Use this free youth ministry Bible study in your church group to share with teenagers the incredible story of the Apostle Peter. This lesson plan is designed for High School or Middle School students and build around the theme Second Chances through God’s grace.
The apostle Peter provides a remarkable character study for all ages. In some ways he can be considered the spokesman of the disciples, and in fact he was often quite outspoken. Peter was a man of great faith in Jesus, but he certainly made mistakes, too. Looking at some of the events in Peter’s life provides example and encouragement for us as Christ-followers. As teens look at who Peter was, they should see that God can use anyone, and that the strength and grace of Jesus make anything possible.
Bible Lesson focus: God can use anyone to fulfill His purposes in discipleship. This lesson examines the life of Simon Peter and how he served Christ and the church. Peter sometimes made mistakes, but still did remarkable things to spread the Christian faith. In the same way, we can trust that God will do amazing things with our lives, even if we sometimes feel like we slip up or fail.
Scripture Passage: Various highlights from Gospels (including Matthew 14, Matthew 16, Matthew 17, John 18, John 21 Jesus Restores Peter, Acts 2, and Acts 9).
Target Audience: Middle-high school students (6th-12th grade)
Optional Teaching Materials: Blindfolds; paper bags; paper and writing utensils; Bibles; photos.
Youth Ministry Game Activities to Introduce the Lesson
Lesson Opening: Peter was a pivotal tool in the early Christian church. He was one of Christ’s closest friends and a faithful disciple. Peter was also outspoken and fiery. To open this lesson, consider activities that involve trust, discipleship, friendship, or being talkative! Here are some youth group games to break the ice.
- The big picture…Jesus often had to encourage Peter to step back and look at the “big picture” of what He was doing. Remind students to consider the big picture with a simple activity. Take or find photos of common items, viewed up close. Have teens guess what the items are before you reveal the panned-out images.
- Blindfolded discipleship: touch on the idea of following and learning by providing simple activities or obstacles for partners to accomplish (examples include preparing a snack, doing a puzzle, or walking around a crowded room, to name a few). The catch is that only one partner can touch and move objects, and that partner is blindfolded! Teams must work together to pay attention to the “seeing eyes” partner.
- Talk it up: Peter was a talker, in wonderful and sometimes troubling ways. Challenge students to talk for as long as possible on a simple provided topic. To make things tougher, disqualify talkers who pause too long, repeat themselves, or use filler words like “umm”.
- What’s this got to do with it? Before sharing the topic of study for the day, provide students with several items related to Peter. Examples include rocks (what the name means), a fish or fish net (for being a fisherman), a megaphone (for speaking out), or handcuffs (for his arrest). Invite students to contemplate what the items might have in common, and what topic could possibly be the focus of the day.
Explain to teens that this will be a special study of one person in particular in the Bible. It can be wonderful to look at individual characters and how they were used by God. Peter was an especially interesting disciple, named the “rock” by Jesus and foundational in the early church. But Peter made some pretty big blunders, too. In this lesson, students will look at a few scenes in Peter’s life, to consider how God might be able to use them, as well.
Ask: Do you have a favorite figure in Scripture?
What do you know about the Apostle Peter?
Can you think of people (in the Bible or life) who made big mistakes, and tried over again?
Youth Bible Study Lesson on the Life of Saint Peter the Apostle
Bible Lesson: 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.
This youth group lesson features several different passages with stories that highlight key points in Peter’s life. There are other verses that address the same ideas, and there are many Peter-related stories not listed here. You are welcome to explore fewer passages than these, or look into more stories if time and attention allow.
Start off by reminding students of Peter’s background. Prior to being called as a disciple, He was a fisherman. Jesus asked him to leave his nets and follow the Lord, and he did so immediately. Jesus promised to change them from being fishermen to being fishers of men. Well, Peter was often eager to follow Christ, which is a great thing. But sometimes he acted without thoroughly thinking things through. For instance, the time Peter got to walk on water…
And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” -Matthew 14:28-31
This is a great example of Peter’s eager streak. The first thing he thought of upon seeing Jesus on the water was a desire to jump out and join Him. Once he got on the rocky waves and thought about what he was doing, panic set in. But Jesus delivered him right away. Jesus loved Peter and appreciated his attitude, even if he sometimes tended to leap before thinking.
Ask: What comfort does this story provide? What can we learn from it
Continue Peter’s life with the story of his confession of Christ. Explain that Jesus affirmed Peter and promised to make him a pillar of the church. Peter recognized the significance of who Christ was.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” -Matthew 16:13-19
Jesus called Peter the “rock” upon which the church would be founded. There were several times when Jesus tried to explain who He was to His disciples, or ask them if they knew. The disciples often didn’t quite understand the significance of their teacher. Peter, however, recognized that Jesus was the Messiah. In fact, Peter was one of the “inner three” disciples who witnessed the Transfiguration of Christ (to read more about that event, see Matthew 17). He was always one to pipe up with a proclamation, question, or assertion. Peter vowed to stay close by the Lord. However, at the toughest hour, he faltered. It seemed at first that Peter was ready to militantly fight for Jesus. In fact, he tried drawing a weapon to help his master, but evidently wasn’t the greatest swordsman, as he only managed to cut off an ear…
Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” -John 18:10-11
Peter again acted somewhat hastily, but it seems his intentions were admirable. Unfortunately, though, his loyalty wavered after Jesus was arrested. Jesus had in fact predicted that Peter would deny Him, and he refused to believe such a thing would happen. But in fear and desperation, he pretended not to even know the Messiah.
Ask: Why do you think Peter denied Jesus?
Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed. -John 18:25-27
It’s easy to criticize Peter for this, but it’s also tough to know just how we would react in such a situation. He certainly felt awful when he realized what happened, especially considering his promise to follow Christ to death, and his disbelief at the denial prediction. Three times in a row he did not acknowledge Jesus. But was this the end for Peter?
Ask: Do you think you would deny your faith if your life depended on it? What if someone else’s life depended on it?
Peter could have given up. Judas did. Peter might have thought there was nothing left for him but to go back to his fishing nets. In fact, that was what Peter was doing after the resurrection, when Jesus came to him and gave him another chance. In fact, Jesus asked Peter three times in a row if he truly loved Him. Three times Peter had denied Him, but three times here, Peter affirmed Christ.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” 19 (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.” -John 21:15-19
Ask: What do you think Jesus meant about “feeding sheep”?
Jesus gave Peter a second chance. He called this disciple to lead and love the people, and equipped him to do so. In fact, we see Peter in the book of Acts, outspoken to tell everyone about Jesus. Peter led crowds at Pentecost, performed miracles, was imprisoned and freed by angels, and spread the Gospel tirelessly. Review some highlights of Peter’s work for the Lord:
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. -Acts 2:37-41
But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then, calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And he stayed in Joppa for many days with one Simon, a tanner. -Acts 9:40-43
In the end, Peter was a martyr for his faith. He was crucified, but insisted on being hung upside down, not feeling worthy of dying in the same way as Jesus. This man went from a simple fisher to a disciple to the rock upon which the church was founded. Peter messed up, but God is great at working with “mess-ups” to start over and thrive!
Close with prayer. Thank God for the example of the early church founders. Ask for His help to be bold in sharing faith and being willing to be used by Him.
Youth Ministry Teaching Tip: Consider discussing other stories from Peter’s life and ministry. You might also describe other examples of “second chance heroes” of the Bible, such as David, Jonah, Paul, and Abraham (to name just a few!). Teenagers love the drama of these Bible stories and they related well to so much real life challenges youth group members will be facing.
For more teaching ideas, compare this children’s ministry lesson on Peter’s second chance in John chapter 21.