Transform your Easter celebrations with these 22 Jesus-centered ideas for Holy Week with kids in your ministry.
Make your Holy Week both memorable and educational with a week-long series of activities that will provide educational opportunities each day from Palm Sunday..all the way to Easter. Click here for a week of Easter Week Family Devotions.
Palm Sunday marks the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a colt. The people waved palms to honor Jesus. In Jesus’ day, people waved palms to welcome royalty. From the earliest days, Christians carried palm branches to church to remember how Jesus was welcomed to Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. This tradition continues to this day.
Coat Give Away
When Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a colt, the people threw their coats on the ground before him as a sign of respect. The children of your church can relive that same event as they give to others who are less fortunate than themselves.
Several weeks before Palm Sunday, invite your church members to bring their old or outgrown winter coats to church on Palm Sunday. Have church members keep theirs and their children’s coats with them as they go to the worship service. Before children enter for the Palm Sunday Parade, have church members throw the coats on the aisle floors. As children enter for their parade, they’ll walk over the coats. Have the last children in your procession gather the coats as they walk past them and place them in a pile at the front of your sanctuary as a visible symbol of outreach to others. Donate the coats to a charity in your community.
Palm Sunday Parade
In many churches, children parade through the church sanctuary carrying palm branches as adults lovingly observe the children’s praise. This year if your church has a Palm Sunday Parade, transform it completely. As children prepare for the parade in their classrooms, have your pastor explain to your congregation what the first Palm Sunday might’ve been like. People shouted praise and flung their palms and coats on the ground before Jesus. There was probably more excitement than at a Super Bowl game!
Have your pastor encourage the congregation to re-enact that excitement and praise when the children enter-but don’t tell the children what to expect. Lead the congregation in a practice praise session with shouts of praise and clapping. Encourage your pastor to explain to the church members that their excitement and praise will make this year’s Palm Sunday Parade one that children will never forget and will help them understand how worthy Jesus is of all our praise.
Palm Sunday Decorations
• Palm Leaves — Have the children cut palm — shaped leaves from green construction paper. Cut slits down both sides of the palm leaf to create a fringe in the leaf. The children can wave these in a Palm Sunday Parade or use them to decorate the classroom or sanctuary.
• Palm Bundles –– Create palm bundles from live palm leaves, available from a local florist or church supply company. Gather several leaves in a bundle and tie them in the center with raffia or ribbon. Attach the bundles to the ends of the pews in your sanctuary. After the service, each person can take home a palm leaf.
Palm Sunday Snacks
• Palm Leaf Cookies — Bake palm-leaf-shaped sugar cookies before class. Have children ice the cookies and sprinkle green sugar on them.
• Celery Palms — Wash and prepare celery stalks, leaving the leaves of the stalks intact. Provide different kinds of fillings for the stalks such as flavored cream cheeses.
PALM SUNDAY PRAYERS
Before Palm Sunday, have your children cut out hand shapes from different-colored poster board. Tape a thin 8-inch dowel rod to the back of each hand shape. The Sunday before Palm Sunday, give church members of all ages several hands. Encourage people to write the name of a person they know who isn’t a Christian on each hand. Then collect the hands.
The morning of Palm Sunday, arrive early with some of the older children in your ministry. Line the sidewalks with these Palm Prayers by poking the dowel rod into the lawn. (Obviously, this is a get-prior-permission thing.)
Your church members will be reminded of the need for them to share the light of Easter with others as they walk through this sea of hands.
The Thursday before Easter is called Maundy Thursday. The name Maundy is Latin for “command,” and it refers to the new commandment Jesus gave his disciples to love one another. Many churches celebrate this day with an Agape Feast, footwashing service, or observance of communion. As an option, use this Seder Meal to celebrate Passover as Jesus did with his disciples on this night.
A SEDER MEAL
by Mary Brauch Petersen
Lead children in a traditional Seder Meal to help them understand the role of Passover and its connection to the Lamb of God at Easter.
Throughout the world each year, Passover is celebrated by Jewish families as a remembrance of how God freed their ancestors from slavery. This gathering is the most significant home event of the year. The Seder meal is an important part of this celebration.
• Special Foods — You’ll need lamb — either roasted or in a stew; a roasted bone; unleavened bread or matzo crackers; a pitcher of grape juice; maror or bitter herbs, such as horseradish, onions, and radish; charoseth — a mixture of ground apples, raisins, nuts, figs, and honey; baked eggs; parsley; lettuce; celery; and salt water. You’ll also need a large Seder plate in the center of the table and cups. The plate contains the foods used during the service to represent the life of the Hebrews in Egypt.
•The Seder Ceremony — The Seder meal itself contains several parts. This service is based on a Messianic Jewish order of service called a Haggada. Adjust the service and include the prayers that are special or important to you. Follow this order:
1. Light a candle. Say, “Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, who sanctified us by the blood of the Messiah and commanded us to be a light for the nations and gave us Jesus, our Messiah, the light of the world.”
2. Bless the first cup of juice. “We take up the kiddush cup and proclaim the holiness of this Day of Deliverance!” Everyone drinks the juice.
3. The green vegetables represent the hyssop that was used to place the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorposts. As you say the following, everyone takes a green vegetable and dips it into the salt water. Say, “Blessed are You, oh Lord our God, King of the Universe, Creator of the fruits of the earth.”
4. Next, everyone takes a matzo, holds it up, and says together, “This is the bread of affliction, the poor bread, which our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in want share the hope of Passover.” Everyone places the matzo back on the plate.
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5. Pour a second glass of juice as you tell the story of the Hebrews’ deliverance in Exodus 12. Everyone drinks.
6. Show the roasted bone and say, “Our ancestors in Egypt were spared by the blood of a lamb. This reminds us that God delivered his people from Pharaoh’s judgment against them.”
7. Hold up the maror and say, “The Egyptians made the lives of our forefathers bitter. The bitter herb speaks of sorrow.” Hold up the charoseth and say, “This represents the mortar the Hebrews were forced to use building the Egyptian cities.” Mix the maror and charoseth. Place them between two pieces of matzo, and everyone eats.
8. Pour a third cup of juice. Say, “Blessed are you, oh Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.” Everyone drinks.
9. Point out the egg on the plate. Say, “The egg is not touched because it symbolizes sacrifice. Jesus was sacrificed for our sins.”
10. Pour a fourth cup of juice and say, “The redemption is not yet complete. The fourth cup recalls us to our covenant with the Eternal One, to the tasks that still await us as people called to the service of God, to a great purpose for which the people of Israel live: the preservation and affirmation of hope.”
11. Lead children in singing praise songs. Then close by saying, “The Lord has remembered us. He will bless us. He will bless the house of Israel. He will bless those who revere the Lord, the small as well as the great.”
by RoseAnne Sather
Have someone dress up in biblical costume and deliver this monologue for your children or the entire church.
“As the servant of the high priest, it was my responsibility to carry a lantern. The darkness was thick. I strained to keep up with Judas so he could see the trail. The chief priests and Pharisees had commissioned a squad of soldiers to accompany us.
“Glancing over my shoulder, I caught the glint of their swords in the torch light, and beyond them I noticed a mob had begun to follow us. We made our way down through the Kidron ravine toward what looked like a grove of olive trees. ‘This time we’ll get this Jesus,’ I said to myself. Anger burned inside me. ‘Who does this man think he is anyway? What authority does he have to say he’s the King of the Jews. Blasphemy! Calling himself the Son of God-horrendous!’
“It turned my stomach. But I remembered all those miracles he’d performed. My mind warred against itself but found no answers for the miraculous events.
“The small band of men didn’t notice us at first. Some of them were sleeping, but one man stood among them looking as if he expected our arrival. It was this man Judas approached saying ‘Rabbi’ then proceeded to kiss him. With hurt in his voice, Jesus replied, ‘Friend, do what you have come for.’
“The soldiers rushed forward to seize him. This startled the men with Jesus, and they reacted defensively. One man reached and drew his sword and struck out at me. I leapt back, but I wasn’t swift enough. The sword caught the right side of my head. I cried out in pain. Gripping my head in my hands, I realized he’d cut off my ear!
” ‘Oh, my God, help me!’ I cried.
“Overcome with nausea, I dropped to my knees. Amid a blur of tears, I saw Jesus approach me. My first instinct was to turn away, but his eyes caught mine and I froze. Those eyes. I’d never seen eyes like that before; so warm, so penetrating, so loving…He extended his hand toward me. I drew back but not far enough from his touch.
“As his fingers touched the side of my head, an incredible warmth flooded my entire body, as if the sun itself was shining on that cold, dreary night. ‘What’s happening?’ The warmth remained as he withdrew his hand.
“Anxiously, yet with timidity, I reached to touch my head. I found my ear whole! Healed! Joy sparked inside of me — an uncontainable rejoicing, an unbridled feeling of exuberance! Then I noticed something else was ignited in me; it was a hope, a faith, and a belief that this man truly was who he claimed to be! I wanted to talk with him; I had so many questions.
“Turning to find him, I saw in the distance they were already leading him away. I ran, wanting desperately to stop the procession and explain that he really was Jesus, the King, the Son of God, my healer…but I slowed when I realized they wouldn’t listen. Not to me. I was only a servant, a slave.
“I slipped into the shadows of the night and wept. I knew what Jesus was about to face; I’d observed it before. Even for those who justly deserved it, it was torture. I wanted to stop it, but what could I do?
“It wasn’t until later that I understood why Jesus had to die. I couldn’t have saved his life; he was sent to save mine. That’s when the healer of my ear became the healer of my soul.”
Long ago, Christians spent Maundy Thursday washing and sweeping their homes, according to Pamela Kennedy in An Easter Celebration (Ideals Children’s Books). Lead kids in spring cleaning service projects around your church building on this day. The children can leave a calling card that says something such as “This closet was cleaned on Maundy Thursday. Compliments of the fifth -grade class.”
Lead your older children in studying the stories of Palm Sunday, the Crucifixion,and the Resurrection. Have children choose several elements of the story to re-enact in friezes-or stop-action scenes. Kids can pose as soldiers whipping Jesus or as the women peering into the empty tomb. Assign children to different scenes, and have them dress for their parts. Have kids practice their frieze poses.
After your church’s Maundy Thursday Dinner or Agape Feast, have the children set up their scenes in a large open space in your church. Keep the scenes in the order that they happened. Invite your congregation to walk from one scene to the other to experience the events of Christ’s last days. To make this even more dramatic, set up spotlights on the scenes with total darkness in the rest of the room, and encourage children not to move or speak.