent the students in the class. Draw rain, wind, and raging water on both sides of the child. Invite students to come forward and write one example of a challenging life experience next to the storm elements, helping them connect real life situations to the imagery of rain, wind and floods.
Use this opportunity to talk about how sometimes it might feel like bad things are happening all around us.
Build on the Rock
When we teach about idols, especially in the context of the Old Testament, children often have a hard time understanding what an idol is in their own lives. In this activity, you’ll encourage children to think about idols—things they love or value more than God—they might have in their lives.
Draw a sand hill on the board. Ask students to write things that they like inside the hill—this could include video games, summer vacation, Christmas presents, sports, or candy. Encourage them to think honestly about what they put before God.
Now draw a house on top of the sand, surrounded by rain, wind, and floods. Help the students to see that, just as sand will not sustain the house, neither will video games nor sports when life becomes tough.
Using the same drawing, erase the sand and idols and draw a rock (or a firm square foundation) under the house and write “Jesus” inside. Explain that Jesus can do anything and that His love for us never fails, even when bad things happen. Be careful not to give students the idea that Jesus will prevent all our problems—rather He abides with and sustains us through difficult times.
If you are feeling extra creative, present the same ideas using a small pile of real sand in a plastic tub. Place a miniature toy or house on top of the pile next to the flags. Have children write their idols on paper taped to toothpicks (little flags) and stick them into the hill. Then pour water on the sand so that the hill collapses and the house falls off. Now replace the sand hill with a brick or two, and place the toy or house on the bricks. Pour water over the structure again, this time talking about how Jesus is with us through the bad times.
Rain Will Fall
Have the students develop a list of “falling rain” and “raging flood” events in life—things that happen to us that we might deem as “bad.” Try to come up with at least twenty as a group. After you’ve written out the ideas on the board, have students determine which events merely happen to us, versus those events for which we are directly responsible.
Events outside of our control include things like the death of a loved one, a parent’s job loss, or tornado damage. Getting a bad grade, going to prison, and getting lung cancer from smoking are consequences of our actions or negligence.
Explain that all these examples are rooted in sin—we do things we shouldn’t, but even the bad things that seem to randomly happen are because of sin in the world.
While we’ll never be perfect, we can strive to control our own behavior and be like Jesus. This is part of what Jesus means by building the house on the rock. God’s rules for our behavior in life is not merely a matter of good and evil; it is also practical. God’s law isn’t just a list of things we can’t do—it’s a way for Him to guide humanity back towards the way He designed it before the fall.
To continue exploring this idea, list the Ten Commandments on the board. Encourage children to think about what happens when they break a commandment:
- When we gossip, we hurt other people’s reputations.
- When we disobey our parents, we disrespect the people God has put in our lives.
- When we steal, we cause other people to experience loss.
Sinning doesn’t just result in a punishment or consequence for you—it often hurts other people, and most of all it hurts God. When we sin, we put our own needs first and don’t consider how God wants us to live as His children.
Build on the Rock
Help students develop a list of things they use to cope with hard times. They might list things like:
- Relationships (friendship or romantic)
- Athletic or intellectual giftedness
Lead students to understand that in sin we often turn these God-given items into idols, expecting them to sustain us when life becomes challenging. Each one of these idols will fail. People betray. Money runs out. Our bodies and minds weaken. Movies and music provide only a passing joy.
Where all these gifts from God can indeed enhance our lives and bring us joy, Jesus is our stable foundation—the only thing that can truly make us happy. Regardless of life’s changes and losses, His love and forgiveness are unchanging. No matter what happens, we have the victory of eternal life in Christ.