Engaging Children in the Triduum

April 22, 2014
Lifelong Formation Team

Today’s guest blogger is Josh Hosler, who will soon graduate from Virginia Theological Seminary and begin a curacy at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Bellingham, WA.

CandlesHow does your congregation intentionally engage children in the Triduum? If you review your Holy Week liturgies and discover that the turnout of children and families was low, make some initial plans now for next year.

  • Baptized children, no matter how young, are full members of the Church, and it is the Church’s job to train them to be disciples. As much as we all love Christmas and think of it as a holiday especially for kids, I want to suggest that the Holy Week-Easter cycle is the heart of the Christian year, and that it is more central to developing our understanding of what Christianity is. In my experience, Maundy Thursday and the Easter Vigil are the most exciting services we ever offer for children—and for many adults as well.
  • Perhaps you offer Holy Week services every night, and in some cases several a day. Families with kids may feel overwhelmed by all the offerings and just wait until Sunday morning to show up—if they’re not vacationing over Easter, that is! Suggest that families with young kids bring them only on Thursday night and Saturday night, for instance. For elementary school-age kids, add Friday night. Make these suggestions known to your families.
  • Create a coloring book featuring scenes of Holy Week, and hand it out to young kids, with crayons, as they arrive for Holy Week services. For instance, one year I enjoyed creating one using Gertrud Mueller Nelson’s art, and I got her permission to use it (only in my own congregation).
  • If you have a youth choir, schedule them (well in advance!) to sing an anthem on Maundy Thursday, and then invite them to be the first to wash feet, along with the clergy. This can help break the ice for adults who might otherwise not have participated.
  • On Good Friday, involve older children and youth in making the service happen. Schedule acolytes. Perhaps teens might process the cross into the sanctuary. Look for other possible connections.
  • For years, I tried to get families with kids to come to the Easter Vigil. It can be an uphill battle because it takes place so late at night. Yet, as I have heard one priest put it: “Why would you keep these wonders from your child?” So keep trying, and be patient. Invite parents to bring their kids in pajamas, to bring pillows and blankets and camp out in the pew. Older kids can hold their own candle. But also work to make the Vigil more engaging for younger people—and for adults, too! Nobody of any age enjoys a dull reading, so use Biblical storytelling methods to make the stories come to life. Use props. Use costumes. Involve the kids in these efforts as well.
  • Finally, tell families that if they come to the Vigil, there’s no need to show up on Sunday morning along with all the befuddled masses who can’t find parking. Invite them to sleep in, and then to show up only for the Easter egg hunt!

What are some ideas you have seen work to involve children and youth in the Triduum?