Holy Week is a time of fear, awe, and wonder for us as adults. How do we share that with the children in our parishes? How do we help them to experience the journey that Jesus made from Palm Sunday to Good Friday to Easter Sunday?
As you can imagine I have some thoughts about this.
A little background here. I am the mother of three children, who are now all young adults. When my children were small I had to think along with their father about how we would approach Holy Week with them. We decided that they would participate as they were able in all of the worship services that were going on. My eldest told me as a teenager that her favourite service of the year, not just of Holy Week, but the year is Maundy Thursday.
I asked her why, being the curious person that I am. She told me that the washing of the feet, having communion together, and stripping the altar all told the story of Jesus in a profound way. She said that being part of the service was an important way for her to experience her faith.
Like all disciples of Jesus, children need to experience Jesus’ story to make it their own. Children have different needs than adults when it comes to participating in worship. They cannot all sit still for that long, they want to be involved, they need to have all their senses engaged, they need to have adults with them who will share this experience with them.
The question then for planning worship during Holy Week that will include children is how to engage them and not lose the adults in the process.
This is the part that clergy and other worship planners will hopefully pay attention to – so do share it with them.
The first step will be to get the parents of the children on side. Encourage them to bring the children to the Holy Week services. Take time to gather resources that will engage children if there are parts of the service that they need to be quiet for – such as coloring pages and crayons or story books that share the story with the children.
Look for places in the service where the children can move around. Taking part in the palm parade, helping to wash the feet of others, removing items from the church during the stripping of the altar are some possibilities.Don’t be afraid to ask the children after all of this to take a moment and calm themselves down and to really pay attention. It is okay to calm things down if you need to.
Let the children come in and experience Holy Week with all its glory, awe and sadness and then the amazing joy of the resurrection of Jesus will be all the more powerful for them and for the whole community.
Let’s talk about how to include children in Holy Week in the forum.