Saul’s Conversion

January 4 – February 1, 2004

Lesson 1: Sorry! and Guess-tures

Scripture:          Acts 9:1-20 (CEV)

Memory Verse:         Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person.  The past is forgotten, and everything is new.  2 Corinthians 5:17


·       We meet God through Jesus.

·       Jesus changes people who accept him.

·       God finds people in a variety of ways.


Students will learn the sequence of events in the story of Saul’s conversion and the characters involved in the story by playing two games—Guess-tures and Sorry!

Gathering Time

The Coach leads the opening routine: snack, fellowship, Prayer Wall activity, and Prayer Chain.  Name tags are available.

Workshop Lesson Procedure:

Introductions (Coach):

1.     The Coach reviews the timeline and the previous week’s workshop activity.  Introduce the Guide who leads the Workshop Lesson.

  1. Explain the purpose of this workshop.  This workshop begins a series of units on the life and teaching of Saul who was also (and more commonly) known as Paul.  Saul is the Hebrew form of his name; Paul is the Greek form.  Both are the same name, just in the two different languages Saul spoke.  These lessons are a big change from the series of lessons taught before Christmas.  Before Christmas, the students had been learning stories from the Old Testament: stories about King David, kings of Judah and Israel, and events leading up to the Babylonian exile.  Now we are switching to the New Testament and stories about the early church.  These stories were written down by a man named Luke in the book of Acts.  These lessons will fit on the timeline under “God empowers a church.”


Scripture/Bible Story (Guide takes over from here): (5-10 minutes)

We have asked if a Kirk member could join the class at this point, dressed and acting as Saul.  We do not have a firm commitment yet, but we are hoping someone will volunteer to provide a first person account using some of the background information on Saul at the end of this lesson.  If this plan does not work out, we will let you know. 

After the guest appearance by Saul, tell the students they are going to learn the story of how Saul changed by playing two games: “Guess-tures” and “Sorry!”


Application: (30-35 minutes)

Pass out Bibles and ask the class to follow along as the guide reads Acts 9:1-20 (CEV).  Instruct students to listen carefully because all the words in the game come from this scripture passage.  Students can also take turns reading if the guide prefers not to read to the class. 


Activity #1: Guess-tures

Object of the game: the team to score the most points by guessing the acted-out words.

Divide into 2 teams. It doesn’t matter if one team has an extra player. In turn, each player acts out up to 4 words while his or her teammates try to guess them.


The card-holder is a timer for your Guess-tures cards. In turn, each player comes up and selects 1, 2, 3, or 4 cards. The player decides which word on each card to play by putting the card in the timer with the word to be acted face up. Make sure the guessing players cannot see the words on the cards. Place easy words to the left and harder words to the right. If a player selects fewer than 4 cards, leave the left space(s) empty. This allows more time to act out the cards in the timer. 


Demonstrate how the timer works and how the cards will fall through as time runs out. Wind it up. Close the timer and the seconds will start. Act out the words and as soon as someone shouts out the correct word, quickly grab that card from the timer. Then go on to act out the next card. If the timer swallows a card, go on to the next one!


When the timer stops ticking, the turn is over. Add up the point values of only the words your team guessed and you were able to grab before the timer swallowed them. Set these cards aside.


Forms of the word are acceptable. E.g. guard for guarding, and pray for praying is OK


At the end of everyone’s turn, add up the scores and give a cheer for the winning team.


If time permits: Take the cards and quickly go through them with the youth identifying how they fit into the Saul story.

Activity #2: Sorry!

In groups of four, have the children play Sorry! according to the standard rules of the game, with the following exception:


Before a player can move a pawn “Home,” he or she must have drawn all 13 segments of the story of Saul’s conversion and placed them in the proper order.  The Sorry! card deck contains four complete sets of cards that tell the story of Saul’s conversion.  Not all segments are numbered the same.  The card deck also contains many “red-herring” cards that contain verses from Acts that are not part of the story of Saul’s conversion.  To obtain a complete set of story cards and place them in proper order, students must know the story well.


Note to Guide: See “Acts 9:1-20 in proper order” and “Red-herring cards,” attached to the end of this lesson, for cheat sheets.



1.     Ask students to tidy up.

2.     Bring closure to the activity.  Use the following review questions to wrap up the class:

  • What is a Pharisee (religious leader who believed everyone must follow the written and oral laws)
  • What did Saul and many of the Pharisees think about Jesus’ followers? (they disagreed with them, they wanted to stop them)
  • What did Saul do to Jesus’ followers and the early Christians? (arrested them, jailed them, killed them)
  • Why was Saul traveling to Damascus? (to arrest the Christians there and bring them back to Jerusalem)
  • What did Saul do after his conversion experience? (fasted, prayed)
  • Who did God speak to about Saul in Damascus? (Ananias)
  • Why was Ananias worried about doing what God asked? (Saul persecuted people like him)
  • What did Ananias do? (obeyed God, went to Saul, touched his eyes, told him God was going to use him)
  • How do you think some of the Christians felt about having Saul with them now? (worried, didn’t trust him, afraid)
  • Why did Saul have two names? (He had a Jewish name - Saul and a Roman name - Paul because he was a Roman citizen)
  • How do you think Saul felt knowing that he had persecuted Christians before?
  • Paul wrote 13 of the New Testament books of the Bible -- they are letters to new churches. He became known as one of the greatest missionaries. What do you think about God using someone like Saul/Paul to accomplish his purpose?
  • Who did God use to help Paul change? (Ananias, Jesus, other Christians)
  • Do you think God might use you to help someone else change? How?
  • Has God ever used someone to help you change? In what way?
  • How can you tell whether the change is something God wants? (if the change makes you a better person, it is probably something God would want - if it is destructive or wrong it’s not)

Closing (Coach):

1.     The Coach conducts the closing prayer time.

2.     Close/lock the door and turn off the lights.

Guide preparation in advance:

1.     For questions on “Guess-tures” call Catherine Devins (851-3368).  For questions on “Sorry!” call Susan Mazzara (387-0920).

2.     Check out the “country room” before your first Sunday workshop so that you know where everything is located.

3.     Set up the room however you think the children can best play the games (table and chairs or spreading out on the floor).

4.     Review the background information on Saul. 

5.     For Guess-tures:

Using card stock, prepare 2”X3”cards for each word pair indicating the point value and the word. 1 point and 3 point words go together on the same card, 2 point and 4 point words go together. Write the word and point value on the card. Turn the card upside down and write the other word and point value. You will also need a Guess-tures timer.



1 point

3 points

2 points

4 points



bright light




















Straight Street


Fish scales


Son of God





Holy Spirit
























meeting place


Acts 9














three days





6.     For Sorry!

Copy the Sorry! cards (in the file SorryCards.doc) onto card stock and cut them apart.  The document contains one set of cards.  You will need one set for each Sorry! board game you use.  These cards replace the standard Sorry! cards.

Familiarize yourself with the rules for Sorry!

Supply List

·       Sorry! game boards and one set of homemade Sorry! cards for each board.

·       Guess-tures cards and timer


·       Faith Quest Workshop Leaders’ Bible Study notes by Lori Houck.

·       Faith Challenge Curriculum Writers Bible Study notes by Susan Mazzara.

·       “Background Information on Saul” is from Jaymie Derden, State Street UMC, Bristol, VA, G.R.E.A.T. Adventure Dream Team, 2002. 

Acts 9:1-20 in proper order

1.     Saul kept on threatening to kill the Lord's followers. He even went to the high priest and asked for letters to the Jewish leaders in Damascus.

2.     He did this because he wanted to arrest and take to Jerusalem any man or woman who had accepted the Lord's Way.

3.     When Saul had almost reached Damascus, a bright light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice that said, "Saul! Saul! Why are you so cruel to me?"

4.     "Who are you?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus," the Lord answered. "I am the one you are so cruel to. Now get up and go into the city, where you will be told what to do."

5.     The men with Saul stood there speechless. They had heard the voice, but they had not seen anyone.

6.     Saul got up from the ground, and when he opened his eyes, he could not see a thing. Someone then led him by the hand to Damascus, and for three days he was blind and did not eat or drink.

7.     A follower named Ananias lived in Damascus, and the Lord spoke to him in a vision. Ananias answered, "Lord, here I am."

8.     The Lord said to him, "Get up and go to the house of Judas on Straight Street. When you get there, you will find a man named Saul from the city of Tarsus. Saul is praying, and he has seen a vision. He saw a man named Ananias coming to him and putting his hands on him, so that he could see again."

9.     Ananias replied, "Lord, a lot of people have told me about the terrible things this man has done to your followers in Jerusalem. Now the chief priests have given him the power to come here and arrest anyone who worships in your name."

10.  The Lord said to Ananias, "Go! I have chosen him to tell foreigners, kings, and the people of Israel about me. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for worshiping in my name."

11.  Ananias left and went into the house where Saul was staying. Ananias placed his hands on him and said, "Saul, the Lord Jesus has sent me. He is the same one who appeared to you along the road. He wants you to be able to see and to be filled with the Holy Spirit."

12.  Suddenly something like fish scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see. He got up and was baptized. Then he ate and felt much better.

  1. For several days Saul stayed with the Lord's followers in Damascus.  Soon he went to the Jewish meeting places and started telling people that Jesus is the Son of God.

“Red-Herring” verses

At that time the church in Jerusalem suffered terribly. All of the Lord's followers, except the apostles, were scattered everywhere in Judea and Samaria.  Acts 8:2

Saul started making a lot of trouble for the church. He went from house to house, arresting men and women and putting them in jail.  Acts 8:3

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Holy Spirit said to him, "Three men are here looking for you. 20Hurry down and go with them. Don't worry, I sent them."  Acts 10:19

Now I am certain that God treats all people alike. God is pleased with everyone who worships him and does right, no matter what nation they come from.  Acts 10:34-35

Peter said, "These Gentiles have been given the Holy Spirit, just as we have! I am certain that no one would dare stop us from baptizing them."  Acts 10:47

And after Barnabas and Saul had done the work they were sent to do, they went back to Jerusalem with John, whose other name was Mark.  Acts 12:25

While they were worshiping the Lord and going without eating, the Holy Spirit told them, "Appoint Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have chosen them."  Acts 13:1-2

Then Saul, better known as Paul, was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Acts 13:9

After the service, many Jews and a lot of Gentiles who worshiped God went with them. Paul and Barnabas begged them all to remain faithful to God, who had been so kind to them.  Acts 13:42-43

Everyone kept quiet and listened as Barnabas and Paul told how God had given them the power to work a lot of miracles and wonders for the Gentiles.  Acts 15:12

Background Information on Saul

Paul (Saul) was born around the year 3 A.D. in Tarsus, the capital city of the province of Cilicia, in southern Asia Minor (in modern-day Turkey). Tarsus was a bustling, commercial center on a well-traveled trade route between the Mediterranean Sea and the highlands of Asia Minor. Tarsus was a city brimming with Greek culture, philosophy, education and trade. When Jerusalem fell to Babylonia around 586 B.C., the Temple was destroyed and the Jews were exiled. During the Diaspora (when the Jews were dispersed or scattered away from Jerusalem) these families settled throughout the Mediterranean area. Separated from the center of their religious culture, the Temple in Jerusalem, Jewish families began the practice of creating synagogues where families could maintain some of their religious traditions, coming together to read and study scriptures and worship. Synagogues became the center of Jewish spiritual life. Nearly every synagogue also had a school associated with it. Jesus visited the synagogues in various towns as did later apostles. The established synagogues later became the starting place for the growth of the Christian church.

Once the political climate changed to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem, many families chose to remain in their new locations, even as they looked toward Jerusalem as their religious home. Paul’s family was one of these families. His parents traced their lineage back to Benjamin, youngest son of Jacob and Rachel. When Paul was born his parents gave him the Hebrew name, Saul, after the first Old Testament king. They also followed the practice of many Jewish families living in the Gentile world at that time and gave him the Latin name Paul. This also reflected the family’s Roman citizenship. No one knows for sure how this citizenship status was given to Saul’s Jewish family. Relatively few Jewish families were given the privilege of Roman citizenship, which often required compromise with pagan culture and being educated in the Greek gymnasion. Evidently Saul’s father was wealthy enough and had enough status to enjoy Roman citizenship, while remaining a strict Jewish Pharisee. Thus Paul was immersed in three cultures: Greek, Roman, and Jewish which uniquely positioned him for his future ministry as the great Christian apostle.

In the time of Paul, Rome was beginning its four hundred year rule over the Mediterranean area. Rome was definitely the dominant political power, but previous rulers left their cultural mark. Greek culture, the result of Alexander the Great’s conquests, had an especially powerful influence. The Roman Empire was comprised of a combination of Greek culture and Roman law. Greek was the common language of the cities throughout the Mediterranean, although villagers spoke their own local languages and dialects. One of the advantages of Roman rule was the ease and safety of travel it provided. Roman soldiers established a military presence that limited piracy and bandits. The Roman road system provided a means for safe and fast travel never before possible. Pilgrims, traders, government officials, runaway slaves, prisoners, letter carriers and countless others traveled the Roman roads making life much more cosmopolitan than ever before.

Saul was born into a devout Jewish family. Under Roman rule, Jewish families were allowed to maintain their customs under the protection of Roman law. Conflicts often arose and the Jewish people chafed under this foreign rule, looking toward the day when God would re-establish his true kingdom in Jerusalem. They were allowed to organize and gather in their own synagogues for worship according to their customs and experienced a certain degree of freedom, but they were not Roman citizens and were subject to Roman taxation and a Roman governor.

Saul began his education in the synagogue of Tarsus. Tarsus was renowned as an intellectual center, ranking after Athens and Alexandria. Roman education was open only to children of the upper classes and was not free. Primary schools provided instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic. Secondary schools taught rhetoric and philosophy. Rhetoric, in particular, was held in high esteem. Upper class sons were expected to be able to give speeches, be able to defend themselves in court and to persuade others to their point of view. It is not known whether Saul attended a school such as this, but certainly he was surrounded by a culture that exalted such skills. We also know that Saul himself was quite adept in these skills and incorporated them in many of his letters and missionary journeys later.

As was the custom for religious Jewish families, Saul read and studied the scriptures regularly . He was probably familiar with the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint. He would have learned to speak, read and write in Greek. Saul’s studies led him to a deep devotion to Jewish law, an understanding of the Hebrew scriptures and a passionate desire to serve and please God. Rabbis of the time also encouraged their students to learn a trade. Saul was taught the trade of tent-making, perhaps like his father. (Tarsus was famous for its manufacture of sail cloth.) Once Saul’s basic education in the synagogue was completed, he was sent to Jerusalem to study under the renowned rabbi, Gamaliel. Gamaliel urged caution and tolerance in the treatment of the apostles of Jesus, saying, “If this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God.” (Acts 5:34-39) Saul however, did not share his teacher’s view. Rather he was zealous and forcefully opposed to the new “cult” that in his mind posed a serious threat to the Jewish faith he knew.

Saul was a Pharisee. The word Pharisee may have two meanings. One is explainer, one who explains the meaning and purpose of scripture. The other is separators, those who separate themselves from evil or impure things. Pharisees were strict religious leaders in the synagogue who believed that all that was necessary for humans to enter into a redemptive relationship with God was obedience to the law. They believed that once everyone followed the law perfectly, the kingdom of God would come. Obedience to God was accomplished by following the written law as given to Moses. By the time of Jesus, though, the law had been through considerable interpretation. The Pharisees believed that the law needed interpretation in order to be practical for everyday life. These interpretations became the oral law which described the rituals and traditions that had become part of Jewish life. The Pharisees, in attempting to follow God’s laws multiplied the precepts and instructions until they were so numerous and trifling that the law itself was often obscured. The “traditions” gradually accumulated until they became burdensome. Following this huge system of ritual and law often led to a proud self-righteousness which Jesus criticized often.

Saul is described as a short man, balding with crooked legs and a hook nose. Saul describes himself as “zealous . . . for the traditions of my fathers” (Galatians 1:14; “an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” (Romans 11:1); “... a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6); and “a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees” (Acts 23:6) Saul was a bright, intelligent scholar with a keen memory. His letters contain over two hundred scriptural references. Saul also became a tentmaker by trade. Saul was rigorously loyal to his Jewish faith and fanatical in his determination to stamp out this heresy called Christianity which he believed was an affront to the ancient true faith.

Saul was most likely in Jerusalem during the final period of Jesus’ life, but there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that Saul ever saw or heard of Jesus during his ministry. Evidently as Jesus’ followers became emboldened and grew in numbers, Saul became increasingly alarmed. Saul did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah because Jesus often denounced the Pharisees and seemed to object to many of their rules. Because the rules were so important to the Pharisees, this created terrible conflict. Many of the Pharisees felt Jesus was the true enemy of Israel as were his followers, and that they should all be put to death as Jesus had been. Saul offered his services to persecute the followers of Jesus. Saul’s persecution was so merciless and fierce that all the Christians feared his name.

Saul’s first targets for persecution were the Christians in Jerusalem, including a man named Stephen. We first read of Saul in the Bible in Acts 7:58 at the stoning of Stephen. Stephen had been arrested and brought to trial on charges of profaning the Temple and the law. Stephen’s stirring speech proclaimed his belief that Jesus had brought a new order and an end to the old order. Perhaps Paul was present at this hearing, and as a Pharisee, committed to the defense of the law, Paul would have supported the execution of Stephen. We read that the Pharisees who participated in the stoning of Stephen left their cloaks at the feet of Saul for safekeeping.
Hoping to escape persecution, Jesus’ followers began to leave Jerusalem. God used even this terrible persecution to bring about good. Everywhere the early Christians went, they spread the word about Jesus, increasing the number of believers rather than diminishing them.

Saul requested and received authority from the high priests to travel to Damascus (about a week’s journey - 140 miles from Jerusalem) to rout out the Christians there and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment. It was during this journey to Damascus, when Saul had his life-changing encounter with the risen Christ. This was about five years after the crucifixion of Jesus when Saul was about 30 years old. As Paul and his companions neared Damascus, Saul was surrounded by a blinding light from heaven and a voice calling, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He immediately was struck blind and fell to the ground, asking, “Who are you , Lord?” The voice answered, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:4-5) Imagine his state! Everything he had lived for and fought for, gone in an instant! Saul’s vision was so profound that it could not be denied. Saul knew with absolute assurance that the God he had been serving was one he had radically misunderstood. Saul, blind and helpless, continued on to Damascus, led by his companions, where he spent three days in unaccustomed darkness, praying and fasting (without food or water), and no doubt doing profound soul-searching.

Meanwhile, God spoke to another Jewish Christian, Ananias, telling him to go to the house on Straight Street and speak to Saul, placing his hands on his eyes to restore his sight. Ananias, was understandably reluctant -- after all, he was one of the Christians Saul was no doubt intending to arrest! But God was insistent, “I have chosen this man to work for me” (Acts 9:15) and Ananias was obedient, and showing great courage and faith he went in to see Saul, even calling him “brother.” Saul’s blindness was healed, he was baptized and filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately Saul began to proclaim his new faith in Jesus.

Saul’s faith journey was different from that of other apostles who had known Jesus and been his disciples. Saul was confronted by the risen Jesus and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus played a large role in his understanding of his new faith. Saul’s life was totally changed and completely turned around by this encounter with the Messiah. Few details are known about the next ten years of Saul’s life. Undoubtedly this was a time of much reflection for Saul. As a highly trained Jew, he was forced to rethink much of his understandings of the faith and come to grips with such questions as how the Law, tradition, God’s grace and love all fit into the message of the cross for not just the Jews, but Gentiles as well. Saul understood at last that God had fulfilled all the promises of old in Jesus Christ. In some of Paul’s later letters we read that he himself was persecuted, whipped, stoned, imprisoned, etc. so it seems likely that Saul was preaching during this time. Saul went on to write thirteen of the New Testament letters and to travel throughout the Mediterranean on three separate missionary journeys establishing churches throughout the region. As Saul increasingly went into the Gentile world, he began to be called by his Roman name, Paul by which we know him today.

The focus for this rotation will be the dramatic change and turnaround in Saul’s life on the road to Damascus. We all have things in our lives which we would like to change. God wants all of us to recognize our need for Jesus Christ’s love and forgiveness in our lives. Sometimes this conversion can be a sudden, dramatic event as it was for Saul. Sometimes it can be a slow, growing awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The type of conversion is not the important thing. Recognizing God’s presence and deciding to live according to God’s will is what is important. Following God’s will requires that we remain willing to change with God’s help. The story of Saul’s amazing conversion gives us hope for our own transformation. If God can change the heart of someone like Saul, God can change anyone! For “with God nothing is impossible.” Saul’s conversion is remarkable for its dramatic impact and profound results. Paul is known today as the greatest missionary and the first Christian theologian. His letters provided instruction to the budding churches of the time and still give guidance and leadership today. All this from one of the greatest persecutors of Christians! Truly God can and will use anyone to accomplish His purposes! Truly we are “new creations” in Christ Jesus.

Sources: Paul, His Message about God in Christ, Jerald H. Jackson, Graded Press, 1987; Paul: His Life, Douglas E. Wingeler, Graded Press, 1987; Paul: His World, J. Michael Miller, Graded Press, 1987; Smith’s Bible Dictionary, William Smith, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996; Who’s Who in the Bible, Reader’s Digest Association, 1994; Turnabout Paul VBS, Cokesbury, 1995; Who’s Who in the Bible, Joan Comay and Ronald Brownrigg, Random House, 1980.