The Great Commission (Elementary Lesson)

Use this grab-and-go lesson from Matthew 28 about the call to make disciples all over the world.
11 min read

Use this lesson to teach elementary students how Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make disciples in the Great Commission.

Editor’s Note: This lesson was adapted from HeartShaper, middle elementary.

Bible Basis: Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:6-11

Bible Memory: Matthew 28:19, 20

Supplies:

Girls reading outside with sunset
Image Credit: Ben White/Unsplash

Bible Background

The disciples were to meet Jesus in Galilee. Much of Jesus’ ministry had occurred in that region, and the mountain was probably familiar to the disciples.

Judas was not with them, since by this time he had hanged himself (Matthew 27:5). The doubts of some reflect their questions about the meaning, not the fact, of Jesus’ resurrection.

Their question in Acts 1:6 shows that their uncertainty stemmed from questions about the establishment of a political kingdom.

Jesus’ claim of authority is significant. Because of His authority, His instructions to His disciples are nonnegotiable.

The word translated “make disciples” is an imperative and is the primary focus of the command.

The words “go,” “baptizing,” and “teaching” derive their force from the command to “make disciples” and describe how the disciples are to do it.

“In the name of” means that, in baptism, new disciples identify themselves with the person, character, and purpose of God.

Disciples of Jesus make every effort possible to go and tell friends, neighbors, and strangers the good news about Jesus; to baptize; and to teach them about living for Christ.

Jesus promised His continuing presence with the disciples as they went to do what would sometimes be difficult work.

In Acts, Jesus reveals that the Holy Spirit would be the agent for His continued presence, empowering them to go and make disciples in Jerusalem and throughout the entire world.

After giving His final instructions, Jesus was taken up into Heaven. As a cloud obscured Him from view, the men continued to stare up into the sky. The appearance of the “two men” leaves no doubt that they were angels.

Their question to the disciples is meant as a reminder that Jesus had given them, and us, work to do.

Opening Activities

Use one or more of these activities to help students explore what a disciple of Jesus does.

Activity 1: What Do Disciples Do?

Supplies:

Raise your hand if you know something that a disciple of Jesus does. Let those with their hands up share their ideas.

Distribute the What Do Disciples Do? activity sheet.

Ask volunteers to read the stories.

ASK:

  • What does Anthony do that shows he’s a disciple of Jesus? (practices to do his best, prays, invites friends to church services, gives of his time to help a boy read better, gave a Bible to the kid)
  • What does Isabella do that shows she’s a disciple of Jesus? (uses her time and musical ability to bring joy to others, prays, spends time talking with the woman)
  • What else do disciples of Jesus do? Accept responses.

Sometimes we think disciples of Jesus have to go to different countries to tell about Jesus or they have to risk their lives doing something great for Jesus. But disciples of Jesus are people who believe that He’s God’s Son, obey His commands, and follow Him.

Read 1 John 5:1-3.

Let’s dig into God’s Word to see what it says about disciples

Activity 2: A Disciple or Not?

Supplies:

  • Wrapped Candies
  • Bibles

Have kids pair up, and have candy ready to hand out.

I’m going to read you some situations. If you think the kid in the situation is a disciple of Jesus, make a capital D with your fingers. Have kids try that.

If you think the person is not a disciple of Jesus, make an X with your fingers. Have kids try that.

Tell kids to work together in pairs because when the correct answer is a D and both of them make that letter, they each get a piece of candy.

Situations:

  1. Landon made friends with the new kid in class and invited him to church services. Pause for kids to make a D; give them candy.
  2. Gabriella gossiped about her best friend. Pause for kids to make an X.
  3. Isaac told a lie. He then told his mom about it, asked her to forgive him, and asked God to forgive him. (D)
  4. Allison chose to share some of her toys and clothes with some kids who don’t have as much. (D)
  5. Luke forgot to study for the test, so he looked on a friend’s paper. (X)
  6. Destiny loves to draw pictures. Every week she and her mom take her drawings to people who live in a nursing home. (D)

Disciples of Jesus are people who believe that He’s God’s Son, obey His commands, and follow Him.

Read 1 John 5:1-3.

Let’s dig into God’s Word to see what it says about disciples.

Bible Exploration

Use these activities to help students tell about Jesus’ last day on earth.

Supplies:

Bible Passage: Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:6-11

Tell kids that today’s Bible story takes place somewhere in Galilee.

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to many people, including the two men on the road to Emmaus. This is where we pick up God’s story.

ASK:

  • What New Testament books tell us about Jesus? (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John)

Ask students to turn in their Bibles to Matthew 28:16-20, and have volunteers read the verses aloud.

This story is about Jesus’ last day on earth. Jesus had told His 11 disciples to meet Him in Galilee. Let’s pretend that we’re part of that group of disciples and go to the mountain. We’ll imagine that we actually see Jesus. React as you think you might have if you had been one of the 11 disciples that day.

Ask kids to stand and move to another part of the room.

We’re here at the mountain Jesus asked us to come to. Look, there’s Jesus! We worship You, Jesus.

Encourage kids to worship Jesus by lifting their hands to Him, bowing, or saying something like “We praise You, Jesus!”

Read Matthew 28: 16-20 aloud.

Look at the kids and SAY: We now know for sure that Jesus is God’s Son, the Savior. He wants us to go everywhere and tell everyone that message. And it’s so great that Jesus promises to always be with us!

Pretend to look at Jesus as you SAY: “Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Read Acts 1: 6-9

Jesus wants us to go everywhere and tell about Him. Look! Look up! Jesus is leaving! A cloud is hiding Him. Pause briefly. Who’s that?

Read Acts 1: 10-11

The angels are right. We need to get busy making disciples! After Jesus went back to Heaven, the disciples did go back to Jerusalem. From there, they went into all the world, taking the good news of Jesus with them.

ASK:

  • If you had been one of Jesus’ 11 disciples, how do you think you would have felt, or what would you have thought, after Jesus gave you those final instructions and then you watched Him go up into Heaven? Accept responses.

Have students return to their seats.

Pass out the Great Commission and Ascension Activity Page to each student.

Read the instructions. Assign each student or pair of students one of the sentences to rewrite to make it true.

When kids are ready, let them read their sentences and tell how to make them true.

(Answers: 1=cross out “30” and write “11”; 2=cross out “were afraid of” and write “worshipped”; 3=cross out “enemies” and write “disciples”; cross out “cookies” and write “disciples”; 4=cross out “share” and write “baptize”; 5=cross out “never” and write “always”; 6=cross out “money” and write “power”; 7=cross out “New York” and write “Jerusalem”; 8=cross out “rainbow” and write “cloud”; 9=cross out “purple” and write “white”; 10=cross out “Moses” and write “Jesus”)

We call Jesus’ last words the Great Commission. It’s a command, or instruction. This command, though, wasn’t just for those 11 disciples. Jesus commands His disciples—all His disciples—to go and make disciples. And that includes us!

Bible Memory: Matthew 28:19, 20

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Supplies:

  • Bibles
  • Foam ball (or ball of yarn)

Have kids turn in their Bibles to Matthew 28:18-20, and have a volunteer read the verses aloud.

Ask kids to stand in a circle. Hold the ball.

Let’s toss the ball from one person to the next to remind us that Jesus commands His disciples to go and make disciples, from person to person to person. When you get the ball, say the next word of the Bible Memory verse.

Tell kids that if they need help, they can look at their Bibles. After a few rounds, invite all the kids to say the Bible Memory verse together.

Application Activities

Use one of these activities to help students tell why everyone needs to be a disciple of Jesus.

Activity 1: It’s Easy to Mess Up!

Supplies:

  • Bibles
  • Whiteboard
  • Dry-erase markers

Tongue Twisters:

  • Selfish shellfish
  • Six sharp smart sharks
  • Friendly Fran flips fine flapjacks

Write the tongue twisters on the board. Ask each kid to choose a tongue twister and say it out loud five times, all at the same time.

How did you do? Did your tongue get caught and twisted in the words?

Then let kids choose another one and try it again.

It’s pretty easy to mess up tongue twisters!

ASK:

  • How do you think tongue twisters might be like sins? (It’s easy to mess up tongue twisters, and it’s easy to mess up and sin. Tongue twisters can trip us up, and so do sins.)
  • Who sins? Accept responses.

Then have kids turn in their Bibles to Romans 3:23, and have a volunteer read it aloud.

Have students turn to Acts 2:38 and Romans 6:23, and have volunteers read those verses aloud.

When you accept Christ as your Savior and become one of His disciples, your sins are forgiven and you receive the Holy Spirit. Without forgiveness of sins, a person would receive death. But when you’re a disciple, you’ll have eternal life in Heaven. That’s why Jesus commands His disciples to go and make disciples.

ASK:

  • Why does everyone need to be a disciple of Jesus? (People who are not disciples of Jesus are not guaranteed of going to Heaven. The Bible says that only those people whose sins are forgiven will have eternal life in Heaven.)

Activity 2: When You’re a Disciple

Before class, purchase 2 helium-filled balloons with ribbons. Fill two regular balloons with air and tie a length of ribbon to each balloon. Hold the balloons so kids can’t tell that some are filled with air and some are filled with helium.

Consider the kids in your class when talking about being in Heaven for eternity. Some kids with separation anxiety may be frightened by this concept. Rephrasing and simply saying that we will always be with Jesus may be more reassuring to them.

ASK:

  • Why does everyone need to be a disciple of Jesus? Accept responses.

When Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, it wasn’t a suggestion; it was a command.

Have students turn in their Bibles to Acts 2:38 and Romans 6:23, and have volunteers read those verses aloud.

When you accept Christ as your Savior and become one of His disciples, your sins are forgiven and you receive the Holy Spirit. Without forgiveness of sins, a person would receive death.

Release the balloons filled with air.

But when you’re a disciple, you’ll have eternal life in Heaven.

Release the balloons filled with helium.

That’s why Jesus commands His disciples to go and make disciples. He wants everyone to spend eternity with Him in Heaven!

Closing Activities

Use one of these activities to help students plan to go and make disciples.

Activity 1: Making Plans

Supplies:

Pass out Make Disciples for Jesus activity sheet. Ask kids to look at the ways listed of making disciples.

Think about a few people who don’t know God or know much about God, people whom you could serve. Write their names on the lines by the word “serve.” Maybe those people will become disciples of Jesus because of how you served them. That would be so exciting!

Tell kids to do the same for the others. As they work, discuss these questions:

  • How could praying help others become disciples of Jesus?
  • Who could you teach about Jesus? Help students think into the future a little too.
  • How could showing kindness or offering friendship help others become disciples of Jesus?

When kids are finished, encourage them to follow through on their plans.

Then pray:

Dear God, we are so glad to know You. Thank You for what Jesus did for us so that our sins could be forgiven and that one day we can live with You in Heaven. God, we want all our friends and family members to be in Heaven too. Help us to do all we can to help others become disciples of yours. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Activity 2: I Can

Supplies:

  • Roll paper
  • Pencils
  • Markers
  • Reusable adhesive

Before class, prepare a long length of roll paper. Title it, “I Can.” Put the following words and phrases in different places on the paper: pray, invite friends to church services, give of my time to help others, share, use my abilities for Jesus, offer friendship, give money, show kindness, teach about Jesus, serve God and others, and tell about Jesus.

Provide large self-adhesive notes for students to affix to the mural. Using the notes will allow for mistakes and do-overs and can lessen frustration for students who struggle with writing and drawing.

Since Jesus commands His disciples to go and make disciples, let’s plan some ways to do that.

Show students the prepared roll paper. Put it where all the kids can work on it.

Listed on this paper are some ways that we can make disciples for Jesus. Most of these are things we can do at school, home, church, and in our neighborhoods and communities. Look at the list and decide which ones you could do in the next several weeks. When you’ve decided on some, put your name beside those things.

Give kids time to think and work. Encourage them to think about whom they could serve, pray for, show kindness to, and so forth.

When they are done, display the paper on a wall, and have students gather around it. Invite kids to silently pray and ask for God’s help in doing the things they put their names beside.

After a brief time of silence, close in prayer.


HeartShaper logo

Did you enjoy this lesson? It was adapted from HeartShaper Children’s Curriculum, Middle Elementary. To learn more about this age level, check out the video below or visit HeartShaper.com.

Looking for more lessons? Try these!

Parable of the Lost Sheep

Parable of the Sower

The Fruit of the Spirit

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  Updated on August 26, 2019

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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