Over the years, we have compiled several different interactive ideas to assist you (and your family and friends) in celebrating nd worshipping during Holy Week.
I have them listed with child and family activities first, If you are looking for adult-only activities, scroll down to the Remembrance and Worship Section.
Kids Activities for the Week
Palm Sunday Reflection for Kids
Ask your child: Have you ever prayed for something and felt mad at God when he didn't give you what you want? Name a time you didn’t get what you want.
Read this to your child: It is hard to not get what we want. The Israelites had been waiting hundreds of years for the Promised One of God, the Savior, to come and rescue them and be their new King. When Jesus came everyone was so excited because they thought that God had finally sent them the messenger they had been waiting on! They were so excited that they threw their expensive coats down on the ground to keep Jesus’ donkey from walking on the dirt. It was like they rolled out a red carpet for their favorite celebrity!
In only one week some of these same people turned against Jesus, because instead of doing what they thought was best, Jesus did things God's way knowing it was better for everyone. Jesus taught hard things that made a lot of people mad because it didn't line up with their own plans and desires. But Jesus made a very special promise to the people who chose to trust him. He said that all who trusted in him, and believed in his power and goodness, could ask for anything and he would make it happen!
The important thing to realize is that God is not working to give everyone their way, but instead to give us everything we need to do things his way. And his way will always be the best way for us. So when you pray, always believe that God is POWERFUL and God LOVES YOU!
Action: What are things we can pray for this week that would help us do things God’s way instead of our way?
Clean Hearts Activity
You will need: 2 disposable plastic or paper cups per child, glue sticks, sand (or dirt or brown sugar), and water.
Give each child 2 cups. Have them use glue sticks and sand to make the outside of one cup dirty, and the inside of the other cup dirty. Encourage them to keep the opposite parts of the cup as clean as possible. When they have finished ask them if they are thirsty. Bring water over and ask them which cup they want to drink out of. As they decide, ask them: which cup is cleaner to drink out of? Did you notice that the one that looks clean isn’t actually clean? Wouldn’t it be best if your cup was clean on the outside AND inside?
Read to them: Matthew 23:25-28. Explain that it isn’t enough to just obey rules, or not get caught breaking them. Jesus has called us to have clean hearts- something only he can do for us.
Ask one of them (or you could depending on age and maturity) to pray that Jesus would make all of your hearts clean. "Thank you, Jesus, for giving us a way to be good in the eyes of God- by taking our punishment so that we could have your reward. You are the only one who can make us clean on the inside."
Ask: What are some of your favorite, most valuable things? What is something you would NEVER throw away? (Hopefully they will answer with a favorite toy, food, or device).
What would you do if you saw your friend who also loved her ________ about to throw it away? You would want to stop her! (This question can be adapted. Example: - What if Mommy decided to throw away all of our _______?)
You wouldn’t want to just let someone throw away something that is really expensive or really special, right? That would be a waste! Well one of Jesus’ followers decided she was going to get rid of something very, VERY expensive, and Jesus told everyone that she did something really great. Let’s listen to the story and see if we can find out why she did it. Pray that God would help you understand this story so that you can know him more.
Read: Matthew 26:6-13 in The Message.
Points to encourage:
- Mary chose to show that she honored and valued Jesus even if it cost her!
- Because Mary decided to honor Jesus in her heart, her actions ended up being an even bigger deal than she realized. If we honor God in our hearts, minds, and actions, we can be used by God for BIG things!
How Jesus Prayed Devotion
Pray with your kids: God, help us learn from Jesus’ words and actions so that we can understand your will for us. Holy Spirit, help us all focus and be alert as we hear your Truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Read: Matthew 26:36-46 in The NIV or The Message.
Ask: What do you think Jesus was feeling?
What did Jesus do when he had to make a choice between what was right, and what was easy?
- He prayed honestly to God about how he felt, but didn’t doubt that God’s way was the right way.
- When he knew the right thing was the hard thing, he chose to do it anyway and take courage in God’s faithfulness.
Aren’t we so glad that Jesus did the courageous thing? Because he decided to trust that God’s way is always best, we are able to do the same! We can pray to God when we are scared to do what is right, and God will give us strength to be brave like Jesus.
Ask: What are some things that God asks us to do that are hard or scary?
Pray with each other that God would give you strength to be like Jesus, even when it is hard.
All-Ages Tomb Activity for Good Friday
This Activity can be used for younger children as well as teens and adults.
You will need: Pens, multiple small pieces of paper, and a shoebox covered in paper to represent the tomb.
Have everyone (including yourself) write down the ways they have disobeyed God. For younger kids you may use this time to help them understand what sin is. It can be in our hearts (envy, greed, and selfishness) and in our actions (lying, cheating, violence). For older kids and adults, let this be a time of prayer and reflection. Consider including songs that reflect on the cross. Make sure that everyone participating knows that these sins will not remain private, and that whoever is leading the activity will see what is written.
Put all of the pieces of paper in the shoebox as a representation of the tomb. Read Isaiah 53 together and thank the Lord for taking on all of our brokenness. For younger kids, explain that Jesus died because he took on the punishment for all of our sin and with his death the power sin had over us was buried in the tomb. Close the box and put it somewhere visible as a reminder that our sins have been buried.
This activity will be completed with more steps on the next two days.
Continued Tomb Activity for Saturday
Tonight before bed, whoever is leading the activity should take the box and open it.
For each sin, write down a corresponding gift of new life. The list of the Fruit of the Spirit is a good place to start (Galatians 5:22-23).
Sin: I lied to my friends and family.
Gift of New Life: You have forgiveness and freedom to live a life of truthfulness!
Sin: I have been mean to my siblings.
Gift of New Life: You have forgiveness and freedom to live a new life of kindness!
Leave the box opened and empty, like the tomb, for everyone to see tomorrow. Throw away or get rid of the sin papers. Take the Gift of New Life papers and do something fun with them. You may write them all of colorful paper (color assignments for each person) and integrate them into your current family traditions of an egg hunt. Or maybe you will have them spread across the table at breakfast, or hang them on each child’s mirror or door. However you choose is best for your family or friends, make sure you take the time to talk about and praise God that he not only took the consequence for our sin, but has given us New Life and freedom and power to live in a God-honoring way.
Remembrance and Worship
Maundy Thursday- A Call to Commune.
Four suggestions for you or your community:
Read the story of the Last Supper in Luke 22 and John 13, contemplating the significance of the event for both the original audience and for the Kingdom of God.
Invite your close community over for dinner and wash each others feet in remembrance of Jesus’ actions. Read the above sections to each other and discuss the ramifications of Jesus’ command.
Culturally, in the setting of the Lord's Supper, washing of feet was messy work. It was a task meant for only lowly servants. Consider a way you can engage in today's "messy tasks" for someone in your community. Offer to deep clean someone's bathroom or kitchen. Give the struggling parent some time away from their tantrum-ridden toddler. Get your hands dirty to show your neighbor love.
If your church community doesn’t have a service, attend a neighboring church and engage in the wider community of Christ followers.
Good Friday- A Call to Repent
Four suggestions for you and your community:
Make a bonfire with friends, reading the story of Peter’s betrayal, and confess your habitual sins over the year openly. Pray for each other as you remember your sins consequences on the cross.
Read over the crucifixion story, setting aside time to contemplate Jesus’ suffering for your sake.
If your church is not having a service, attend a church in your neighborhood that is hosting a Good Friday event. Take this day as a chance to remember with fellow believers from the Kingdom.
See All-Ages Tomb Activity above.
Holy Saturday: A Holy Hush
For the past several years, our community has taken a “day of silence” where we don’t listen to music, watch tv, or have any other form of audio distraction on the Saturday of Holy Week. We remember the hush that the disciples must have felt as they fearfully reflected on the previous day’s events. We consider what our faith would mean without the resurrection and what our destiny would be without his death.
Plan a feast. If cooking is worshipful for you, then cook. If you don't have the money or know-how to pull off a feast, throw a potluck. If you have the money, cater. If you and all of your community lack both money and skill, bust out mac-and-cheese or hot dogs. Invite all the people. Invite the lonely and forgotten, and those you call close.
At this feast, find a way for everyone to share a table or picnic blanket. Have the wine ready and as people finish their meal introduce the toasting time. (Based on the 4 cups of the Passover Meal.)
The first toast is the toast of Sanctification. Now is a time to raise your glass and share a way you have been sanctified this year. Do you feel set apart by God? How so? How has God assured you that he is still active in your life?
The second toast is the toast of Salvation. What have you been saved from? Maybe it's a bad habit or sin that you are no longer enslaved by. Maybe it's a toxic mindset that you have been freed from. Maybe God spared you from a consequence you deserved. Tell us, how has Jesus saved you?
The third toast is the toast of Redemption. God makes broken things beautiful and revives dry bones. What has God redeemed in your life this year? Did you have any truly terrible things made beautiful by the presence of the Creator? What has been turned around in your life this year? What has been mended?
The fourth toast is the toast of Hope and Restoration. This is the toast of Kingdom still to come. We raise our glasses and say, "I believe God will make all things new, and once again, mankind and God will walk together in the garden." Proclaim your hopeful expectations. What do you long for that you know will come to pass when Jesus returns?
In a final toast, raise your glasses all together and say, "We praise you, Jesus. You are our King, our Savior, our Redeemer, and our God. Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come. Hallelujah!"