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For The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

By Sally Ulrey

Key verses: Romans 3:19-24

“All fall short of the glory of God” ~vs 23

Objective: To demonstrate that none of us can reach the perfect standard, that all of us
need grace, and that Jesus provides the grace we need.
The Set up: Minimal to Moderate

The Plan:
 Hook: Nailed It! (10 mins)
o Show several pictures of beautiful baking/crafting ideas from Pinterest, and then how they
worked out in real life (hint: not well)
o OPTION (add 20 mins to 1 hr+): In teams, have them do a Pinterest baking competition and judge the
results. Depending on the challenge you choose (see end of lesson), add 20 mins to 1 hour+ (if you have
them bake from start to finish, you may have to have them come in early to get started).
 Book: “All Fall Short” (5 mins)
o Looking at Romans 3:19-24, discuss how we fall short of the standard, and God’s solution (grace
through Jesus) to the problem that presents for us
 Look: Stories of Grace (20 mins)
o Sharing stories about times we fall short of the standard, and when we have received grace
 Took: Nail It (10 mins)
o Give students time to think of the ways they’ve needed grace (they’ve fallen short), and then
allow them to nail their shortcomings to a cross.
The Supplies:
 Copy of lesson
 AV Equipment
 Paper & pens
 Cross (wood or corkboard)
 Nails
 Hammer
 Bibles
 OPTION: For Pinterest Competition:
o Recipe/Instructions printed out
o Buy/Gather supplies (see options for Pinterest Competion at the end of the lesson)

The Preparation:
 Make or find a wooden cross that you can nail things into (or push pins and a corkboard cross)
 Gather personal stories illustrating grace from youth leaders and/or other church members
 OPTION: Pinterest Competition—Gather supplies and set up baking/crafting area in advance. Depending on
what you choose, this may include pre-baking cupcakes.

“Nailed It!” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Nailed It! (Hook, 15 mins)
In this section, youth will view “Pinterest Fails”…pictures of crafts or cute baked goods on Pinterest, and then
how they worked out in real life for people who attempted them. These often appear in the form of memes
with “Nailed It!” written on them, but the examples fall far short of the perfect standard in the Pinterest
photos. We’ll use this to illustrate that even though we try hard, we still fall short of God’s perfect standard,
and we’ll tie this into our need for grace through Jesus.

 Show these hilarious “Nailed It!” (Pinterest Fails) pictures and laugh together:
 OPTION: Pinterest Competition (add 20 mins to 1 hour+; the Hook section would take a min of 35 mins)
If just decorating pre-baked cupcakes, add 20 mins; if baking from start to finish, add at LEAST 1 hour.
This is also a speed competition, so there’s a time limit; don’t let them take forever!
o Put the youth into at least two teams
o Pick a Pinterest cupcake to try to replicate (see ideas at the end of the lesson)
o Give the youth instructions and a time limit
o When they’re done, have them present their finished works to the larger group

Transition: If you think about those “Nailed It!” memes, a lot of the attempts at making the beautiful
Pinterest creations fell short. Hilariously short, but still, they fell far short of the standard. There’s lots of
times that we fall short of the standard God sets, too. And it’s not always hilarious; sometimes it’s really
painful. But God, in God’s wisdom and love, has a solution to our problem when we fall short of the

“Nailed It!” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
“All Fall Short” (Book, 5 mins)
In this section, we take a look at a verse from Romans about how we all fall short of the standard, and God’s
grace to us in times where we can’t reach perfection.

 Read Romans 3:19-24 (below for your reference)

 Work through these comprehension questions as a group:
1. According to the passage, every single person falls short of the standard because of sin. So
we’re not right/righteous/holy. So what DOES make us righteous?
Vs 22—faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe

2. Can we become righteous by following God’s Law? ….What if we practice it and try really, really
hard and get really good at following God’s Law?
Answers may include that if we could follow the Law perfectly, maybe we could be
righteous, but since we can’t, no… and no, trying really, really hard doesn’t make us
perfect or righteous; we still fall short, and there’s nothing we can do to earn
righteousness…vs 20—no one will be declared righteous by works of the Law

3. What is God’s Law for if it can’t make us righteous?

Vs 20—make us conscious of our sin, of our shortcomings. We can’t know grace if we
don’t understand how we’ve fallen short.

Romans 3:19-24 (NIV)

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be
silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s
sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the
Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in[h] Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no
difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are
justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide

Transition: The perfect Pinterest pictures are like God’s Law in the Old Testament. They set the perfect
standard that we need to live up to. But the reality was that people could NEVER meet that standard of
perfection and become righteous or earn righteousness. People are more like those “Nailed It!” memes.
Maybe they try hard, but they just can’t quite do it. And the perfection of the Law (like the Pinterest pictures)
just made everyone aware of how much they had fallen short. But without knowing how much we had fallen
short, we wouldn’t understand the grace that Jesus brings. Grace is “unmerited favor” or “getting the good
things you don’t deserve or didn’t earn”. We get righteousness through Jesus, even though we didn’t earn it
or deserve it. That’s grace. Let’s share some further examples of what Grace looks like in real life…

“Nailed It!” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Stories of Grace (Look, 20 mins)
In this section, we’ll share some real life examples of falling short, yet receiving grace (“unmerited favor” or
“getting the good things you don’t deserve/didn’t earn”) and what effect that has in real life. These should be
illustrations that help the youth understand the grace Jesus provided through the cross and His resurrection
(forgiveness, newness of life….good gifts that we didn’t deserve or earn). They can be stories about receiving
grace from God (ex: how God provided a job when in need/in a financial “short fall” OR having the ability to
forgive someone) or receiving grace from others (ex: how someone forgave them for an egregious
offense/shortcoming). Stories can be really intense or lighter and very simple…as long as they illustrate grace.
The best stories are ones that are personal to your group, (i.e., ones your leaders could personally tell), and it’s
recommended that you prep your leaders in advance and collect stories from around your community.
However, below, there are some others to use as a jumping off point.

 Collect stories illustrating Grace from members of your church community, or invite a few members to
come in and share stories.
 In preparation, give your story-telling recruits the instructions/description above, so that they have
time to prepare something that is on topic.
 Make sure you are mindful of your time here. If you bring in people to share in person, be sure they
know how much time they have, and try to stick to it! If you collect stories to read to the group rather
than having someone share them live, read them in advance to get an idea of timing.

Other examples from the interwebs that you can reference

if you don’t find someone from your own community to tell a story:
“Why Didn’t He Hate Me?” by Shannon Ethridge
“I’d killed his wife in a car accident, and now he wanted to talk to me”
 LEADER TIP: this one is more intense, and when she finally meets the husband, he has some interesting
theological ideas that you might want to unpack. These ideas are obviously helping him cope, even
though they are debatable. The story is still a good illustration of grace, but you might find a way to
gently discuss some of his ideas (for example, that God doesn’t give you more than you can handle…)

“How to Teach Your Children Grace Everyday”
Author shares a story from when she was 8 yrs old and ripped her mother’s dress, and her mother’s reaction.
 LEADER TIP: this one is less intense, and more simple, but still a very sweet illustration of a mother’s
grace to her child, right where that child is. Any stories you collect can be similar.

“Sermon Illustrations on Grace”

There are several, but the one on Fiorello LaGuardia (NYC mayor during Depression) is pretty interesting.

Transition: We ALL fall short. And when we do, it can be hard, painful, even scary. There’s often guilt or
shame. But God knew that we would fall short. God knew, and God loved us anyway, and provided a solution
to our short-coming: GRACE through Jesus Christ. God provides for us exactly what we need so that we can be
righteous and restored and whole and in communion with God again. And so, we can leave our shortcomings
behind. We can leave all our guilt and shame from our shortcomings behind, too. We can leave them on the
cross, where all the shortcomings of the world have been paid for, and given grace to cover them…
“Nailed It!” by Sally Ulrey
for the Diocese of Atlanta
Nail It (Took, 10 mins)
This section brings home the idea that even though we fall short, Jesus’ grace to us on the cross covers us, and
so we can leave the guilt and shame of our shortcomings on the cross, and let them die there. We are
resurrection people, and we live in newness of life!
The youth will have the opportunity to place a nail, representing a shortcoming, in the cross as a reminder that
the cross is where we leave our shortcomings. The cross is where we “nail it.”

 Make paper and pens available

 Make hammers and nails available
 Instruct the youth that they will have some time to reflect on their shortcomings and the guilt or
shame we sometimes feel when we fall short.
 Instruct them that they can write or draw something on a piece of paper to depict a shortcoming, or
they can simply use a nail to represent a shortcoming
 Instruct them that the cross is where we put that guilt or shame from when we fall short. Jesus already
paid for those shortcomings through the cross and made us righteous. We need to leave our guilt and
shame on the cross. Instruct them to nail their sheets of paper (or just their nails) to the cross, as
many as they want. This is where we “nail it”.
 Read Romans 8:1-2:“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ
Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you [a] free from the law
of sin and death.”
 Explain that God knew about our shortcomings, and God gave us a solution to that problem…God gave
us a way to “nail it” (to reach the standard)…when we nail it to the cross, Jesus’ grace covers it and
makes us righteous.
 Explain that now, when we fail, we can say “nailed it” in a whole new way… we nail it to the cross,
where, through grace, our shortcomings are made righteous, and we are free.
 Allow them to take home a nail as a reminder of what to do when we fall short (confess it, leave it, turn
from it, and be free from it through Jesus’ grace)

Close in prayer, offering to God all of the guilt and shame from our shortcomings, and thanking God that God
loves us and provides for us when we fall short. AMEN!

“Nailed It!” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta
Nailed It!—Cupcake Decorating Competition (20 mins to 1 hr+)

Have at least two teams. You can have them decorating the same kind of cupcake and compare, or decorate
two different kinds of cupcakes. If you’re short on time, you may want to pre-bake the cupcakes, and just have
them decorate them. Take about 20 mins for decorating only (2-3 mins of instructions; 10-12 mins of
decorating; 5 mins of presenting finished cupcakes…this is a speed competition!). If baking from a box of cake
mix, check for baking times, and add AT LEAST 20 mins for prep, and 20 mins for cooling.

Sheep Cupcakes

 Plain cupcakes (they can make them…add extra time; or make them in advance)
 Vanilla frosting
 Mini marshmellows
 Edible Eyes
 Sub Mini snickers/3musketeers/milkways for faces (or get gourmet chocolates)

Owl Cupcakes

 Plain cupcakes (they can make them…add extra time; or make them in advance)
 Chocolate frosting
 Oreos
 Brown Reese Pieces (or brown m&ms)
 Orange Reese Pieces (or orange m&ms)

Hedgehog Cupcakes

 Plain cupcakes (they can make them…add extra time; or make them in advance)
 Chocolate Frosting
 Hershey’s Kisses
 Almond slivers
 Black gel writing icing

Skeleton Cupcakes

 Plain cupcakes (they can make them…add extra time; or make them in advance)
 Lollipop sticks (from baking aisle of a craft store)
 White chocolate Covered Pretzels (6 per cupcake)
 Mini marshmellows
 Edible black marking pen (or sharpie…just don’t eat it)

“Nailed It!” by Sally Ulrey

for the Diocese of Atlanta

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