This article was written by Gracen Goudy, a student at Ouachita Baptist University pursuing a major in Mass Communications with contributions by ABN staff writers.
Passover and Palm Sunday lessons prepare hearts for Easter
Michelle Lawrence has been the leader of the Children’s Ministry at Beech Street First Baptist Church in Texarkana for the past four years. With a team that accompanies her, she oversees children within the church from birth up to fifth grade.
While Easter is an exciting time for any believer within the church, Michelle makes it a point to include children in this celebration. She and her team are intentional about incorporating activities that bring the Bible to life for children within the ministry.
On April 10th, the team hosted its fourth Hosanna Celebration. Following the Sunday School lesson of Palm Sunday, the kids made their way outside to take part in their own Palm Sunday celebration.
“There is an alley at the back of the church between two buildings that looks like the narrow streets of Jerusalem,” Lawrence said. “The kids go with palm branches and have a live reenactment of that very scene, and the Bible comes to life.”
The entire church is invited to the celebration. The adult Sunday School classes come with palm branches and fill the alley yelling “Hosanna, Hosanna.” Many of them dress in Biblical costumes and pose as Roman soldiers, shepherds, and high priests. This year, accompanying the adults were two goats, a donkey and a dog.
“It is a way for our babies in strollers all the way to someone in their 90’s to be involved,” Lawrence said. “It is a great intergenerational event so that everyone is involved. It is very minimal effort for the adults to be involved to make this come alive because they are out of their classes for maybe ten minutes.”
As the Biblical characters of the parade make their way down the alley, the kids become a part of the parade and begin to follow Jesus. After the parade, they had a petting zoo area where they could pet and feed the animals.
“We try to make it a celebration of Jesus coming in, and we always bring it back to that,” Lawrence said. “It is a day where the Bible can come to life and a way the whole church can be a part to make it an experience a child would never forget.”
A week before Palm Sunday, the Children’s Ministry took part in a Passover Seder meal during their Sunday School class on April 3rd. Lawrence laid the foundation of the activity by explaining the back history of the Passover meal. She let the children know different things they would have known as a Jewish child as well as what different parts of the meal were called. They provided pancakes to represent matzo which they dipped in syrup cups as the meal.
“It is very deep, but I just feel like the kids can grasp much more than we think,” Lawrence said. “We feel like if they grasp a little bit this year, then they can [understand] a little bit more the next year. We also sent home a parent version of the Passover that tells them what to do and what to say, so they can do one at home knowing what all the symbols meant.”
The very next week the kids got to go to Family Worship where they had the Lord’s Supper. The Passover Seder meal allowed the Sunday School leaders to lay the foundation for the kids taking part in the Lord’s Supper.
“We brought out the symbolism all through the Passover Seder of how it pointed to Christ,” Lawrence said. “All these thousands of years ago, God had a plan. When the world began and even with Moses, He knew what He was doing, and the first Passover pointed to Christ. We try with every single thing to point it back to Christ.”
Lawrence credits her ideas to others, and she encourages other ministers and leaders to gain inspiration from others as well, “None of these ideas are original. I have gotten them from children’s ministry pages on Facebook or from other children’s pastors. I just kind of tweaked it to fit the context of where we are in.”
There is no pressure for churches to be alone when it comes to creating experiences like these. Lawrence’s advice is to look towards others for creativity, “Take somebody else’s idea and make it your own. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can take something somebody else does that inspires you and make it fit your own church.”
Journey to the Cross
Stephanie Habenicht has been the children’s ministry leader at Parkway Place Baptist Church in Little Rock since 2006. In 2011, she began a pre-Easter event called Journey to the Cross to enable families to experience some of the emotions associated with Passion Week.
Participants go through five different stations, picking up a card with instructions at each one. The journey begins with a pathway lined with palm branches where children and their parents are invited to look at a poster with a variety of faces and discuss what different people in the crowd that day might have been feeling.
The next station is a little more intense with a time to reflect on sins for which Jesus paid the price. Moving on toward the cross, participants place a pebble in their shoe as a reminder of Jesus’s journey and spend a moment at the foot of the cross. As part of the overall sensory experience, participants are invited to sit and listen to words spoken by Jesus, the Light of the World.
The experience continues on to the empty tomb then ends with an invitation to sit as a family or group and enjoy a snack while discussing their journey. Habenicht said that she hopes the experience sparks conversation in the families who attend.
Habenicht originally purchased a kit that includes the handouts and instructions. A few years ago when the kit was no longer offered, she contacted the company for permission to reprint the handouts and received permission to do so. She said that the kit is now being offered again.
Opportunities to exchange ideas
Lawrence and Habenicht participate in a Facebook group of Arkansas children’s ministry leaders that offers an opportunity to exchange ideas. Children’s ministry leaders are invited to network and attend roundtable discussions with other leaders. Contact Emily Smith, Children’s Specialist at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention (firstname.lastname@example.org) for dates and locations.