Stories of betrayal, crucifixion, death and burial can make us hesitant to share Holy Week narratives with children. But these important stories lead us to the cross and show us the need for Jesus’ sacrifice. They tell of Jesus’ character, humbly washing the disciples’ feet and standing for justice as he overturned the temple tables. They bring us into Jesus’ journey to the cross and transform us through the process.
With this in mind, River Terrace Church held an event that made these stories accessible to people of all ages while preserving their deep importance and meaning. Using the content of the free DWELL at Home devotional, God’s Big Easter Story: A Holy Week Journey for Families, River Terrace held an outdoor Palm Sunday event that led groups of four to five individuals through the Holy Week stories. Shalom Sonneveldt, who organized the event as a part of her role as Children’s Ministry Director at River Terrace, graciously shared how they organized this wonderful event.
Sticking with the path theme of the devotional, they used their outdoor path to set up eight stations that covered each of the stories from the devotional. Upon completing the path, families were given copies of God’s Big Easter Story to use the following week and received small gifts at each station that could be used as they engaged further with these stories. Everyone was given a bag at the beginning of the path to collect their items.
At each station, a laminated copy of that story’s symbol was displayed and volunteers acted out the story using simple costumes and props. Starting with the biblical text, Shalom added stage directions for volunteers to help give them a sense of how to act out each story (see attached document).
Here’s what was included at each station (the scripture reference for each story can be found in the God’s Big Easter Story devotional):
Station 1—Palm Sunday Parade
Props: kids’ rubber bouncy horse/donkey toy, cloaks for covering the road, palm branches
Gift: palm branches
Station 2—Throwing Out the Money Changers
Props: Jesus and priest costume, fake gold coins, play money, kid’s size table to overturn, fake white birds
Gift: plastic gold coin
Station 3—The Foot Washing
Props: Jesus and disciple costume, chair, towel, pitcher and basin so that they could pour the water, water bottles to refill the pitcher
Gift: small travel soaps and labels for them that displayed the DWELL story symbol and scripture reference for this story
Station 4—The Last Supper
Props: woven mat to sit on, simple table, bread and cup so that they could act out communion by breaking the bread and holding up the pieces dramatically
Gift: small plastic communion cups
Station 5—A Sad Night
Props: cardboard fire, blankets, plastic sword
Gift: feather (because of the rooster)
Station 6—Jesus Dies
Props: simple wooden cross, sponge, rough crown of thorns that was hung on the top of the cross
Gift: small wooden cross
Station 7—Jesus is Buried
Props: painted gray foam or gray sheets to create a tomb with a piece to slide in front to close it, bunched up white sheet to represent Jesus’ body
Gift: smooth rocks to represent the tomb
Station 8—Jesus is Alive!
Props: artificial lilies throughout the station, angel costumes placed in the trees
Gift: white plastic egg with nothing inside to represent the empty tomb
Shalom had 18 volunteers help with this event, with two individuals at each station and a few extra helpers. Each volunteer was given a script (see attachment) that included everything they needed to say to each group. Shalom gathered the supplies but then asked volunteers to set up their own stations, giving them ownership over their part of the story.
Because this event was designed to be simple and have minimal prep, it’s an approachable event that anyone could do. The dramatic retelling of these stories brought children and adults into Holy Week while presenting difficult themes more tangibly. This helped children better understand those themes and gave parents an easy way to discuss them with their children. What a wonderful way for all ages to journey together to Easter morning!
God’s Big Easter Story is a free DWELL at Home resource. For more family faith formation resources check out DwellCurriculum.org/Home.