Jesus Calms the Storm (Elementary Lesson)

This grab-and-go lesson teaches kids that when Jesus is in control of their lives, they have nothing to worry about or fear.
12 min read

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

John 20:3031

TEACHER PREPARATION

Heart to Heart Teacher Devotion

In this lesson, Jesus brings peace to a stormy sea and peace to His disciples. Jesus shows that He has power over nature, power over fear, power over any problem. When Jesus is in control of our lives, we have nothing to worry about or fear.

Focus

Jesus is in control.

Leader Resources

Below are some resources that will help you plan and lead this lesson.

FOCUS IN

Use one or more of these activities to help students explore times they’ve been afraid.

Welcome

  • Welcome each student warmly by name.
  • Early arrivers will enjoy doing the additional activities described in the Overview.

Quick Step

When Have You Been Afraid?

Supplies

  • Pencils
  • Watch

Teach

SAY: Let’s play a game that will help us think about times when we’ve been afraid. Show kids one of the reproducible pages. 

In this game, the goal is to get as many signatures in each box as possible. Start by putting your name at the top. Then give your paper to a friend. The friend will quickly put her name in the boxes that describe times she has been afraid. When she is done, get your paper back and give it to someone else. 

Tell kids to be truthful. If they’ve been afraid of any of these things, they can put their names in the boxes. If they haven’t, they should not. You’ll have three minutes. Ready? Go! After three minutes, call time. Have kids retrieve their own papers. Congratulate those who got lots of names on their papers.

ASK: When are some other times you’ve been afraid? Accept responses.

SAY: Today we’re going to dig into God’s Word and find out who can help us when we’re afraid—and who is in control.

Option

Homemade Storm

Supplies

  • Large glass bowl
  • Towel
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoons
  • Water
  • Vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Blue food coloring

Teach

ASK: When are some times you’ve been afraid? Accept responses.

SAY: One thing that many people are afraid of is big storms. Let’s make our own storm! Have students gather around the bowl. Put a towel under the bowl. Let students help by pouring and measuring.

Put one cup of water into the bowl. Add blue food coloring, if desired, to make it look more like a stormy sea. Pour in one cup of vinegar and stir. Then add one tablespoon of baking soda. As the ingredients mix, the water will become very bubbly and foamy.

SAY: Today we’re going to dig into God’s Word to find out about a time when some men were afraid of a storm. We’ll also discover who can help us when we’re afraid—and who is in control.

Bible in Life Curriculum Trial
Bible in Life curriculum trial

EXPLORE HIS WORD

Use these activities to help students describe what happened when Jesus and His disciples were in a boat.

Bible Background for The Teacher

Little boy with chin resting on hands
Image Credit: PhotoAlto/Anne-Sophie Bost/Getty Images

The Sea of Galilee sits some 600 feet below sea level in the deep rift that forms the Jordan valley. After sunset, when cool air from the surrounding mountains meets the warm air rising from the lake, violent winds often arise suddenly and churn the surface of the sea.

The disciples, several of whom were fishermen, were therefore justified in their concern. Jesus’ response to this dangerous situation reveals His divine identity. The Old Testament portrays God as the one who controls the sea (Job 38:8-11Psalms 29:3-1165:5-7), and this theme is carried over into the Gospels.

The Sea of Galilee formed the physical backdrop for Jesus’ ministry, making it an appropriate canvas for displays of His power: walking on water (Mark 6:47-49), supplying a coin from a fish’s mouth (Matthew 17:24-27), and providing a miraculous catch of fish (John 21:1-11).

Jesus interprets the disciples’ cry for help as a lack of faith. Although they believe that Jesus can rescue them, they don’t yet truly understand who He is. The disciples should have realized that God would not allow His Son to die an untimely death before His purposes were accomplished.

Jesus therefore criticized them for their “little faith” (Matthew 8:26). No storm could disrupt God’s plan. The disciples’ response in Matthew 8:27 was typical of miracle accounts. Despite their earlier confidence, they remain amazed at Jesus’ power.

The key to the episode lies in their unanswered question, “What kind of man is this?” Had they recognized the kind of man that Jesus was, they would not have feared the storm in the first place. However, now the disciples have even more reason to know and understand that Jesus is in control .

Bible Exploration

Matthew 8:23-27

Supplies

Teach

Have a volunteer show on the map the Sea of Galilee. Tell students that this is where today’s Bible story takes place. Have another volunteer read about this place from the map and from the Check It Out! section below the map. Stand by the Bible time line of Jesus’ life. Point out the “Beatitudes” icon.

SAY: Jesus continued teaching about God when He taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer. He spoke in parables and healed a centurion’s servant. This is where we pick up God’s story.

ASK: What’s the first book of the New Testament? (Matthew) 
Who does Matthew write about?  (Jesus)

Ask students to turn to Matthew 8:23-27. Have volunteers read the verses aloud. Then have students move their chairs to sit as if they were in a boat (or have kids sit on the floor). If desired, you could use masking tape to make an outline of a boat in which the kids could sit. You could also open a can of tuna fish to help create a sea-smelling room!

SAY: If you remember, some of Jesus’ disciples had been fishermen. Probably all had traveled by sea many times. So when Jesus got into the boat, His disciples did too. Getting into a boat was a very normal thing to do. But while out on the Sea of Galilee, a huge storm came up. Let’s pretend that we’re in the boat too. 

Tell kids to sway back and forth as if being tossed by huge waves. Flash the overhead lights on and off.

Continue the Story

SAY: Hang on! We might drown! Wait a minute. Jesus is on the boat. The disciples looked for Jesus. Jesus was sleeping! Tell kids to keep swaying back and forth. The disciples woke Jesus and said, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” (Matthew 8:25). 

Jesus said, “You men have such little faith. You know that I’m right here with you. Why are you afraid?” The disciples had nothing to say. Jesus got up and scolded the waves that were beating against the boat. He rebuked the strong winds that were blowing. Immediately, the storm was gone! 

Kids should stop swaying. 

Jesus’ disciples looked at each other in amazement. They couldn’t believe it. How could Jesus speak to the waves and wind? And how could the waves and wind obey Him? What kind of man was this? The disciples did not yet understand how powerful Jesus is. They did not yet understand that Jesus is in control , even over winds and waves.

Have students return to their seats. Distribute the activity leaflets and have students look at Jesus Calms a Storm. Read the directions and do the page together.

(Answers: 1=was sleeping; 2=”We’re going to drown! Save us!”; 3=men of little faith; 4=they immediately became calm; 5=”What kind of man is this?”)

Keep Going

ASK: From this event, what did you learn about Jesus? (He’s powerful. He has control over nature.) 

Why did Jesus scold, or rebuke, His disciples?  (because they didn’t have much faith, they were afraid) 

What is a number between 1 and 10, with 10 being the highest, to describe how much faith in Jesus you think you might have had if you had been in the boat?  Accept responses.

SAY: It can be easy to think badly about the disciples for not having much faith in Jesus and not understanding that Jesus is in control. But what if we had been in the boat? It’s hard to know what we would have done. Let’s think about times that we can put our faith in Jesus, knowing that He is in control.

Bible Memory

John 20:3031

Supplies

  • Bibles
  • Reusable adhesive

Teach

“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Continue to display the John 20:3031 poster on a wall or bulletin board. Have kids turn in their Bibles to John 20:3031, and have a volunteer read the verses aloud. Have volunteers place the word cards in their correct places on the poster.

SAY: Jesus did miracles, such as calming the sea, so people would come to believe in Him and have life in His name.

Have kids gather in a circle. Take the word cards off the poster, and give one card to a student. Have that student say the first word of the Bible Memory. He should pass the word card to the person beside him. That student should say the next word. Keep going like that until the kids have said the first verse.

The student who completes the verse can place the word card on the poster. Give another word card to a student and repeat the process. Keep going until all the word cards have been added to the poster.

Optional Bible Skill Builder

Close-Up Boy Looking Up While Sitting On Beach Against Sky
Image Credit: Hannes Eichinger/EyeEm/Getty Images

Supplies

  • Bibles

MAKE IT REAL

It’s Time!

Supplies

  • Pencils

Teach

SAY: Jesus doesn’t ask us to get into a boat with Him. But He does ask us to put our faith in Him. Have kids pair up and interview each other. It would be best if there is at least one willing reader in each pair. 

Ask your partner: When is a time that you’ve put your faith in Jesus or seen someone else put his or her faith in Jesus? 

After a minute or so, let kids share what their partners said. Then have students turn in their activity leaflets to Time to Put Your Faith in Jesus! Staying in the same pairs, assign each pair one of the situations to read and come up with possible responses.

When kids are done, have the pair who has situation #1 read it and tell how Austin can put his faith in Jesus. (Possible responses: Pray and ask for God’s help. Know that Jesus is in control. Not worry about it, but trust that Jesus will help him make friends.)

Tell kids to look at the word “faith” in the middle of the page.

SAY: Austin would do well to remember the FAITH acrostic: “Forever, Always, I Trust Him.” No matter the situation, we can have faith in and trust Jesus. Encourage everyone to write their ideas on the blank lines. Continue in the same way with all the situations. In the blank space, tell students to write about a time they need to put their faith in Jesus. 

When hard times come for you, like the time when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus, remember that Jesus is in control.

Option

Newspaper Stand

Supplies

  • Newspapers

Other Hard Situations

Sickness or death in the family, bullies, friends want you to do something wrong, parents are thinking about divorce, your family doesn’t have much money, others laugh at you for talking about Jesus.

SAY: Jesus doesn’t ask us to get into a boat with Him. But when hard times come, Jesus wants us to put our faith in Him. Place a newspaper on the floor and stand in the middle of it. Ask students to join you standing on the newspaper. Make sure that kids fit on the newspaper, but just barely. Tell them that both feet must be on the newspaper or they are out. 

Maybe you think no one likes you, or you’re unpopular. That’s a storm in your life. If you don’t put your faith in Jesus, you’ll have a hard time and things may not go well. Gently push one or two kids off the newspaper. 

This is a time you need to put your faith in Jesus. Here’s another hard situation. Maybe you’re not doing well in school. That’s a storm in your life. If you don’t put your faith in Jesus, you’ll have a hard time and things may not go well. Gently push one or two kids off the newspaper. Continue with other hard situations (see narrow column). 

When hard times come for you, like the time when the disciples were in the boat with Jesus, remember that Jesus is in control.

LIVE IT OUT

Use one of these activities to help students choose to put their faith in Jesus because He’s in control.

Faith Drawing (Special Needs Tip)

Supplies

  • Roll paper
  • Pencils
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Reusable adhesive

Teach

Before class, use a pencil to draw a large, simple boat outline on a long length of roll paper. Go over the outline with a black marker.

ASK: We’re all afraid at times. What will you do about that? Will you choose to put your faith in Jesus because you know and believe that Jesus is in control? Allow time for kids think to about these questions.

Lay the prepared roll paper on a table or on the floor. Tell kids to draw themselves in the boat. If you’re choosing to put your faith in Jesus because He’s in control, sign your name on or by your drawing. 

When kids are done with that, have them use crayons to draw waves beating against the ship. On top of the waves, tell kids to use markers to write times when they need to put their faith in Jesus (as discussed in the Make It Real activities). Offer assistance with writing, as needed.

When students are done with the drawing, display it. For the prayer time, ask students to gather around the drawing. SAY: I’m so glad that Jesus is in control. When rough storms of life come your way, I hope you’ll choose to put your faith in Jesus, because He’s the only one who is really in control. Ask for volunteers to pray, thanking God that Jesus is in control.

Option

Boats of Faith

Supplies

  • Small foam rectangles (3″ x 4″; 1 per student)
  • Construction paper (2″ x 3″; 1 per student)
  • Scissors
  • Markers
  • Large toothpicks
  • Optional: duct tape, permanent markers

Teach

Before class, it would be good to make a sample of the boat.

ASK: We’re all afraid at times. What will you do about that? Will you choose to put your faith in Jesus because you know and believe that Jesus is in control? Allow time for kids think to about these questions.

Tell kids they will make boats to remind them to choose to put their faith in Jesus because He’s in control. Distribute supplies and show your sample boat. Tell kids to write on a piece of construction paper, “Jesus is in control.”

They could write the same thing on the other side or write something else, such as, “I’ll put my faith in Jesus.” Then show kids how to push the toothpick through the paper, near the bottom of it and again near the top. This forms the sail. Then they can stick the sail into a piece of foam. (If desired, kids could first cover the construction paper and the foam with duct tape.

If they choose to do this, they’ll need permanent markers to write on the duct tape.)

When students are done with the drawing, let them share their completed boats with each other.

SAY: I’m so glad that Jesus is in control. When rough storms of life come your way, I hope you’ll choose to put your faith in Jesus, because He’s the only one who is really in control. Ask for volunteers to pray, thanking God that Jesus is in control.

For more fun lessons like this one check out this post!

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  Updated on May 10, 2021

About the Author

  • HeartShaper® Children’s Curriculum is designed to help your kids discover God through His Word. From toddlers to preteens, we take them on a journey like no other through the Bible. By the time kids reach 6th grade, they’ve gone through the Bible 5 times! No matter where your students go or what they do, the lessons you teach them in Sunday school will be with them for a lifetime. Come along on the journey—shape hearts and change lives. Learn more at heartshaper.com.

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