Trapped – the nature of authority

Note: This assembly is most suitable for use with upper school pupils.


To explore with pupils the nature of authority, especially that of Jesus; to challenge them to think about who and what is in control of their lives.

Bible base

Romans 7:18,19 – I want to do what’s right, but…

You will need:

  • A chair
  • A ball of wool
  • A pair of scissors
  • Large pictures downloaded from the internet as follows
  1. Pictures of people in authority
  2. Picture of teenager with ball and chain
  3. Picture of man ignoring warning sign
  4. Words of the song ‘It’s a sin’ by The Pet Shop Boys (optional)
  5. The words from Romans 7:18,19 (use the Good News Bible version)
  6. Picture showing the empty tomb of Jesus

• CD of the song ‘It’s a sin’ by The Pet Shop Boys and appropriate equipment to play it on (optional)


• Prepare large pictures as described above.



Begin with a short game of ‘Simon says’. Ask pupils to do some odd things (but nothing which is too embarrassing!).

Who’s in charge?

  1. Say that sometimes it feels strange when someone tells us to do something. Point out that, even so, some people do have the authority to do that. Ask the pupils to call out some examples (eg teachers, parents, the police, the government). Display Picture 1.
  2. Sometimes people have authority over us because they are working for our good, or for the greatest good of the greatest number. Sometimes people with authority have been appointed or elected. Sometimes they wear uniforms; sometimes they don’t.
  3. Sometimes a person has authority over us because they love us and we trust them (display Picture 2). With people like these – perhaps our parents – we know that even if we don’t want to obey, what they tell us to do is for our own good.
  4. Often there are consequences if we ignore the authority of others over us (display Picture 3).

What’s in control?

  1. Show your audience a piece of wool and demonstrate how easy it is to break it.
  2. Ask for a volunteer. Get them to sit on a chair. Wrap the ball of wool around them. As you do this, say to your volunteer and the audience that it’s not only people who have authority over us. Unfortunately, we can end up being addicted to something which we might think are harmless – like alcohol, cigarettes, gambling…even spending money! These things can also have a kind of authority over us and we can discover, too late, that we are trapped by them.
  3. At this point, ask the volunteer to break free from the wool. It should be impossible.  Emphasise that in a similar way, there may be things in the pupils’ lives which are exercising a kind of control over them and trapping them. Leave the volunteer ‘trapped’ by the wool, whilst you continue…
  4. Explain that the Bible says we are all trapped by something: the wrong attitudes we have; the wrong things we do and say; the wrong thoughts we have. The Bible calls these ‘sin’. At this point you could play part of the song It’s a sin by The Pet Shop Boys and display Picture 4 (optional). Continue by saying that ‘sin’ is not a new idea! Display Picture 5, showing the words from Romans 7:18,19. Ask pupils: Does that ring true for you?


1. Say that one of the characteristics people most noticed about Jesus was that he had ‘authority’. Even though he wasn’t one of the rulers of the time, people realised that he had authority:

  • In his teaching – it was powerful and people listened;
  • Over illnesses – people were healed, and even brought back to life;
  • Over nature – he calmed the storm;
  • Over sin and the death it leads to – he came back to life from the grave (display Picture 6).

2. Turn back to the volunteer trapped by the wool. Say that even though we can’t free ourselves from things – bad habits, wrong thoughts, words and deeds (‘sin’) – Jesus can. He has the ‘authority’ to do that and only someone who is not ‘trapped’ can help those who are. Illustrate this last point by cutting the wool trapping the volunteer so that they are free to stand up. Ask them to return to their seat.

3. Explain that Jesus claimed to have authority over us because he is God. Comment that we naturally tend to dislike someone having authority over us, unless we know that they care about us and are acting on our behalf and for our good.

Christians believe that Jesus wants to have that kind of authority in our lives – he loves us, he knows what is best for us. So Christian believers are happy to say, ‘Yes’ to Jesus – setting them free from the things that ‘trap’ them and taking control of their lives.


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