Be An Upstander, Not A Bystander: A Sunday School Lesson

By Dominique Nash

Story of Joseph- Genesis 37

Memory Verse: Do to others just as you want them to do to you. Luke 6:31.

Introduction with Children

Have you ever had a time when you were around someone who was being teased and you really wanted to help them and make it stop, but you didn’t know what to do? How did you feel? Allow children to answer. Let’s take a look at Luke 6:31, “Do to others just as you want them to do to you.” Let’s think about that verse. When you have been the person being teased or left out, what did you want others to do? Allow children to answer. What are some things you can do to stop the person or people from doing this? Allow children to answer. God wants us to stand up for people, not just stand by and let bad things happen to them. What are some ways we can do this? Allow children to answer.

  • Be a friend to someone who you see is getting bullied. Tell them you see what is happening and you would like to help.
  • Tell the person who is bullying to stop. Say, “What you’re doing is bullying and it’s wrong.”
  • If someone tries to talk bad about someone else, tell them you don’t want to talk about them and they shouldn’t either.
  • Be an example to others. Tell your friends that you’re an upstander and tell them what that means. Encourage them to be upstanders too.
  • Refuse to participate in any teasing by laughing or joining it in any way.
  • Get help from a trusted adult.

There are many things we can do to be an upstander. Sometimes this might be hard or scary, but pray, push through, and do what you would want done for you.

Prayer (have them repeat after you): Thank you Lord for your love and strength. Help me love others and be strong for them in the same you do these things for us. Amen.

Story: Use a children’s book to tell the Story of Joseph.

For Reflection

  • Why did Joseph’s brothers want to hurt him?
  • What could Joseph’s brother have done to stand up for him?
  • Have you ever been picked on or hurt while people just stood by and watched?
  • Have you ever had the chance to stand up for someone? Did you? Why or why not?


For all children:

You will need:

A large list of the ways to be an upstander (in the introduction) displayed for everyone to see.

Have the children share some of their own experiences, either things that have happened to them or things they’ve seen happen to others. After they share, have them act it out using the solutions listed.


For Older Children:

You will need:

One index card per child

One pen per child



Talk to the kids about how it’s important to remember the good things about themselves when someone is trying to make them feel bad. This helps them have the confidence to stand up for themselves and others.

Give each child an index card and have them put their name on it. Tape it to their backs. Give each child a pen or fine point marker. Turn on music and have them write one nice thing on each card.



Option 1: Joseph Stick Puppets

You will need:


Felt pieces


Large craft sticks

Color, glue felt, etc to large crafts sticks to make Joseph and his brothers.

Re-tell the story the way it happened and then tell it with Reuben, one of Joseph’s, brothers standing up for Joseph.

Option 2: God is With Me Necklace

You will need:



One small circle made out of cardboard


Remind the kids that God is always with them. God can help them do the right thing and if someone else does something to hurt them, God can bring good out of bad situations. Have them write! “God is With Me” on the circle. Then make a bead necklace with a “God is With Me” circle in the middle.

Option 3: Upstander Pin

You will need:

One pin/button per child (you can buy these at your local craft store)

Paper circles that fit into the pins


A copy of the pledge and/or a copy of the prayer included in this lesson

Have the kids recite the pledge with you. Then have them write, “ I am an Upstander on the paper circle. Let them decorate it. When finished, put the paper circle inside the pin.

Upstander Pledge

I promise to be an upstander and tell others what that is.

I promise to help someone when I see them being hurt by another.

I promise to refuse to listen to or repeat bad things I hear about others.

I promise to not participate in the teasing of another person.

I promise to get help from a trusted adult when needed.



Dominique Nash is the Director of Children’s Ministry at Cornerstone UMC in Naples, Florida. She is passionate about helping families develop healthy relationships with God and each other. For additional resources, click here to contact Dominique.