As a Children’s Minister, my biggest question is how to make Holy Week special and fulfilling for children. This week should be a big deal. It is a big deal!
In addition to the ideas on my previous blog on Holy Week, we are faced in 2020 with one of the biggest challenges for Holy Week that leave us struggling with, “What do we do when we can not gather to prepare or worship?”
Here are ideas for keeping Holy Week that families can do with little to no preparation:
Palm Sunday: have the children gather greenery from their yard. Do a children’s moment either during the service and tell the children the story or have a Children’s Chapel after and retell the story. Encourage them to yell, “Hosanna!” and wave their greenery. Have the family create a “Holy Week” space in their house (a corner or table) and place the greenery their as a reminder of the start of the week. They can make a crown for the king. A battery operated candle can be used for prayer time.
Wednesday of Holy Week: have a Children’s Chapel of what has happened and what is to come. I talk about Jesus as teacher, healer, storyteller, and messiah. The Godly Play Faces of Easter are very good for this. Ask the children to choose a role of Jesus and put a symbol representing that role on their “Holy Week” space. Letting the children choose the object or picture creates a beautiful chance at sharing.
Maundy Thursday: have a Children’s Chapel before the Maundy Thursday Service and explain how this Service will be different. Tell the story of the Last Supper and the washing of the feet. Encourage each family to wash each others feet or hands before they eat tonight. Add a small towel to the “Holy Week” space.
Good Friday: have a Children’s Chapel before the Good Friday Service and explain how this service is different. Tell the story and talk about being afraid. Remind them that this is not the end of the story! After the service, create a cross from twigs or other objects at home and put it on your “Holy Week” space.
Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil: depending on which service you will do, have a children’s chapel explaining what will happen and why. If doing Holy Saturday, it is a beautiful time to talk about waiting, about God never leaving us, about love, and about family. To the “Holy Week” space add a picture of the family that is not there with you. If doing the Easter Vigil, have the children draw their favorite Bible Story and add it to the “Holy Week” space. During Children’s Chapel (done before the service), expain what the Vigil is, encourage families to light a candle and turn off all the lights until Easter is announced.
Easter: have the children pick flowers or draw flowers. Remove all the items from the “Holy Week” space and replace with flowers. During the children’s moment or during Children’s Chapel, tell the story of love winning and light winning. Tell the story of the resurrection with enthusiasm and excitement to emphasize the big deal this is.
Viritual Easter Egg Hunt: one of the ways, I am making Easter special for our children, is during each of the above named Children’s Chapels, I have cut a very large egg out of paper and put a Bible story picture or symbol on it. For the week of Holy Week and the first week of Easter, every time I do a chapel, I will have an “egg” in the background. Children find the eggs and write the Bible Story or symbol down. Those who have found all of the eggs and named the story get a goodie bag of Easter treats on Pentecost or the next time we are able to gather. (If you are not on a “Stay at Home Order”, then you can deliver the treat bag to their houses.
Educating and helping families to find ways to honor the
week before Easter, known as Holy Week, is one of the many blessings church
leaders can give. It is the basis of our
Christianity. It is the greatest example
of love in action.
The week is full of drama, yet so much beauty. It is a chance for families to dive deep into
their faith. It gives a way to talk
about a God, who loves with a completeness.
Christmas means very little without the walk to Easter.
There are five ways that I have found very successful for
families. Some start at church, but move
into the home. They include: A Walk
Through Holy Week, Holy Week Countdown Calendar, Holy Week Passports, Maundy
Thursday Re-enactment, and Devotionals for Holy Week.
The most important thing is to keep Holy Week. Giving just one activity to do a day keeps it fresh on a family’s mind. Even sending out a prayer a day this week with a small thing to do helps families.
A Walk Through Holy Week
I host an event either on Palm Sunday or sometime the
week before called “A Walk through Holy Week.”
Starting with Palm Sunday, we spend about 20-30 minutes on each
day. We read the Scripture, discuss what
happens in the liturgy at the service, and make a symbol for that service (or
build a Lego). Ideas for “symbol”
include making something for a countdown calendar (either paper or felt),
creating a picture book with a description on the day for the congregation, or
making a Lego to put on display.
Palm Sunday-Jesus Enters Jerusalem: Matthew 21:1-11; Mark
11:1-11; Luke 19: 28-40; John 12: 12-19
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why,
talk through the Palm Sunday liturgy, read the Collect for the Sunday of the
Passion: Palm Sunday, and then make a palm leaf cross (or Lego of Jesus’
Monday in Holy Week- Jesus Cleans House: Matthew
21:12-17; Mark 11:15-19; Luke 19:45-48; John 2:13-17. Read or tell the story,
wonder what happened and why, talk through basic of Eucharist (part 1), read
the collect for the day, and then add a “gold” coin to the calendar (or Lego of
Jesus throwing out the money changers.)
Tuesday in Holy Week-Jesus Predicts His Death: Mark
8:31-38; Luke 18: 31-33; John 12: 20-30.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, talk through basic
of Eucharist (part 2), read the collect for the day, and then add a heart with
the Alpha-Omega Sign (or Jesus with his followers and them not understanding.)
Wednesday in Holy Week-Anointing of Jesus’ Feet: Matthew
26: 6-13; Mark 14: 3-9; Luke 7: 36-50; John 12: 1-11. Read or tell the story, wonder what happened
and why, talk through basic Eucharist (part 3), read the collect of the day,
and then add a foot print or cut out of a foot (or Lego of Jesus getting feet washed.)
Maundy Thursday-Dinner in Upper Room and a New
Commandment: Matthew 26: 14-39; Mark 14:
22-25; Luke 22: 1-27; John 13: 1-38.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, talk about the
Maundy Thursday Service (foot washing, stripping of altar) and remind them of
our communion. Read the Collect for
Maundy Thursday. Add a chalice and wafer
or symbol of the bread and wine (or Lego of the Last Supper.)
Good Friday-The Crucifixion: Matthew 27: 32-66; Mark 15:
21-47; Luke 23: 26-56; John 19: 16-42.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, (using the
Stations of the Cross works very well), talk about the Good Friday Service,
read the Collect for Good Friday, and add a cross (or build a Lego of the
Holy Saturday/Easter Vigil-The Burial of Jesus…We Wait:
Matthew 27: 57-66; John 19: 38-42. Read
or tell the story, wonder what happened and what everyone was feeling, talk
about the Easter Vigil Service, read the Collect for Holy Saturday, and add a
“tomb” or rock (or Lego of the tomb and waiting.)
Easter-The Resurrection: He is Risen! Matthew 28:1-10;
Mark 16: 1-12; Luke 24: 1-12; John 20: 1-10.
Read or tell the story, wonder what happened and why, talk about the
Easter Service, read the collect for Easter, and add an Easter lily with “He is
Risen!” (or make a Lego of the Empty tomb.)
This can be very time consuming and so may be divided by
days and done over the whole of Lent or only pick certain days to talk
about. It is worth the time commitment
as it gives a deep understanding and expectation to Holy Week. Families take their countdown calendar of
Holy Week home and when Holy Week comes, they put up a symbol each day and are
reminded of the scripture. More
importantly, it opens a conversation about the life, death and resurrection of
Holy Week Countdown Calendar
Countdown Calendar is very similar to the Walk Through Holy Week, but is home
based. It is a “home kit” for Holy Week.
It can be done in several forms. The
first form is a paper calendar with information about each day including
scripture verse, prayer, and devotion.
Another form is a booklet, with each day being a
page. The page would include Scripture,
devotion, collect of the day, discussion questions, and an activity the family
could choose to do.
A Child’s Countdown Calendar would be made of links of
paper leading to a picture of an Easter Morning. Each link would include a brief story and a
A Symbol Calendar is made of felt or wide ribbon. The symbols mentioned in “Walk Through Holy
Week” are put on and off using Velcro. A
booklet with the scripture, devotion, collect of the day, and discussion
questions is included with it.
Holy Week Passports
Holy Week Passports quickly became a favorite of children
and adults! We had families who attended
a Holy Week Service just to get their sticker.
I created the passports in house. I wrote what each day meant, anything special
happening in the Service and gave a place for a sticker. For the cover, I used light purple thick
paper. We printed in house. I designed the stickers using Avery Circular
Stickers and the template from their website.
Let’s travel with Jesus and his friends for Holy Week.
Travelers need to carry a passport when they travel to exciting places—and this
booklet is your passport for Holy Week.
On or before Palm Sunday, find a special place to keep
your passport. It could be on the table beside your bed, or even in your car.
Every day in Holy Week, read the Bible passage, either with a printed Bible or
on www.biblegateway.com. Then explore the question on each page and
pray the Lord’s Prayer. Afterwards, award yourself with the passport sticker
for that day! If you would like to share
a picture of your passport as it fills up, please post it to our Facebook page.
The Lord’s Prayer:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name,
thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this
day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who
trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
Each day is a separate page. Children love it if you add a picture page
like a real passport.
Children love to be involved in the movement of this
service. The focus is bringing the story
of the Passover and for Jesus, the last meal with his friends to life. Using a low table, the evening includes
candles, different types of bread, different types of grapes, sample of the
meal, washing feet supplies, and pillows to sit on.
We gather outside the room and I send two children ahead
to check to see if the room is ready.
The low table is covered with a beige table cover and surrounded with
pillows. Candles (I use battery
operated) fill the room and are the only light.
We all enter the room and sit around the table. I tell them the story of how the Passover
came to be. Then I move on to the story
of Jesus and the importance of this feast day to him. I describe what it could have been like. I tell them Jesus’ words about the bread and
wine. We talk about our communion. We then pass different types of bread around,
tasting a little from each, choosing the favorites and taste differences. We then talk about how wine is made and pass
around the different grapes. Then we
hear about the New Commandment. We talk
about What Jesus was saying and how different it would be for his followers to
hear it. We discuss what it means for
us. We then move from the table and each
is asked if they would like to have their feet washed and/or wash someone’s
feet. Once all, who wish to participate,
are done. We sit in a circle and discuss
what it felt to wash another ‘s feet and to get our feet washed.
We then talk about the betrayal and the friends
present. The children generally have
lots of questions. / We sit in silence to feel a little of what the evening
held for Jesus.
We move into the garden.
We sit in a circle and I tell them about Jesus going to the garden to
pray. We talk of how his friends fell
asleep. We wonder what everyone
felt. We pray. We talk about Jesus and his time in the
garden. We talk about things we are
Next, we talk about what is going to happen during the
service. I mention communion and to
listen to the words remembering this night.
I invite them to sit in the front pews with me after they have had
communion with their family to watch the stripping of the altar. I answer their questions about that.
We talk about sadness.
We talk about hopelessness. We
talk about darkness. I remind them that
Easter is coming and this is not the end, but we have to sit in this moment
before we can move into Easter.
The children are very engaged when we return to the
sanctuary for the remainder of the service.
When the children join me to watch the stripping of the altar, they are
in awe and point out many things. I
allow them to tell me what they are seeing and ask questions. I have a “splash zone” around the first few
pews so that those who sit there know it may be a little noisy.
Children of all ages learn from this service. I, also, learn from the children as they
respond, question, and discuss the events of the evening.
We leave the church in silence, knowing we still have
Good Friday, but Easter is coming; God will not leave us alone in the dark.
Holy Week Devotionals
I have worked with children, with youth, and with adults
to create a week-long devotional for Holy Week.
The devotionals are available starting on Palm Sunday. The whole congregation loves getting them and
following along. I have even illustrated
them with pictures based on what the person or class has written.
The children loved doing this as a Wednesday evening
project. We used all of Lent to create
the booklet. Each class, we would talk about scripture, what we think we should
get out of it. How we can do better or
differently. How can we love Jesus? Is there anything we want to say to our
church family? Then we write a prayer to go with it.
Devotionals written by those in our church family mean
something more to us than one we purchase.
They take a little planning, but what often comes from it is beautiful.