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What's in the Bag?

"What’s In The Bag?" (WITB) has become one of my favorite activities to introduce and prepare participants for a Bible lesson. I have used it with elementary-aged students, teenagers, collegians and adults. It can be played (uh, I mean administered) the same way, regardless of the age.

Point of "What’s In The Bag?": To creatively introduce the subject of your Bible study by allowing your class participants to ask a series of questions that will eventually reveal what you have in the bag.

Materials Needed: A gift bag. To add an element of interest, I decorated mine with question marks of all sizes and fonts that I printed off, cut out and glued to the bag. It looks much like something that once belonged to the Riddler! You could also use a box, but I just prefer the bag.

Instructions: Hide an object in the bag that is representative of at least one point or principle of your Bible study. Taking turns, instruct the class participants to ask one question at a time that can be answered with only a “yes” or “no” answer. As the questions are asked and answered, categories of objects are eliminated. Gradually, the choices are narrowed down until someone finally guesses what’s in the bag!

In the beginning, the best types of questions to be asked are those that are broad in nature so that large groupings of objects are more quickly dismissed. For example:

Is it made of wood?
Is it edible?
Is it sports related?

If your participants get bogged down in asking questions that are too specific, such as “Is it black?” or “Is it heavy?” you might need to remind them to broaden their questions. Once a broad category is revealed, then it makes sense to get more specific. For example, if it has been established that the object is made of wood, then it would make sense for them to ask more specific questions, such as “Is it a pencil?” In addition, at times you may need to review the information that has already been established. If you responded “yes” to the question, “Is it edible?” it doesn’t make sense for the participants to ask “Is it made of metal?”

Suggestions: This isn’t an activity I’d recommend if you have time constraints, because you never know how quickly, or not so quickly, your participants will guess WITB. I feel it’s best to let the activity run its course of questioning and answering; but if you find you need to speed up the process, you could provide hints in addition to your “yes” or “no” answer. Be careful, though, not to reveal too much information to cause the activity to end anti-climatically. It’s optional, too, whether to give out a prize to the participant who guesses the object. I seldom do this because I feel everyone had a hand in reaching the correct answer. Plus, the point of the activity is not to win a prize.

One of the reasons I think this activity is so successful is that it immediately involves audience participation on a fun and entertaining level. And, it certainly beats the mundane methodology of standing up in front of the group and saying, “Today we’re going to study Jesus as the light of the world. Now turn in your Bibles to….” How unexciting is that?

Once the object is guessed, you can certainly jump right into your planned study. You’ll have your audience’s attention. But, if appropriate, consider keeping the class participation going by asking questions such as, what is the object’s purpose? How is it used? Plan your questions so that the points you want to make are revealed in the question and answer process. In this way, you become more of a facilitator in the learning process, rather than just a teacher. My guess is that your participants will remember this lesson much longer than a lecture.

I’ve provided several WITB lesson ideas, and a sample of how asking detailed questions can guide you right through your lesson plan. (See Fishing Lure.)

What’s In The Bag?
Fishing Lure

Lesson Theme: Satan’s Tactics to Lure Believers into Temptation

Once the fishing lure is guessed as the object in WITB, asking further questions similar to those below will assist you in seamlessly moving into the Bible study. The questions and possible responses (in italics) help establish the parallels between the fishing lure and tactics of Satan.

What is the purpose of the fishing lure?
To deceive fish, to entice them to bite into a hidden hook so that they are hooked and caught.

Would fishermen catch any fish if they dropped an empty hook in the water?
Not hardly.

Why not?
Because there’s nothing on the hook to entice the fish to bite it.

So why is using the lure more successful than an empty hook?
Because the attachments hide the hook and deceive the fish into thinking there is something good to eat.

At this point, it’s easy to transition from discussing lures and how they are used, to pointing out the similarities of how Satan tempts believers. His methods are the same. He’s going to do whatever it takes to deceive us and to make his temptations, or “lures,” look so good that we end up being hooked.

As a further visual demonstration of this, I bring out a large fishhook on which I place a portion of a Milky Way candy bar, large enough to cover and mold around the hook. Satan’s tactics of luring us with something that’s appealing, which is represented by the candy bar, completely hide any of the consequences in store for us when we give in to his temptations. His enticements appear more fun and appealing than those things in our current life, so we’re lured to take a bite. What we don’t see is the pain, the devastation and heartbreak once we’re hooked by the devil’s schemes. And you know what? He couldn’t care less! While God loves us and has only our very best interests at heart, Satan has our worst. His only desire is to see us fail and discredit our testimony.

Other References: 1 Peter 5:8-9; 1 John 2:15-17; Ephesians 6:10-17; 2 Corinthians 10:3-6; 1 Thessalonians 5:8. Also refer to: Genesis 3:1-6 Commentary, The Great Deception.

What’s In The Bag?
Flashlight, Light Bulb or Candle

Lesson Themes:
The Lord is my light and my salvation. Psalm 27:1
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23
Ye are the light of the world. Matthew 5:14-16; Ephesians 5:8-10
Men love darkness rather than light. John 3:18-21, 11:9-10
Jesus is the Light of the World. John 8:12, 9:5, 12:35-36, 46
Light of the Gospel. 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Other References: Romans 13:8-14; 1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 6:14; 1 Peter 2:9-10; 1 John 1:6-7, 2:7-11; Revelation 21:23-27, 22:5

What’s In The Bag?

Lesson Theme: Prayer

Theme Development Ideas:
Unlike a phone, we’ll never get a busy signal when seeking God’s audience.
The lines of communication are always open.
God will never put us on hold.
God will never hang up on us.
Conversation is two-way.
Through the conversation, a relationship is developed.

What’s In The Bag?

Lesson Themes:
Jesus, the Firm Foundation. Luke 6:46-49; 1 Corinthians 3:11
Cost of Discipleship. Luke 14:28-30

Other References: 1 Corinthians 3:9-10, 12-14. Also refer to: Walls That Go Splat.

What’s In The Bag?

Lesson Themes:
Building upon the Foundation. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15

Once you cover the various results of man’s building upon the foundation of Jesus Christ (gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble), lighting the hay and allowing your class members to watch it burn up will further demonstrate the testing of everyone’s works, and the type of works we should be striving for.

What’s In The Bag?
Salt Shaker

Lesson Theme:
Ye are the salt of the earth. Matthew 5:13, Mark 9:50, Luke 14:34-35.

What’s In The Bag?
Stalk of Wheat

Lesson Theme:
Introduction to the Book of Ruth (Gleaning in the field)

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