He is Risen! Youth Group Activities to Celebrate Easter
Easter is a wonderful and hopeful holiday. For Christians teens, it’s much more than jelly beans, plastic eggs, and marshmallow Peeps. Easter is (or ought to be) the climax and pinnacle of the church year. Upon this holiday are all of our hopes placed. No matter the age, students in your ministry need to rejoice in the glory of Christ’s resurrection. This is not just another random celebration. It’s the crux of our faith!
Easter Lesson focus: This student ministry Bible lesson includes thoughts for discussion and celebration of Easter. Some of these thoughts work well for simple activities that coincide with Easter, but specific questions and Bible study suggestions are here, as well. Use with youth before, during, or even after Holy Week.
Passage: John 20:1-18 other Gospels feature these stories of Easter, as well, but John goes into particular detail regarding some of the events. Also see Matthew 28:1-10, Luke 24:1-12, and Mark 16:1-13.
Target Audience: Middle school students, High school students (6th-12th grade), youth group Bible study class
Optional Materials: Marshmallow Peeps, scented oils; Easter eggs; crescent rolls; marshmallows; cinnamon sugar; books or movies related to the Resurrection.
Youth Sunday School Lesson for Easter: Jesus Christ is Risen!
Games to Introduce the Lesson
Lesson Opening: Here are a few activity ideas to incorporate with your experience and discussion of Easter. Consider one of the following ice-breaker games to kickstart conversation as you dive into the events of this holiest of days:
- Peeps players! Invite students to create a scene from the Easter story, using marshmallow “Peeps” as characters. Have fun getting creative with dioramas!
- Resurrection rolls: if possible, have fun making “resurrection rolls” with students: dip a marshmallow (representing Jesus) in cinnamon sugar (“embalming spices”) and roll it in a crescent roll (“shroud”). Bake at 350 degrees about 8-10 minutes, and note that it’s “empty” like the tomb when removed!
- Egg hunt: it’s not just for kids! Hide Easter eggs for students to find. For a Biblical twist, place words of verses inside the eggs, and after students have found them, have them put the words in order to spell out verses.
- “Who am I”, Easter version: place sticky notes on the backs of students with names of people in the Resurrection account (names of disciples; Mary Magdalene, Mary Mother of Jesus, angel, soldier, etc.). Have students walk around asking others questions to try determining which character is on their back.
- Watch a movie, or clips of movies, about the Resurrection (Risen is a good recently made choice).
Prepare students to dive into some of the Biblical specifics in these stories. Those who have grown up in church might have reached a point where the story of Easter feels almost stale, having heard it again and again. Reading the account verse by verse can bring fresh insight into the Scripture.
Ask: What details do you know about the story of Easter? What are some of the facts you have heard? (Consider writing these on a white board or sheet of paper to record.)
Youth Bible Lesson: Jesus Christ is Risen!
Middle and high school students work well with a variety of reading methods. Some might prefer to read passages on their own and review what they understood from reading. Many, though, enjoy hearing verses read aloud and explained. Some students are happy to read out loud themselves, and “popcorn reading” can be a great way to keep them engaged with the text. However, students who wish to remain out of that limelight should not be forced to read.
The story of Easter could also be acted out dramatically. Consider assigning parts and having students mime out the action; or divide teens into groups and have them come up with their own skit version of the events. If available, you could even try it with puppets!
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. 2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” -John 20:1-2
Note that this “first day of the week” refers to Sunday in our modern description. It was the third day after Jesus was crucified. Mary Magdalene was the first one to arrive at the tomb and find the stone rolled away. If time allows, you might elaborate a bit on who Mary was, but focus on her connection with Christ.
It is significant that the stone was taken from the tomb. A huge rock had been placed in front of it to block the entrance and keep people from taking the body away. It appeared as though the body had been removed, and in a distraught state, Mary had no idea how this might have happened. She ran to Peter and the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John, who just so happened to write this account), to inform them.
Ask: It’s tough to imagine, but try to put yourself in Mary’s sandals for a minute. What would be your reaction if you went to the tomb and found it empty?
So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. 4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.
It’s interesting that this account mentions the “other disciple” outrunning Peter. That isn’t exactly relevant to the whole story, but considering John is the author of the Gospel, maybe he just wanted to point out that he beat his friend in a foot race.
As they arrived, John noticed that the cloths Jesus was wrapped in were there, but not the body Himself. Peter was right behind him…
Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, 7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; 9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. -John 20:6-10
Even though the disciples had spent time with Jesus and heard Him predict His death, they hadn’t quite understood what He meant. They must have felt completely destitute at the Crucifixion of their leader. It took seeing the empty tomb for the pieces to finally fit together somewhat.
Ask: Do you know anyone who does not believe the truth of the Bible? Have you ever felt doubt? What kind of “proof” might it take to trust in the Resurrection?
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” -John 20:11-15
This is an interesting encounter to consider. Why didn’t Mary seem to understand what was happening, even when she saw angels? And why didn’t she recognize Jesus? We aren’t entirely sure. It could be that she was so upset in her grief, she wasn’t thinking clearly. She certainly wasn’t processing logically since she asked about carrying the body away herself, which would have been far beyond her strength. Perhaps her eyes were blurred with tears. Or maybe the appearance of Jesus in His post-resurrection body was different from the way He had looked while on Earth. Whatever the case, Mary didn’t realize what had happened.
Ask: Have you ever been so upset about something that you couldn’t think straight?
Finally, Jesus addressed Mary directly. He cared deeply for her, and all it took was His voice pronouncing her name for her to realize who she was talking to…
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her. -John 20:16-18
Ask: If you had great news to share, who would you tell first? Can you think of any examples of a story turning around completely? (Consider things like a positive health diagnosis after serious illness, or maybe a lost pet that returned.)
This is quite a turn-around…Good Friday leaves us in despair and devoid of hope. It seems bleak and gloomy that the Son of God was killed. But on Easter morning everything changed completely. Without Easter, our Christian faith is somewhat in vain. If Jesus did not come back to life, what hope would there be? Because He was willing to die and take our place, we are assured that our sins are forgiven. Death has been defeated so that we need not fear it, even when we or someone we love does die. The resurrection of Jesus reminds us that one day we will be able to join Him in Heaven. Easter reminds us that we are made for something greater than this world. We should be full of enthusiasm to celebrate and appreciate the wonder of this holiday. Christ is risen! Alleluia!
Youth Group Discussion and Prayer
Close with prayer. Thank God for the hope of the Resurrection and the glory of Easter. Ask Him to see the story with new appreciation and share Easter joy with others.
More Easter Sunday School Lessons for Youth