Holy Week isn’t easy for parents. One of the more challenging questions is how to observe – and discuss – the events commemorated on Good Friday.
It’s never too late – or too early – to begin a family tradition of worship on Good Friday. Good Friday worship is seldom convenient, coming in the middle of a workday or the end of a work week. But if we plan to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, it is only right to observe Christ’s death as well.
There are lessons for our children – and ourselves – in this liturgy. The flower-filled Easter service is more joyful and remarkable when children can remember the somber Good Friday service in the empty sanctuary. The turn from death to resurrection, despair to hope, death to life, teaches children the faith as nothing else can – and equips them for life in the process.
But Good Friday worship, especially with small children, can mean challenging conversations. Children are often natural theologians, ready to wonder about and ponder the mysteries of God. Adults can get nervous about hard faith conversations, but there’s no need.
Here are some resources to help you think through the questions before they arise:
From our archives: Talking about the Cross with Young Children
The cross is God’s great love letter to the world. It is no accident that crucifixion involves outstretched arms. Jesus literally died in the posture of embrace – as if he was answering the question, “How much does God love and forgive us?”
“This much,” Jesus says.
From Building Faith’s Good Friday Through the Eyes of a Child…
Jesus proclaimed God’s forgiveness from the cross as he was dying. He forgave Peter, who had denied him, and those who caused his death, and he will forgive us for all that we do that hurts others. That’s why Good Friday is good.
As God was with Jesus in his suffering, he is with us when we suffer.
From Wendy Claire Barrie, Why We Call Good Friday Good:
We are Easter people because we have been to the cross and the grave and we know the promise God makes to us in Jesus: God’s power and grace can transform anything; God’s love is stronger than the cross, stronger than death itself.
From Building Faith’s Holy Week, the Cross, and Children:
Children – even very young ones – know that bad things happen. The Easter message is that good always triumphs over evil – even if it doesn’t seem to at the moment. This is a message children can hear and understand.
In case you need encouragement to take kids to church…
From our archives: The First Secret of a Pew Whisperer: Being There
In our baptismal vows, we promise to share the Good News with others; as parents, our primary mission field is our own kids. For us it all begins in worship. It begins with raising our girls into their baptismal identity as people who praise—giving them tools to claim their place within the worshiping people of God.
And one other idea…
When my children were still in elementary school, we observed Good Friday using the Good Friday Liturgical Tea menu from Alice Gunther’s Cottage Blessings site. The church marks Good Friday as a fast day; this is more an accumulation of snacks than a meal. It was educational, nutritious, and engaging.
However you observe Good Friday, may God’s grace and mercy be evident to you.
A Prayer for Today
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
How do you observe Good Friday? with children?