With the end of the school year approaching, students are facing temptation to just coast through the remaining weeks and days.

This can not only affect them academically, but it can affect their faith as well. Chances are, they are excited about summer camps or conferences, and not looking very closely at making the most of the time they have before summer arrives.

Use this lesson to challenge students to make an honest evaluation of how they are doing in relation to Paul’s racing metaphor. Encourage them to run hard all the way through the end!

Enjoy the lesson!

– Mike Sheley, Preteen Ministry



Bible: 1 Corinthians 9:24

Bottom Line: It’s worth the hard work to finish well.

Students: Pick 3 students to be your “judges”. Then divide the remaining students into two groups.


Supplies: (a set of 18 random images of people, places and things or two sets of Rory Story Cubes or their app) Optional: Trophy

Say: When you see a really good movie, you remember how it ends!

Today, we’re going to pretend we work for a movie production crew.

A computer error has caused them to lose the final scene in the movie. So we are going to put it together for them.

Give each team one set of 9 images or let each use one set of Rory Story Cubes.

Using these nine images, you have to work together to come up with this scene.

But not just the words, you need to act it out together.

Our expert judges will decide which scene is best and will be used for the movie.

That team will be our winner.

Allow both groups to work simultaneously.

Give them 5 minutes to come up with their scene and then let each act out their scene for the judge.

After each have acted out their scenes, have the judges deliberate and then announce their winner.

If you are using a trophy, award that to the winning team.

There’s nothing in the Bible about making a movie.

But there is quite a bit of athletic imagery, which also deal with how things end.

We’ll look at one example today written by a man named Paul to a church in the city of Corinth.

Read 1 Corinthians 9:24.

“Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize?

So run to win!”

Say: Paul seems to be making an obvious point.

But don’t miss this!

Just because it is obvious does not mean it is easy!

Corinth was the centre of the Isthmian Games, which took place every two years.

The streets of the city  would have been full of athletes in training for these prestigious events.

These athletes had to train for a month nearby to get ready for the final competition.

In our world, this would be similar to the Olympic Games.


Let’s think about a few things related to these foot races.

These athletes don’t just wake up and decide they’ll race today.

They join the team; practice; earn a spot on the competing team for that race; keep training; and prepare for race day.

And does it matter what color your uniform or shoes are?

You may have a personal preference, but that doesn’t really affect your race.

Finally, what about the race itself?

Starting well is important.

But they record how you finish. It is important when running a race that you finish well.

If you get frustrated, distracted or stop running hard too early, you can end up losing the race.


Compare how you are finishing this school year to the race.

Are you still working as hard as you did when the year began?

When running a race, a runner has to stay focused on the finish line and run hard all the way through that line.

As a student, even though it gets more difficult every week we get closer to summer, you need to work hard and stay focused all the way through the last day of school.

That isn’t easy.

And it’s not always fun.

But you don’t want to get a lower grade or fail a class just because you didn’t work hard at the end of the school year.


In the same way, think about your faith and this school year.

You have opportunities to show others the love of Jesus by how you help them.

And you have opportunities to share with others the love of Jesus by how you talk with them.

These things may be very exciting at the beginning of the school year.

But how excited are you now?

It is hard to keep up this enthusiasm with all the demands of the end of the school year.

Yet there are still classmates who need to see and hear about the love of Jesus!

Can you focus on them and the end of the year to keep going?

And just like runners train for the race, you also need to keep training.

If you want to tell people about Jesus, keep reading your Bible, especially Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

If you want to invite others to become part of the community, part of the church, make sure you are making that a priority for you in your life.

But let’s stop talking about this in general terms. Let’s get specific about this in our small groups.


The goal here is to help students understand the importance of finishing well and to take responsibility to put that into action this year and this week.

JUST FOR FUN (5 minutes)

These students need a little fun to help them relax and transition into this small group time.

Don’t skip over this.

It is an intentional part of building relationships and setting up your group to have a great discussion time!

What is a movie that you have seen where the ending surprised you?

Have you watched any videos online, like YouTube, where the video had a funny ending? or a shocking one?

Have you ever watched a mystery or read a mystery book and guessed before the ending who was guilty? Anyone done that but been wrong? Describe that.

(When you have spent about 5 minutes on this section, transition into the discussion questions.)


The goal is to guide the students as they talk, to have a discussion.

Get them to do most of the talking.

Make sure you watch the clock and save 5 minutes at the end for the closing, even if that means you skip some questions and don’t discuss them all.

How many of you enjoy racing?

Has anyone been in a race where you thought you were going to win, but lost at the end?

Or the opposite? Has anyone struggled in a race but won it in the end?

Why is it so hard to finish the school year well?

What are some things you can do to stay disciplined and finish the school year strong?

When you think about the weeks you have left in school, who are some people you need to serve to show them the love of Jesus?

Who are some people you need to invite to church or youth group?

Athletes who train prepare for the race so they will be able to not just finish, but finish the best that they can.

If you are going to live like Jesus and tell others about Jesus, what are some practical steps you need to take to make sure you are prepared? (Bible reading, prayer, involvement in church)


No one is saying that it is easy to finish a race.

And we’re not saying it is easy to finish the school year well either. However, we do know that Paul understood the connection between finishing a race and staying strong in our faith.

We need to be reading our Bibles, praying and staying involved with church to help us be prepared.

Then, we need to keep our eyes open.

Finishing this year well means taking advantage of the opportunities that come our way to serve others and share our faith with them.

If you can do that, you finish this school year like a runner crossing the finish line.

You might be exhausted.

But you’ll know you gave it your best.

Let’s pray.

Mike is the Middle School Pastor at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in Greenwood, Indiana, where he oversees their ministries for 5th-8th graders.  

He’s been in full-time youth ministry over 17 years with most of that time focused on 5th-8th graders.

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