In the middle of the school year, student’s lives are busier than ever.

They have settled into their classes, sports are in full swing, exams have been taken, and papers are due.

This lesson for the New Year reminds students that although their schedules are full, it’s important to be intentional about studying God’s Word.

Because the more you know about Jesus, the more you can become like him.

-Nick Diliberto, Junior High Ministry


Bible: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Bottom Line: Spend more time in the Bible so you can live more like Jesus.


  • Two 6’ long rectangle tables
  • Bulk amount of ping pong balls
  • Plastic cups (smaller, “punch” size cups work best, often clear instead of colored)
  • Two empty potato chip cylinders (Pringles cans or similar)


Divide your group into two equal teams.

Have them line up in a single file line.

Have a 6’ rectangle table or similar set up, one per team.

On one end of each table, have a container of ping pong balls.

In the middle of each table, have nine or more of the plastic cups sitting side-by-side.

At the other end of each table, have the potato chip cylindar.

Each team sends one person to each end of their table.

When you say, GO, the person next to the ping-pong balls will bounce them on the table and try to land them in the cups.

When a ball lands in a cup, the person on the other end can grab the cup and pour the ball into the potato chip cylinder.

While that is happening, the person who bounced the ball comes to the other end of the table and gets read to take that person’s spot.

Once the ball has been poured in the cylinder, that person puts the cup back, high-fives the first person in their line and goes to the end of their line.

As soon as they high-five that teammate, that person runs to the table and starts bouncing ping-pong balls.

The first team to fill their potato chip cylinder to overflowing wins!


Wow! That game took teamwork, concentration, and a little bit of strategy. Nice job!

When we look at the new calendar year, it’s a good time to stop and see how we are doing at following Jesus.

For some of us, that goal of living like him has turned out to be like this game.

We work hard at it.

We have times where we are good at concentrating and maybe even have a strategy for how we will live.

But unfortunately, if we’re honest, some times it feels like it’s more luck on whether or not we do a good job of living like Jesus.

But, what if it wasn’t luck.

What if there was actually a strategy that could help us live more like him?

And what if he pointed out the strategy for us!?

Let’s go to the book of Matthew and see a small piece of Jesus’ teaching that will help us with this challenge today.

Read Matthew 13.

We’re going to start by reading the first nine verses.

This isn’t a kid’s lesson, but it may feel that way.

Often when Jesus was teaching, he told stories.

This is one of those times.

Check it out.

Read Matthew 13:1-9.

So…any idea what Jesus is talking about besides farming?

Some of you may have an idea because you have read this before.

But when Jesus first told the story, his closest followers were like some of you today… wondering what in the world he was trying to say.

Thankfully for us, Matthew (who was one of his followers and wrote this stuff down) also wrote down Jesus’ explanation of the story.

Now, check that out.

Read Matthew 13:18-23.

So, how does this help us with living like Jesus?

Every week, through our programs and the church services, you have opportunities to hear the Bible being taught.

And, thanks to the availability of print Bibles and digital Bibles, you actually have the ability to read the Bible every day.

Jesus was talking about how they should live, but it still applies to us today.

Verse 19 represents people who don’t understand the Bible, but also don’t try to understand it, and so it doesn’t make a difference in their life.

If you just hear the Bible read and taught at church and never try to understand it in your own life, the Bible will not make a difference and you won’t be able to follow Jesus.

If that’s you, start asking questions when you are confused and taking time to read the Bible on your own so that what you hear and read at church makes more sense.

Verses 19-21 represents people who get all excited about what they read or study in the Bible.

However, the “shallowness” of the roots means that you are not spending time in the Bible to deepen that understanding.

If the only time your Bible or Bible app gets opened is at church, that one time a week is not enough to help you move from excited on Sunday to living like Jesus on Monday.

When hard times come your way, because you are not constantly refilling your heart and mind with the Bible, you’ll struggle and get distracted from following Jesus.

Verse 22 represents those of you who are here at church, but your life is so busy and you are so worried about what others think of you… or whatever fills your schedule, that the Bible gets checked off as something else on your ‘to-do’ list for the week.

And because of that, it doesn’t make a significant difference in your life.

None of this sounds very hopeful.

However, we have one verse left.

Verse 23 represents those of you who hear the Bible being taught, understand it, and do something with what you have learned.

In the game, you had to get the balls in the cups.

But, that’s wasn’t enough.

You also had to take what was in the cup and pour it in the cylinder… and this had to happen over and over again for you to win.

When it comes to following Jesus, it is so important to be here at church learning about Jesus.

But, you have to ask questions when you don’t understand.

And you need to read your Bible during the week, not just hear God’s Word at church.

And very importantly, when you come across something in the Bible that instructs you how to think, talk, or act…you need to do what it says!

And we keep doing this over and over and over again!

That’s how we live more like Jesus!

He helps us as we take the time to get to know Him and His instructions for us.

As the New Year is almost here, let’s think about what place the Bible has in our lives.

Let’s talk about that more in our small groups, including how some Bible apps and reading plans can help us do this together.


  1. What was the best part today’s game? What was the hardest part?
  2. Has anyone ever read or heard something from the Bible and been confused or didn’t understand it? Allow students to share and share an example yourself to help them if needed.
  3. Who is someone that you can go to if you have questions about the Bible?
  4. Does anyone already have a good system in place that encourages you to read your Bible during the week? If so, tell us about it because it might help someone else? If not, don’t feel guilty, we’ll help you with that today.
  5. Has anyone had a really busy week and although you planned to read your Bible, it just didn’t happen? Allow students to share. We are all going to have busy weeks. How can we plan for the time we need in the Bible even when we are busy?
  6. There are several Bible apps that can help us take our Bible with us everywhere we go. Does anyone use one that you want to recommend? (Bible app by YouVersion, Jesus Centered Bible, Bible Study by Olive Tree)
  7. Sometimes we don’t spend time in the Bible because we don’t have a specific plan. Other times, the plan seems too big to get it done. There is a website that has a variety of Bible plans where you can choose anything from 3 days to an entire year. Let’s commit to picking one of these plans that is about a week or so, starting it this week, and reporting back next week.  As a leader, make a note to check back in next week as well as to actually do one of these plans yourself!

3 Specific Recommendations for Bible Reading Plans

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