Monday, September 22, 2014

Built on the Rock: Youth Group Object Lesson

When I think of San Francisco, hilly roads, Cable Cars, the Golden Gate Bridge, and earthquakes come to mind.  (and Full House- I've gotta admit Full House makes the list!)

Don't ask me why, but a San Francisco earthquake story that I heard at some point in high school history came to mind while planning a Youth Group lesson based on "Built on the Rock." 

Many of us remember learning about the earthquake and resulting fires that devastated San Francisco in 1906.  An interesting tidbit that many might not know is that much of the rubble from the city was pushed into the Marina District, forming a landfill to which sand and more debris would be added to over the years. 
Not quite ten years later, when San Francisco wanted to show the world that it was "back" as a cultural center and successful west coast city, it hosted the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.  The Expo was built on none other than the previous pile of earthquake rubble in the Marina.  Quite the statement, don't you think?  They were not going to let an earthquake stop them. 
After the Expo, the fairground-type buildings were torn down, and the land was purchased by developers who built family housing in the new Marina District.

Moving ahead to 1986, another earthquake of nearly the same strength hit San Francisco.  This time the city is better prepared, and buildings and infrastructure are better suited to handle the natural disaster.  The most terrible damage and loss of life occurs primarily on double-decker roadways and bridges.  One exception, however, is the Marina District.  Because of its rubble/sand/landfill base, the area actually experiences liquefaction of the soil- and great damage is done to houses and apartments in this residential area.

When you think about it, our lives are a lot like San Francisco.  We get to decide the foundation we want to build on.  Pushing our messes and mistakes and sins into a neat corner and covering them up can be mighty tempting.  We want to keep up appearances, move on, and sometimes even take the short cut.  However, we are called to something greater.  We are called to form our lives on a firm foundation that doesn't move and doesn't change. That foundation of truth can be found in Christ and His Church, and it can withstand whatever life throws at us.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” ~Matthew 7:24-27

I used the story of San Francisco as a practical example of living our life built on the Rock with a group of teens.  If you would like to use this idea for a lesson, below you will find a more comprehensive outline and other resources.

Click here for the outline of the lesson, including discussion questions, additional Scripture references, and printable photos from the two earthquakes:

Here are two Scripture cards you can use as reminders for the kids:

Click here for the printable for Psalm 31:3:

Click here for the printable for Matthew 7:25:

The sources for pictures (which are all in public domain) and more information on the earthquakes can be found at the end of this document.


  1. You are saving my 5th graders from absolute boredom! THANK YOU! You are my new favorite blog! Do you have (or know) any crafts/games to learn the order of the mass?

    1. Thanks, Gail!
      I have a game I played with my youth group about the order of the Mass, but unfortunately I don't have a post about it yet. Here are the basics:

      I took four different colors of index cards and labeled them with the four main parts of the Mass: Introductory Rites, Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist, Concluding Rites. Then on the other side, I wrote one of the specific parts of the Mass- the Gloria, the Kyrie, etc. The kids then had to lay them all out on the floor (or a table) in order of the Mass, and we talked about each one as we went. You could make it more challenging by making them all the same color!

      I also have a Mass booklet that has lots of info about the Mass parts here:

      God bless you and your students!