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Ups and Downs - A Lesson Plan on the Highs and Lows in Life

In this lesson plan, we delve into the profound event of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, as recounted in Mark 9:2-10, inviting students to journey alongside Peter, John, and James on a transformative ascent with Jesus. This narrative not only unveils the divine glory of Christ but also intimately connects with the personal spiritual journeys of believers.

As educators and catechists, we have the unique opportunity to guide our youth through this narrative, encouraging them to reflect on their own encounters with the divine and the significance of these moments in their faith journey, focusing on the ups and downs in life.

This lesson is designed to facilitate a deep, introspective exploration of faith, challenging students to consider their perceptions of Jesus before and after understanding His divine nature. It aims to bridge the extraordinary experience of the Transfiguration with the everyday realities of discipleship, emphasizing the sustenance that such mountaintop experiences provide during ups and downs.

Through interactive discussions, personal reflections, and engaging activities, we will help students recognize the enduring presence of Christ in their lives, fostering a resilient faith that thrives not only in moments of spiritual elevation but also amidst the challenges of daily life.

Opening Game for the Ups and Downs Lesson Plan

Start this lesson plan by playing Cups and Downs. In this game, players must turn plastic cups over. See the complete instructions here.

Alright, everyone, let’s take a moment to reflect on the game of Cups and Downs we just played. You saw how quickly a cup could go from being right side up to upside down. It’s a lot like the rollercoaster of life, isn’t it? One minute, everything's looking up, and the next, you might find yourself facing a down you didn’t see coming.

Now, let’s bring it into our lives. I want each of you to think about your past week. Share with us one peak moment—a time you felt on top of the world, and then, if you’re comfortable, share a valley moment—a time when things didn’t go as planned, and you felt down.

Go around the room. Have each youth tell one high point from the past week and one low point.

These highs and lows, these ups and downs, they’re a fundamental part of our journey. They shape us, teach us, and sometimes challenge us in ways we didn’t expect. But remember, it’s during those high points that we gather strength and hope to face the lows. And sometimes, coming down from those highs can feel challenging, making the valleys seem even deeper.

As we transition to our scripture reading, keep this in mind. We’re about to explore a story where the disciples experience an ultimate high and are then faced with the reality of returning to their daily lives. Let’s see what lessons we can draw from their experience and how we can apply them to our own ups and downs.

Scripture Reading for the Ups and Downs Lesson Plan

Read the following gospel passage:

Mark 9:2-10 (The Transfiguration of our Lord) - the Gospel Reading for the 2nd Sunday of Lent – Year B

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them.

Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.

Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here!Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified.

Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.

As they were coming down from the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.

Mark 9:2-10

Discussion for the Ups and Downs Lesson Plan

Imagine that you are with Peter, John and James. Jesus takes you on a hike up a mountain. It is a sunny day. There is a soft breeze blowing. It is nice to get away from the crowds and have a chance to spend some quiet time with Jesus.

Suddenly, something happens. Jesus becomes the brightest thing you have ever seen. Elijah and Moses, who are Old Testament superheroes, show up. Peter even suggests putting up some tents so you could just stay here. And then to top it all off, you hear the voice of the Father, calling Jesus “Beloved”.

And then it is just you and Jesus again. Jesus says, “Let’s go home. And don’t tell anyone about this.”

  • What would your reaction be?
  • Would you want to stay on the mountain a little longer and talk to Jesus about what happened?
  • If you thought Jesus was just a man before, how would the transfiguration change your view of him?
  • Would you be ready to go back down the mountain right away?

Now you are back in the local village. Once again, you are with the other apostles. All of the cares of daily life as a disciple of Jesus are right there with you. Somebody has to get food for the meal. Who is going to clean up afterwards? We are moving on to another town tomorrow, and we need to get our things packed up. The more you get caught up in the tasks of the day, the harder it is to remember your experience on the mountain.

The transfiguration of Jesus on the mountaintop helped the apostles understand that he was truly the Son of God, the Light of the World.

Think about your own life's ups and downs. Moments when you felt incredibly close to God—how do they shape you, especially when you face hardships or mundane tasks? Just like the apostles, you might find that remembering these mountaintop experiences gives you strength and perspective. It's not just about longing to go back but carrying forward what you've learned, letting those moments of closeness to God illuminate your path through darker or more ordinary times.

  • Do you think in later days, when the authorities were closing in on Jesus, or later when the early Church was being persecuted, the memory of this experience helped the apostles?
  • Can you think of a time when you felt especially close to God?
  • Does remembering this experience help you when you experience hardship?

Retreats can often be mountaintop experiences. You can feel so close to Jesus and those around you that you are going to explode with energy. But then you have to go home and deal with homework and chores and siblings. But you will have other times when you feel especially close to God also. These are important also.

Remembering these mountaintop experiences can be really helpful. You can’t go back, but you can remember what you learned. And the memory can help you through more difficult events in your lives

Small Group Reflection Questions for the Ups and Downs Lesson Plan

Following the large group discussion, break into small groups to dive in deeper:

  • What are some of the best experiences you’ve had in your life?
  • What was really great about these experiences?
  • How did you feel when these events were over?
  • Do you have any photos or mementos to help you remember how you felt?

The following questions are especially helpful if this is being done in conjunction with a retreat:

  • What are some things you can do to help you remember your mountaintop?
    • Keep a journal
    • Receive the sacraments, just like you did on retreat
    • Keep in touch with people who shared your mountaintop experience and see how they are doing
    • Spend some time talking to Jesus in adoration

Challenge for the Ups and Downs Lesson Plan

This week, I challenge each of you to take a journey back to a moment where you felt an unmistakable closeness to God. It could be a time when your faith felt as bright and vivid as the transfiguration itself, a peak in the midst of the everyday ups and downs of life. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide you as you dive deep into this memory.

Close your eyes, and let yourself be transported back to that moment. What did you see? Can you recall the sounds that surrounded you, the scents in the air, the texture of what you touched, or even the taste of that experience? Immerse yourself fully, reliving the sensations and emotions that made this time stand out.

But don't just visit this memory—bring it back with you. Hold onto that feeling of closeness to God as you navigate the coming week, through its highs and lows, its challenges and joys. Let this remembered moment be a source of strength and peace for you, a reminder of God's ever-present love and light in your life, especially when you're facing the downs after the ups.

Prayer for the Ups and Downs Lesson Plan

As we come to the close of our time together, let's gather our thoughts and hearts in prayer, reflecting on the journey we've embarked upon today. We've explored the ups and downs of our faith, just like the disciples experienced with Jesus. Now, let's turn to God, asking for His guidance and presence in every moment of our lives.

Let us pray:

Heavenly Father, in the midst of life's ups and downs, we seek Your constant presence and love. As we journey through the highs and lows, help us to remember the moments when we have felt closest to You. In the challenging times, remind us of Your transfiguring light that guides and uplifts us. Grant us the courage to face the downs with faith, and the grace to cherish the ups with gratitude. May we always turn to You, drawing strength and peace from our relationship with You. Amen.

As we go forth, let's carry this lesson in our hearts, remembering that God is with us through all the ups and downs of life. Let His light guide us, today and every day.

Resources for the Ups and Downs Lesson Plan

Themes in the Ups and Downs Lesson Plan

In guiding our youth through their spiritual journey, it's crucial to address the realities of their faith experiences, marked by various ups and downs. This lesson plan has been carefully designed to engage young believers with themes that resonate with their day-to-day lives, while deeply rooting them in the transformative truths of the Gospel. Here are the key themes that have been woven throughout our discussions:

  1. The Transfiguration as a Mountaintop Experience: Highlighting the peak moments in our faith journey where we feel closest to God, and how these experiences illuminate our understanding of Jesus as the Son of God.
  2. Navigating Life's Ups and Downs: Encouraging youths to recognize the natural ebb and flow of life's circumstances and their impact on our spiritual journey, teaching resilience through faith.
  3. The Presence of God in Daily Life: Emphasizing the continuous presence of God in both the high points and the low points of our lives, and how we can remain connected to Him through prayer and reflection.
  4. Reflection and Memory: The importance of reflecting on past experiences of God's presence to find strength and guidance during current challenges.
  5. The Role of the Holy Spirit: Encouraging an active engagement with the Holy Spirit to recall and relive moments of closeness with God, fostering a deeper relationship with Him.
  6. Community and Support: Recognizing the role of the Christian community in supporting each other through the ups and downs of life, just as the apostles supported one another.
  7. Action and Contemplation: Balancing our active service to others with contemplative practices that nourish our relationship with God, especially in the context of the ups and downs of ministry and daily responsibilities.

By focusing on these themes, catechists and youth ministers can help young people navigate their spiritual lives with confidence, grounded in the knowledge that God's love and presence remain constant, no matter the ups and downs they face.

Background Material for the Ups and Downs Lesson Plan

The Transfiguration of Our Lord, as recounted in the Gospels, including Mark 9:2-10, stands as a pivotal moment in the New Testament, offering a profound insight into the identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and His mission of salvation. This episode not only reveals the glory of Christ but also foreshadows His Resurrection and the glorification of the human nature into divine. By delving into this scriptural event through our lesson plan, we align with the broader Catholic teachings that emphasize the significance of Christ's divinity, His role in salvation history, and the importance of faith in the life of believers.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) underscores the importance of the Transfiguration.

For a moment Jesus discloses his divine glory, confirming Peter's confession. He also reveals that he will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to "enter into his glory". Moses and Elijah had seen God's glory on the Mountain; the Law and the Prophets had announced the Messiah's sufferings. Christ's Passion is the will of the Father: the Son acts as God's servant; the cloud indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. "The whole Trinity appeared: the Father in the voice; the Son in the man; the Spirit in the shining cloud."

CCC 555

This further illustrates how this event was a crucial moment for the apostles to strengthen their faith, especially to prepare them for the scandal of the Cross. In this light, our lesson on the Transfiguration supports broader Catholic teachings by highlighting the dual nature of Christ—fully human and fully divine—and by inviting the youth to reflect on the mystery of suffering, glory, and the ultimate promise of resurrection.

Moreover, the theme of navigating life's ups and downs with faith finds resonance in Catholic teaching about the Paschal Mystery—the suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. The CCC reminds us that we, too, are called to participate in this mystery through our own lives.

On the threshold of the public life: the baptism; on the threshold of the Passover: the Transfiguration. Jesus' baptism proclaimed "the mystery of the first regeneration", namely, our Baptism; the Transfiguration "is the sacrament of the second regeneration": our own Resurrection. From now on we share in the Lord's Resurrection through the Spirit who acts in the sacraments of the Body of Christ. The Transfiguration gives us a foretaste of Christ's glorious coming, when he "will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body." But it also recalls that "it is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God":

CCC 556

This participation involves experiencing our own forms of suffering and moments of joy, much like the apostles did. Our lesson plan encourages young people to see these experiences as integral to their spiritual growth, teaching them to find God's presence in every moment and to trust in His providential care.

The lesson also draws from the teachings on prayer and the Holy Spirit. According to CCC 2560, "The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being." This analogy is beautifully aligned with our challenge to the youth to reflect on moments they felt close to God, encouraging an active prayer life that seeks and recognizes God in all circumstances.

Lastly, the emphasis on community and support in facing life's ups and downs echoes the Church's teaching on the communion of saints and the importance of the Christian community. Just as the apostles supported each other in their journey of faith, our lesson plan underscores the value of the faith community in nurturing and sustaining individual faith journeys.

In essence, this lesson plan not only explores a significant biblical event but also integrates key aspects of Catholic doctrine, offering a comprehensive approach to understanding and living out one's faith amidst the realities of life. Through scriptural engagement, reflection on Catholic teachings, and practical application, it aims to deepen young believers' relationship with Christ and equip them to navigate the complexities of life with faith and courage.

Music Suggestions for the Ups and Downs Lesson Plan

Mountain Time A Lesson Plan on Mountains in the Bible
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Mountain Time – A Lesson Plan on Mountains in the Bible

As an enriching supplement to the Ups and Downs lesson plan, consider integrating the Mountain Time lesson plan, which delves into the significance of mountains in the Bible. This additional resource will help youth understand why mountains are often depicted as sacred spaces for encountering God, echoing the mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration. Through exploring various biblical mountains, students will gain insights into seeking their own metaphorical mountaintops in faith, further illuminating the journey through life's ups and downs with a deeper spiritual perspective. This complementary lesson offers a broader context to the highs and lows of our spiritual journey.

Youth Ministry Lesson Plans
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More Youth Ministry Lesson Plans and Reflections

To further enrich your exploration of life's spiritual ups and downs, explore our collection of free lesson plans. Designed to offer a structured approach for presenting information to youth, these plans come complete with reflection questions for small group discussions, aiding in the application of learned concepts to daily life. Additionally, many of these lesson plans incorporate engaging games, meaningful prayer sessions, and weekly challenges to keep the momentum going. These resources are tailored to complement the Ups and Downs lesson plan, providing a well-rounded catechetical experience that resonates deeply with young believers.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I introduce the concept of ups and downs in the context of faith to young people?

Explain that just like in life, our faith journey is filled with ups and downs. Use the story of the Transfiguration as a prime example of a mountaintop experience (an "up") and contrast it with the challenges and normalcy of daily life (the "downs") that the apostles faced afterward.

What activities can help illustrate the theme of ups and downs in this lesson?

Consider interactive activities like the Cups and Downs game mentioned in the lesson. This physical representation can help students visualize the concept. Reflective discussions about personal experiences of highs and lows in their faith journeys can also be impactful.

How can I help students relate the Transfiguration's ups and downs to their personal lives?

Encourage them to share their own "mountaintop" experiences where they felt close to God, as well as times they've struggled or felt distant. This can help them see how the apostles' experiences mirror their own spiritual journeys.

What scriptures besides Mark 9:2-10 can support the lesson on ups and downs?

Incorporate Psalms that reflect on distress and deliverance, such as Psalm 23, which speaks of God guiding us through both green pastures and dark valleys. These can help students see the biblical basis for experiencing ups and downs in faith.

How do I address doubts or fears that may arise from discussing the downs of faith?

Reassure students that doubts and fears are a natural part of faith. Emphasize that God remains with us through all the ups and downs, offering us grace and guidance even when we struggle to feel His presence.

Can this lesson on ups and downs help students dealing with current personal struggles?

Absolutely. By recognizing that the apostles also faced challenges, students can find comfort knowing that experiencing downs does not mean they are failing in their faith. It's an opportunity for growth and deeper reliance on God.

How should I conclude the lesson on ups and downs?

End with a reflective prayer or meditation, inviting students to offer their personal ups and downs to God. This can help them feel supported and understood, both by their faith community and by God Himself.

What follow-up activities can reinforce the lesson's themes of ups and downs?

Encourage students to keep a journal of their daily ups and downs, noting how they see God working in both. Periodic group sharing sessions can also reinforce the lesson's themes and build community support.

How can I make the ups and downs lesson engaging for students of different ages?

Tailor discussions and activities to the age group. For younger students, more interactive and visual activities can be effective, while older students may appreciate deeper, more reflective discussions on the scripture and its application to life's challenges.

Are there any resources to help students continue exploring faith's ups and downs outside of the lesson?

Recommend books, podcasts, or online articles that discuss faith through life's challenges. Provide a list of songs that reflect on the theme of ups and downs can also be a helpful way for students to engage with the topic on their own.


The "Ups and Downs" lesson plan offers a comprehensive and engaging approach to exploring the nuances of our faith journey, echoing the experiences of the apostles during the Transfiguration. This lesson plan not only deepens the understanding of key biblical events but also connects these moments to the personal spiritual experiences of young believers, illustrating the ever-present reality of ups and downs in our relationship with God.

For teachers, catechists, and youth ministers, this free resource provides a valuable tool to facilitate meaningful discussions, encourage personal reflection, and foster a supportive community among students as they navigate the complexities of their faith. By embracing the themes of this lesson, educators can help young people recognize the presence of God in every aspect of their lives, empowering them to face life's ups and downs with faith and resilience.

As we guide our youth through these discussions and reflections, we not only enrich their spiritual lives but also equip them to carry these lessons into their daily challenges, ensuring that the message of God's enduring love and guidance resonates deeply within their hearts.

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