February 2021  |  Vol. 4PASSIONATE ABOUT RAISING THE NEXT GENERATION +Putting your finger on mental health
Getting the best out of sung worship with children
Keeping on top of safeguarding admin
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YCW |  February 2021 | Vol. 4ContentsFirst wordAlex Taylor
Level upAlex Taylor
Sung worship with children doesn’t have to be all action songs – our resources editor explores different ways to help children worship God through song
Mental health: what does it mean?Dr Naomi Graham and Dr David StraitonExploring the range of issues to help provide information and a better understanding of mental health
Thirtyone:eightNow might be the best time to catch up on our safeguarding admin, so that we’re ready for when regular meetings get going again – Thirtyone:eight show us how
All inclusive
Mark ArnoldMark’s seven top tips for promoting positive mental health and well-being are easy to do, practical and, as you might expect, all inclusive!
First steps together
Xana Ridley on celebration turning to sadness
Growing together
Jenny Cheung on the topsy-turvy journey to the cross 
Journeying together
Joel Toombs on the symbolism of the events of Easter week
Ready to use all-age service
Alex Taylor explores Jesus the servant king
Ready to use parable
Alex Taylor tells the tale of Maggie and the medical mess
Ready to use craft
Mina Munns makes the first part of the Easter story
Ready to use mentoring
Joel Toombs provides space for centring and reflection
Ready to use movie
Tom Wade watches The Map of Perfect Tiny Things
Ready to use music
Becky May listens to Harry Styles
Ready to use journal
Sara and Sam Hargreaves help us to remember the Lord
YCW | February 2021 | Vol. 4First wordWelcome to an issue of Premier Youth and Children’s Work packed with resources to help you in your ministry throughout March and beyond! Easter falls at the very start of April this year, so we’ve taken the opportunity to dedicate two whole months to exploring a story that is central to our faith. This month, we explore the events leading up to the crucifixion, then in April we encounter the risen Jesus and see the immediate impact of that on his followers.

The continuing lockdown has given us plenty of time to explore stories. Many of us are binge-watching various series through Netflix, Amazon and other providers, as well as free-to-air TV. No doubt, those of us with children in the house will be sick to death of whichever programme or YouTube channel they insist on watching over and over again.

But I wonder if we shouldn’t treat the Easter story like Peppa Pig. Rather than only exploring it once a year, shouldn’t we come back to it again and again? I’m not saying that we should become sick of it – though I’m not sure that would be possible – rather that it is such an important story, it deserves more space and attention than we currently allow it. It is after all one of the most important stories we can tell, listen to, read and reflect on.

During a normal year (whatever that is – I can barely remember), we can rush through the Easter story because the festival happens so quickly. The structure of our groups means that children and young people can go straight from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday without encountering Good Friday – Jesus comes alive again without ever dying.

This year, we have intentionally spread the story out to help your groups dwell for longer in the narrative. We start in Palm Sunday, then explore Jesus washing his disciples’ feet and reflect on the symbolism of the last supper, before arriving at the events of Good Friday. As ever, you have our Together resources to help you in your families or groups (at home or online), but in her craft column, Mina Munns provides extra activities that create the opportunities to chat and reflect. The ready to use parable gives you an alternative way into the story of John 13.

And during these difficult times, showing kindness is as important as ever – make sure you check out this month’s ready to use music activity too. Becky May uses Harry Styles’ recent track, ‘Treat people with kindness’, to uncover what the Bible has to say about living together in the light of the Easter story: “God living in us through his Holy Spirit enables us to be kind and that kindness from God should be extended not only to our friends and neighbours, but further, even to our ‘enemies’, as God shows kindness to us.”

And this kindness and care is also reflected in our Safeguarding and All inclusive columns too. As the team at Thirtyone:eight say: “Let your team know you appreciate them, and that what they are doing is making a difference.” Even in these difficult times, you are making a difference. Thank you so much for all you do!
is resources editor for Premier Youth and Children's Work
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Level up
If you’re struggling for inspiration or looking for new ways to do elements of your children and youth work, then this column is for you. Each month, we’ll explore some new ideas to help 'level up' your ministry, creating that space where children and young people can meet with God for themselves, and get to know him better.
Singing with childrenSome children love singing, some don’t. Some children love action songs, some leaders don’t (I’m one of those leaders). So what’s the best way to help children sing in worship to God? Let’s explore a few ideas.

First, you don’t need me to tell you that the worship of children (sung or otherwise) is genuine and meaningful. Indeed, in Psalm 8:2, David says: “Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies.” God delights in the praise and worship of children; through sung worship, children can meet with God and their relationship with him can grow deeper.
Action songs
Action songs are great for those children who love to move around during sung worship. They also help children remember the words and are inclusive for reluctant readers or for those who struggle with language. Most action songs are upbeat, so are good for lively sung worship – combined with the actions, this means that children can express themselves, sing loudly and enjoy spending time with God.

It’s important to remember that while children will probably enjoy every action song, not all action songs are good. Sometimes songwriters sacrifice the content of a song’s words in favour of fun. When looking for songs to sing together, make sure that the words are faith building and reflect biblical truth. You can be both fun and biblical – so look out for the songs that achieve both.
“If you join in wholeheartedly, then children will feel freer to join in too”
Upbeat songs
Not all songs need actions (and I can hear some of you breathe a sigh of relief at this point). You can sing upbeat songs and simply enjoy singing to God. You could also use your bodies to dance around. This would be a good way of introducing the idea of dance as worship. This dance-as-worship doesn’t have to look a certain way, children can move in their own ways, with their own steps and gestures. Sometimes, the action of expending energy can communicate more than words or actions in praise to God.
Quieter songs
Sometimes we avoid quieter songs, because they’re not as lively as upbeat songs or as ‘fun’ as action songs. However, a more reflective song can help children focus on God and think through the things that are bothering them; the words can provide a structure to pray and bring those concerns to God.

When choosing quieter songs, look for those that have simple, but biblical words. A repeated chorus might be useful, to help children tune into communicating with God. You might want to remind children that they don’t have to physically sing the words – they could run through them in their heads or just listen to others singing.
Think about your space
Some children can be self-conscious when worshiping through singing or dance, so try to create an environment where children can be themselves, without worrying about what other people are doing. Think about the lighting you have – dimming the lights will give children some ‘cover’ to be able to be themselves. You will need to make sure that everything is safe, and that the lights aren’t so low that children can fall and hurt themselves!
Don’t expect everyone to be the same
Adults don’t sing in worship in the same way, so there’s no reason to expect that children will. Allow children to worship and respond in their own way. You can show this in action with the way that the leaders sing in worship to God. Children will see you modelling different ways of worship and see that their own way is valid. Sometimes, if only one way of worship is focused on, then those who would like to respond in a different way can feel that their preferences aren’t right or allowed.
Model it
If you join in wholeheartedly, then children will feel freer to join in too. It will also emphasise that children’s worship is as important and valid as that of adults, and that together you can worship God, hear him speak and be a community of believers together.
What is your experience of singing with children? Have you got any good tips? Share them via our social media – follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
is resources editor for Premier Youth and Children’s Work.

Mental health: what does it mean?
Thankfully there has been a greater awareness of mental health issues in recent years, but there is still a need for a better understanding of what this actually means. Dr Naomi Graham and Dr David Straiton explore the range of issues to help provide information and a better understanding of mental health.
As often as we hear the term ‘mental health’, many of us don’t have a full understanding of what this means or the impact that mental ill-health can have on individuals’ lives. The NHS defines mental health as “a positive state of mind and body, feeling safe and able to cope, with a sense of connection with people, communities and the wider environment”. Mental ill-health is thought to impact one in four people in their lives. There are many factors which can contribute to difficulties with mental health – these include genetics, adverse childhood experiences, traumatic events, social isolation and problems with drugs and alcohol. In the current coronavirus pandemic, many of us are feeling the impact of not being able to see our friends and family. Social stressors such as isolation can increase the risk of us having difficulties with our mental health.

We probably all have countless stories of parents who are struggling with homeschooling, children and young people who are finding it difficult to manage, stuck at home and in some cases family breakdown occurring because of the pandemic. Working with Growing Hope, a charity providing free therapy for children and young people with additional needs in partnership with local churches across the UK, we have encountered many families who need additional help and support at the moment.

In recent months, supporting children and young people with their self-esteem and helping them to have strategies for coping with stress and worry have been increasingly common targets for our therapy intervention. Alice* had been finding science really hard at school because of her dyslexia. This was leading to her having a poor view of herself and her ability to do other schoolwork or to be a good friend. We worked with Alice on strategies such as ‘flipping’ her thoughts so that she could turn thoughts such as “I can’t do it” into something more positive such as “I can give it a go”. We found the You’re a Star workbook by Poppy O’Neill, aimed at seven to eleven-year olds, a helpful tool for supporting children’s self-esteem – some activities could be used in a group setting.
“We have a God who made us in his image and made us with a full range of emotion”Speaking truth
Promoting good mental health for ourselves and the children and young people we work with is really important. We have a God who loves us and gave his life for us so we can have relationship with him (John 3:16), we know that we carry God’s light in our hearts like treasure in jars of clay
(2 Corinthians 4:7), we are adopted into God’s family (Ephesians 1:5), he surrounds us and goes before us (Joshua 1:9). The first place to start with encouraging mental health and well-being is to give children and young people the opportunity to know who they’ve been created to be. To spend time speaking truth over those that you work with. You could encourage children or young people to write down God’s promises over them on their mirror or on a piece of paper around their house. Whether families you encounter know Jesus or not it’s still possible to speak hope and value over each person you come across. One of our favourite things about Growing Hope is that as an openly Christian charity we can offer prayer to families if they would like it. This is always a beautiful opportunity to speak over families the love that God has for them and how precious and uniquely made they are.
Building resilience
We can also help children, young people and their families to build resilience for moments that are hard. We have a God who made us in his image and made us with a full range of emotion. Throughout the Bible we see so many examples of emotions being expressed – God expressing his love over Jesus at his baptism, Jesus being angry and turning over the tables, David expressing his feelings of sadness and frustration in Psalms. God loves to know what we’re thinking and feeling. We can talk to the children and young people that we support about this. Encouraging activities such as giving a list of core emotions (curiosity, joy, sadness, fear, anger and shame) and asking the questions “What are you feeling?” and “When have you felt one of these this week?” can give the opportunity to express and process that feeling. This can be done through journaling, drawing, throwing socks, making something with clay or through sharing in a safe and supportive small group. The more we learn to identify and express our feelings the more we’re able to process them.

One key point from a parenting course called Circle of Security (from which the above idea is taken) is that there is no such thing as bad emotions. We can experience all of the core emotions above and that’s OK. It’s what we choose to do with our emotions that matters. Making sure that children and young people know that feeling sad, or anxious, or angry isn’t a bad thing is a really important learning point, particularly during the pandemic.
Providing space
The importance of supporting mental ill-health in children and young people at this time is being widely talked about. You may like to look at a recent NHS blog post by Dr Prathiba Chitsabesan (consultant in child and adolescent psychiatry) which gives advice for carers on how to support children and young people when you’re worried about their mental health.

Key learning from this blog is to give space where children and young people can be heard and know they’re listened to (often repeating back what you’ve heard can be helpful here) and to support children and young people to continue to connect with others and participate in positive activities. You may have found both for yourself and children and young people that Zoom fatigue is a common experience. If this is the case, trying to find other means of connecting with children and young people can really help. Children at our church have been delighted to receive a parcel of treats from the kids’ pastor, while other children have loved going on a walk with an adult mentor (who has completed appropriate safeguarding checks).
Spotting the signs
Healthcare professionals are skilled in recognising mental ill-health and categorise these difficulties into specific diagnoses to help guide care and treatment. We’ve outlined a number of common mental health problems in the table below to highlight some common symptoms and what may help. This is by no means an exhaustive list or a fully expanded description, but if you would like any further information, the Royal College of Psychiatrists has detailed information regarding specific mental health problems and disorders. As Christians, we know that every individual is unique and “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139). Hopefully this summary will help you better understand some of the needs of children and young people that you may be helping to support. It is important to note that often seeking individualised professional advice via a child’s GP is the best course of action. If you have a safeguarding concern you should follow your organisation’s safeguarding procedure and if necessary seek help from your safeguarding lead.
Common symptoms and red flags
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects people’s behaviour. People with ADHD can seem restless, may have trouble concentrating and may act on impulse.
What may help?
Sensory processing may be particularly difficult – putting as many movement activities into the day or session routine can be helpful.
General points
If someone is displaying signs of mental ill-health to the point it is impacting the things that they do every day such as getting up, getting dressed, eating, sleeping or engaging in school, it is recommended that they seek advice from a healthcare professional. Often the person’s GP is the best-placed professional to offer advice.

If an individual already has support from the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) they may have a named professional who can be contacted. Some families may wish to pass on advice they have received from CAMHS.

In life-threatening situations call 999.

For emergency mental health support call your local 24 / 7 mental health helpline.

Children and young people may want to access support from Young Minds.

Anyone who feels they need help with their mental health (eg bullying, depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, suicide, abuse) can contacting Shout by texting SHOUT to 85258.

Common symptoms and red flags
Anxiety is a feeling we all get in a situation that is threatening or difficult. When this feeling becomes overwhelming or stops us doing everyday activities, it can manifest as an anxiety disorder. These can have a range of psychological and physical symptoms including restlessness, dread, dizziness and heart palpitations.
What may help?
Some individuals may need specific intervention such as talking therapy (eg counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy – CBT) or medication.
Common symptoms and red flags
Individuals with autism have difficulties with social communication such as reading expressions and understanding social cues. Every individual is affected differently, some people with autism may have significant learning disabilities, others may have above average intelligence. Often sensory processing needs such as not liking loud noises or touch can be common.
What may help?
Sensory processing may be particularly difficult, putting as many movement activities into the day or session routine can be helpful. Often support from occupational therapists and speech and language therapists is helpful.
Common symptoms and red flags
This can occur following difficulty with gaining a secure bond with our primary caregiver. There are two main types of attachment disorder – an inhibited form where an individual does not expect care or comfort, and a disinhibited form which can result in excessive overfamiliarity, even with strangers.
What may help?
Often support from therapists such as occupational therapists, children’s counsellors, art therapists and music therapists may be helpful.

Clear boundaries and routines can be helpful.

Common symptoms and red flags
Individuals with depression may feel persistently low in mood, experience feelings of hopelessness and may even have thoughts of ending their life. Tearfulness, poor concentration, poor energy, disturbed sleep and no longer enjoying hobbies are often commons symptoms.
What may help?
Some individuals may need specific intervention such as talking therapy (eg counselling or CBT) or medication.
Common symptoms and red flags
Anorexia nervosa is characterised by a fear of being overweight that leads to restriction of eating and other habits such as overexercising. This can lead to unhealthy weight loss that can cause physical health problems.

Bulimia nervosa is an illness that involves cycles of binge-eating too much food and then vomiting. This too can lead to physical health problems.

What may help?
‘Understanding eating disorders’ by TastelifeUK is a course that can be used within a youth group setting.

TastelifeUK has lots of excellent Christian resources to help tackle eating disorders.

Common symptoms and red flags
An illness where people experience altered thoughts and perceptions that are not in keeping with reality.
What may help?
A child or young person experiencing symptoms of psychosis will need the support of CAMHS.
Common symptoms and red flags
Self-harm is a term used when someone injures or harms themselves on purpose rather than by accident. Common examples include ‘overdosing’ (self-poisoning), hitting, cutting, or burning oneself, pulling hair or picking skin. Self-harm is always a sign of something seriously wrong.
What may help?
Try and recognise when a young person seems upset, withdrawn or irritable. Self-injury is often kept secret but there may be clues such as refusing to wear certain clothing that exposes arms or legs.

It’s important to encourage young people to talk about their worries and take them seriously.

A young person who self-harms should be encouraged to seek further advice from a healthcare professional.
Getting active
With the right support in place, children and young people often respond well and are able to build good resilience in their mental health. At Growing Hope we often talk about the benefit of calming and regulating movement activities. ‘Heavy work’ activities that put pressure through our joints are known to be regulating for our brain. We find that children who may be having difficulties with their mental health really benefit from an opportunity to dance and jump around to a song, to push the wall, go for a run, have a plank competition, bounce a basketball around (or any other movement activity you can think of!). Crunchy and chewy snacks are also good – sometimes chewing a really hard sweet, crunching on a piece of celery or apple or drinking through a really thin straw can help us feel more regulated. There are lots of practical ideas in Love Surpassing Knowledge for how to incorporate this into day to day children and youth ministry.

At Growing Hope we met a young boy Kye* who had significant levels of anxiety which impacted upon his everyday activities. He participated in a group where we worked through What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Heubner and Bonny Matthews. He was then able to add in a ‘worry time’ each day where he could talk to his mum about his worries. By helping him to have the opportunity for his concerns to feel heard his levels of anxiety reduced.

It is likely that you know children or young people who may need help in this area. As God’s people we have the privilege of standing with our identity in him: standing for all people being of value and made in God’s image, and standing shoulder to shoulder with individuals who may need additional support.
*Pseudonym, some facts changed to protect the child’s identity.
is the founder and CEO of Growing Hope.

is specialty doctor in psychiatry and chair of trustees, Growing Hope King’s Cross.
SafeguardingDoes safeguarding make you think of bureaucratic hoops you need to jump through? Does it conjure up nightmares of damaged children and young people? Or do you see it as a practical expression of God's love by keeping them safe? Here's how to turn a chore into a core part of your ministry.Taking care of your team
It is hard to predict what will happen over the next few months in terms of churches meeting and restrictions being lifted following the 'road map' announcement by Boris Johnson.  However, for the moment the restrictions continue and have done so for around a year. Some churches have had in-person meetings but many have not. During this period it is important to remember to check up on your team and see how they are coping after being away from church for around twelve months. It is also important to ensure you and your team are getting prepared now for when churches meet again.
Keep looking after your team
We mentioned before Christmas that it was important to ensure your staff and volunteers have appropriate opportunities for support and time to debrief on their experiences. It is often easy to schedule occasional catch-up calls, but having them on a regular basis is often harder to do. So it is important to keep committing to this. Remember to keep updating and circulating a ‘lone workers policy’ or code of conduct. This could include procedures on where to get support and lines of communication for reporting concerns. When you spend so long apart, it is easy to miss when someone is struggling emotionally or spiritually. The health of your workers is a high priority, so we recommend checking in with them individually to see how they are feeling about what has taken place over the year of COVID-19 and restrictions.
Get together as a whole team
Spending time together with your team has always been important. In pre-COVID times we would suggest getting together physically to celebrate the important things you’ve done which are helping keep those in your care safe. This can only be done online for now. Although it is now much harder to get people excited about Zoom or Teams than it may have been in March 2020, these are still useful tools in getting people together. It is good to remind each other of the importance of their work and to thank them for all they are doing, even if they may think they are doing less because of the lack of physical church meetings. Let your team know you appreciate them, and that what they are doing is making a difference. Make time to pray together about some of the issues and challenges you may be facing. Make sure you encourage and support each other.

Full team meetings can also be a place where ideas and issues can be aired, concerns expressed and feedback given. Some churches give out a monthly safeguarding award at these meetings, such as chocolate, for someone who has done something specific, such as noted a concern, taken a disclosure, or been on a course.
Getting up to date
Although it may seem that full church meetings are still a long way off, we do not know how quickly churches will start to open up again. The return of church meetings could be quicker than expected. Therefore, it may be a good idea to ensure that checks and requirements are still up to date now when things are quieter, rather than try to do them over the spring and summer when there will potentially be lots more going on.

It is important to remember to check on the DBS and training status of your team. We would recommend that you review the recruitment status of your workers and volunteers to check on:

  • When they last had a DBS check.
  • Whether their role description matches what you had them checked for.
  • Is their training up to date? There are still training opportunities online.

DBS checks have been important throughout the pandemic so that organisations can provide necessary care and support in a way that protects the most vulnerable in our society. At Thirtyone:eight our team has been working hard to adapt our processes to the COVID-19 guidance issued by the DBS so that there are not any barriers to getting checks done. With the ability to email scanned documents, you can continue to process checks as you always have done before. Our website has more information.
Code of conduct
Besides DBS, another area to check is up to date in this quieter period is the code of conduct. Every church with children should have a code of conduct outlining the behaviour expected of everyone working for them. Clear guidelines on what is appropriate conduct helps maintain a healthy church culture. The code could request workers follow these requirements:

  • Understand the safeguarding policy and good working practice.
  • Listen to children and young people.
  • Respect boundaries and privacy.
  • Know how to deal with issues of discipline in line with the organisation’s code of conduct.
  • Develop an awareness of disability issues.

There should also be guidance on maintaining appropriate boundaries between work and their personal life, including use of social media.
In every organisation open to or likely to have contact with children, young people and adults at risk, all workers, paid and voluntary, should be appropriately managed, supervised and supported.

There is a lot of uncertainty over what will happen in the next few months with restrictions and churches being closed. Despite this, management of workers is still key part of improving and developing your safeguarding provision. There are still ways to look after our teams and ensure they are prepared for the lifting of restrictions even when many churches are shut and curbs on everyday life continue.
Thirtyone:eight is an independent Christian safeguarding charity. Call on 0303 003 1111 for independent, professional and compassionate support around safeguarding in your organisation: thirtyoneeight.org.
All inclusiveEvery child and young person needs support to help them learn or engage with activities. Some need additional or different support from those of the same age to ensure that everyone benefits from all they participate in. We want to address some of the important questions around these needs. Welcome to ‘All inclusive’.Lockdown and mental health
The first case of COVID-19 was reported in the UK on 31st January 2020, an unfortunate anniversary that we’ve now passed. While rightly the key focus at this time is the continued battle against the pandemic, there is another dangerous health crisis developing which has the potential to last for much longer and adversely affect far more children and young people, as well as their families: a mental health crisis.

In a recent article, the children’s commissioner for England, Ann Longfield, commented: “Children with special educational needs and disabilities [SEND] were particularly hard hit…These children need to be in school to ensure they can keep learning but also for their wider well-being. A second national closure of schools will see a repeat of all of this, compounding problems that have not been addressed since the first lockdown. The impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health has been particularly worrying. In 2017, one in nine children were found to have a mental health disorder. This jumped to one in six by last summer. As we do everything we can to tackle this virus, we must remember also that while children are less at risk from the virus itself, they are at real risk from the measures we take to prevent transmission, and that risk cannot be ignored.”

And on their website, Special Needs Jungle takes up the same theme: “Some families are dealing with the emotional fallout of the loss of loved ones, loss of an income, or wondering how to pay for life's necessities. Even if you think you’re doing OK overall, you are likely to have times of feeling low, listless and lacking motivation. Children are not immune from these same feelings, but with less control over their destiny or the maturity or experience to deal with it. And that's before taking into account any special educational needs or disabilities they may be contending with.”
Seven top tips for
better mental health

So, what can we, as children’s, youth and families workers, or as parents and carers, do to help to protect the mental health and well-being of the children and young people we are journeying with, and their families, during this lockdown and beyond? Options might seem limited, but there are things that we can all do that can make a positive difference both to the mental health and wellbeing of our children and even to ourselves. Here are my seven top tips:
Exercise! Let’s try to get our bodies moving
That might be anything from a walk or roll around the block to a full Joe Wicks workout (other workouts are available!), but the more we move the better our mood, so let’s get moving!
Let’s exercise our minds too
Keep our brains active. That could be by doing puzzles, playing games, telling stories, reading, anything that makes us work those little grey cells a bit.
Eat well
It’s easy for us to fall into bad eating habits during lockdown, and comfort food can often seem to be a remedy for low mood, but eating a balanced, healthy diet can make a real difference both to our bodies and our minds. Drinking plenty of water helps too.
Go outside or let the outside in
The first lockdown was accompanied by some fantastic weather, most of us were able to get outside and get our children outside and we benefitted from it. This time the weather is less helpful; but some fresh air and a glimpse of sunshine can still lift our mental health. Even opening a window and letting the fresh air in can make a difference.
Talk with people
OK, we can’t see people like we would like to, but we might be able to phone, Zoom, FaceTime, or whatever works for us? Hearing a loved one’s voice, maybe seeing their face, if only on a screen, all can still help us feel less isolated and alone. Days without social contact can affect most of us, but if we keep in touch we can keep on top.
Have fun
Make sure there is time each day for the things we and your children enjoy doing. If that’s watching TV or time on the Xbox then let’s not beat ourselves up about it, our mental health with thank us for it. Let’s go easy on ourselves, some days just getting through it is a win!
Look for the positives and celebrate them
What went well today? What made us or our child smile? What were the wins? Focus on them, celebrate them, and repeat them!
By keeping an eye on our mental health and the mental health of our children, we can help to limit the impact that lockdown will otherwise have. Let’s be active, in every way, and look after our well-being!
is additional needs ministry director at Urban Saints and co-founder of the Additional Needs Alliance. He is a Churches for All and Living Fully Network partner and member of the Council for Disabled Children. He is father to James (below) who has autism. Mark writes a blog on the subject.
First Steps Together - For younger childrenSession 1 of 4Palm Sunday
MEETING AIMTo celebrate with the people as Jesus arrives in Jerusalem.
BIBLE PASSAGEJohn 12:12-19BACKGROUNDThis session plan is designed to be used in a home setting or online using video-calling software. You could also run it in person, if restrictions allow.

Younger children may not understand the significance of how Jesus enters Jerusalem, but they will be familiar with the joy and celebration that accompanies his arrival. Help children to experience this celebration and then remember it when you come to explore the sadder story of Jesus’ trial and death.
STARTING OUT - 5 minsStart your time together with some simple refreshments (if you can) and ask them to think about the last time they arrived somewhere – was it exciting? Did it take a long time to get there? Under lockdown, this might only have been to the shops or the park, but celebrate the small outings!
PLAY - 10 minsYou will need: green tissue or crepe paper; child-safe scissors; sticky tape; newspaper; pictures of palm trees (optional)
Before your session, draw and cut out large leaf shapes from the tissue or crepe paper, several layers at a time. Roll several sheets of newspaper into a tight tube and secure them with a piece of tape. Make sure you have enough rolls of paper for everyone in your family to have one. If you’re working online, then you could turn this into a fun activity that families could do together before your session starts.

Give each child a newspaper roll and help them to attach the leaves to the sticks with tape. Next, show everyone how to cut slits down the sides of the leaves so they swish satisfyingly when waved (help any children who might find this difficult). During this activity chat about what palms look like and where they grow. If you have any pictures of palm trees show them to the children as you chat.
BIBLE STORY - 10 minsYou will need: palm branches from the ‘Starting out’; toy donkey; pieces of fabric, rugs or throws
Practise waving the branches with the children and, if you’re at home, organise your family so that they’re sitting in two rows facing each other, holding their palms. Tell this story:

Jesus was travelling into Jerusalem for the Passover, a very important festival. Lots of other people had travelled to Jerusalem and the city was full! When they heard Jesus was coming they got very excited. They broke palm branches off trees to wave like flags! Encourage the children to stand up and wave their branches.

When Jesus arrived, he was riding on a donkey. A long time ago, a man called Zechariah had written that this would happen. It was in the scriptures that the people read in their synagogues, though they didn’t remember at the time. Move the toy donkey up and down the ‘road’ between the two lines of people. If any children want to have a go walking the donkey up and down, let them do so. If you’re online, walk the donkey along in front of your camera.

The people began to wave their palms and shout: “Hosanna!”, “Praise God!’ and “Bless the one God has sent!” Practise shouting these three phrases, as loud as you can! If you know a simple song that praises God like this, sing that too. As they do this, walk with the donkey along the ‘road’ or in front of your camera.

Some people even took off their coats and cloaks, and put them on the floor in front of Jesus! Ask a few children to put down their palm branches and help you to lay out some fabric, rugs or throws in front of the leader and the donkey.

The people were so happy to see Jesus! Everyone cheers together.
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsAsk the children these questions, making sure everyone has the chance to contribute:

  • What was your favourite part of the story?
  • What does it feel like when you see someone you love?
  • How do you welcome others when they come to your house?
  • How did the people feel when they saw Jesus?
CREATIVE TIME - 10 minsYou will need: paper leaves; felt-tip pens; the outline of a branch drawn on paper; glue sticks
Ask the children how they felt when they were singing and cheering. How did they think the crowd was feeling? What did they think about Jesus? Who did they think he was? Write all the words on small paper leaves and ask the children to stick them on the branch one by one. If you’re working online, encourage the children to stick their leaves up in their homes.

Explain that the important Jewish leaders were also watching the crowd and saying to each other: “Nothing is going right for us, everyone is following Jesus.” Talk about how they were feeling. The children may understand words like ‘sad’ and ‘cross’, but you may need to explain trickier emotions such as jealousy and frustration. Add these words to the outside of your picture.
PRAYER - 5 minsYou will need: palm branches from ‘Starting out’; upbeat praise music and the means to play it (optional)
Ask everyone to be quiet for a moment (try this for as long as the children can manage). Then go on to say this prayer:

Thank you, Jesus, that we can celebrate you together. Help us to worship you in the fun times but also the sad times. Amen.

End your prayer time by getting your palms out and praising Jesus. If you have any praise music, play it as the children wave their palm branches around.
is an early years specialist and lives with her two daughters and their pets, including a bearded dragon.
First Steps Together - For younger childrenSession 2 of 4The servant king
MEETING AIMTo explore how Jesus calls us to be servants.
BIBLE PASSAGEJohn 13:1-20BACKGROUNDThis session plan is designed to be used in a home setting or online using video-calling software. You could also run it in person, if restrictions allow.

As with Palm Sunday, there is plenty of symbolism here that younger children won’t understand. However, they will appreciate the idea of someone doing something kind for them, and also that Jesus did something that someone as special as he was would not normally have done. Exploring these stories at a basic level will provide the building blocks for children to understand them more deeply when they return to them later in life. As long as we don’t teach children anything that they will have to unlearn later, we’re laying a good foundation of faith.
STARTING OUT - 5 minsStart your time together with some simple refreshments (if you can) and ask the children if anyone did anything special for them this week. Perhaps someone made them a cake or surprised them with a video call. How does it feel? Tell the group about a time when someone did something special for you, or when you did something special for someone else.
PLAY - 10 minsYou will need: tray; flour mixed with cocoa powder; flip-flop; leader wearing shoes and socks who is happy to show off their feet!
Show the children how dusty the disciples’ feet would have been by asking one of your household to take off one of their shoes and put a flip-flop on their foot instead. Explain that everyone wore sandals in Jesus’ time. Put the flour / cocoa powder mix into the tray. Ask your volunteer to put both feet in the tray and wiggle them about as if walking. When they remove the flip-flop from one foot and their shoe from the other, the children will see how dirty your feet get walking in the dust in sandals compared to shoes and socks. Describe how servants would wash the feet of guests. Now you are ready to tell the story but don’t let your volunteer wipe their foot just yet.
BIBLE STORY - 10 minsYou will need: pitta bread (and gluten-free alternative, if needed); a bowl of warm water; a towel; the member of your household with a floury foot; another volunteer from your household
Arrange your family on chairs in a semicircle. Be ready to tell part of the story kneeling down, as it’s effective for the children to see an adult below them. If your online, then make sure the children can see you kneeling down, and that they have some bread. Tell this story:

Jesus was eating dinner with his friends. Share out the pitta bread with the children. He knew the time was coming for him to put God’s big plan into action.

He got up from the table, put a towel around his waist and took a bowl of water. Do this as you speak. He began to wash the feet of his disciples. Kneel and wash your volunteer’s floury foot. Stay kneeling if you can.

Jesus came to his friend Simon Peter. Kneel in front of another member of your household. Simon Peter said: “You can’t wash my feet! You’re Jesus!” Get the person to say Simon Peter’s words.

Jesus told him: “You don’t understand yet, but you will. If you want to be my friend, you will let me wash your feet.”

Simon Peter wanted this more than anything, so he let Jesus wash his feet. Wash the person’s feet.

Then Jesus got up and said to all his friends: “You call me Teacher and Lord, but I have just done the job of a servant. That is how it should be because in God’s kingdom the master is not more important that the servant. We must serve each other.”

It would be nice at this point to allow the children to wash each other’s feet. This may depend on practicalities, such as the type of flooring you have and, if you’re online, the parent or carer’s attitude to mess! You may prefer to wash plastic dolls.
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsAsk the children these questions, making sure everyone has the chance to contribute:

  • What was your favourite part of the story?
  • What do you think about what Jesus did?
  • When has someone done something kind for you?
  • Has Jesus done anything kind for you?
  • When have you done something kind for someone else?
CREATIVE TIME - 10 minsYou will need: paper; scissors; felt-tip pens
Explain that we are going to think of ways we can serve the people we know. Perhaps helping with the tidying at home, fetching something for Mummy or finding Granny’s glasses. Ask the children to share their own ideas. Encourage children to draw around their foot and cut it out. On the cut-out, your children can draw a picture of something they could do to serve someone else. Talk about how we feel when someone does something kind for us.
PRAYER - 5 minsYou will need: foot shapes from ‘Creative time’
Gather all the paper feet together and stand around them in a circle. Ask everyone to put a foot into the circle. If you’re meeting online, ask the children to wave their paper feet in front of their camera. Say this prayer:

Thank you, Jesus, that you came to earth to show us that the smallest and weakest are important in your kingdom. Help us to serve others at home, at school and at play. Amen.

Encourage the children to put their cut-outs somewhere where they’ll be seen regularly.
is an early years specialist and lives with her two daughters and their pets, including a bearded dragon.
First Steps Together - For younger childrenSession 3 of 4The last supper
MEETING AIMTo experience the events of Jesus eating with his friends before his arrest.
BIBLE PASSAGEMark 14:12-26
BACKGROUNDThis session plan is designed to be used in a home setting or online using video-calling software. You could also run it in person, if restrictions allow.

There is more symbolism here, in Jesus’ actions with the bread and wine. Again, much of this will go over the children’s heads, but introducing these symbols – ones which play such a large part in the life of the Church – will start the children on the road to renewed revelation about what Jesus has done for them. As ever, when using food in a session, be aware of food hygiene and allergy issues.
STARTING OUT - 5 minsStart your time together with some simple refreshments (if you can) and ask them what their best meal was this week. What is their favourite food? Chat together about what food they would like to have as a special meal, such as their birthday.
PLAY - 10 minsAsk the children to think of something that describes someone else in your family or group. Ask for a volunteer and ask them to tell everyone else their thing that describes someone else. Children might choose hair colour, something nice that the person did or that they can sing nicely. Everyone else has to guess who the volunteer is describing. Take turns in describing people and guessing.
BIBLE STORY - 10 minsYou will need: tablecloth or placemats; plastic plates and cups; play food; bread rolls; jug of squash or waterSit the children around a table and tell this story:

The time had come for Jesus and his friends to celebrate the Passover. This meant they would have a special meal together. The disciples asked Jesus where they would have this meal. He told them about an upstairs room in the city and they set off to prepare it.

Bring out a tablecloth and ask the children to help you spread it on the table. Together, lay the table with plastic plates and cups, play food, a basket of bread and a jug of squash. If you’re meeting online, ask the children to arrange their bread and cup of water or squash in front of their cameras so that everyone can see.

As they were eating, Jesus said: “One of you is going to let me down. They are going to tell the people who want to hurt me where I am.”

The disciples were very shocked and sad. Each one said: “Surely you don’t mean me?”

Jesus answered: “One of you eating here with me will betray me and it will be terrible for that man.”

Jesus picked up the bread, he said thank you to God for it and shared it with his friends. He said: “This is my body.” Break a bread roll open as you say this. Share it out, or encourage the children to eat the bread they have with them.

Then he took the wine. Hold the jug of squash. He said thank you to God again and all his friends drank some. Pour out some squash or water into the cups and all drink together.

Jesus explained that the wine was a sign of a new agreement between God and his people. Then Jesus and his friends sang a song praising God. Ask the children to choose their favourite praise song and sing it together.
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsStill sitting at your Passover table, ask the children these questions, making sure everyone has the chance to contribute:

  • What was your favourite part of the story?
  • How do you think Jesus’ friends felt as they ate the meal together?
  • How do you feel when you eat a special meal?
  • Do you want to say anything to Jesus after hearing this story?
CREATIVE TIME - 10 minsYou will need: play food; bread rolls and drink from ‘Bible story’Stay seated at your Passover table (if you’re doing this at home). Ask the children if sitting at a table reminds them of anything. They might mention Sunday lunch or Christmas dinner and you can talk about how that is similar to families gathering to celebrate Passover together.
Talk about when they might see bread and wine in church. Explain the Communion traditions of your church and take them back to the part of the story where Jesus tells us to use bread and wine to remember him.

You may wish to share the bread and drink with the children. Allow them to role play the last supper with the play food, bread and drink. Allow as much time as you can for this – as children play with a story, their understanding of the events and their significance grows.

You could take them into church to watch or take part in Holy Communion, or watch one online, depending on what seems appropriate to your setting.
PRAYER - 5 minsYou will need: bread rolls and drink from ‘Bible story’; cupsGive each child a piece of bread and a cup with some squash or water. Ask them to think about today’s story and talk to God about anything that they’d like to say. Allow as long as the children can stay settled. Then say this prayer:

Thank you, Jesus, for giving your body for us. Hold up your pieces of bread.
Thank you, Jesus, for giving your blood for us. Hold up your cups.
Help us to remember you always. Amen.

The children can then eat their bread and drink their squash or water, if they wish.
is an early years specialist and lives with her two daughters and their pets, including a bearded dragon.
First Steps Together - For younger childrenSession 4 of 4Good Friday
MEETING AIMTo encounter the story of the crucifixion appropriately.
BACKGROUNDThis session plan is designed to be used in a home setting or online using video-calling software. You could also run it in person, if restrictions allow.

The Good Friday story is a hard one and we need to find a way to tell it age-appropriately without losing the truth. You will need to watch the reactions of your group in case any of them are finding it upsetting.
STARTING OUT - 5 minsStart your time together with some simple refreshments (if you can). Chat about what the children have done this week.
PLAY - 10 minsYou will need: card crosses; felt-tip pens; stickersBefore the session, cut out some crosses from thick card. Give each child a cross and encourage them to decorate it with felt-tip pens and stickers. If you’re working online, ask a parent or carer to cut out a cross, or draw one on a piece of paper. Chat together about what they already know about the cross. Do they know why it’s a symbol for Christians? Knowing this should help you with exactly how to pitch the story.
BIBLE STORY - 10 minsYou will need: a large blanket; artificial flowers; a book; the decorated crosses from ‘Play’; three cushions, one of which is roundExplain to the children that you’re going to make an Easter garden as you tell the story. First, spread the blanket on the floor and gather the children around it (or make sure everything you do is in full view of your camera). Ask the children to help you place the flowers in one corner. Then go on to tell this story:

This is the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus came here with his friends to pray. He knew that God’s big plan was about to get difficult. Judas, one of his friends, had run off earlier. He had gone to tell Jesus’ enemies where he was. Judas came into the garden, bringing soldiers to find and arrest Jesus. Simon Peter took out his sword to defend Jesus. But Jesus said: “No! I have to go and carry out God’s plan.” The soldiers took Jesus to the high priest.

Place the book in the opposite corner of the blanket to symbolise law and authority.

The high priests asked Jesus lots of questions. They wanted to know what Jesus had been saying. He answered them simply. He said: “Ask the people who came to listen to me, they will tell you what I said.”

The high priests took Jesus to the house of Pilate. Pilate was a Roman and he was in charge of the whole country. The high priests hoped that Pilate would deal with Jesus. Pilate said he could not find anything that Jesus had done wrong. But he offered Jesus to the crowd and they shouted: “Kill him!”

Invite the children to put their crosses in the third corner of the blanket.

So, it was decided Jesus was going to die. He was going to die on a cross. The soldiers laughed at Jesus. They were cruel to him and took his clothes. Mary, his mother, and Mary, his friend, stayed near as Jesus died.

Make a ‘tomb’ in the final corner of the blanket by propping the two cushions together and placing the round cushion in front of it as the stone.

After Jesus had died, his friends took his body and cared for it. They buried him in a tomb in a different garden.

Roll the ‘stone’ over the tomb and place some of the Gethsemane flowers around it.

Let the children play with the story items and retell the story to each other, if you’re doing this session at home. Help them if they ask you to, otherwise let the children play and retell the story however they like.
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsAsk the children these questions, encouraging everyone to take turns to contribute:

  • How do you think Jesus’ friends are feeling at the end of the story?
  • How did the story make you feel?
  • What do you think will happen next?
  • Do you have any questions about the story?
CREATIVE TIME - 10 minsYou will need: art materials (such as crayons, paint and paintbrushes, felt-tip pens); paper; clean-up and cover-up equipmentGive the children a sheet of paper (A3 would be ideal) and show them the art materials you have gathered. Encourage them to create a picture of today’s story. It can be a scene from the story or something that depicts how the story made them feel. They could also create a picture of something that they heard God say or that is going through their mind.

Doing this sort of ‘free craft’ gives space for children to process their thoughts. Their focus isn’t on completing a set craft, rather they can think about what they God might be saying to them through the story. It also gives children who might be upset by the story some processing time, so that they can start to come to terms with what has upset them.

As you work, chat about the story. Let the conversation be led by the children, rather than telling them your own interpretation (unless they specifically ask you). If you’re working online, then ask the children to use whatever they have available to create their picture.
PRAYER - 5 minsYou will need: pictures from ‘Creative time’Place all your pictures in the middle of the room and sit or stand around them. Encourage the children to look at all the pictures and think about what they have discovered today. Then say this prayer:

Thank you, Jesus, that you loved us so much that you died for us. Thank you that this isn’t the end of the story and that the best part is still to come. Amen.

Remind the children that God keeps his promises and the story will have a happy ending.
is an early years specialist and lives with her two daughters and their pets, including a bearded dragon.
Growing Together - For older childrenSession 1 of 4Palm Sunday
MEETING AIMTo see the way that the events of Palm Sunday evolved.
BIBLE PASSAGEJohn 12:12-19
BACKGROUNDThis session plan is designed to be used in a home setting or online using video-calling software. You could also run it in person, if restrictions allow.

Tensions are rising – people are flocking to see and hear this amazing Jesus who paints a radically different picture of God than anyone had previously understood; but the religious leaders don’t like it one bit and they know they’d better act quickly now before things get really out of hand. As Jesus makes a huge statement with his triumphal, kingly entry into Jerusalem, the Pharisees become even more determined to shut him down. For good.
STARTING OUT - 5 minsStart your time together with some simple refreshments (if you can). Chat about what the children have done this week and ask the children who the most famous person they’ve ever seen is.
PLAY - 10 minsYou will need: Post-it notes or paper; pens
Ask the children to get into pairs or threes and make sure they have Post-its and pens (if you’re online, use the breakout room feature if you have one). Ask them to write down as many stories about Jesus as they can think of – one per Post-it, if you’re using them. Don’t give them too long to do this. Ask them to come and stick their notes in a central area or just read out what the story is. Chat with the children about why people would have loved the events of each story. Ask everyone which people might not have liked this and why. For example, Jesus heals the paralysed man – people would have loved seeing the miracle, the man would have loved being healed but the Pharisees would’ve been super-mad that Jesus forgave the man’s sins.
BIBLE STORY - 10 minsYou will need: the phrases below written out on slips of paper; donkey mask (optional)
Start by pointing out the tensions you’ve uncovered from the opening activity. Lots of people love Jesus and what he’s doing, but the religious authorities think that he’s bad news. Jesus knows that this tension isn’t going to end well for him, but he goes to Jerusalem anyway, where they are about to celebrate the Passover. Loads of people hear that Jesus is on the move and they all want to see him. If you’re doing this at home, get the group to sit in two lines facing one another, as if there is a road in the middle.

Give these phrases to four volunteers:
  • Praise God!
  • God bless the One
  • who comes in the name of the Lord!
  • God bless the King of Israel!

Get a volunteer to be Jesus and another to be the donkey – if you can get a donkey mask, so much the better. The donkey will need to be able to give Jesus a piggy-back so choose wisely! Ask them both to take their shoes off. (If you’re online, you could ask two children in the same household to be Jesus and the donkey.)

Ask the group what it’s like to be waiting to see someone famous. Have they ever been to a pop concert? Or maybe they’ve seen crowds on the TV. Ask them to try to feel that sense of excitement inside. The crowds were so excited that Jesus was coming and they believed he was a king – especially since, when he appeared, he was riding a donkey. They laid down their coats (see the three other Gospel accounts) to make a red carpet for him, and they waved palm branches (that’s why we call this Palm Sunday). Ask everyone to take off their jumpers and make a carpet on the road between them. Then have Jesus and the donkey walk down the carpet, while your four volunteers read out their lines and everyone else waves their arms. If it’s your church tradition to give out palm crosses, you could get the children to wave these too.
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsAsk the children these questions, encouraging everyone to take turns to contribute:

  • Why did the crowd lay down their coats and wave palm branches?
  • What do you think the crowd thought Jesus was going to do next? (Remember that Israel is under Roman control just now and no one likes that much!)
  • How do you think Jesus felt about this episode?
  • How do you think his disciples felt?
  • How do you think the religious leaders and teachers felt?
  • If you didn’t know any of these stories, what do you think would happen next?
CREATIVE TIME - 10 minsYou will need: scraps of fabric; scissors
Three of the Gospel accounts talk about the crowd laying down their coats to make a red carpet for Jesus. Let everyone cut a jumper or coat shape out of fabric. Talk about whether you would let Jesus walk on your clothes. Are there some clothes that you’d be happy for him to walk on and some that you wouldn’t?
PRAYER - 5 minsThe crowd on Palm Sunday were explosive and excited in their expression of praise for Jesus. Have a look at the four lines your volunteers read earlier. Ask the children to create their own lines of praise to Jesus. Once everyone has something, let everyone take turns to shout out their new lines of praise.
is a mum, church planter and choir-nut! She pioneers The Voice Project Scotland – a missional expression inviting children and their families to find their voices and sing together with others.
Growing Together - For older childrenSession 2 of 4Servant king
MEETING AIMTo see the way that Jesus turns everything upside down by serving his disciples.
BACKGROUNDThis session plan is designed to be used in a home setting or online using video-calling software. You could also run it in person, if restrictions allow.

Jesus has been in Jerusalem a few days and has been teaching some challenging things. Miraculous signs are floating about but the Jewish teachers still don’t believe that he’s the Messiah, the special saviour sent from God. The disciples gather with Jesus for the Passover meal – probably the most important feast that Jewish people shared together – but before the meal even begins, Jesus starts to turn everything upside down.
STARTING OUT - 5 minsStart your time together with some simple refreshments (if you can). Chat about what the children have done this week and ask the children what would make them feel really awkward or embarrassed. Be sensitive to those for whom even talking about things like this is difficult.
PLAY - 10 minsYou will need: two large sheets of paper; marker pens
Lay out the two large sheets of paper on a table or on the floor. In the centre of one, write ‘King’, and on the other, write ‘Servant’. (Use your video calling’s chat or whiteboard functions if you’re online.) Ask the children to write or suggest things to put on each piece of paper. What do kings do? What do servants do? Have the children come up with anything surprising?
BIBLE STORY - 10 minsYou will need: chair; bowl full of warm soapy water; towels
Set up your chair and bowl with warm soapy water and some towels. Explain that the disciples and Jesus were about to celebrate a very special meal together (there’ll be more about this in the next session). They didn’t have dining tables in the same way that we do: in that time and place, you ate lying down round a low table – more like a coffee table. That meant your feet were pretty close to the food and, since you wore sandals and the roads were dusty and dirty, you needed to wash your feet before dinner.

Usually a servant would wash them for you. In this part of Jesus’ story there was no servant, so Jesus got up and started to wash people’s feet. Ask for a volunteer to have their feet washed (if you’re online, ask someone from your own household). Sit the volunteer in the chair and then wash and dry their feet. Talk to them about how it feels. It’s kind of awkward, isn’t it? Now imagine if the person washing their feet was their head teacher, the Prime Minister or the Queen! That would be even more awkward, wouldn’t it?

Jesus’ disciples felt very awkward about him washing their feet. They knew he was God’s Son and the guy they followed, and so really it should’ve been the other way around: they should’ve been washing his feet! Peter was especially embarrassed. He told Jesus that he couldn’t wash his feet. Jesus said that Peter had to have his feet washed! After Jesus had finished, he explained to his disciples why he’d done it. Ask someone to look up John 13:14-17 and have them read it. Be sure to use something simple like the International Children’s Bible or the Contemporary English Version.

If you have time, and more than one volunteer to have their feet washed, you could repeat the story with different children.
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsAsk the children these questions, encouraging everyone to take turns to contribute:

  • Why does Jesus say that he washed the disciples’ feet?
  • Do you think it made a difference to the way they behaved afterwards?
  • Do you think Jesus liked washing their feet?
  • Whose feet would you not mind washing?
  • Whose feet would you not want to wash?
  • Would you let Jesus wash your feet?
CREATIVE TIME - 10 minsYou will need: bowls of soapy water; towels (or, for less mess, baby wipes and foot lotion)
Put your family into pairs (on this occasion, this is important rather than letting them choose someone because it ensures that no one’s going to be left out). Ask them to wash one another’s feet. If there are people who don’t want to have their feet washed (or for whom it would be impractical), then they can have their hands washed instead. If you’re working online, then encourage the children to do this for the other people in their household after the session has finished.

As they do this, get them to tell the other person what they would like them to pray for them.
PRAYER - 5 minsOnce the foot washing is complete, ask the children to stay where they are and pray simple prayers for one another, along the lines of what they’ve been asking for prayer for. It might be helpful to demonstrate this with another leader first if the children are not used to praying in this way.
is a mum, church planter and choir-nut! She pioneers The Voice Project Scotland – a missional expression inviting children and their families to find their voices and sing together with others.
Growing Together - For older childrenSession 3 of 4The last supper
MEETING AIMTo see the way that Jesus shares with his disciples what’s about to happen and begins the great Christian tradition of Communion / Eucharist / Lord’s Supper.
BIBLE PASSAGEMark 14:12-26
BACKGROUNDThis session plan is designed to be used in a home setting or online using video-calling software. You could also run it in person, if restrictions allow.

Jesus is preparing to complete the rescue plan to bring his people into a forever-relationship with him. It’s the time of the Passover, when Jews remembered how the blood of an innocent lamb had protected them as God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. Unbeknownst to the disciples, Jesus is about to show them how these events were a prophetic foreshadowing of what they are going to see unfolding before them in the next few hours.
STARTING OUT - 5 minsStart your time together with some simple refreshments (if you can). Chat about what the children have done this week and ask the children what traditions they have to celebrate or remember certain things in their families.
PLAY - 10 minsYou will need: story sections printed out or put in the chat function (one set per small group)
Put the children into small groups (or work as one group), and give each group a set of these story sections:

  • God’s people were slaves in Egypt.
  • God spoke to Moses and said: “Get my people out!”
  • Moses spoke to Pharaoh the king and said: “Let my people go!”
  • Pharaoh said: “No.”
  • God used Moses to send plagues to Egypt. In the last plague the firstborn children died.
  • God’s people were protected by putting lamb’s blood on the doorposts.
  • Finally, Pharaoh said: “Go!”
  • God’s people escaped.
  • Pharaoh changed his mind and chased them.
  • God opened up the sea.
  • God’s people went through safely.
  • When the Egyptians went through, the water covered them.

Mix them up and challenge the children to put them in the right order. If they’re struggling, read from Exodus 11-14 or watch clips from The Prince of Egypt (check your streaming service for availability, or watch the DVD if you have it).
BIBLE STORY - 10 minsYou will need: tablecloth; flat breads (pitta or matzah); grape juice; cups
Spread the tablecloth on the floor and ask everyone to sit around the edge. Set out your flat bread and grape juice. (If you’re online, make sure everything is in full view of your camera. Ask parents and carers to make sure their children have some bread and juice.) Explain that the story you’ve just pieced together was so important for God’s people that they celebrated it with a special meal every year called the Passover:

We saw last time how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet at the start of the meal. Jesus continues to do some surprising things as they eat together. At the Passover meal, Jewish people ate (and still eat) certain things in a certain order and drink wine at particular points too. The meal tells the story of how God rescued his people from Egypt. Jesus and his disciples would’ve known exactly how this went as they would’ve done this every year since they were children.

This time, however, was different. Jesus had started the meal by telling the disciples that one of them was going to betray him. They were upset because they couldn’t imagine how that was going to happen. One of them, Judas Iscariot, knew very well, though: we don’t know exactly why but Judas had become disillusioned with Jesus. Perhaps he thought that Jesus was going to overthrow the Romans or maybe there was another reason, but whatever it was, Judas had agreed with the chief priests to sell Jesus out and to make it possible for him to be arrested.
Of course, no one except Judas and Jesus know this during the meal. Jesus picks up the bread, thanks God, breaks it and tells the disciples that this is his body. That was a bit odd. Break the bread you have and give a piece to everyone.

Then it gets even weirder: Jesus picks up a cup of wine, tells everyone that it’s his blood which is a sign of a new promise to God’s people, and then he offers it around. Give everyone some of your juice.

At some point in the meal, Judas sneaks off to betray Jesus. Peter and Jesus have a conversation where Peter promises that he will never betray Jesus, but Jesus tells him that he’ll say he doesn’t know him three times before the night is finished. All in all, it’s a very strange meal. At the end of the meal, they sing a hymn together. You can sing a familiar worship song at this point too. And then they leave and go to a place they knew called Gethsemane. Jesus goes off by himself to pray for a while and then Judas shows up with some soldiers who arrest Jesus and take him away.
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsAsk the children these questions, encouraging everyone to take turns to contribute:

  • What do you think the disciples thought when Jesus said someone would betray him?
  • How do you think Jesus felt, knowing that Judas would betray him?
  • What do you think Jesus was talking about when he said the bread and wine were his body and blood?
  • Do you think the story of the Passover is going to be linked somehow to what happens next?
  • What do you think they thought would happen next?
CREATIVE TIME - 10 minsYou will need: paper; felt-tip pens
Show the children how to draw an outline of a wine glass and then colour it in so that it looks like a glass of wine. Let them continue to talk about the story of Passover from ‘Play’ and of the last supper from ‘Bible story’ as they do this. Especially prompt them to chew on the question of why blood is important in both stories.
PRAYER - 5 minsAsk the children to find a space, get comfortable and close their eyes. Read Mark 14:17-18 and 22-24. Read slowly and leave a gap after each bit, encouraging the children to imagine they are part of the scene and to have a conversation with Jesus in their hearts.
is a mum, church planter and choir-nut! She pioneers The Voice Project Scotland – a missional expression inviting children and their families to find their voices and sing together with others.
Growing Together - For older childrenSession 4 of 4Good Friday
MEETING AIMTo explore the events of Good Friday and wonder about what they mean for us today.
BIBLE PASSAGEJohn 18-19BACKGROUNDThis session plan is designed to be used in a home setting or online using video-calling software. You could also run it in person, if restrictions allow.

Jesus and his disciples have shared the last supper together and Judas has betrayed Jesus’ whereabouts to the chief priests. At the end of the last session, we saw Jesus being arrested in the garden of Gethsemane. Be ready for a range of responses to today’s passage. Those with little or no church background may never have heard this story. To encounter a loving and forgiving Jesus and then hear how he was killed could be a shock! Even those who have grown up in a church community may never have explored this story in any depth. You might need to have a time when children can ask you questions or express how they feel as part of your session.
STARTING OUT - 5 minsStart your time together with some simple refreshments (if you can). Chat about what the children have done this week and ask the children what they would do if a friend ended up in trouble.
PLAY - 10 minsYou will need: hot-cross buns; paper plates; knives and butter (optional)
Share out the hot-cross buns with the children. Ask if anyone knows why we eat these at this time of the year. What do they remind us of? How much of the story can they tell? Share thoughts and ideas as you eat the buns. (Be aware of food hygiene and allergy issues. If you’re working online, drop off packs of hot-cross buns to your group as an Easter treat!)
BIBLE STORY - 10 minsYou will need: cards with the Bible passages below written on; a toy sword; a picture of a gate in a wall; a toy rooster; a Roman helmet; a whip or rope; a small cross; some kind of scented ointment; bandages; Bibles
Before you start, place the Bible passage cards with their props around your house so that you can take the children on a journey and relate different parts of the story at each spot. If you’re online, do the same, but log into the call using a mobile device, so you can take the children with you as you discover the story props. Have your Bible in hand, but you probably won’t need to read every single verse. Show the prop and plot the main points of the story at this moment. Let the group ask questions if they want to.

Station 1: John 18:1-11 (toy sword)
Judas leads the soldiers to Jesus, they arrest him. Simon Peter cuts off a soldier’s ear.

Station 2: John 18:12-18 (picture of a gate in a wall)
Jesus is taken to the high priest. Peter eventually gets let into the courtyard outside but, when questioned, denies knowing Jesus.

Station 3: John 18:19-27 (toy rooster)
Jesus is questioned by the high priest. Peter is asked twice more if he’s one of Jesus’ guys. He says no. The rooster crows, just as Jesus had said it would.

Station 4: John 18:28-40 (Roman helmet)
The high priest turns Jesus over to the Roman official, Pilate. Pilate can’t see what the problem is and wants to release Jesus. The people say no.

Station 5: John 19:1-16 (whip or rope)
Pilate has Jesus flogged to try to keep the people happy, but they want him dead. Pilate starts to get frightened by the crowd and disturbed by his conversation with Jesus. Eventually he hands Jesus over to the Jews to be crucified.

Station 6: John 19:17-37 (cross)
Jesus is crucified, the soldiers gamble for his clothes. Jesus tells John to look after his mum and then he dies. The soldiers come to make sure he’s dead because they want to get the body down from the cross before the Sabbath.

Station 7: John 19:38-42 (scented ointment and bandages)
Two secret disciples of Jesus come and take Jesus’ body to a tomb and lay him in it.
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsAsk the children these questions, encouraging everyone to take turns to contribute:

  • How does this story make you feel?
  • What’s unfair in the story?
  • How would you have felt if you were Peter after you’d denied knowing Jesus?
  • Did Pilate act in the right way? How could he have acted differently?
  • How do you think Jesus’ disciples felt at the end of this story?
  • Why is Jesus dying on the cross important to us today?
CREATIVE TIME - 10 minsYou will need: junk (such as boxes, foil, egg boxes and yogurt pots); sticky tape; scissors; glue sticks
Ask the group to reflect on the different bits of the story they’ve just walked through, and the props you showed them at each point. Ask them to create a junk model of one of those props. As you work, encourage them to talk about why they’ve chosen that object to model.

If you’re online, then ask parents and carers a few days before your session to collect some clean recycling for this activity.
PRAYER - 5 minsYou will need: paper; pens or pencils
Give out the pens and paper, and ask the children to write a note to Jesus saying how they feel about him dying on the cross. If you’re working at home or in person at church, you could stick or nail these notes to a wooden cross (two branches tied together would be fine). Otherwise, ask the children to hold their notes in their hands.

Ask the children to talk to God about what they’ve heard and how they feel.
is a schools’ worker for SU Scotland and leads The Voice Project, Scotland – a missional expression inviting everyone to find their voice and enter into community to sing.
Journeying Together - For young peopleSession 1 of 4Palm Sunday
MEETING AIMTo explore the difference between how God wanted to ‘announce’ Jesus to the world and how the world (the Pharisees, the disciples and others) wanted to announce him.
BIBLE PASSAGEJohn 12:12-19
BACKGROUNDThis session is designed for you to do online in a group video call (on something like FaceTime or Zoom). Make sure you have parental permission to do this, as well as following your church’s safeguarding procedure.

This is a pivotal moment in the grand story of the world. It is essentially when Jesus gives himself up to the authorities for them to kill him. In the world’s eyes, this might look like a mistake, weakness, failure…but he was demonstrating the upside-down way that the kingdom of God operates, the epitome of subverting common understanding; that ‘winning’ could be achieved a different way, a non-violent way of love. All of the prophesies and all of Jesus teachings are here: the crowd tries to put him on a pedestal, but he comes riding in on a donkey, refusing to play the celebrity, refusing earthly plaudits and worldly methods of gaining power, but making himself vulnerable and in doing so, undermining the sin of the world.
GATHERING TIME - 5 minsAs people join you online, ask them to share what they have been doing during the past seven days. Ask everyone to say two things that they are happy about right now and two things that they are unhappy or cross about.
INTRO ACTIVITY - 5 minsYou will need: paper; pens
Ask the group which celebrity is best and worst at social media. What makes them successful (or unsuccessful)? Work out which celebrity is followed on Instagram by the highest number of your group. If chaos ensues, ask them to list the top three celebrities they like to follow and create a table of results, and hopefully the most common celebrity will become self-evident!
BIBLE EXPLORATION - 10 minsYou will need: paper; pens
Create two teams from your group (use the breakout room function if you have one). Imagine Jesus was to make his long-awaited return to the world and would be arriving in London in six months’ time.

Ask one group to devise a marketing campaign about God coming back to earth – a campaign so good and so huge that it would eclipse all other promotion campaigns the world has ever seen! (A good reference point might be the way boxing matches get so much press.) They have a budget of £500m and should think through everything from taglines to TV adverts to social media to venue hire to press conferences.

Ask the other group to come up with an alternative campaign with a more modest budget of £500! The aim is still to spread the message, but who are they trying to reach? How can the entire nation see the message behind it? This group should think more like a grassroots social movement – what is the real message that might get eclipsed by the big advertising campaign of the other group? How can they keep Jesus’ return to the key points of who he is and what he is about? How can they let people know about it but without compromising his values – what are those values?

Chat through the pros and cons of both campaigns and discuss the ways they could both help and hinder the spread of the gospel message.

Encourage the group to imagine they were the main players in the story. How might they answer these questions?

  • What is the aim of this arrival in Jerusalem?
  • How could it be used to my advantage?
  • What are the threats or risks to me / my current situation?

Finally, read John 12:12-19 to the group.
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsChat about the story using these questions, encouraging everyone to join in if they want to:

  • What do you think about the approach Jesus takes here?
  • What does this approach tell you about Jesus?
  • What response do you have to what Jesus does?
  • What does this story mean to your life today?
CREATIVE RESPONSE - 10 minsYou will need: pens; paper
In pairs, think up a few similes for Jesus using the best feature of any celebrities, brand names, famous items, or movies, or songs. When you bring them all together after five or ten minutes, you will have a hilarious but also hopefully quite profound poem of how Jesus surpasses all the best bits of all the things we worship, look up to, follow and admire.

For example: “You are more everywhere than Coca-Cola, more bountiful than baked beans.”
“You would be more followed on Twitter than Katy Perry and more liked on Instagram than Selena Gomez.”
“You are more meaningful to our childhood than Harry Potter, a better healer than even the NHS.”
PRAYER - 5 minsYou will need: poems from ‘Creative response’
Read out the poems from 'Creative response' again but in an attitude of prayer this time. Pause regularly and encourage the young people to be aware of Jesus inside every aspect of our world and culture. In that silence encourage them to ‘look’ for him in the quiet, humble places, such as when they enjoy a sunset, or in how they feel when someone gives them an unexpected gift, or when a member of their household hugs them when they are sad. End by thanking Jesus that he offers a different way of looking at our society and that amongst all the busyness and clamour for our attention, he is still king and more powerful and more kind, more forgiving and more loving to us than any other thing:

“You went to Jerusalem and quietly died on a cross and now you are now always present in our lives and live in our heart for ever. Amen.”
is an experienced mentor, writer and volunteer youth worker.

Journeying Together - For young peopleSession 2 of 4The servant king
MEETING AIMTo better understand the metaphor behind Jesus’ words and actions and engage with it.
BACKGROUNDThis session is designed for you to do online in a group video call (on something like FaceTime or Zoom). Make sure you have parental permission to do this, as well as following your church’s safeguarding procedure.

Washing someone’s feet is an odd thing to do these days. It wasn’t in biblical times, although it was looked down on as a dirty job. However, it was a normal part of life. The streets were dirty and people would have worn open sandals. Remember how dirty your feet get when you wear flip-flops on holiday! It’s a famous story but explore why this is so symbolic. Particularly look at the part with Peter asking to be completely washed. Yes, it is showing that even someone as important as Jesus was humble enough to act as a servant to others, but also it is a picture of the gospel: when we become a Christian, we are forgiven and baptised; spiritually ‘washed.’ From then on, we no longer need to be baptised – we just need to come in prayer regularly to confess our sin and ‘get right’ with God again, simply to remember we are forgiven!
GATHERING TIME - 5 minsAs people join you online, ask them to share what they have been doing during the past seven days. Ask the young people what jobs and chores they have to do at home. Then chat about chores that young people around the world might have to do that they don’t.
INTRO ACTIVITY - 10 minsPlay a game similar to ‘Grandma’s shopping list’ – instead of shopping items, have an itinerary of places they’ve been, things they’ve done, people they’ve spoken to. So simply start off the sentence: “This week has been amazing, first off, I went to…” Each person in the circle repeats it and adds something from their week, eg: “Then I saw a red kite on our walk”, “Then I got a D for my English homework” or “Then we ordered a banquet from the local takeaway”. Ask them the think about things that other people did for them as highlights, as well as times they did something sacrificial for someone else. Under pandemic restrictions this could be a challenge, but will help young people focus on the good things.
BIBLE EXPLORATION - 10 minsYou will need: washing-up bowls of warm water; towels
Ask the young people to get a washing-up bowl, bucket or plastic box and put some warm water in it. (You might want to ask parents or carers to help with this.) Encourage everyone to take off their shoes and socks and put their feet in the warm water. Invite everyone to close their eyes while you read out John 13:1-20, asking them to imagine they are there in the room with Jesus and the disciples.

With eyes still closed and feet still in the water, ask a few imaginative questions, such as: “What would you think if you were one of the disciples?” or “What might it feel like to have Jesus wash your feet?”
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsChat about the story using these questions, encouraging everyone to join in if they want to:

  • Why is washing someone’s feet such a shocking thing to do?
  • What might be a similar act to washing someone’s feet in our culture?
  • Who are the people in our society who need God’s love and our service?
  • Do you feel we serve our community as much as Jesus would like? How can we serve the people who live around us more?
CREATIVE RESPONSE - 10 minsYou will need: poster paint; paper plates; paper; felt-tip pens; cover-up and clean-up equipment including warm water in bowls and towels
Ask the group to put some paint on a paper plate and put their bare foot in the paint. They can then make a footprint on the paper. They should then list around their footprint the ways people need serving and the needs, both obvious and hidden, that Jesus wants us to care about.

Ask the young people to wash their feet. As they do so, invite them to think about the story and what they have discussed and experienced. What conclusions might they have come to about Jesus’ actions, and how we might put this attitude into action in our own lives?
PRAYER - 5 minsContinuing on from ‘Creative response’, invite the group to be quiet. Speak over them about how God can be found in the small, quiet, humble things in life – that he is not often found on billboards or Hollywood but in a kind word spoken to someone at school, through a foodbank that a family is in much need of, in the beauty of a spider’s web on a frosty morning. Invite prayers of similar examples from their own experience.

Pray to close and ask them to all repeat the final phrase: “Thank you, God, for being with us” at the same volume as you say it. Say it perhaps up to ten times. Start off very quietly and reflectively, building up to a shout, and then bring it back down to a whisper again, and end with a normal level “Amen”.
is an experienced mentor, writer and volunteer youth worker.

Journeying Together - For young peopleSession 3 of 4The last supper
MEETING AIMTo explore betrayal and forgiveness and why the last supper was symbolic.
BIBLE PASSAGEMark 14:12–26
BACKGROUNDThis session is designed for you to do online in a group video call (on something like FaceTime or Zoom). Make sure you have parental permission to do this, as well as following your church’s safeguarding procedure.

The writer tells us it was just before the Passover festival. This reference could be easily overlooked, but I love this (fully intended) metaphor by God: the Passover festival was integral to the Jewish calendar, commemorating when God killed the firstborn of all the families in Egypt, all except the Israelite families who had to paint their doorframe with the blood of a firstborn lamb. They wouldn’t have known why that was significant, but thousands of years later, as the writer tells the story, it would have become apparent for the first time. Can you imagine how they must have felt when they realised? This was an image of Jesus in the Old Testament! Suddenly they would have to reread and rethink everything they knew…Everything about this story is so meticulously choreographed by God, even right back to Moses.
GATHERING TIME - 5 minsAs people join you online, ask them to share what they have been doing during the past seven days. Chat about memorable meals, both before and during the pandemic. What is most important about these meals?
INTRO ACTIVITY - 10 minsYou will need: scene of betrayal from a film or TV programme
Before the session, find a film or TV clip of one character betraying another. If your group are sci-fi fans, you could show a clip of Lando betraying Han in The Empire Strikes Back. Watch the clip and chat about what happens. Is there betrayer right to do what they did? Can it be explained?
BIBLE EXPLORATION - 10 minsYou will need: a ploughman’s lunch-style meal (including bread and grape juice)If you can, deliver a lunch to each of your young people before the session. Make sure you consider food hygiene and allergy issues.

Invite everyone to eat together and ask the meaning of bread and wine, and discuss its significance to the Church. Ask what their experience of Holy Communion has been so far, and if doing it means something special to them personally.

Explain that these two items would have been standard at Israelite meals…Jesus was a master at using relevant, understandable references and metaphors for his spiritual teaching.

Read Mark 14:12-26 as you share your meal. As you come to verses 22-25, act out the passage with the grape juice and bread. Wonder together about how the disciples might have felt. Would they have understood what was going on? Or would they look back afterwards and realise the significance?
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsChat about the story using these questions, encouraging everyone to join in if they want to:

  • What is your favourite part of the story?
  • If you were one of the disciples, what would you think about Judas’ actions?
  • What do you think Jesus means when he calls the bread his body and the wine his blood?
  • What does this story tell you about why Jesus came to live with his people?
  • Do you know what happens next? Does knowing that help you to interpret what’s happening here?
CREATIVE RESPONSE - 10 minsYou will need: paper; pens; bin Make sure everyone has some paper and a pen. Ask the young people to write the names of people they have ever felt betrayed by in the past.

Next, they should write their own name and think of times they have betrayed God – by denying him, avoiding doing what he asked, or putting other things in front of him in their lives.

Finally, they throw away their paper to symbolise a new start, and ask God’s forgiveness and help.
If they realise they have unforgiveness or bitterness towards people, they should pray about that, or talk quietly to a leader.

Don’t rush this, even though it might seem a bit awkward doing it online. Give space for the young people to think this through.
PRAYER - 5 minsThe last supper was a time when the disciples had an incredible bond – a very intense time of friendship and togetherness. Give each person the name of another in the group to pray for. Go around the circle with each person saying a prayer-statement such as: “You forgive me when I betray you by losing my cool when I play football.”

Finally, thank God for the people he has put in our lives to support us, and ask him to help us be supportive of the friends in our lives and stand by them in a godly way.
is an experienced mentor, writer and volunteer youth worker.

Journeying Together - For young peopleSession 4 of 4Good Friday
MEETING AIMTo explore the events leading up to the crucifixion and specifically how Judas and Peter responded – and what implications that has for us.
BACKGROUNDThis session is designed for you to do online in a group video call (on something like FaceTime or Zoom). Make sure you have parental permission to do this, as well as following your church’s safeguarding procedure.

There are a number of aspects you could explore in this passage, so don’t feel you have to explain or cover everything. Allow the young people to delve into and discover new aspects they haven’t previously thought of before – although don’t assume they are all familiar with the story. Go with your group on a brand-new journey in the passage – don’t fall into the trap of walking the same old worn, cliched paths! Can you get this generation excited about the crucifixion story in a fresh way?
GATHERING TIME - 5 minsAs people join you online, ask them to share what they have been doing during the past seven days. If you are doing this session at Easter, the young people are probably on holiday, so chat about the different things they have been doing. Has everything gone to plan? Or have some things been a disappointment?
INTRO ACTIVITY - 10 minsYou will need: a pack of cardsCount out enough cards for each person to have one, including the ace of clubs. Show a card to each of the players, while everyone else closes their eyes. Set the scene: you are all in the high priest’s courtyard after Jesus has just been arrested. The person holding the ace of clubs is Peter, who is denying that he was with Jesus. The rest of you are trying to work out who is Peter!
‘Peter’ must lie, trick, bluff, stay silent, or use any tactics to not give away that they had that card. Give a couple of minutes for everyone to discuss together what happened and what clues they have, before the group has three guesses at who Peter is.

When the game is over you could ask them how it felt to deny Jesus! It’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek of course, but it could actually be quite an emotional insight into the passage for them. If they like it, you could play again and use a different card to represent Peter.
BIBLE EXPLORATION - 10 minsYou will need: large sheets of paper or card; felt-tip pens; paper; pensTell the young people there are six main locations in today’s passage (the garden, the high priest’s courtyard, inside the high priest’s house, Pilate’s headquarters, Golgotha and the tomb). Split them into six teams and assign a location to each. Ask them to design a sign for their location. As they are working, read out John 18-19.

Staying in their teams they should complete the following tasks:

  • Look at the passage to find out what happened at their location and list the main events on a sheet of paper.

  • Come up with a statue-like freeze-frame scene involving all the team that gives some idea of the most important thing that was going on there. This will be tricky on a video call, so they will need to be creative!

  • Discuss the main questions (not the answers) that occur to them as they discuss the story and look at the passage. For example: “Why was Simon Peter carrying a sword in the garden?” or “Was Pilate brave, or a coward?” They should write down the main one or two questions so that they can ask the rest of the group later.
CHATTING TOGETHER - 5 minsAs a whole group, ‘travel’ around the locations in the story. Read the appropriate part of the story (you will visit the high priest’s courtyard twice). At each location ask the group to:

  • Display the freeze-frame pose.
  • Give a quick overview of their thoughts on what was going on.
  • Present the question(s) that they discussed in ‘Bible exploration’. The rest of the group should then help answer these questions and discuss this part of the story.
CREATIVE RESPONSE - 10 minsYou will need: art materialsAsk the young people to find whatever art materials they can, and encourage them to create a picture in response to the story. What the young people produce is not the most important thing here. What is important is the process. When hands are busy, it gives the mind space to think about the story and to listen to God.

As you work, continue to chat about the story and what they think. The young people might have questions that to us seem strange or unimportant, but you should treat these questions with respect, as they represent your young people sorting out elements of the story and what it tells them about God, faith and life. This is especially true of young people. Try to answer some of these questions together as you create your artwork.
PRAYER - 5 minsRemind the group that we all can know Jesus’ love and forgiveness – that because of the cross we can all be free from condemnation and fear and guilt and happily press on, trying again when we slip up and growing in boldness with his help to be a good witness.

Be silent together for a moment, and ask them to think about their reflections when they were doing ‘Creative response’. Encourage them to chat with God about their thoughts and to explore what he is saying to them.
is an experienced mentor, writer and volunteer youth worker.

Ready to use all-age serviceServant king
MEETING AIMTo think about how we can follow Jesus’ example.
BACKGROUNDJesus has been in Jerusalem a few days and has been teaching some challenging things. Miraculous signs are floating about but the Jewish teachers still don’t believe that he’s the Messiah, the special saviour sent from God. The disciples gather with Jesus for the Passover meal – probably the most important feast that Jewish people shared together – but before the meal even begins, Jesus begins to turn everything upside down.
SIGNING IN - 5 minsAs people join your service, welcome them and ask them about their week.
WELCOME - 5 minsOPTION ONE: Generation GameYou will need: equipment for a specialist task such as cake decorating or football freestylingBefore the session, ask someone in your congregation to demonstrate a special skill that they have. Line up some volunteers who are up for being taught that special skill. If you’re online, deliver all the equipment needed to your volunteers so that they are ready to learn when the service starts.

Invite the participants to the front or spotlight people’s screens. Ask your specialist to teach the volunteers a simple skill and see how well people are able to follow the example.
OPTION TWO: Action songs
You will need: children’s action song; children to demonstrate the actionsExplain that everyone is going to learn a new song. It’s a song with actions and you’re going to follow the actions of the children to learn it. Practise the song and actions, then sing it as part of your community’s worship.
BIBLE STORY - 10 minsYou will need: two volunteers to act out the story; a bowl of water; a towel; a chair
Give your volunteers the parts of Jesus and a disciple. (If you’re online, make sure your two volunteers are from the same household.) Explain to the congregation that today’s Bible passage is being retold through mime. Use the following script – the two volunteers should act out what you read:

It was the Passover. Jesus and his disciples arrived for a meal together. As this is a time of economic uncertainly we only have one disciple to keep costs down.

Jesus and the disciples sat down. Emphasise the plural ‘s’.

While everyone was settling down, Jesus thought about what was about to happen. He knew that he was going back to be with God. Being with God was a wonderful thing. ‘Jesus’ mimes thinking.

In fact, being with God is the most amazing thing you can think of – even better than chocolate and Ed Sheeran. You could use another well-known personality that the congregation will relate to.

Jesus was going to be with God because Jesus was the king.

He was going to get a crown. Look pointedly at the mime artist until they mime!

A robe… Again, wait for the actor to mime.

Cheering crowds… And again.

Jesus knew he would get a crown, but it wasn’t going to be a golden one, just yet. He knew that Judas was going to tell those who didn’t like Jesus where to find him alone, so they could capture him, and put him on trial for pretending to be a king.

But Jesus was no ordinary king, like no king before or after.

Jesus stood up. Jesus stands. He wanted to show his disciples how they should live. He got a bowl of water and placed it in front of his disciple. He took off one of his friend’s shoes, then the other. Jesus does all this.

In Israel, at the time of Jesus, the disciples would not have had shoes and socks, just sandals and their feet…well…

“Pooey, what a pong!” acted Jesus. Wait for the overacting that is bound to happen, and the laughs.

Actually, Jesus didn’t act like that at all – that’s the problem working with amateur mime artists.

Jesus was setting an example of how to treat others.

Jesus first washed one foot and then other.

He dried them with the towel.

Washing the feet of someone was often done by servants. Yet here was a king, washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus’ disciples were his pupils, his followers, they were pretty much his servants to command, and yet he washed their feet. In fact, Jesus even washed the feet of Judas, the one who was going to do a bad thing for their friendship.

Jesus did this to show his disciples how to be. It was a pattern for them to follow, an instruction and an example.

Thank your actors and as the congregation to give them a round of applause.

Explain that Jesus set an example for us to follow. Jesus taught us to be servants, to serve others. And yet, he was also the Messiah, God’s chosen one and a king.
SMALL GROUPS - 10 minsIf your software allows, send everyone off into different breakout rooms made up of a few households. Put these questions into each group’s chat box:

  • What is your favourite part of the story?
  • What does washing someone’s feet symbolise?
  • If this story took place today, what might Jesus have done for his disciples?
  • What do you think this story tells us about Jesus?

Give the groups time to chat about these questions, referring to the Bible passage in they need to. If you can’t put people into breakout rooms, ask individual households to discuss them, and link up those who live on their own using another messaging or video-calling app.
REVIEW - 5 minsGet some feedback from ‘Small groups’, encouraging everyone to take part who wants to.
RESPONSE ACTIVITIES - 10 minsInvite people to do one of these activities in breakout rooms to respond:
OPTION ONE: PrayerJesus taught his friends the prayer that we know call the Lord’s Prayer. Ask if someone can remember the words of the Lord’s Prayer and let them share.

Jesus also gives a pattern (or instruction) to follow to serve others. He did this by washing his disciples’ feet. Jesus was the servant king. Invite the group to pray the Lord’s Prayer, reminding them that they play a part in God’s will being done on earth.
OPTION TWO: FootprintsYou will need: A4 paper; pens
Ask the group to draw a pair of feet. On the soles and the toes, write ideas that they can do to serve others. These are the sort of things that you wouldn’t expect those in charge to do. Would a top chef scrub the pots and pans? Would a chief executive drive his chauffeur?
OPTION THREE: DiscussionAsk a couple of people to lead a discussion about the story today and people’s response to it. You could review the questions from ‘Small groups’ as well as any questions that the people in the group may have.
CLOSING - 5 minsBring everyone back together and ask if anyone would like to share anything from the response time. Thank everyone for taking part and say an appropriate blessing to close the service.
tells stories at thecreativeminimalist.com.
Ready to use parable
Maggie and the medical mess“I’m not doing that!” shouted Maggie.

“But your sister needs her dressing changed this afternoon and I’m going to be at work,” said her mum.

“Can’t she do it herself?” Maggie asked. “She was able to injure herself, so surely she can help with her own recovery.”

“It’s on the back of her leg,” her mum said. “You try taping gauze to your own thigh without bursting your stitches.”

“I can’t, because I’m not stupid enough to climb a drainpipe.”

The previous week, their cat, Boadicea, had got stuck on the roof of their conservatory. Maggie and her sister, Betsy, had tried in vain to coax her down. Maggie wanted to call the fire brigade, but Betsy insisted that would just be a waste of their time. She disappeared into the house before coming out with a rickety chair.

“I don’t think you should stand on that,” Maggie warned, but Betsy didn’t listen. She hopped on the chair, which groaned ominously, then started to shin up the drainpipe to rescue the stranded pet.

Maggie half-heatedly tried to stop her, but once Betsy got an idea it her head, you couldn’t shift it. It was the same with her plan to make money by selling her dad’s golf clubs on eBay or the time she decided she was going to become a YouTube singing sensation, even though she was tone deaf.

Betsy was halfway up when the drainpipe came loose from the conservatory roof, pulling all of the guttering with it. She fell backwards onto the rickety chair, which collapsed beneath her weight. The splintered wood left her with a large gash in the back of her leg. In hospital, she’d had to have ten stitches, and needed the dressing changed regularly.

Which is what their mum was asking Maggie to do now. The wound was still fairly icky, and would need to be washed out before redressing.

Gross. Maggie was a little bit sick in her mouth just thinking about it.

Mum asked again: “Can you look after your sister’s wound? She is your sister, after all. You’d think you’d jump at the chance to show how much you loved Betsy by being so servant-hearted.”

Maggie sighed and got up off the sofa. Just then, she heard her sister’s voice coming from upstairs.

“Maggie! I need your help!”
Chat about the story, what everyone liked and didn’t like. You could use some of these questions in your discussion:

  • Have you ever had to do anything unpleasant for someone else? What was it like?
  • What emotions do you have when you do something for someone else?
  • Do you ever enthusiastically help others? Why? Why not?

This story is based on John 13:1-17. If you’d like to add a more explicit faith element to your discussion, then read this passage together. Think about the similarities and differences between the Bible story and this one. Encourage your family to think about this Bible story in a new way.
is resources editor for Premier Youth and Children’s Work.
Ready to use craft
Easter part one
This year, Easter falls at the very start of April so we’re taking the time to explore the whole Easter story over March and April. Whatever the lockdown restrictions in your area, you can do these activities with your own family, make activity packs for other families, or enjoy them in children’s groups. (Part two is coming in a month!)
TOGETHER SESSION ONEReflective colouring sheetYou will need: copies of the colouring sheet; coloured pens or pencils
Taking time to reflectively colour in can be really useful in helping children to process their thoughts about a story, giving them time to express what they are thinking.

After hearing the Palm Sunday story, give children time to colour in the sheet and, as they are colouring, chat about what the atmosphere would have been like on that day. Who did the people think Jesus was? What did they hope? What does ‘hosanna’ mean?
You will need: watercolour paint; water; paintbrushes; white wax crayons; coloured paper
This craft helps children to explore the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet on Maundy Thursday. Use the creative time to chat about responses to the story.

Draw around your foot with the wax crayon. Coloured paper makes it easier to see the white wax. Make sure that the line of wax is fairly thick. If you want to, make patterns inside the foot with the wax crayon. At this point, it will be really hard to see what you have drawn. Paint the paper with the watercolour paint and the wax will resist the paint so that you will see the clean outline of the foot and the patterns inside it. Link the watercolours to the water used by Jesus to wash his disciples’ feet. Have you ever had your feet washed by someone else? Why did Jesus do this?
You will need: sliced bread (different types of bread might make this interesting); toaster; toast stamps; butter; knives for spreading; plates; toast toppings (eg jam)
Everyone loves a food craft and this is very simple to do with some common kitchen cupboard ingredients. You’ll need to be aware of allergy and food hygiene issues; provide gluten-free bread, dairy-free spread and a separate toaster if necessary.

This activity has the potential to be a great conversation starter for exploring the story of the last supper. Choose a slice of bread and toast it. Children might want to stamp it with a toast stamp first so that the toast comes with a picture or a message! When toasted, invite children to add spreads as desired and eat. Talk about how each of the children like to eat their toast. Think about what it means to share a meal together and what the symbolism of the bread means in the story. Link it with Holy Communion and how that is shared by your congregation.
Nail crosses
You will need: hammers; nails; wood offcuts; sandpaper; wool; pencils
This is a great craft to help evoke some of the senses of the crucifixion. It will need some supervision and maybe some safety demonstrations before beginning.

Choose a wood offcut each and take a little time to sand it down so that there are no unwanted splinters. Draw a cross on the wood offcut and (under supervision) hammer nails along the lines you have drawn. You will probably need six to eight nails per child. When the nail cross has been made, use coloured wool to wind around the nails. Think about the sounds made when hammering in the nails and how it felt to do the hammering. What do you think the sights, sounds, smells and sensations of Easter would have been like?
is founder of Flame: Creative Children’s Ministry flamecreativekids.blogspot.co.uk.
Ready to use games
Treasure hunt
Something different this month – not a selection of games, but a series of clues you can use to construct a treasure hunt. While we’re still under restrictions, you can run this in your own home. The treasure can be whatever you would like it to be – for an Easter hunt, use Easter eggs. If you’re reading this when the pandemic is but a memory, then you could also do it as part of a children’s session or Easter party.
You will need: card; marker pen; scissors
Write this clue on a sheet of card, then cut it up into pieces (fewer pieces for younger children, more for older children):

Welcome to this hunt for treasure!
I hope it really gives you pleasure.
The next clue sits just where you may
Chat to others far away.

Mix the pieces up and challenge the children to put the puzzle together and reveal the clue. Place clue two near a telephone, computer or device where you would normally voice- or video-call friends and relatives.
You will need: card; marker pen; paper and pens
Write this clue on card, and provide pens and paper so that the children can write down the letters they need:

My first is in ‘tardy’ but not in ‘party’,
My second is in ‘other’ but never in ‘hearty’.
My third is in ‘open’ but not in ‘spend’,
My fourth is in ‘dream’ but never ‘amend’.
My next is in ‘weather’ but not found in ‘thread’,
My sixth is in ‘padded’ but never in ‘sped’.
The final letter that you desire
is found in ‘spicy’ but not in ‘conspire’.

Challenge the children to solve the puzzle – the word is DOORWAY. Place the next clue outside your front door (or just inside, if it’s raining).
You will need: copies of the dot-to-dot puzzle
Give every child a copy of the dot-to-dot puzzle. Once they have finished, ask where they might make one of these.

The picture is an ice-cream sundae, which should lead them to the kitchen. Place clue four in a safe place for the children to find.
You will need: biscuits; buttercream; plates; blunt, flat knives or spatulas; tape measure
Help everyone to wash their hands and then give each child a plate, a flat knife or a spatula. Share out the biscuits evenly and challenge the children to build the highest tower they can, using buttercream to stick their biscuits together.

Give a time limit (say five minutes) and when that time is up, measure the towers to see whose is the tallest. Say that the key word in the fourth clue is ‘tallest’ or ‘highest’; ask the children where the final clue might be.

Put clue five in the highest part of your house where you can safely all be together – an upstairs bedroom, the attic (if you can safely reach it) or on top of a high shelf if you live in a flat or bungalow.
You will need: code and message (see below)
Before your treasure hunt, create a simple code for the children to follow. You could hand-draw some symbols or use a symbol font on your computer. Create or use a symbol for every letter in the alphabet and create a code-cracker key for the children to use to crack the code. Put this message into your code:

The treasure is hidden [the name of your hiding place].

Hide your treasure (eg Easter eggs) in your chosen hiding place. Challenge the children to use the key to crack the code and discover the location of the treasure!
resources editor for Premier Youth and Children's Work.
Ready to use mentoring
5-4-3-2-1 anti-anxiety
It doesn’t take a genius to work out that significantly more young people are suffering from anxiety and depression due to the protracted lockdowns and restrictions. It’s not been fun for any of us but for the more vulnerable among your young people, it can be much more serious. We need to look out for these individuals and ensure we get alongside them in a meaningful but natural and personal way.

You may have seen the phrase: “We are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat.” What this means is that, due to our differing social, economic, geographic and even just genetic backgrounds, we all have differing levels of resilience to the stress; we have different opportunities and options when it comes to dealing with pressures, and varying skills and experience with which to cope with anxiety. Some have big strong ‘boats’ and can cope well – they might live near open countryside and be able get out for long walks; others might live in council flats with no garden at all. Some have plenty of distractions and technology to keep in touch with friends; others not so much, increasing a sense of isolation and abandonment and leaving them no way of venting and processing feelings. Other people might already have had a background of anxiety even before COVID, or a history of depression in their family which is only exacerbated by recent conditions.

The following is a widely known tool, but one that is helpful for you to adapt and share with your mentees. It only need be a quick moment to regain composure, or become more mindful and calmer, but it may take practise to remember to do it regularly. If you sell the idea well, it could become a significant self-help tool for your trapped and squeezed young mentees.
Do the countdown
5.Notice five things that you can seeLook around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. Aim for things that you like, especially things that you don’t normally notice, such as a plant growing through the concrete, the shape of the clouds or rooftops.4.Notice four things that you can feel
Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the cold wind on your face, the texture of the ground under your feet, the clothes on your legs.
3.Notice three things you can hear
Take a moment to listen and note three things that you can hear in the background. This could be the hum of people talking, a nearby idling engine, or maybe something electrical buzzing.
2.Notice two things you can smell
Try to notice the smells that you usually filter out. Perhaps the breeze is carrying something delicious across from the local curry house, or there’s the smell of someone’s perfume.
1.Notice one thing you can taste
Focus on one thing that you can taste right now, in this moment. It might be the last sip of your drink, the gum in your mouth, something in your teeth…

And that’s it. You are now more mindful and positive, so take that and move on with your day!
Develop the countdown
If you like, or if you are doing this with your mentee, you could even think of the perfect answer for each sense. For example, ask about the one thing you love to look at, such as the rolling waves. What was the cosiest thing you’ve ever felt – a new hoody, the rug in front of the fire? What would you love to hear right now? Your favourite artist, live in front of you? A lion’s roar up close? Then the best smell ever – your mum’s cooking? Cut grass? And what would you love to taste – steak, chocolate milkshake, vanilla lip balm?

Encourage your mentee to aim to do this a couple of times a day for a week and see and report back what happens, and what effect it has on them and their mental health. It may not be dramatic, but their reflections will be significant and valuable to them and therefore to us to explore as mentors. It may help identify triggers and come up with ways to avoid them.
has an MA in Christian mentoring and wrote the Mentoring and Young People Grove booklet. He is a volunteer youth worker.
Ready to use movieThe Map of Tiny Perfect Things (12)
Watch the whole film together or concentrate on the clip: 00:28:42 to 00:36:53
SYNOPSISQuick-witted teen Mark (Kyle Allen) contentedly lives the same day in an endless loop. But his world is turned upside-down when he discovers that his cycle is being shared by the mysterious Margaret (Kathryn Newton). What follows is a love story with a fantastical twist, as the two struggle to figure out how to escape their never-ending day, or whether they even should.

The concept of being stuck in an endless loop has been around since 1993’s Groundhog Day and has been revisited several times since. What’s intriguing about The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is that the central character of Mark is an optimist and when we join him at the start of the film he’s having a grand time in his small town. He’s not angry about his situation nor is he having any particular existential meltdowns. It’s only when he meets Margaret and falls in love that he considers exploring how to end the loop.
DISCUSSBegin by showing your young people the trailer to The Map of Tiny Perfect Things. Have any of your young people read the book? Ask them these questions:

  • If you could choose one day to experience in a loop what day would it be?
  • What has been the most boring experience during lockdown?
  • If you were in a similar loop, what would they look to do or experience? Why?

In this sweet scene we see Mark and Margaret discuss their current situation. Upon revealing what they have been up to in their infinite loops, they discover that neither has been particularly adventurous or sought to do much out of the ordinary. Inspired by their conversation, Mark encourages Margaret to begin mapping out all of the amazing things that are happening around them. What follows is a montage of some of the ‘simple’ but perfect moments that could easily be missed if you weren’t looking for them.

After showing the clip as a stimulus, chat about these questions:

  • Is it a positive thing to ‘seize the day’? What would that look like for your life right now?
  • “I guess this is all there is.” What does Margaret mean by this?
  • What is the most perfect ‘simple’ thing you’ve experienced recently?
  • How did you feel during the montage of experiences in the clip?

Go on to read through Ephesians 5:15-20 with your young people and discuss the following questions:

  • Does this passage reflect a ‘seize the day’ mentality?
  • Having read through this message - what do you think the overall message is?
  • Is this passage meant to be taken symbolically or literally?
  • How might we understand God’s will?

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is available on Amazon Prime.
is head of humanities at Haileybury School.
Ready to use music
Treat people with kindness
Harry Styles
Suitable for: ten to 13s
INTRODUCTION‘Kindness’ may not quite have made it into the lists of most widely used words of the last twelve months, but it must have come pretty close! In the midst of all the difficulties, there has never been more of a need to show kindness to others, and many children and young people will have their own stories of what this means to them. This session goes further and explores what the Bible has to say about kindness.
LISTEN AND DISCUSSAs you begin, invite the young people to share some stories of kindness from the last few months. Can they recall something kind that someone else has done for them? What about ways they have shown kindness, perhaps to their friends or neighbours? You may be able to find some stories in the media of the way people have gone out of their way to be kind.

Play the track, distributing copies of the lyrics if needed. Explain to the children that we would probably all agree with this song; we all want to show and be shown kindness. The song offers a couple of examples of ways we can show kindness – ask the young people what else they would add to this to create a list together.

Explain that the Bible has a lot to say about kindness, as they may expect. Some of these verses remind us of the reason we should be kind, while others may surprise us. Look together at one or two of the verses or divide the young people into smaller groups and ask each group to look at a verse, before feeding back what they find.

  • Ephesians 4:32
  • Luke 6:35
  • Galatians 5:22
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Ask the young people to share what they notice from these verses. Explain that God living in us through his Holy Spirit enables us to be kind and that kindness from God should be extended not only to our friends and neighbours, but further, even to our enemies, as God shows kindness to us. Invite the young people to share some examples of what this might look like, as well as talking about the times when this is particularly challenging. As you draw to a close, pray for the group, as appropriate, that they would be filled with the Holy Spirit and able to treat all people with kindness.
is a freelance writer and an experienced children's and youth work leader. She can be found at theresourcescupboard.co.uk.
Ready to use reflective journal
Remember the Lord
Proverbs is a book in the Bible full of wise advice.
In chapter 3, verse 6, it says:

“Remember the Lord in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.”

Draw, write or doodle in the boxes below what your typical day looks like: what is included in your “everything you do”?

As you draw, think about how you can remember God in those moments.

Are there ways you could remind yourself to turn to God throughout the day?

Perhaps as you draw, you come to times and activities where you feel unsure what “the right way” is. Doodle around this on the sheet, asking God to show you which path to choose.
Put this sheet somewhere you will see it in the morning, so you can be reminded to commit your day to God.

You can print the boxes on their own here.
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