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Lesson Prep

Background Scripture (read 2-3 times during the week)

Luke 1-2:21

Story Summary

The shepherds were considered to be among the lowest levels of society, so why did God choose them to be the first to know of the birth of the messiah? 

There are approximately 1,500 years between the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the establishment of the Passover to the time when Jesus Christ was born. So for 1,500 years, shepherds played a key role in God’s plan to provide enough lambs, year-old males, without defect, so that all Israelite families could remember the Passover and worship God according to His will. 

There would be no more need to slaughter lambs from the flock year after year to secure God’s favor and forgiveness of sin. The once-for-all Lamb of God has arrived.

The shepherds were visited by an angel of the Lord and were the first to see and worship the Lamb of God. The significance of the Lamb of God being born would not be lost on the shepherds. 

Once again, angels are prominent in this story. A single angel appeared to them at first, and once again, they were terrified at first.  After the angel calms them down and gives them the message that the savior had been born, a large crowd of angels appeared, praising God. What a sight that must have been!

The story also points out the effect this event had on Mary. The shepherds relayed this whole story to Mary, and after they left, she was greatly effected by it. She "kept all these things like a secret treasure in her heart. She thought about them over and over." What must it have been like to be Mary, trying to process through everything that was happening to her?

What You Will Need

Supplies
Shepherd's staff, piece of sheep wool

Resource Sheets

Angel Outline

Use this for the "Angel Garland" reinforcement activity below.

Shepherds Coloring Sheet

This coloring sheet depicts the angel appearing to the shepherds, announcing Jesus' birth

Lesson

1. Warm Up

get your kids talking and engaged

If you have a shepherd's staff or lambs wool, show that to the children. Ask them if they know what they are.

What is the worst job they could imagine having? Have you ever been to a farm or ever seen a sheep? Today we are going to learn about some men who had one of the lowest jobs during the time Jesus was born. Their job was to watch over sheep out in the fields. But God chose to give them a very important message about Jesus and a savior being born.

2. Teach the Story

teach a holistic story

Older students can be read directly from the Bible, since the story is short. 

The youngest students can be told the story from a children's storybook Bible.

3. Bible Mastery

give them basic Bible skills

Scripture for Kids to Read Aloud: Luke 2:8-20

4. Comprehension Questions

make sure they understand the story

First, ask the children if they have any questions about the story. What to do if you don't know the answer?

  • When did the angels appear to the shepherds? (at night)
  • How did the shepherds respond when the angel appeared? (they were terrified)
  • What did the angel say in response to their fears? (do not be afraid)
  • What did the angels tell the shepherds? (a savior had been born in the town of David)
  • Where did the shepherds go after the angels went back to heaven? (Bethlehem)
  • What did they find when they got to Bethlehem? (Mary and Joseph with Jesus)
  • What is a manger? (feeding trough for animals)

5. Faith Questions

help them apply the story to their lives and open up a conversation about faith and the gospel; close with prayer
  • The shepherds were some of the first people to be told that Jesus was the messiah, the Son of God.
  • Now, over 2000 years ago, do you know that Jesus is that messiah, the Son of God, the lamb who came to take away our sins?

6. Memory Verse

hide God's Word in their heart
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11

Reinforcement Activities

Sheep Masks

Scripture There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were looking after their sheep. Luke 2:8

Supplies paper plates, scissors, glue, cotton balls, popsicle sticks

  • Take a white paper plate.
  • Cut holes for eyes
  • Glue cotton balls on plate to make it look like a sheep
  • Attach popsicle sticks to bottom of mask, as a handle.

Angel Garland

Scripture Suddenly a large group of angels from heaven also appeared. They were praising God. They said, “May glory be given to God in the highest heaven! And may peace be given to those he is pleased with on earth!” Luke 2:13-14

Supplies Angel pattern (see resource sheets above), paper, scissors, crayons or markers, glitter (If desired)

  • Trace angel pattern
  • Fold paper several times
  • Cut through multiple layers of paper around the angel.
  • Do not cut the hands or they will come apart!
  • Open and decorate

Separating Sheep Game

Scripture There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were looking after their sheep. Luke 2:8

Supplies black and white balloons, play space

  • Use white balloons for sheep and black balloons or wolves.
  • Place all the balloons in the center of the floor.
  • Have students go through and separate the sheep from the wolves.
  • Have a few students trying to throw all the wolves back into the sheep pen.

Understanding Sheep and Shepherds

Scripture And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2:8

Supplies shepherd's staff, sheep wool, pictures of sheep

  • A Shepherd is a person who tends, guards and cares for he sheep.
  • Shepherding is one of the oldest occupations.
  • Sheep were kept for their meat, milk and especially their wool.
  • To maintain a large flock, the sheep must be able to move from pasture to pasture; this required the development of an occupation separate from that of the farmer. The duty of shepherds was to keep their flock intact and protect it from wolves and other predators. The shepherd was also to supervise the migration of the flock and ensured they made it to market areas in time for shearing.
  • Shepherds were often wage earners, being paid to watch the sheep of others.
  • Shepherds also lived apart from society, being largely nomadic.
  • Shepherds would normally work in groups either looking after one large flock, or each bringing their own and merging their responsibilities.

Sheep, Wolf and Shepherd Tag Game

Scripture And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2:8

  • Appoint one child to be the wolf and one to be the shepherd.
  • The rest of the children will be sheep.
  • Have the sheep stand at one end of the play area, the shepherd at the opposite end, and the wolf in the middle.
  • The shepherd calls each of them by name.
  • Once they hear their name, they are to try to reach the shepherd, without getting tagged by the wolf.
  • If they get tagged, they sit down. If they don’t get tagged, they are safe with the shepherd.

Pipe Cleaner Candy Cane

Scripture And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. Luke 2:8

Supplies red and white pipe cleaners

  • Early versions of the shepherd's crook were carved from wood or horn.
  • The staff was used to help the shepherds, as they walked across rough terrain.
  • It was also used to pull the sheep back, if they stray from the fold (group).
  • Twist pipe cleaners together and bend over top to make a shepherd's crook.

Toilet Paper Sheep

Scripture There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were looking after their sheep. Luke 2:8

Supplies black pipe cleaners, one toilet paper roll per student, white paper, glue, cotton balls

  • Bend a black pipe cleaner in half and attach it to the bottom of a toilet paper roll for legs.
  • Repeat to make another set of legs for the sheep.
  • Cut a 1 1/2-2 inch circle from white paper.
  • Allow students to draw a face.
  • Glue sheep face to the front of the toilet paper roll.
  • Attach cotton balls all around the toilet paper roll.

Sheep and Shepherds game

Scripture There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby. It was night, and they were looking after their sheep. Luke 2:8

  • Count off into two equal teams
  • One team will be the sheep and the other the wolves.
  • Choose one person to be the shepherd.
  • Designate one area in the room to be for the sheep and another for the wolves.
  • The shepherd has to catch the sheep and wolves (by tagging them) and escort them to their side of the room to separate them.
  • The sheep and wolves try to stay away from the shepherd and not get caught.
  • Once a sheep or wolf are caught, they must stay in their designated area.
  • Game is over when all sheep and wolves are separate.
  • If you have a large group of students, you can have more than one shepherd.