The Bible story of Zacchaeus from Luke 19:1-10 tells what happened when a man who was a cheater, a liar and not very nice met Jesus. Jesus loved Zacchaeus even knowing who he was, and that made all the difference. Bible story activities based on Zacchaeus focus on love, forgiveness and restoration.
Create a flannel board about 2 foot long and 14 inches high for each child, by covering a piece of cardboard with a piece of plain flannel. Give each child figures on card stock that show character from the story: Jesus, the crowd and Zacchaeus. Also provide a tree that takes up most of another sheet of card stock. Have the children colour the tree and figures, cut them out and glue a piece of flannel to the back of each figure. Add the tree to the flannel board.
Read the story from the Bible. Talk about how much Jesus loved Zacchaeus, enough to shock the crowd by going with Zacchaeus to his home. Share what a difference Jesus' actions made to Zacchaeus. Let the children take turns telling the story using their figures.
Pin Up Zacchaeus
From banner paper or a cardboard box, create a large tree. Attach the tree to the wall of the classroom. In turn, blindfold the children, give them a figure of Zacchaeus with a sticky dot attached to the back. Have the children try to put Zacchaeus in the tree where he can see Jesus. Once all the children have had a turn, tell the story of Zacchaeus and how Jesus was willing to forgive all the bad things he'd been doing, and how that forgiveness changed Zacchaeus' outlook on life and the future. But it all started when Zacchaeus decided he had to get a glimpse of Jesus. Because he was not very tall, he climbed the tree to see over the crowd. Even in the tree Jesus saw him. Explain that Jesus sees the children as well no matter where they are, and He sees their hearts. If they ask Him, no matter what they've done, He'll forgive.
Sing and Move
Teach the song "Zacchaeus Was a Wee Little Man" to the students. Sing it to the students. Have them sing along. Provide the words either on the board or on handout sheets. Sing the song together until they grasp the rhythm and words. Add actions to the song. Use your hand to indicate a smaller person. Mimic climbing a tree and looking out over the crowd. Point to Jesus. Act surprised when Jesus speaks. Mimic climbing down and going with Jesus. On the next part, mimic giving away money with a big smile. Ask children what actions they would add as you sing the song.
Write a Skit
Have older students read the passage. Discuss the story, from Jesus' loving actions to Zacchaeus completely turning his life around. Explain that words have little meaning without actions. It doesn't mean much for a person to say he is going to change and be better, if he doesn't actually make those changes. Share that following Jesus can help everyone make better decisions. Have the class work together to write and act out the story, emphasising Zacchaeus' repentance and change. For props use robes, a branch and chocolate coins that the students can eat at the end of class.