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Reformation Day Lesson

Updated on October 10, 2015
Nailing the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door
Nailing the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door

This is a fun hands-on lesson on the Reformation. Nail the 95 theses to the Wittenberg Door, eat gummy worms for the Diet of Worms, create Tulip origami, and more as you learn about Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale, and the Scottish Covenanters. Use this fun lesson and ideas for your church Reformation Day festival, family or school study, a youth group, or a homeschool co-op class!

Reading the picture book on Martin Luther by Catherine MacKenzie
Reading the picture book on Martin Luther by Catherine MacKenzie
Comparing the text amount and illustrations between the two picture books on Martin Luther
Comparing the text amount and illustrations between the two picture books on Martin Luther

Martin Luther and Reformation Day

1. Pray. Mention that today is Reformation Day. Ask if anyone knows why we celebrate Reformation Day.

2. Read the book on Martin Luther. Read "Martin Luther: What should I do?" by Catherine MacKenzie if you have a younger group of children or mixed ages. Read "Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed The World" by Paul L. Maier if you have older children.
YOU WILL NEED: book on Martin Luther such as "Martin Luther: What should I do?" by Catherine MacKenzie or "Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed The World" by Paul L. Maier


Best picture book option for younger children

Martin Luther: What should I do? (Little Lights)
Martin Luther: What should I do? (Little Lights)

This is the picture book I used when teaching this lesson to a group of mixed ages that included younger and older children. It has illustrations that appeal to younger children and has just the right amount of text, so that even preschoolers can enjoy this book but older children (elementary aged) can still learn quite a bit from it.

 

Best picture book for older children

Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed The World
Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed The World

This is a wonderful picture book with gorgeous illustrations. I read this with my children, and even my preschoolers enjoyed it. It is a longer picture book and includes quite a bit more information than the above book.

 
Coins in the Coffer Penny Toss
Coins in the Coffer Penny Toss

Martin Luther and Coins in the Coffer

3. Coins in the Coffer:
-When Martin Luther was going to church, people were told that if they gave money to the church, they could be partially forgiven of some of their sins and they could also save their relatives who had died but had not been Christians. This money was called an indulgence. We know that this is not true, but they were not allowed to read the Bible for themselves, so they didn't know!
-Give each child 30 pennies. Have the children try to throw pennies into their assigned coffers. They can throw one penny at a time. The older children will have to throw from a further distance.
YOU WILL NEED: 14 containers and 450 pennies

Nailing the Theses
Nailing the Theses
If handing children a hammer and nail scares you too much, you can insted have them tape the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door
If handing children a hammer and nail scares you too much, you can insted have them tape the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door

Nail the Theses to the Door

4. Nail the Theses to the Door:
- Martin Luther realized that the priests telling people to buy indulgences to pay for their sins was wrong, and there were many other things people were learning at church that were wrong. He wanted to let everyone know, so he wrote a long list of many things that he wanted to share with the people. In those days the church door was kind of like a newspaper for the town. If you had some news you wanted other people to know, you would write about it and nail it to the church door. Luther nailed his list of 95 theses, or ideas, to the church door at Wittenberg for everyone to see.
-He did this on October 31, 1517, because the next day was a church holiday called the Feast of All Saints Day when people were supposed to remember Christians who had already died. Many people would be coming to the church in Wittenberg on November 1 to pray and to see the relics that were there. That was another way the church tried to make extra money. They would hold little traveling shows of items that they said were from Bible times. If you paid money, you could see a little piece of wood that they claimed was from the cross of Jesus. You could also see a little piece of cloth. They claimed that it had been used to wrap up Jesus after He died on the cross. They had other relics as well. They said if you saw those relics or prayed to them, your prayers would be answered. Again, we know this is not true, but the people didn’t know it wasn’t true because they didn’t have Bibles to read. This was another one of Martin Luther’s theses or complaints against the church.
-Have the children nail the 95 theses to a block of wood.
YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: hammer, piece of wood, nail, and piece of paper with the first few theses printed on it

*Note: In the past we played the game of "Tape the 95 Theses to the Wittenberg Door," played in a similar manner to "Pin the Tail on the Donkey." This year we had them actually nail the paper into a piece of wood. The kids LOVED getting to use a hammer and nail, and no one was hurt in the process.

Diet of Worms - Retrieving gummy worms from a plate of Cool Whip and Oreo cookies
Diet of Worms - Retrieving gummy worms from a plate of Cool Whip and Oreo cookies

Diet of Worms

5. Diet of Worms: (*Prep: Lay out a plate for each child. On the plate lay 2 gummy worms. Cover the gummy worms with Cool Whip. Sprinkle Oreo cookies over the Cool Whip.*)
-The church was not happy about Martin Luther posting what they considered to be complaints. They had a church court meeting which was called a diet. It was held in a city in Germany called Worms. This meeting was called the Diet of Worms. In German, a W is pronounced like a V. In English it looks like it was the Diet of Worms. At the Diet of Worms, the church leaders told him he needed to recant, or say that he really didn’t mean what he said about the problems with the church. He refused. He responded with, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen!”
-Have the children eat 2 gummy worms without using their hands. (The youngest children can use their hands if they desire to do that.)
YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: 1 plate, 2 gummy worms, large scoop of Cool Whip, 2 crumbled oreo cookies, and napkins

Race for Your Life Relay
Race for Your Life Relay

Race for Your Life

6. Race for Your Life
-After a few years of defending what he wrote, the church declared him a heretic and ordered his arrest! They wanted to kill him. Martin Luther had to flee for his life!
-Divide the children into 2 teams. Have them run an obstacle course relay race.
YOU WILL NEED: pairs of items for obstacle course such as stick horses to trot with, "enemy" cones to swerve around, chairs with broom sticks to crawl under or hop over, etc.

Reading the picture book on John Calvin
Reading the picture book on John Calvin

John Calvin

7. There were many church reformers before and after Martin Luther. One of the reformers who lived around the same time as Martin Luther was John Calvin. Read the book on John Calvin: "John Calvin: What is the truth?" by Catherine MacKenzie.
YOU WILL NEED: book on John Calvin such as "John Calvin: What is the truth?" by Catherine MacKenzie

John Calvin: What is the truth? (Little Lights)
John Calvin: What is the truth? (Little Lights)

This is a wonderful picture book about John Calvin. It has illustrations and just enough text so that even preschoolers can enjoy listening to this book being read, but it is educational enough that even older listeners will still learn quite a bit about John Calvin's life.

 
Tulip Craft for the younger children
Tulip Craft for the younger children
Easy origami tulip activity for older children (ages 7+)
Easy origami tulip activity for older children (ages 7+)

Tulip Crafts

8. Origami Tulips:
-Just like Martin Luther, John Calvin realized that many of the beliefs being taught in the church were not from the Bible. He taught people what the Bible said about how people can become Christians. In order to help people remember these ideas, someone created an acronym to remember them: TULIP.
T stands for Total Depravity, which means everyone is sinful.
U stands for Unconditional Election, which means that God selects some people to be Christians.
L stands for Limited Atonement. Jesus died for the sins of all Christians.
I stands for Irresistible Grace. If God decided that you are going to be a Christian, then you will be a Christian.
P stands for Perseverance of the Saints. It you are really a Christian, you will always be a Christian. You can’t lose your salvation.
-Have younger children glue construction paper pieces to make tulips on a sheet of paper by following the directions at Tulip Craft For Young Children. Have older children make Origami Tulips or 3-D Paper Tulips (requires scissors as well).
YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD: 1 sheet of paper with TULIP written on it, gluestick, and pieces of colored paper

Circles and Doughnut Game - If you would prefer less mess, use plain cake doughnuts or glazed doughnuts instead.
Circles and Doughnut Game - If you would prefer less mess, use plain cake doughnuts or glazed doughnuts instead.
Luther Rose
Luther Rose | Source
Scottish Covenanter Seal Image Credit: http://boldwitnessforchrist.blogspot.com/2012_01_08_archive.html
Scottish Covenanter Seal Image Credit: http://boldwitnessforchrist.blogspot.com/2012_01_08_archive.html

Christian Circles

9. Circles (*Prep: Ahead of time attach string to individual doughnuts. Tie the string to something that they can hang from such as tree branches or a broomstick held between 2 ladders.)
-Prince John Frederick was one of the men who protected Martin Luther. As a gift to Martin Luther, Prince Frederick comissioned a seal for Luther to wear as a ring. Martin Luther requested that the seal have a white rose with a red heart and a black cross in the middle. Around all of this should be a circle of gold "to signify that the bliss of heaven endures forever and is more precious than all earthly pleasures and possessions, even as gold is the most precious of metals."
-Circles have been used in many other reformed churches. Many of the reformational ideas spread to the Scottish Covenant churches. Some of the Scottish Covenanters had flags that had circles on them. Inside the circle it says, “FOR CHRIST AND COVENANT” and has 2 swords, 2 guns, and the Bible. They were willing to fight to the death for God’s Word.
-Have the children form a circle and march around in the circle. Ask where the beginning and end is. God is like the circle. He is eternal and does not have a beginning or end.
-Have children use only their mouths (no hands) to eat doughnuts (which are in the circle shape of these golden rings) that are hanging from strings. Younger children can use their hands. If you have limited space, divide children into 2 groups. Allow younger children to go first and then have the older group go. If you want the children to get messy, use frosted doughnuts. For less mess use plain cake doughnuts or glazed doughnuts.
YOU WILL NEED: picture of the Luther Rose, picture of Celtic cross, picture of Scottish Covenanter flag, 1 doughnut for each child, string, & something to hold up doughnuts such as a tree with low enough branches or 2 ladders and a broomstick

William Tyndale, Protestant reformer and Bible translator. Portrait from Foxe's Book of Martyrs.
William Tyndale, Protestant reformer and Bible translator. Portrait from Foxe's Book of Martyrs. | Source

William Tyndale

10. If time allows, watch the movie "Torchlighters: William Tyndale." William Tyndale was influenced by Martin Luther. He translated the Bible into English using the Greek and Hebrew Texts (rather than the Latin Vulgate). His Bible was one of the first Bibles of the Reformation and was made popular through the newly invented printing press. He was eventually charged with heresy and martyred.
YOU WILL NEED: TV or computer to watch DVD and "Torchlighters: William Tyndale" DVD

Torchlighters: William Tyndale
Torchlighters: William Tyndale

This is a wonderful 30 minute animated DVD about one of the many heroic reformers of the Christian faith, William Tyndale. It includes details about his life as he attempted to translate the Bible into the common language of the people, which eventually leaves to his martyrdom. All of my children (preschool through middle school aged children) enjoyed this DVD and learned from it.

 

Preview of Torchlighters: William Tyndale

Cake Walk
Cake Walk | Source

Cake Walk or Trivia Game

11. (Optional) Sometimes we also include a Cake Walk. After someone's number is picked, they have to answer a trivia question correctly in order to win a dessert. Other times we just play the trivia games, usually guys verses gals. I am including the questions and answer options below. The correct answer to each question is places in parenthesis at the end of each question.
REFORMATION QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
1. What holiday is celebrated on October 31 by people of the reformed faith? (c)
a) Easter b) Christmas c) Reformation Day d) 4th of July
2. What famous flower typifies the 5 points of Calvinism? (a)
a) TULIP b) Rose c) Hibiscus d) Cactus
3. Who was the morning star of the reformation? (b)
a) John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith b) John Wycliffe c) John Wayne d) John Wesley
4. What tenet of the reformed faith is represented by the letter “P”? (d)
a) Pollination of the Saints b) Polishing the Saints c) Picking out the Saints d) Perseverance of the Saints
5. Which of the following was NOT an issue that needed reforming during the period of the Reformation? (c)
a) false doctrines b) superstition c) joyfulness d) greed
6. What did Martin Luther nail to the door of the Wittenberg Chapel? (a)
a) 95 Thesis b) a painting of Mary c) our pastor’s red sweater vest d) the Pope’s hat
7. Which of the following was NOT a famous reformer? (d)
a) John Calvin b) John Zwingli c) John Knox d) John Deere
8. What is the name for the certificates that were sold by the Roman Catholic Church that promised people release from works of penance for absolved sins, both in life and in purgatory? (a)
a) indulgences b) credit cards c) grain offerings d) promotional items
9. What year did Martin Luther nail his Ninety-five Theses on the Wittenberg door of the Castle Church? (b)
a) 700BC b) 1517 c) 2015 d) 1776
10. Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses on the Wittenberg door of the Castle Church on October 31st because the next day many people would be coming to mass in celebration of what holiday that occurs on November 1? (d)
a) Valentine’s Day b) Yom Kippur c) Secretary’s Day d) All Saints’ Day
11. What tenet of the reformed faith is represented by the letter “U”? (a)
a) Unconditional Election b) Unbelievable Smiles c) Ultimate Snowboarding d) Undivided Attention
12. What tenet of the reformed faith is represented by the letter “I”? (b)
a) Itchy Mosquito Bites b) Irresistible Grace c) Irritability d) Irrefutable Evidence
13. In what language did Martin Luther write his Ninety-five Theses? (c)
a) Swahili b) Chinese c) Latin d) Arabic
14. Which of the following “mighty” hymns was written by Martin Luther during the Reformation? (c)
a) “Old Rugged Cross” b) “Amazing Grace” c) “A Mighty Fortress” d) “For all the Saints”
15. What tenet of the reformed faith is represented by the letter “T”? (b)
a) Tummy Trimming b) Total Depravity c) Twinkle Toes d) Trusting in Works
16. Which church did NOT come out the period of Reformation? (a)
a) Charismatic b) Anabaptist c) Reformed d) Presbyterian/Dutch Reformed
17. Martin Luther wrote a book, called The Bondage of the Will, in order to challenge the doctrine of “free-will” that was being taught by whom? (b)
a) Dr. Seuss b) Erasmus c) Oprah d) John Calvin
18. Which of the following was NOT a rallying point of the Reformation? (c)
a) Sola Fide b) Sola Scriptura c) Sola Pope d) Sola Gratia
19. What tenet of the reformed faith is represented by the letter “L”? (b)
a) Limited Liability b) Limited Atonement c) Love of Pot Lucks d) Listening to Sermons
20. Which version of the Bible was produced by the Reformation? (a)
a) the Geneva Bible b) the New International Version c) the Catholic Study Bible d) the King James Bible
21. What Bible was published to bring the people back under the authority of the Catholic church and away from the Reformation? (b)
a) the Living Bible b) the King James Bible c) the Catholic Study Bible d) the Amplified Bible
22. What book of the Bible did Martin Luther call “The Right Strawy Epistle,” meaning he did not think it belonged in the Bible? (d)
a) Acts b) Genesis c) Song of Solomon d) James

In the Footsteps of Martin Luther

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© 2015 iijuan12

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