"We should regularly invite children into the paschal mystery as often as we can, creating new opportunities to share the Good News."
When to tell the Easter Story
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, celebrated on Easter Sunday, is fundamental to our faith. Sharing the magnificent mystery of Easter with children and youth should be our top priority as Christian educators. Most churches experience the highest attendance numbers of the year on Easter. Yet on Easter Sunday most churches – for very valid reasons – do not offer Sunday school. So when else might we share the joy of Easter with children? Here are five suggestions and ideas for when to teach the Easter story at church.
1. Sunday school before Easter Sunday
I usually try to align our Sunday school lessons with the worship readings for that day. But I make an exception during Lent. Shifting the Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday readings ahead one week prepares and excites children for the coming Sunday. This also creates opportunities for the children and youth to make banners or art to display the next week.
2. Sunday School after Easter Sunday
There are 50 days of Easter! Why not celebrate (and educate) Easter for the entire season? Children are often surprised to learn that Easter is a season of seven Sundays. The lectionary readings and Sunday school lessons during Eastertide focus on Jesus’ appearance to his followers after the Resurrection. Preface these lessons with a recap of the empty tomb. This Holy Week flag project can be adapted for after Easter Sunday by using the Eastertide texts.
3. A Multi-Generational Experience
One year our middle school youth expressed a desire to “paint really big crosses!” That Lent we gathered families together in the evening for Bible storytelling and painting. Crosses of various sizes, with one side painted black, were laid out on tables, along with candles. We read the stories of Holy Week, blowing out the candles and turning the crosses over to the black sides when we heard of Jesus’ death. We then had table discussions about the Resurrection, after which all ages painted the blank sides of the crosses with symbols of new life. The crosses, black sides facing out, were displayed in the sanctuary on Good Friday. On Easter Sunday we flipped the crosses to display the beautifully painted sides.
4. Easter Sunday Children’s Time
Be sure to make the Resurrection central to your children’s message on Easter. I have successfully adapted our Sunday school lessons for use in worship. To do this, use the children’s time to introduce the story. Then pass out small bags with a designated craft or activity (Wikki Stix, sticker sheets, paper and crayons), encouraging children to create a response to the reading as the service continues. Invite them to show you their creations after worship.
If your curriculum includes discussion questions, add those to the bags for at-home conversation starters. This approach is a wonderful opportunity for visitors (and members of your congregation who don’t have children in Sunday school) to get a feel for your formation program.
5. All the Time
As the average church family attends once or twice per month, Christian educators need to think outside the lectionary box. We should regularly invite children into the paschal mystery as often as we can, creating new opportunities to share the Good News. What would it look like to teach the most essential part of our Christian faith on the highest attendance Sundays? We’ve heard of Christmas in July – why not Easter in October?
The lectionary is a powerful formation tool, but we should also be mindful of telling the Easter story to as many people as possible throughout the year. As Christians we are called to live and proclaim the Good News each and every day. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Thanks be to God.
Christine V. Hides is the Director of Ministries with Children and Youth at Northbrook UMC, Content Manager for Christians Engaged in Faith Formation, a mother of two, and a certified deacon candidate in the United Methodist Church. She writes about Christian education at Bless Each One.
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