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Let There Be Life

Children's Ministry Magazine

Christmas is the celebration of Christ coming to earth as a baby.

And then there was light!

Easter is the realization of why Christ came. It's a time of reflection on the death of Christ and of rejoicing in his resurrection.

And then there was life!

Don't miss out on the opportunities to create memorable lessons for your children during this Easter season. Use the following ideas to direct children toward the risen Jesus so they see the true meaning of this holy season.

PALM SUNDAY RELAY

For this relay you'll need teams of five to 10, palm branches (possibly left over from your Palm Sunday service), old T-shirts, and a carpeted playing surface. Before the game, designate a start and finish line.

Rules for the game:

1. Each team consists of one "donkey" (a bigger child), one "Jesus" (a smaller child), and three to eight townspeople.

2. The children chosen to be Jesus ride their donkey team member from the start line to the finish line.

3. Townspeople pick up branches or shirts after the team's donkey passes over them and put them in front again. Townspeople yell "Hosanna" as they run with the branches or T-shirts.

4. The donkeys can only move ahead if their "feet" are on shirts or palm branches that the townspeople lay down in front of them.

Ruth Lundblad
Eau Claire, Wisconsin

EASTER SOAP EGGS

• Theme: New life in Jesus
• Text: John 3:1-8, 16

• Preparation: You'll need glycerin soap blocks, soap fragrance, egg-shaped molds (all available at craft stores) and small crosses (available at most Christian bookstores or at Oriental Trading, www.oriental.com or 800-228-2269). Melt the glycerin and add fragrance according to directions. Then pour it into the molds, filling them halfway. Let the molds sit for two to three minutes until a crust forms on top of the soap. Place a small cross on each mold, and fill the rest of the mold with the glycerin. Let the soap harden completely. (You can put them in the freezer to speed up the process.) Remove the soap eggs from the mold. Make a soap egg for each child.

• The Message: (Give each child a soap egg.) These soap eggs can remind us of some very special things. What special surprise does an egg sometimes have in it? Many baby animals are born from eggs. What are some animals that are born from eggs?

(Read John 3:1-8.) This Scripture tells us that getting new life from Jesus is like being born again. How do we get this new life? (Read John 3:16.)
This soap egg is my gift to you. When you see the cross, remember that God gave us his son so we could have new life.
(Close by thanking God that he sent Jesus to give us new life.)

Jill Witt
Algona, Iowa

COOKIE POPS

Follow your favorite sugar cookie recipe to make these cookies on a stick. Roll the dough to approximately ½-inch in thickness. Cut out large cross-shaped cookies. (You can create your own template or freehand the shape with a knife.) Press a cookie stick about 2 inches into each cookie. Bake until the cookie edges are golden. Frost when cool. (You can buy 6-inch cookie sticks at craft or culinary stores, or from Wilton at www.wilton.com, or [630] 963-1818).

EASTER EGG HUNT

We always have an Easter egg hunt for our Kids' Church (ages 4 to 12) where we hide plastic eggs filled with candy. But it's a struggle to make sure everyone has an equal amount of candy and is pleased with the outcome.

This year we hid the eggs as usual, but all the eggs were empty. We gave the younger kids a one-minute head start. Children put their eggs in their brown paper sacks and couldn't open them. Then we had the children put the bags under their chairs and listen to the Easter story.

When I got to the part about how Jesus' friends came to the tomb and found something they didn't expect, I paused and said, "You all know the rest of the story, so go ahead and open your eggs." There was a range of immediate responses. The older boys were upset that there was nothing in the eggs. Younger children were sad. I had the kids tell me how they felt to find their eggs empty.

I brought them back to the Easter story and told them that's how the people who found Jesus' empty tomb felt. This made a strong impression on the children.

I then finished the story of the Resurrection and told the children that Jesus had much more in store than an empty tomb-and so did I. We gave each child pre-packed, equally filled bags of candy. Our kids were surprised and pleased.

Lori Warning
Bettendorf, Iowa

PAPIER-MACHE FUN

Papier-mâché is an involving craft for children, but the outcome is worth it. Be prepared: The process can be time consuming and messy.

Preparation: For each child you'll need an inflated and tied-off balloon, dozens of newspaper strips (approximately 2x8-inches), and a 2x10-inch cardboard strip. You'll also need a thin mixture of plaster of Paris in a pie plate or other open container and towels for clean-up. Cover your work area with newspaper, and provide painters smocks or old T-shirts for children to wear.

Tell kids to:

• Staple a cardboard strip into a "crown" and place it under your balloon to help it stand up.
• Dip a newspaper strip into the plaster of Paris mixture and then remove the excess mixture by running the strip between your index and middle fingers.
• Lay your lightly coated strip onto your balloon and smooth down the strip so it lays flat on your balloon.
• Repeat this process until your entire balloon is covered by two layers of strips. (Help the children achieve uniformity in covering the balloon for best results.)

EASTER EGG PINATA

This fun Easter craft will take four weeks to complete; but when children are finished they'll have a great papier-mâché piñata. You may want to make a sample in advance to anticipate any difficulties. You'll need all necessary papier-mâché supplies (see the "Papier-Mâché Fun" box); a craft knife; paint; paint brushes; individually wrapped candies; string; duct tape and a 2x8-inch cardboard strip for each child.

Week 1
Tell kids to:

• Follow the "Papier-Mâché Fun" instructions.
• Allow the balloons to dry for one week.

Week 2
Tell kids to:

• Work with an adult to cut two small holes in the top of your balloon. Remove balloon fragments.

Week 3
Tell kids to:

• Put on a painter's smock or old T-shirt.
• Paint the outside of your balloon shell, and allow the paint to dry.

Week 4
Tell kids to:

• Put the candy in your piñata.
• Tie a string through the opening in your piñata top. Duct tape around the opening.
• Take your piñata home and enjoy batting it until it breaks.

Terry Williams
Queensland, Australia

EASTER EGG SURPRISES

• Theme: New life in Christ
• Text: Luke 24:45-47

• Preparation: You'll need three 9-inch egg-shaped balloons; pastel paints; a craft knife; a small stuffed bunny; a small Easter basket, with or without candy; a small Bible; and several 3x5 cards.

One week before Easter, papier-mâché the three balloons (see the "Papier-Mâché Fun" box). Once dry, cut large enough openings in the balloons so you can place the stuffed bunny in the first balloon, the small Easter basket in the second balloon, and the small Bible inside the third balloon. Replace the cutout pieces and apply more papier-mâché to seal the Easter eggs.

Allow the eggs to dry. Then paint them with pastels. On Easter Sunday before children arrive, hide the eggs in areas in or near your room. On separate 3x5 cards, write clues about where each egg is hidden.

• The Message: Today is a special day. What day is it? What fun things do you do on Easter? What do you like most about those things?

How many of you have an Easter egg hunt on Easter? Easter egg hunts are fun, and today we're going on the most important Easter egg hunt of all. We're going to hunt for the real meaning of Easter. (Have three children help you find the true meaning of Easter. Give one child the clue to the egg with the Easter bunny inside. When that child finds the egg, crack it open by hitting it against the corner of a table or a chair. Show children what's inside.) Well, a bunny is something we see at Easter time, but I don't know if that really is the true reason we celebrate Easter. We should look some more.

(Repeat the same process with the second egg.) Easter baskets and candy are something we see at Easter, aren't they? How many of you get candy at Easter? Is that what Easter is really about?

(Repeat the same process with the third egg.) Here's a Bible. Let's see if we can find the real meaning of Easter in here. Let's read Luke 24:45-47. (Read the Scripture. Then tell children how they can trust Jesus for eternal life. Close in prayer.)

Cindy Schmidt
Mulvane, Kansas

EASTER TREASURE HUNT

For Easter we have an Easter treasure hunt. We have groups of children visit 14 numbered locations around our church where they read Scriptures related to Holy Week and receive items or "treasures" related to those Scriptures.

We place the children, whom we call Treasure Hunters, into groups of no more than 10. We assign each group an adult Treasure Leader. The Treasure Leader has an "Easter Treasure Hunt Guide" that includes the Scriptures and treasures the groups will collect. Groups go to their first location (each group's location is different) where an adult called a Treasure Keeper asks them to read a Scripture and gives them an item or "treasure" related to that Scripture. The Treasure Keeper then marks off that treasure on the group's guide.

Lisa Keeling
Cedar Park, Texas

EASTER TREASURE HUNT GUIDE

Treasure Leaders and Treasure Keepers all need a copy of this list.

Scriptures Treasures

1. Mark 14:3-9 Perfume
2. Matthew 26:14-16 Nickels
3. John 12:12-16 Palm Branches
4. Luke 22:19 Bread
5. Luke 22:47-53 Ear
6. Luke 22:54-62 Feathers
7. Matthew 27:22-25 Water
8. John 19:2-3 Purple Cloth
9. Mark 15:21 Cross
10. Luke 23:38-43 Sign
11. John 19:28-30 Sponge
12. John 19:38-42 Spices
13. Matthew 28:1-7 Stone
14. John 20:24-29 Nail

REMEMBER EASTER

To help children remember the true meaning of Easter, we do the following activity.

For each child, you'll need six plastic eggs, a marshmallow chick (to symbolize new life), an angel figure or an angel to color, a small stone, a coloring picture of a sun rising, and a small wooden cross (to symbolize Jesus' resurrection).

Have children put one item in each egg and keep one egg empty to represent the empty tomb. Gather children in a circle with their eggs.

As you read aloud the following poem, have children show the egg that corresponds with each line:

E is for Easter, coming again soon, (marshmallow chick)
A is for angels near the tomb, (angel figure)
S is for the stone which was rolled away, (stone)
T is for the tomb found empty that day, (empty egg)
E is for early morning, the women are glad, (sunrise picture)
R is for the risen Lord, no need to be sad. (cross)

Susan Grover
Rancho Santa Margarita, California

EMPTY TOMBS

• Theme: Jesus' empty tomb
• Text: Luke 24:1-12

• Preparation: You'll need an "Empty Tomb" roll for each child. To make these, wrap a packaged crescent roll triangle around a marshmallow. Dip the roll in melted butter, then cinnamon and sugar. Cook the rolls according to the instructions on the roll package. The marshmallow "disappears" and leaves an empty, sweet surprise.

• The Message: (Read the Scripture.) I have a snack for you today that'll help us remember this story and the real meaning of Easter. (Give each child a roll. Have children take one bite out of their rolls.) What do you see inside your roll? How do you think the women felt when they found the tomb empty? Remember that even as these rolls are empty, Jesus' tomb was empty, too, because he rose from the dead.

Gordon and Becki West
Mesa, Arizona

ICE CUBE SUFFERING

• Theme: Jesus' suffering
• Text: Matthew 27:27-36, 45-50

• Preparation: You'll need two ice cubes and a paper towel for each child. Dim the lights and play soft music in the background.

• The Message: Today we're going to do something to help us think about Jesus' crucifixion on a cross. (Have kids each take an ice cube in each hand and rest their hands on a paper towel. Read the Scripture. If this takes more than two minutes, have the children put down their ice cubes as you continue reading.)

How did it feel to hold the ice cubes in your hands? What did you want to do with the ice? How do you think Jesus felt as he was crucified on a cross? Do you think he wanted to come down from the cross? Why or why not? Why didn't Jesus get off the cross instead of dying?

I don't think it was the soldiers who kept Jesus on the cross. I don't even think it was the nails that kept Jesus on the cross. What kept Jesus on the cross was his love for you and you and you...(continue to point to each child.) Jesus died on the cross because he wanted you to live with him forever in heaven. That's pretty amazing love!

(Close by thanking Jesus for loving us and suffering for us.)

Mary Kim
Schaumburg, Illinois

BUTTERFLY WINGS

We used the caterpillar's life cycle to explain the death and resurrection of Jesus to our 3- to 6-year-olds. We explained that the caterpillar lives its life on the ground and then makes a cocoon where it seems to die. But the caterpillar isn't dead; a miracle is happening in the cocoon, and the caterpillar is turning into a butterfly.

We tell the children that this is similar to what happened to Jesus. He was alive here on earth, but after he was crucified and died, his friends put him in a tomb. We explain that the butterfly only seems to die, but that Jesus really died. Something marvelous happened for Jesus, too; God raised him from the dead, and he was alive again.

To reinforce this lesson, have children make butterfly wings on Palm Sunday. Tell them that they'll be leaving their craft with you until Easter.

What you'll need: Clear Con-Tact paper, masking tape, glitter, sequins, a permanent marker, craft sticks, chenille wires, brown paper bags, scissors, glue or tape. Peel the backing off the Con-Tact paper, and tape the edges to the table with the sticky side up for each child.

Tell kids to:

• Decorate the sticky side of your Con-Tact paper with glitter and sequins.
• When you're finished, I'll help you lay a sticky piece of Con-Tact paper over your creation.
• Let's write your name on the back of your paper with a permanent marker.

After class:

Cut each child's Con-Tact paper creation into a butterfly shape. Glue the craft stick to the center of the butterfly for the body. Glue the chenille wire to the craft stick to make antennae.

Cut up brown paper bags and wrap each butterfly very loosely in the brown paper to resemble a cocoon. You can simply fold a piece of the brown paper over each butterfly and seal the side and ends with glue or tape. Write each child's name on his or her cocoon.

On Easter Sunday, remind children of how Jesus came to life after his death. Give children their cocoons and have them gently open them to reveal their butterflies.

Pat Sullivan
Greenville, South Carolina

SIN BULLETIN BOARD

• Theme: Jesus forgives our sins
• Text: John 3:16

• Preparation: You'll need a pair of safety scissors for each child, orange paper, markers, staples and a stapler, a 3x4-foot foam core cross, and a plain bulletin board.

• The Message: Think of something you've done wrong that you feel bad about. That's a sin. (Give each child a piece of orange paper and a pair of safety scissors.) Now cut a shape out of the orange paper that reminds you of that sin. We'll pretend that this orange shape is our sin; don't write anything on your paper. Now, I'm going to give you some time to ask God to forgive you for your sin.

(Take the orange shapes from the children and staple them in a line from the top of the board to the bottom. Then show children the foam core cross.)

Even though Jesus died a painful death on an ugly cross for us, the cross has become something beautiful because of what it stands for. Jesus died because he loves us and wants us to have everlasting life.

(Staple the cross over the orange papers.) Jesus covers our ugly sins with his beautiful life. Let's make this cross beautiful with flowers and other brightly colored drawings. (Have children decorate the cross with markers. Close by thanking God that Jesus' cross covers our sins.)

Melodee Lovering
Dundalk, Ontario

MINI EASTER GARDEN

We use this craft to help children remember the garden tomb that the women visited early on Easter morning.

What you'll need: For each child, you'll need a shallow dish or tray; garden soil; moss, cut grass or sand; craft sticks; glue; a small pot; a flat stone large enough to cover the mouth of the pot; egg cups (or other small containers); small flowers; and gravel.

Tell kids to:

• Fill your tray with soil.
• Arrange the soil to make a hill on one side of the tray and a flat area on the other.
• Cover the soil with moss, grass, or sand.
• Make crosses with the craft sticks and glue. Then place them on the hilltop.
• Press the small pot into the "hillside" to make a cave or tomb. Place the stone over the mouth of the tomb.
• Press the egg cups into the soil around the flat "garden" area and fill them with the small flowers.
• Using the gravel, make a path coming from the tomb to show how the disciples ran there on Easter morning.
When the scenes are completed, gather children around the gardens and retell the Easter story. When the part of the story is read where the rock is rolled away, have children move back the stones from their tombs to show that they're empty.

Susan Grover
Rancho Santa Margarita, California


THE RESURRECTION TRAIL

We create a Resurrection Trail at our church and let children visit these different stations that tell the Easter Story.

Whom Do You Seek?

• What you'll need-The first station is located inside, near the entrance to your church sanctuary. Build a huge cardboard tomb, painted to look like gray rock. Turn out most of the lights. You'll need a lamp, a bag of spices, an angel in a robe, a cardboard tombstone, and a sheet.

• What you'll do-Have the three "Marys" walk to the tomb carrying a lamp and a bag of spices.

When the group gets to the tomb, they're met by a white-robed angel who asks the Marys, "Whom do you seek?"

They reply, "Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified."

The angel replies, "He is not here." (At this point the angel rolls away a cardboard stone to show an empty tomb with a folded white sheet inside.) The angel continues, "Now go and tell his disciples that the Lamb of God has risen and has become the strong Lion of Judah!"

The Marys all bow their heads and say, "The Lord is risen who was crucified for us! Alleluia!"

At this point, the children sing an Easter song.

The New Fire

• What you'll need-For this station, you need a flint and steel kit that you can order through the Boy Scouts distributor at www.scoutstuff.org or 800-323-0732. Use very fine steel wool and several candles. Do this on a wood or metal shelf, and have a pail of water handy in case of fire. For safety, do this station outside the church on your concrete walk.

• What you'll do-Explain that there are some things that seem impossible to us, yet for God nothing is impossible. When the disciples saw Jesus die on the cross, they must've thought there was no hope of his ever living again after such a horrible death.

But with God nothing is impossible. Say, "If I told you that I could make steel burn red hot just by hitting a stone against another piece of steel, you might think that is impossible, too. But watch what happens."

Strike the flint against the steel above an unfolded pad of very fine steel wool. If it catches the spark, it'll start glowing red immediately. Blow on it gently to get a flame that you can light several candles from. Take these candles inside and set them in front of a cross at the front of the sanctuary. Explain that God relit the world by raising his son Jesus from the dead, and that Jesus is the light of the world.

The Resurrection Path

• What you'll need-This activity requires brightly colored paper sandal footprints. Lay out a trail of these sandal prints all around your church, so children get the idea of walking in Jesus' footsteps. End the trail in a darkened room. Place different shoes at the start of the trail, including baby shoes, kids' athletic shoes, slippers, and work boots as a reminder that all Christians can walk in Jesus steps. You'll also need a picture of Jesus blessing the children, and a hollow chocolate Easter egg for each child.

• What you'll do-Before starting on the path, read aloud Romans 6:4. Lead children along the path. In the darkened room at the end of the trail, present the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. Then show a picture of Jesus blessing the children. Conclude with Paul's prayer from Ephesians 3:17, "I pray that Christ Jesus will make his home in your hearts."

Turn on the lights and conclude the Resurrection Path by saying, "Jesus rose from his tomb. We can remember this every time we crack open an egg because when we see the empty shell, it helps us remember that when the angel rolled away the stone, there was no one inside the tomb."

Then give each child a hollow, chocolate Easter egg as a reminder.

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