As someone raised in the 1970s by Dutch immigrant parents living in small-town Ontario, I grew up at a time when smoking was encouraged, dancing was forbidden, and at the top of the list of things to fear were The Supernatural and Charismatic Church People.
Given the above, I guess it’s not that surprising that as a kid the Pentecost story freaked me out. To 10-year-old me, the whole scene sounded like something straight from an horror movie: a group of people are waiting together inside a room; suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind fills the space; flames of fire appear on each person’s head, and everyone begins speaking in tongues. When we prayed to receive the Holy Spirit, I crossed my fingers.
Recently, over Zoom coffee with colleagues, each of whom grew up in a different decade, I asked about their childhood memories of Pentecost. Their recollections included being afraid that tongues of fire would also land on their heads, having to glue bits of flame-coloured tissue to Pentecost crafts at their Christian school, hearing very serious sermons on the Holy Spirit, and experiencing a different kind of Pentecost horror—arriving at church and discovering that, unlike everyone else, their family had forgotten to dress in red for worship that day.
None of us remembered talking about (or celebrating!) the story of Pentecost at home.
How about you? What are your biggest memories around celebrating Pentecost at church or at home? What might the children at your church say they remember about the Pentecost story when they’re grown?
This spring, Faith Formation Ministries has launched yet another free, downloadable resource to help households with children experience God’s Big Story. God’s Big Pentecost Story, a Celebration for Families provides parents with a simple, meaningful way to retell the Pentecost story. It invites family members of all ages to feel a sense of awe and wonder at how Jesus kept his promise to equip all believers (including kids!) by gifting them with the Holy Spirit. Along with a simple devotional, the resource includes background information on Pentecost for parents and “easy extra” ideas to add to their celebration.
Here are two ideas for how you might encourage and equip families with God’s Big Pentecost Story:
Send or deliver “Pentecost in an Envelope” to their homes. Print and send or deliver a copy of God’s Big Pentecost Story to each household, along with a flame-coloured tablecloth from the dollar store. (In addition to decorating their table, they can cut sections of it into strips for streamers to decorate the walls.) While you’re at it, slip in a copy of another new free resource: 5 Ways to Celebrate with Your Family. It’s part of the Dwell at Home series of handouts on faith practices, because (fun fact) celebration is a faith practice!
Make copies of God’s Big Pentecost Story available at church prior to Pentecost Sunday. While you’re at it, why not include every household by making available to all a simple flame-coloured fabric table runner that they can reuse each year, along with some wondering questions they can use along with the story at home? Perhaps there’s a place to drape the same fabric in your sanctuary too! #church #home #connections
We hope that celebrating God’s big Pentecost story will become a beloved yearly ritual in the homes of families with children in your church. Let us know how it goes!
PS: Paraclete Press just published a wonderful picture book for families on the topic of Pentecost. Breathe, a Child's Guide to Ascension, Pentecost, and the Growing Time by Laura Alary is a book that parents could read with children. It’s also an excellent resource for ministry leaders looking for language to use when talking with kids about Pentecost.