On Tuesday afternoons, I spend time with some really cool teenagers at the Mary and Martha Center. This weekly outing has become one thing i look forward to most every week. Its a place I’ve started to build community and I love teaching and digging open God’s Word with a group of teens.
This week, with it being Holy Week, I was really hoping to try something new. We have spent much of the year looking at our Passion and Purpose in life, but I felt like we needed to take a break and look at something specific. I’ve dug for 2 days online looking for ideas and lesson plans. I wanted to do a “stations of reflection” type thing but not make it so serious. We are not guaranteed a specific amount of time together, so I have to have a lesson that can be pretty flexible.
The students I work with come from a variety of backgrounds, so I always feel its safe to never assume what stories they know, how deep they have dug in to a passage or verses, or that they have even read the passage I’m teaching that day before. So, as I prepare, I usually try to keep it basic and make sure we have one good truth we are aiming for to walk away with. After all these kids have already been in school all day and are really there to serve the younger kids. But I get 20 and sometimes 35 minutes to just share a truth and what God’s been teaching me.
Since I really couldn’t find what I wanted online, I decided to just make up something myself. (Go figure!)
I bought a basket a bunch of items at the Dollar Store. So, we are not talking something super expensive here. What’s more important is that you capture items that represent the stories of Holy Week and you can use the activity to walk through the items together.
I’ll list the items below, but the real lesson was very simple.
- stuff an Easter basket or other container (plastic tub, bucket, wicker basket, etc would work) with all your items.
- place bucket in middle of table and ask each student to take and item or 2, depending on the number of students you are working with.
- Go around the room and see if the students can come up with what their item might represent. If they can’t, just have them pass until you can come back to them later.
- Its important to review all the stories you are covering beforehand. This will not only give you background knowledge to teach the lesson, but allow you flexibility. Instead of just going around the circle, you might call out items in order and let them guess, then tell the stories of Holy Week in order.
- Conversation topics:
- items and story that goes along with them
- What are things we see at Easter that remind us of Jesus?
- How can we take the items we have seen today and use them as reminders in our every day lives?
- How can we take the items we have seen today and use them to start conversations with others about Jesus?
- What one item that you have seen today will you keep thinking about this next week?
One tool I found really helpful was a listing of the chronological events of Holy Week and scripture references that go with each one. I think John 18 is a really great, condensed version of many of the stories that happened in the middle of the week. When I went over this, we talked in specifics about the events of Palm Sunday and Jesus riding into Jerusalem. We talked about the actions and reactions of the people and how Jesus must have felt that day on the back of the donkey. (I was trying to set them up for the opposite behavior of the people at the end of the week.) Our next conversation topic was the Last Supper. We talked about the setting – a borrowed friend’s house, reclining on the floor eating, not up on stools at a white cloth table like we usually see. We talked about Jesus washing the disciples feet and what the conversation was like among the disciples. Our group seemed to think the air was pretty thick and people probably talked in hushed tones. Many were confused by the things Jesus was saying and Judas specifically probably introduced a paranoid tone to the room.
Earlier this semester, they spent several weeks demonstrating servant leadership by washing the feet of the children who come to the center on Thursday afternoons. So, our conversation turned towards Jesus’ washing of the disciples feet and really what He was teaching them in that moment. Because I knew many of my students were not as familiar with the events in the middle of the week surrounding the trials and mockery, we read through John 18 together. Again, this is a very condensed version of this part of the story, but it hits the highlights in a way we could cover together in our short time. Then, we talked about Good Friday. Oh, how I would have loved to go more into details about the events of the day. But, instead our conversation turned to the significance of the cross and that really was the most important thing for us to discuss together. With out the cross, none of it really matters!
We finished our conversation with an empty golden egg. While one of them really wanted there to be candy inside, they understood where we were going. The empty tomb is what sets the story of Jesus apart from any other story. The empty tomb is a promise fulfilled. It was God’s promise to save His people from their sin; eternal separation and damnation. But, Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. Just as the conversation goes at the beginning of Luke, chapter 24. The words of Jesus himself, “Why are you looking in the place of the dead for someone who is alive? Jesus isn’t here! He has been raised from death.”
I knew yesterday afternoon just how important this conversation could be when I couldn’t find a cross at the store to buy. I hit 2 dollar stores in my town and neither had anything to do with a cross in their Easter section. Heck, neither had a cross anywhere in their store. That is why we must have this conversation.
I bet though, you are still wondering, what was in my basket!
Items in my basket:
1. palm branches – Palm Sunday and Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem
2. red wine vinegar and a honey bun (that’s the only “roll” type thing I could find) – Last Supper
3. wash rag – Jesus washed the feet of the disciples
4. seed packet – Jesus praying in the Garden
5. rope – this is where they arrested Jesus and Judas turned Him over
6. screen cleaner kit – the first round of trials found him to have a clean slate
7. sunglasses – Jesus kept his cool, he spent many of the trials just standing in silence and only spoke words of truth and Scripture when called upon
8. Knee support – symbolizing Jesus dragging the cross and falling along the way
9. chicken – Peter denied Jesus 3 times, just as He said he would before the rooster crowed
10. dice – the centurions played games and cast lots for Jesus possessions, making a mockery of Him
11. cross – the point of it all
12. travel pack of toiletries (body wash, lotion, body spray) – Jesus friends came and took care of His body and put Him in a borrowed tomb
12. rock – the tomb, a rock, was put in front of the tomb to seal it and a centurion was assigned to guard it (just in case He might try to get out!)
13. empty golden egg – our story is not over. He is Risen!
Teaching lessons from the Bible to teens is hard. They are not babies and don’t need all the craft projects. But, they do need the object lessons and something fun to break it all down help them remember. Try it. Let me know what works to help you connect with students in your ministry.