It only feels like last week that we were celebrating Christmas and New Year, but before we’ve had time to blink, Easter bonnets and chocolate eggs are upon us!
Many of us will have spent the last 40 days in prayerful anticipation of the events of Easter week, but for most families, Lent is entirely absent, and the new life of Easter day the only part of the story that breaks in to everyday lives.
Like Christmas, Easter has become another season synonymous with Spring, with Easter egg hunts and fun days springing up in the most unlikely places. I went to a particularly fun one a couple of years ago where you had to find rocks to win fudge, but it had very little to do with the resurrection!
Many churches make the most of the Bank holiday weekend to invite families into church, and there are a number of opportunities which present themselves to be taken advantage of. Good Friday reflective services or stations of the cross are common, but it is possible to make these accessible to young people.
There’s an assumption that all young people want high energy, noisy worship, but give them a relevant, captivating experience, and they’ll be equally hooked. In my curacy we held a Passover meal on Maundy Thursday which young people always took part in. Swansea have historically held a Youth Vigil, which last year looked at Faith, Hope, Love, Peace and Reconciliation following the attacks in London. Young people are involved in planning the activities, which leads to a deeper engagement with the theme.
A day when children would normally be in school is a good day for holding sessions for children as parents are looking for things to do, and a common theme is a craft club or Messy Church.
There is plenty of inspiration for things to make with an Easter theme, so it makes sense to take advantage of this and explain what it all means at the same time.
This year St David’s Church, Morriston, are holding a Children’s Craft Morning from 10am-midday on Good Friday, while St James Church, Uplands, have Messy Church from10.30-11.30, and Llwynderw at 10am. St Nicholas on the Hill and St Jude have a family friendly Hot Cross Bun Service at 10am on Good Friday, while Holy Trinity have a Hot Cross Bun service at 10am followed by refreshments, Easter craft and a treasure hunt until 12.
Another way to engage with families is to have an Easter egg hunt in the grounds of the church – or inside the church if it rains. It’s a good excuse to show off your community space, and for children to remember the fun of an egg hunt. Brecon Cathedral have a Community Easter Egg hunt on Easter Sunday from 11am, and St Thomas Church in Swansea will be holding an Easter egg hunt and fun day following their Easter service at 10am.
Easter is also another fantastic way to engage with your local schools. Schools will cover Easter as part of their RE curriculum, so offering provision in church can be very welcome to teachers.
There are a number of resources to help churches plan a memorable experience for children. Scripture Union have a resource book called Easter Cracked, containing quizzes, talks and activities to lead a group of year 5s and 6s through a 90 minute session.
Gloucester Diocese have written a programme called Experience Easter, in which classes are taken through different stations around the building. Each station tells a part of the Easter story, and children are given the opportunity to take part in a reflective activity that relates to a key message for them to take away. For example, burning a stick on Good Friday as a visual representation that the things we do wrong are completely gone when God forgives us.
Following the success of our Christmas Through the Keyhole interactive trail in St Thomas, we decided to use another Redland Educational Centre trail, and set up Easter Explored.
The trail this time is aimed for key stage 2 children (age 8-11), and works on the premise that the children are looking for missing pieces of Peter’s diary. A very wet Peter greets the children when they arrive and entrusts them to find the diary he’s lost so that Mark can write it up.
They visit the Sea of Galilee, the upper room in Jerusalem, the Garden of Gethsemane, the High Priests courtyard and Golgotha, before finally ending up at the Garden of tombs. In each scene they hear more of the story and think about how Peter would be feeling. Like with Christmas, they take away a clue from each scene to remind them when they get home. Their final clue is a piece of Rocky Road to remind them of Peter’s nickname Rocky- the rock on which God will build his church.
While the opportunity for doing things with schools is over for this year, I hope this will give you some inspiration for what you could be doing next year. There are so many creative ways that we can share the Easter story with children and young people.
The good news of Easter is as much for them as it is for anyone, so we need to make sure that those of us who understand how important it is, are sharing that knowledge with others. Children have as much to gain from the crucifixion and resurrection as anyone else. They may not understand the entirety of it yet, but its important that we start them on that journey.
There is still time to make the events of Holy Week real and meaningful for the young people in your care. If you’d like to have a chat about what you can do, then feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rev Rachel Bunting is Bishop’s Officer for Family Ministry, Swansea Area Deanery