You are on page 1of 12


This is lesson is part of the “What’s in the Bible?” series, starting with “Memories & Stories” on Genesis

For The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

By Sally Ulrey

Key verse: Ecclesiastes 1:2

“Meaningless, meaningless…utterly meaningless; everything is meaningless”

 To understand the book of Ecclesiastes as a hard look at evaluating what’s really meaningful
and lasting in life
 To learn a little bit about what’s in Ecclesiastes
 To apply the Ecclesiastes’ wisdom about what is worthwhile/meaningful/lasting to our own
contexts, especially if we feel like there are activities we have to do that feel pointless
The Set up: Minimal
The Plan:
 Hook: Pointless Activities (10 mins)
o Have volunteers do activities that don’t actually have a purpose, while you tell stories that also
don’t seem to have a point
o Optional (+20 mins): have the youth make up a game involving those “pointless” activities
 Book: Overview of Ecclesiastes (20 mins)
o In groups, students will look at all the things the author calls “meaningless” and make some
 Look: What’s the Point? (15 mins)
o In small groups, discuss the things that feel like pointless activities to them, and apply wisdom
from Ecclesiastes
 Took: Prayers for Wisdom (5 mins)
o Take the wisdom of Ecclesiastes to heart when things seem pointless in life
The Supplies: The Preparation:
 Copy of lesson  Print and copy everything
 Deck of cards  Read the Scripture and get very
 A Bowl familiar with the mini-lecture
 A wind-up flashlight (or anything with a crank)
 Goop/silly putty/play-dough
 Stack of paper and a stamp/stamp pad
 Bubble wrap
 Print out of Ecclesiastes Group Scripture Pages
 Copies of Ecclesiastes Scripture Prayer Page
 Flip Chart & Marker
 Pens

“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
ABOUT THE LESSON: The major point of the books of Ecclesiastes is: most things we spend our time on don’t
last. So what’s the point of it all? It’s to try to find contentment in the things God has called us to do. In
virtually every chapter of Ecclesiastes, something else is listed that is “meaningless”…or a “mere breath”… it
doesn’t last. Another refrain of the book is to find contentment in the work we’ve been given. This lesson will
start out with some silly, seemingly meaningless activities, then look at all the things that don’t last, and put
those into perspective. Then it will move to having the students talk about the things they have to do every
day that feel pointless or stupid, and how we can find contentment in those things that we have to do, even
the things that feel “meaningless.” It’s a hard sell, but contentment is an important pursuit. The bottom line
of the book of Ecclesiastes is gaining perspective on what’s really important, and finding contentment in the
work God has put in front of us right now.

Pointless Activities (Hook, 10 mins)

For the opening of the lesson, you’ll ask for 4 volunteers to come up to the front and do some seemingly
random and pointless activities while you talk. And you’ll be talking about some seemingly random, pointless
things. The twist that we’ll come back around to is that all those activities CAN be things that you do for fun,
driving home the point that we need to try to find something enjoyable in the work that’s put in front of us,
even if it’s sometimes hard to see the point of it. It’s about attitude.

 Pick 4-6 volunteers for some or all of the following activities

o Volunteer 1: Shuffle a deck of cards until the Leader says stop. Just keep shuffling
o Volunteer 2: Contemplate this bowl. Look at it and take it in. Don’t look away.
o Volunteer 3: Wind up this crank until the Leader says stop
o Volunteer 4: Knead this goop/silly putty/play-do until the Leader says stop
o Volunteer 5: Stamp all the pages, and keep stamping them (multiple times if necessary) until
told to stop
o Volunteer 6: Pop this bubble wrap until told to stop. If you pop it all, and there’s still time, then
go through and pop them all again to make sure.
 Give them time to do their task (make them do it a little longer than feels necessary, UP TO 10 mins)
 As they are doing their task, read newspaper headlines, or tell random POINTLESS stories that are
disconnected, or even just read from the phone book.
 At the end of 10 mins, ask them to hypothesize what they think the point of that was, and just hold on
to their ideas, and keep them to themselves for now.

 LEADER TIP: If you have extra time (if your lesson time is 90 mins), then after making them do these
seemingly pointless and random things, you can give them another 20 mins or so to have them make
up a game out of all those things (a game involving popping bubble wrap, shuffling cards, stamping
things, etc.) Example: a player picks a card and pops that number of bubbles on the bubble wrap; once
they complete a row, they can stamp a page….etc. They make the rules and the point of the game and
perfect it as they play.

Transition: Did any of the things we just did have a point? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Sometimes the
things we’re asked to do in life DON’T feel like they have a point. Sometimes the stuff we’re doing for work or
school or sports or whatever…sometimes that doesn’t feel like it’s meaningful at all, and it’s hard to be excited
about it if it feels pointless. But you know what? God knows that sometimes things feel that way. And so
there’s a book of the Bible that addresses what to do when things feel pointless. Let’s take a look.
“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)
by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Overview of Ecclesiastes (Book, 20 mins)
In this section, we’ll have the students briefly look over some passages in Ecclesiastes, making a list of
everything the author says is “meaningless”, and then make some observations about what is or isn’t
lasting/worthwhile, etc.

 LEADER TIP: You will want to look over the Scripture, and Mini-Lecture, below in advance to be
familiar with what all is in Ecclesiastes.

 Put the students into groups of 3-5

 Pass out the Ecclesiastes Scripture Group Pages (7 mins)
 Have groups report what the passage says is “meaningless” (or “wearisome” or “chasing after the
wind” or “mere breath” or “empty” …you get the sentiment)
 Choose a volunteer to make a list on whiteboard/flip chart of everything the groups report that is
“meaningless” (3 mins)
 When Group 4 goes, make another list of “What to do when things feel meaningless”

Note for Leaders on Group Scripture Worksheets:

 Answers for the things that are “meaningless” (Groups 1-3) might include: working really hard when it just
goes to someone else, amassing wealth, being known for being wise or trying to know everything, seeking
pleasure or “just having fun”. The thrill of all those things fades. They are like a bottomless pit.
 Answers for what to do if things feel pointless (Group 4) might include: try to find contentment,
enjoyment, fear God and follow God’s commandments, enjoy the “little things” like eating, drinking,
enjoying people’s company.

“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Mini-Lecture (5 mins)
1. Meaningless. Meaningless can also be translated, “mere breath” (meaning not lasting), “vanity” (meaning empty or
These are all the things that, if we chase after them, they leave us empty, because they don’t last.
o Work
o Wealth
o Being known for being wise, trying to know everything
o Pleasure
Bottomline: There are lots of things we pursue in life that, in the scheme of things, aren’t really that important, and
don’t satisfy us.

2. The Point. Sometimes, it DOES feel pointless, knowing that, in the scheme of things, our lives are so short, and most
of what we do is not even going to last anyway. When you look at the big picture, the upside is, you gain
perspective on the “little things,” realizing some of the things we put so much time and effort into, aren’t really that
important. But the downside is, it starts to ALL feel pointless. So what IS the point??? Follow God, find contentment
in what you’ve been given to do. Faithfulness. That’s the point. Trust that what God has given you to do/called you
to do, is worthwhile, and serving God is worthwhile, even when it might not feel like that, or we can’t see the impact
it might be making.
Bottomline: When things feel pointless (as they sometimes do): Follow God. Find contentment. Be faithful.

3. Opening Activities. Think back to all those things we had you doing. Stamping things. Popping bubble wrap.
Contemplating a BOWL. I mean, all of those things probably had you questioning what the purpose for those
activities was. And in fact, none of them had a point, really. But did you notice how each of those activities kinda
could resemble PLAY? Like, all of those things are things you might just do for fun. And if your attitude was to enjoy
the job you’d been given, you might have had a great time doing that!
Sometimes, we don’t get the point of what we’ve been asked to do (by others or by God). The author of Ecclesiastes
totally gets that. Sometimes, things feel pointless. But if it’s something we have to do, then the wisdom of
Ecclesiastes is, we might as well try to enjoy it!
When nothing we’re doing feels important and everything feels like a “little thing” in the scheme of things, it can be
the other “little things” that we find to enjoy (eating, drinking, working, enjoying each other’s company) that gets us
through those times where we’re having a hard time seeing the point to it all.
Bottomline: Look for the good/enjoyable/contentment. It’s about attitude.

So let’s see if we can apply those ideas to YOUR real life. What things do we spend a lot of time on that really
aren’t important? What things feel pointless? How can we find in enjoyment and contentment in those
things? OH! That’s a hard one! But we can do hard things…so let’s look at that!

“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
What’s the Point? (Look, 15 mins)
In this part, students will get a chance to look at their own lives, including evaluating the things they are asked
to do that feel pointless, the ways they put lots of time and energy into things that don’t last, and how to
change their attitudes in order to find contentment and enjoyment.

 LEADER TIP: We’re talking about things they HAVE to do…things they have to figure out how to cope
with (like school or homework assignments). We’re not talking about trying to find contentment in
toxic or dangerous circumstances. You may want to remind any adult leaders in the small groups to
help make this distinction. It’s kind of like the Serenity Prayer (God grant me Serenity to accept the
things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference). In the
small group questions about finding contentment, we’re addressing the things they can’t change, but
trying to help them realize they can change themselves.

 In small groups, have the students discuss the following questions.

 Give them about 10 mins for discussion time

Small Group Discussion Questions

1. What are some things that you probably spend time and energy doing, but that, in the scheme of
things, are not important or lasting?
2. What are some things that you are given to do that feel pointless?
3. When things feel pointless, how can you apply the ideas of Ecclesiastes to help you get through that
(keep being faithful, changing your attitude, finding contentment and enjoyment in the work you’ve
been given to do)?
4. For some of those activities you listed that feel pointless, how hard/easy will it be to do what
Ecclesiastes suggests and find contentment/enjoyment?
5. What are some of the “little things” in life that you do look forward to/enjoy that help you get through
some of the pointless-feeling things?

Transitional Statement
Finding enjoyment and contentment in things that feel pointless is a hard thing to do. But it is SOOOOOOO
helpful in the long-run! It is a life-skill! Figuring out how to cope with things that you HAVE to do, and find
enjoyment in them IS a really wise pursuit, as Ecclesiastes shows us!! But we might need some help from God
to do that!

“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Prayers for Wisdom
(Took, 5 mins)
For the closing time, we’ll invite the students to pick a passage from Ecclesiastes to turn into a prayer (see
handouts below).

 Pass out the “Prayers for Wisdom” student handout.

 Instruct them to pick the prayer that most resonates with them, and add to it or adapt it to what they
most need to pray for in their lives…for wisdom/contentment/perspective/faithfulness
 Give them a few minutes to work on adapting their prayers

Close in prayer
 Invite students to offer their prayers (or parts of their prayers)
 Go around in a circle, and allow them to pray aloud or silently.
 Close in prayer, thanking God that God understands that sometimes things feel pointless, and asking
God to help us be faithful and find joy and wonder in the world and in the work God has given us to do.

“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Group 1—Ecclesiastes 1

INSTRUCTIONS: Make a list of all the things that are “meaningless” (or “wearisome” or
“empty” or “a breath” or “chasing after the wind”….you get the sentiment…)
1 The words of the Teacher, [a]
son of David, king in Jerusalem:
“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”
What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all
that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that
are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

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.

“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Group 2—Ecclesiastes 2
INSTRUCTIONS: Make a list of all the things that are “meaningless” (or “wearisome” or
“empty” or “a breath” or “chasing after the wind”….you get the sentiment…)
2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to
be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering
myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good
for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and
planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male
and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than
anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I
acquired male and female singers, and a harem[a]as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far
than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun….

So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a
chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the
one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have
control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is
meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor
with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it.
This too is meaningless and a great misfortune.22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with
which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not
rest. This too is meaningless.

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.

“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Group 3—Ecclesiastes Excerpts
INSTRUCTIONS: Note all the things that are “meaningless”. Make a list.

2 12
Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
than what has already been done?
I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
just as light is better than darkness.
The wise have eyes in their heads,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both.
Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.

What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
“This too is meaningless.”
For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

4 4
And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is
meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

5 Whoever loves money never has enough;

whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income.
This too is meaningless.

Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb,
and as everyone comes, so they depart.
They take nothing from their toil
that they can carry in their hands.

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.

“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Group 4—Ecclesiastes Excerpts—The Point

INSTRUCTIONS: When things feel pointless, what do we try to do? Note the words and phrases
that show what to do if things are starting to feel meaningless.

2 24
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see,
is from the hand of God,25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?

3 12
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13
That each
of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14
I know that everything
God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people
will fear him... 20
All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return... 22 So I saw that there is
nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see
what will happen after them?

5 18
This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find
satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is
their lot. 19 Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept
their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. 20 They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because
God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.

8 14
There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve,
and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the
enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be
glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

9 7
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart… 9 Enjoy life with your wife,
whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun—all your
meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand
finds to do, do it with all your might…

12 here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all

mankind. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or

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.

“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
Prayers for Wisdom—Student Handout

Prayer based on 2:12

Without you, O God, who can find enjoyment in life? Help me find satisfaction in the work you have given me
to do. I know this is from the hand of God.

Prayer based on 3:12

I know that finding satisfaction and doing good while I live is a gift of God. Help me to find contentment, O
Lord. I know that many things on this earth are not lasting. They came from dust and will return to dust. But I
know that everything You do, O God, will endure forever. Help me to follow after you, and to choose the work
that You are doing, because that’s what matters most.

Prayer based on 5:18-20

Our lives are so short, O God! Let me enjoy each day that You give me as a precious gift. Help me to find
satisfaction in everything that You have given me to enjoy: in each day, in whatever physical blessings of wealth
or possessions I have, and in the work you have called me to do. Let me live in each moment, so that I don’t
miss anything, and am occupied with gladness of heart while I live on this earth!

Prayer based on 8:14-15

God, sometimes seeing those who do evil prospering, and seeing those who are good suffering…sometimes
seeing those things causes me to question what’s the point of trying? But, God, help me change my perspective.
Let me instead see each day that you give me as a gift, and help me enjoy it to the fullest. I can’t control what
happens to others, but let me find satisfaction and gladness in my lot in life. Thank you for giving me life and
things to enjoy!

Prayer Based on 9:7-10

Even though life is short, and it doesn’t feel that we have much time to do anything meaningful on this earth,
help me to enjoy the company of the ones I love. Help me to find joy in the “little things” like good food and
drink. Give me strength to do the work you have given me with all my might, and to find satisfaction in it!

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.

“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta
The “What’s in the Bible?” Series

Genesis “Memories and Stories” Nov 2017

Exodus “Near” Nov 2017
Leviticus “You Want me to do What Now?” & “Fellowship” May 2017
Numbers “Unfinished” Nov 2017
Deuteronomy “SuperHero Wanted” Nov 2017
Joshua “Never Give Up” Sep 2016
Judges “No Rules” Dec 2017
Ruth “Loyalty” Feb 2017
1&2 Samuel “Who’s on the Throne?” Dec 2017
1&2 Kings “Lights in the Darkness” Dec 2017
Ezra “Read the Book!” Jan 2018
Nehemiah “Build the Wall” Jan 2018
Esther “Courage” Apr 2017
Job “Bad Theology” Feb 2018
Psalms “On the Couch” Feb 2018
Proverbs “Just Sayings” Feb 2018
Ecclesiastes “What’s the Point?” Apr 2018

“What’s the Point” (Ecclesiastes)

by Sally Ulrey for the Diocese of Atlanta

You might also like