Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Holy Week with Children

As we make our way through Holy Week, I thought I would repost some great advice from last year on talking about the events of Good Friday and Easter with children. 
Today I am so happy to share a very helpful article reposted from the blog "So Who's Hosanna Anyway?" Confessions of a Christian Educator and Mother, by Dr. Elizabeth L. Windsor. 

Thinking Ahead to Holy Week
  by Dr. Elizabeth L. Windsor

It is hard to believe that Palm Sunday is almost here (April 17th). And if Palm Sunday is almost here, then Holy Week isn’t far behind! Parents, especially those of young children, are often confused as to how best handle the crucifixion as we tell the story of the Easter miracle.

The events of Jesus' death are shocking and violent, but we cannot fully live into Easter if we have not experienced Jesus' death. There are ways to approach this with children that make it easier to share the whole story. Here are some of the things I have learned in twenty-five years as an educator and a parent:

1. Children - even very young ones - know that bad things happen. The Easter message is that good always triumphs over evil - even if it doesn't seem to at the moment. This is a message children can hear and understand.

2. When you talk about the crucifixion, always continue immediately with the Resurrection. I have found the following kinds of language helpful: "Jesus loved people so much that some people were scared by it and they put Jesus to death on a cross. But love is so strong, that not even death can destroy it, so God raised Jesus from the dead.”

3. If your children are visual learner, you may only want to share the story in words - the shorter the better. Use art that reveals the empty tomb instead of Jesus on the Cross as you tell the story.

4. Some children are curious about how crucifixion actually kills. They will ask questions such as "Did it hurt?" ("Yes"), "How does crucifixion kill someone?" ("Slow suffocation"). You do not need to dwell on the gore, but an honest answer that is short and to the point is helpful to children and allows you to move on to the resurrection.

5. Other children worry that Jesus was alone. He wasn't - his mother and the Beloved Disciple were there, along with other women. Two other men were crucified with him. And most importantly, God was with Jesus.

Experiencing the events of Holy Week and Easter can be a powerful way for children to share in the defining moment of our Christian faith while being held in a safe and familiar environment. The events of Holy Week are all great places for embodied learning – we shout and parade with Jesus on Palm Sunday, have our feet washed, taste bread and wine, strip the altar and raise the joyous “Alleluias” on Easter Day. With careful planning, parents can help children experience the mystery and wonder of both Holy Week and Easter.

Dr. Elizabeth L. Windsor is the Director of Christian Education at Sudbury United Methodist Church, in Sudbury, Massachusetts. The mother of two (22 and 11), and step-mother of one (16), she has been a professional Christian educator for the past 22 years. She blogs at “So Who’s Hosanna Anyway?" and is a contributor to the online Christian Education Community Building Faith
Thanks so much Dr. Elizabeth for sharing your wisdom with us on Thoughts from the Sheepfold!


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