Two important early Christians include Paul and Barnabas. Teachers can use the ministry of Paul and Barnabas for many purposes. They traveled together, witnessing and converting new Christians wherever they went. They accomplished many things while they were together. A quarrel separated these two friends, and kids may learn how work together and how they deal with disagreements.
Barnabas Supports Paul
Before his conversion, Saul, who later took the name Paul, hunted down and imprisoned Christians. Once Paul became a Christian, he was as zealous to convert people to Christianity as he had been to persecute them. Ask the kids if they would trust Paul. The disciples in Jerusalem did not trust him when Paul came to them in Acts 9:26-31. Barnabas vouched for Paul and convinced them he had truly changed. Have kids consider how this influenced Paul and Barnabas to become fast friends. Discuss how Barnabas’ ability to see the best in people and Paul’s strong passion for God made them a good team.
First Missionary Journey
Paul and Barnabas completed Paul’s first missionary journey together. Have the students map the cities they visited and record which cities received them and their message and which cities rejected them. Begin with Antioch (Acts 13:1) and mark those cities where they helped to start churches. Ask students how they might feel if they have been on the journey. Discuss whether Jews or Gentiles were the most responsive to Gospel message. Consider how many times their lives were threatened and how God protected the team each time.
Paul and Barnabas Dispute
Barnabas’ nephew John Mark traveled with them on the first journey as far as Perga before returning home. Paul felt John Mark was unreliable and would not allow him on another journey. Barnabas saw something in his nephew and championed him, willing to take the young pastor with him and take a different journey than Paul. (Acts 15:36-41) Discuss the reasons Paul refused John Mark, such as he didn’t complete the first journey by deserting them. Ask students why Barnabas was willing to give John Mark a second change. Consider how their disagreement illustrates that Christians can disagree without being disagreeable.
Paul and Barnabas heading off in different directions with different partners does not complete the story. Refer the kids to 2 Timothy 4:11, Philemon 24 and Colossians 4:10 where Paul refers to John Mark in positive terms. Barnabas and Paul remained friends, as noted in 1 Corinthians 9:6.
Witnessing for God
Paul and Barnabas made a good witnessing team. Review Acts 13:1-14:28 and observe how they spoke to the people they met. Paul could talk about Jewish law and prophesy with the Jews and Hellenistic worship with the Greeks. Discuss options of using Scripture, telling about your personal experience with God and telling about Jesus with other people. Allow the students to practice witnessing techniques and find whatever approach seems comfortable. Discuss the value of witnessing in pairs or small groups.
- ChristianCourier.com: The Separation of Paul and Barnabas; Wayne Jackson
- Bible Gateway: Paul and Barnabas Separate; Matthew Henry
- Hurting Christian: Barnabas The Apostle of Encouragement
- Ministry-to-Children.com: Paul and Barnabas; Kelly Henderson
- SundaySchoolResources.com: Paul’s First Missionary Journey
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