The themes entwined in the Lenten season — self-examination, lament, mortality — aren’t easy concepts for kids to wrap their brains around. For Lent this year, consider adding visual and tactile elements to your observation of Lent by inviting kids, teens, and adults in your church to participate in a simplified Stations of the Cross activity.
For hundreds of years, Christians have celebrated the Stations of the Cross by contemplating a series of paintings or sculptures that commemorate the events on Jesus’ journey to Golgotha. The Stations activity outlined below tells the story from Jesus’ arrest to the resurrection and offers simple meditations and actions that even young children can participate in.
Set up the following six stations at tables, or even on the floor, in your church building. Leave space between the stations to assist with quiet meditation. People of all ages can visit the stations in small groups during Sunday school hour, after the worship service, on Wednesday nights, or at other times. Print out the instructions below and post them at each station so participants will know what to do.
This Stations of the Cross outline is adapted from WE: The Epic Story by Laura Keeley and Bonny Mulder-Behnia (Faith Alive). The Epic Story offers 10 intergenerational events that trace God’s story from creation to new creation. Use it for iGen Sunday school, for children’s ministry family events, or for whole-church events that bring all ages together.
Station 1: Bound
Materials: one six-inch piece of rope or twine per person
Scripture: Read Matthew 27:1-2, 11-14 aloud.
Meditation: Jesus was tied up with rope when he was brought before Pilate. We are tied up by all the wrong things we do — and we stay tied up until Jesus forgives us and sets us free.
Action: Tie a knot in your piece of rope as you think about the wrong things you have done. Then tie your rope to the ropes of other people in your group, and leave it for the next group to add to.
Station 2: Washed Clean
Materials: A large bowl of water
Scripture: Read Matthew 27:24 aloud.
Meditation: Pilate washed his hands to tell people that Jesus’ death was not his fault. Have you ever tried to not take responsibility for something wrong you did? Or have you done something you weren’t allowed to do and pretended that you didn’t do it? Silently ask God to forgive you and to help you make things right. (Pause for silent reflection.)
Action: Now dip your finger in the water and touch it to your forehead. As you do, think about how Jesus’ death washes us clean from all the wrong things that we do.
Station 3: A Crown of Thorns
Materials needed: Real or artificial crown of thorns, one six-inch piece of red ribbon per person, fine-tip black permanent markers.
Scripture: Read Matthew 27:27, 28 aloud.
Meditation: The Bible tells us that although Jesus is God, he is also completely human, except he never sinned. Jesus knows what it’s like to be sad, angry, afraid, and in trouble.
Action: Before Jesus was crucified, soldiers pushed a crown of thorns onto his head. They did this to mock him and hurt him. But Jesus really is our King. To show that you belong to him, write your name on a ribbon and tie it to the crown of thorns.
Station 4: Crucified
Materials: Wooden cross, hammer, one large flat-head nail per person
Scripture: Read Matthew 27:34-37 aloud.
Meditation: Our sins, whether they seem big or little to us, are the reason that Jesus had to die on the cross. That’s the only way that God could put the world he created right again. No person could do this — only God could.
Action: As you remember how your sins put Jesus on the cross, use the hammer to pound a nail into the wood. (Small children can pound nails that others have hammered in.)
Station 5: The Cross
Materials: Blank 6 x 6-inch white paper crosses, one per person; crayons or markers, large pieces of posterboard, tape or glue
Scripture: Read Matthew 27:38-44 aloud.
Meditation: Jesus loves each of us so much that he died for us. His death was painful and hard, but he was willing to give himself up for us to make us right with God.
Action: Decorate a paper cross with colorful hearts, and then tape or glue your cross to the posterboard with the crosses made by others. Display this collaborative artwork in the church sanctuary on Good Friday.
Station 6: The Stone Is Rolled Away!
Materials: smooth stones (sold at craft stores), one per person; black permanent fine-tip markers
Scripture: Read Matthew 28:1-6 aloud.
Meditation: Even though Jesus died and was placed in a tomb with a huge stone by the door, that didn’t stop God. By rolling away the stone and raising Jesus from the dead, God made us free forever.
Activity: Choose a stone and write your name on it with the marker. Keep the stone where you can see it until Easter morning to remind you that God raised Jesus from the dead!
Ask one of your group to pray, thanking God for sending Jesus to die in our place, forgiving our sins, and calling us to be his children. Ask God to help us share this good news with others, to God’s glory.