Preteen Lesson on Emotions

We all have strong emotions at times, but preteens are experiencing the weight of their feelings in a new way.

They might not even understand why they have started to feel more angry, sad, overjoyed or worried.

The Bible teaches that in those moments when we don’t know how to act or feel, remembering God’s Word can calm us and show us our next step.

Use this lesson to help preteens know when emotions overwhelm them, God’s Word gives peace and direction.

Enjoy!

– Nick Diliberto, Preteen Ministry

PRETEEN MINISTRY LESSON ON EMOTIONS

DOWNLOAD THE PDF OF THIS LESSON

Bible: Ecclesiastes 3:1-8; Psalm 23; Psalm 119:9-11

Bottom Line: When our feelings overwhelm us, God’s Word gives peace and direction.

SUPPLIES

  • A chair for each student
  • TV or monitor that can play a thrill ride simulation like the one at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxnwDksNroA
  • A personal story about a time the leader felt strong emotion
  • Either paper or notebook for each student
  • Pen or pencil for each student

TEACH

How many of you have been on a roller coaster before?

Well, hang onto your hats, because today we’re going to imagine what it’s like to ride a coaster.

Now, if anyone starts to feel sick or uncomfortable, you can feel free to close your eyes—we’re not actually getting on board. But for the thrill seekers, let’s raise our hands in the air and get into the experience!

Play a clip or YouTube video of a roller coaster simulation like the one mentioned above.

Whether the kids appear to get into it or not, the leader should try to express a variety of emotions during the clip, from excitement to fear to overwhelm.

When the clip ends, ask…

Okay, how did that feel?

Solicit as many answers as possible, and treat each one with acceptance.

Suggest your own range of emotions once the students have had a chance to answer.  

Say: You know, for your whole life, you are going to experience feelings that are a lot like the ones we have on a roller coaster.

You might ace a report card and feel exultant joy, or your doctor might tell you that you grew two inches since your last checkup, and that could make you feel either happy or strange, or even frustrated.

You could accidentally hit a younger kid with a dodgeball and feel shame, or you might find out another friend has been bad-mouthing you behind your back and feel anger.

And since you’re growing up, these feelings could be more intense than you are used to—it’s all part of God’s process of helping you to grow!

Make sure each student has a Bible to use or to share with someone else, and have them look up the passage before reading it aloud.

Some may need assistance, so consider walking the whole group through the process of finding a book in the Table of Contents and turning to the correct page.

Once everyone is in the right spot, ask them to follow along while the leader reads.

Say: Check out these verses from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8:

“There is a time for everything, 

and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,

a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,

a time to be silent and a time to speak,

a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.”

Ask: What do you hear in this passage?

Pause to listen to their answers.

Unpack which verses in this passage make sense and which are confusing, which ones group members relate to the most, etc.

Say: Here’s the crazy thing—every one of those feelings you feel now, or that you will experience over the next year or so, is normal.

God knows we’ll have times to weep and times to laugh.

God is there whether we feel love or hate, torn up or healed.

It’s not bad to feel these things, but it can be really hard to know what to do with those feelings, right?

Can anyone give an example of a time you felt something really strongly—either positive or negative—and you weren’t sure what to do with it?

Share your own experience of overwhelming feelings about something, either as a way to get discussions started or a way to transition to the next section.

Say:  Well, even if you don’t feel like you can relate to some of these stories yet, I promise you will soon.

Again, that’s part of growing in God’s love!

The fantastic news here is that we don’t just have to sit back passively and let our feelings control us.

These big emotions are just reminders to us to go to God’s Word in those moments.

God’s Word is full of instructions for every situation and advice for every decision.

There is an example of every single human feeling in the Bible.

And you know what the best, simplest, fastest way is to turn to the Bible when we’re overwhelmed?

To hide God’s Words in our hearts!

Listen to what Psalm 119:9-11, has to say about this:

How can a young person stay on the path of purity?

By living according to your word.

I seek you with all my heart;

do not let me stray from your commands.

I have hidden your word in my heart

that I might not sin against you.

Say: God’s Word literally spells out the answer—the way to run to God when our feelings are off the hook is to know the words he has given us.

That’s what hiding God’s Word in our hearts means, to become so familiar with Scripture that we can turn to it the minute our emotions start to take over.

When something positive happens and we’re overjoyed, we remember words of praise.

And when something negative happens and we need help, we know there are whole chapters about crying out to God.

I want to tell you a story about a man named Dave.

Today, Dave is a pastor of a large church in Kentucky, but he likes to tell a story from his childhood that gives an amazing picture of how God’s Word can give comfort in intense situations.

While Dave’s dad was driving the family around a tight curve in the rain one day, the car hydroplaned into the opposite lane and crashed headlong into another car.

Hundreds of shards of glass from the windshield pierced his dad’s face, and Dave’s mom was knocked unconscious in the back seat.

Dave remembers looking in shock from his quiet mom to his injured dad, and seeing that his dad was resting his head on the windshield while quoting out loud from Psalm 23:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters,

He refreshes my soul.

He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

In a time when this man definitely felt some hurt and fear, he had God’s Word so ingrained on his heart that it was the first place he turned for comfort.

SMALL GROUP ACTIVITY

As a group, memorize Psalm 119:9, which says, “How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.”

Have the students repeat after the leader, or assign hand motions to each word, or read it in unison several times, or have one student say it from memory at a time until everyone has a turn.

You can even do a call and response, with one half of the group asking the “How can… ?” query and the other half answering, “By living according to your word.”

Once that verse is memorized, flip the roller coaster simulation back on, but with one small difference.

This time, have the group recite Psalm 119:9 together, out loud, over and over while watching the roller coaster whip along.

SMALL GROUP DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

Many of these questions lend themselves to personal journaling.

Consider providing pens and paper and having the kids journal their responses first, then share their thoughts if willing.

  1. Did the second viewing of the roller coaster ride feel any different? How so, or how were both viewings the same?
  2. How have your emotions changed since last year? Do you feel more or less hopeful, angry, happy, sad, or worried?
  3. Can you name a time or place when the Bible talks about someone who dealt with big feelings? (For example, Peter when he cried about betraying Jesus, or Elizabeth when she found out Mary was pregnant, or Job when he mourned that his family was gone, or even Jesus when he prayed in the garden or wept at Lazarus’ tomb.)
  4. Is there such a thing as a “wrong” or “bad” emotion? Why or why not?
  5. What verses do you already know that you can think about when life gets crazy?
  6. Who are some trusted adults in your life who would be able to guide you to a helpful Bible verse when you’re not sure where to look?
  7. Is there a particular passage that we could choose to memorize as a group over the next few weeks? Any suggestions?

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