Family Worship Ideas for Easter
Lent can be a significant time in your family’s spiritual growth if you determine to make the most of the opportunity to teach your children the meaning of the most important events of Holy Week. Thoughtful preparation for that week can only enhance its meaning for everyone in your house.
Lent…A season of spiritual preparation during which we recall the whole life, teachings, and ministry of Jesus.
Holy Week…A time when Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are compressed into one week. Focusing upon the sin of men, the suffering of Jesus and the victory of God.
Easter…A day and season when we celebrate God’s victory, through Christ, over sin, hate and death.
Pentecost…A day and a season when we rejoice in God’s permanent gift of his Spirit to men who would continue to proclaim the GOOD NEWS of the Christ to the whole world.
Ideas for Family Worship
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Symbolic since early biblical times of repentance for sin or grief in mourning, ashes were used to make the sign of the cross on the forehead. Some faiths still practice this.
Find a comfortable place to share in family worship each week. This can be around the kitchen table, or in a circle on the floor in front of a fireplace. Make this a worshipful atmosphere: place an open Bible in the center, or light a candle or make a cross centerpiece.
Father or mother can talk about the meaning of the Lenten season. Explain that these next few weeks you will be reading the Bible’s account of what happened to Jesus during the first “Lent.” Read Luke 4:1–12. We are told in Hebrews 4:15 that Jesus was tempted in every way we can be today. Talk about the ways he was tempted in this account and let family members share ways they feel tempted.
Hold hands and pray around the circle. Ask God’s help in resisting temptation and thank him for promising to do so (1 Cor. 10:13).
Palm Sunday celebrates the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Palm branches were thrown into his path and hosannas were shouted for joy.
Talk about parades and how much excitement there is - how fun it is as you anticipate each new float or marching band. Read about Jesus’ part in a kind of parade in Luke 19:29–40. Why does it say the people shouted (vs. 37)? Can you imagine anyone today trying to keep people from shouting their excitement (vs. 39)? What do you think verse 40 tells us about Jesus? What are some ways that we praise?
Read the following Psalm responsively, praying scripture back to God.
All: Praise the Lord!
Mom/Dad: Praise the Lord from the heavens,
Praise him in the heights above!
Children: Praise him, all his angels,
Praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Mom/Dad: Praise him, sun and moon,
Praise him, all you shining stars.
Children: Praise him, you highest heavens
And you waters above the skies.
Mom/Dad: Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For he commanded and they were created.
Children: He set them in place for ever and ever;
He gave a decree that will never pass away.
Mom/Dad: Praise the Lord from the earth,
You great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
Lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
Stormy winds that do his bidding,
You mountains and all hills,
Fruit trees and all cedars,
Wild animals and all cattle,
Small creatures and flying birds,
Kings of the earth and all nations,
Your princes and all rulers on earth,
Young men and maidens, old men and children.
Children: Let them praise the name of the Lord,
For his name alone is exalted;
His splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
All: Praise the Lord!
Many Jews still celebrate the Passover with a special meal remembering the deliverance of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.
If you choose to serve your favorite family meal, remain at the table for worship. Clean the table (leave the dishes for later) and put your worship centerpiece there.
Go back into the Old Testament to learn about how the Passover celebration began. It was designed with many detailed instructions, and it was meant to identify the Israelites so that when the last plague took place they would escape it. (Exodus 11 tells about the plague of the firstborn.) Read
Exodus 12:1–30. Make up a menu of what they ate. Do you ever eat lamb at your house? The meat had to be a lamb because it was a part of the Jewish law requiring the sacrifice of a lamb as a guilt offering to the Lord for sin. Later, Jesus is called the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He died as the sacrifice offering to God for our sins.
Take time to thank God for sending Jesus to be the sacrifice for our sins. Encourage private confession of sins and thanking God for his forgiveness.
Read Luke 22:39–23:25 in sections (interspersed with questions) or have older children and Mom or Dad read the sections silently and then tell what happened during those last days of Jesus.
• Luke 22:39–36. Why does Jesus say we should pray? How might Jesus have felt when he found the disciples sleeping?
• Luke 22:47–62. Why did one disciple cut off a guard’s ear? Why do you think Peter denied Jesus?
• Luke 22:66–23:7. What did they accuse Jesus of? What kind of defense did Jesus offer?
• Luke 23:8–25. Why was Herod glad to see Jesus? Why did Pilate hesitate to punish Jesus?
Thank God that he sent Jesus to die for our sins. Pray for the people who have never heard the story of Jesus’ death.
Center your worship around the resurrection. Talk about what it meant that Jesus rose from the dead (life that never ends; God’s mighty power; hope; joy; etc.). What did it mean to Mary, Jesus’ mother? What did it mean to Peter? What did it mean to the other disciples? What does it mean to me?
Read Matthew 28:1–20
“Christ the Lord is Risen Today”
Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say: Alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high, Alleluia!
Sing, ye heavens, and earth reply: Alleluia!
SPECIAL EASTER ACTIVITY
“Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!” Keep the joy of Easter alive throughout the season by greeting one another with these words, by repeating them to yourself daily, or by writing them on a poster or banner to hang in your home.
If you want to expand your family worship time, these are some Scripture lessons you may want to use.
ASH WEDNESDAY Matt 4:1–11 The Temptation of Jesus
Thursday Psalm 23 The Lord is Our Shepherd
Friday Matt 4:12–25 Jesus Begins His Work
Saturday Psalm 46 God is With Us
FIRST SUNDAY Matt 5:1–12 True Happiness
Monday Matt 5:38–48 Teaching about Love
Tuesday Matt 6:5–15 Teaching about Prayer
Wednesday Matt 8:1–17 Jesus Heals People
Thursday Matt 10:1–15 The Mission of Jesus’ Disciples
Friday Matt 12:1–8 Questions about the Sabbath
Saturday Psalm 63 Longing for God
SECOND SUNDAY Matt 13:1–9 Parable of the Sower
Monday Matt 12:10–23 Purpose of the Parables
Tuesday Matt 13:23–34 Other Parables
Wednesday Matt 13:44–56 More Parables
Thursday Matt 14:13–21 Jesus Feeds Five Thousand
Friday Matt 16:13–20 Peter’s Declaration about Jesus
Saturday Psalm 51 A Prayer for Forgiveness
THIRD SUNDAY Matt 16:21–28 Jesus Speaks About His Suffering
Monday Matt 18:1–9 Who is Greatest?
Tuesday Matt 18:10–14 Parable of the Lost Sheep
Wednesday Matt 18:21–35 Parable of an Unforgiving Servant
Thursday Matt 19:16–30 The Rich Young Man
Friday Matt 20:1–16 Parable of Workers in the Vineyard
Saturday Psalm 95 A Song of Praise
FOURTH SUNDAY Matt 21:1–11 Jesus’ Entry into Jerusalem
Monday Matt 21:12–17 Jesus Goes to the Temple
Tuesday Matt 21:23–27 Question About Jesus’ Authority
Wednesday Matt 21:33–45 Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard
Thursday Matt 22:1–14 Parable of the Wedding Feast
Friday Matt 22:34–40 The Great Commandment
Saturday Matt 23:1–28 Jesus’ Warnings
FIFTH SUNDAY Psalm 103 The Love of God
Monday Matt 24:1–14 Troubles and Persecutions
Tuesday Matt 25:1–13 Parable of the Ten Girls
Wednesday Matt 25:14–30 Parable of the Three Servants
Thursday Matt 25:31–46 The Least of These, My Brothers
Friday Matt 26:1–16 The Plot Against Jesus
Saturday Psalm 139 God’s Complete Knowledge and Care
PALM SUNDAY Matt 26:17–35 The Passover Meal
Monday Matt 26:36–46 Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
Tuesday Matt 26:47–68 Jesus’ Arrest
Wednesday Matt 26:69–75 Peter Denies Jesus
MAUNDY THURSDAY Matt 27:1–26 Jesus Taken to Pilate
GOOD FRIDAY Matt 27:27–56 The Crucifixion
Saturday Matt 27:57–66 Burial of Jesus
EASTER Matt 28:1–20 The Resurrection
Other Ideas for Worship
READ AND LEARN TOGETHER
The Lord’s Prayer
The Doxology and Gloria Patri
The Messianic Psalms: 2, 22, 31, 69, 110, 118
Psalms of Repentance: 32, 34, 38, 40, 51, 130
The Palm Sunday Psalm: 24
1 Corinthians 15—The Resurrection Chapter
Revelations 5:9–14—The Lamb of God
Even very young children can learn long passages (without forcing!) through simple daily repetition. START EARLY in Lent. You’ll be amazed!
LISTEN TO MUSIC AND LEARN HYMNS
“The Messiah” (Passion section)—Handel
“Christ the Lord is Risen Today”
“Hallelujah, What a Savior”
“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”
“And Can it Be, That I Should Gain”
“Hail, Thou Once Despised Jesus”
“Jesus, Priceless Treasure”
“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded”
READ BOOKS TOGETHER
The Very First Easter by Paul L. Maier
Twice Yours by Nan Gurley
The Prince's Poison Cup by R. C. Sproul
This is No Fairy Tale by Dale Tolmasoff
My Lord and My God: Thomas' Incredible Account of Jesus' Resurrection by Calvin Miller
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe—an allegory of the atonement by C.S. Lewis
Christ in Easter: A Family Celebration of Holy Week by Billy Graham, Charles Colson and Max Lucado
Before and After Easter: Activities and Ideas for Lent to Pentecost by Debbie Trafton O'Neal
***See bookstore for other ideas***
Lent is traditionally a time of penitence and fasting. Here are a few ideas:
Give up coffee breaks, chocolate, desserts, seconds or another significant sacrifice for you and put the money you save daily into a special offering to missions.
Eat a weekly “hungry supper” such as broth, rice, beans, or plain bread and water. Pray for world hunger. Give the money you would have spent on the meal to world hunger relief.
Really fast. Recall the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Go hard after Him!
2. DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE ELSE
At the Last Supper Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. Think of ways you can “wash feet” by performing acts of loving service for your family and others.
Make banners and take them as gifts to a shut-in or nursing home resident.
Make a cheerful fruit basket for an elderly or needy family in your neighborhood or church.
Take a special family offering to be used for missions, so that others can learn about Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Share the miracle of Christ’s resurrection with others. Make bookmarks with scripture verses on them to give to people in nursing homes. Send homemade Easter cards to friends and relatives who need to hear the good news of God’s love.
Make a cross necklace out of two nails tied together with wire, string, or purple yarn. Wear it during Holy Week to remind yourself and others of Jesus’ death on the cross.
3. PRACTICE HOSPITALITY
Try a Passover meal with family and/or friends. This traditional Jewish ceremony can have great significance for Christians as we learn the symbols involved with the Children of Israel escaping captivity and being led by God into the Promised Land. For specifics, see Next Year in Jerusalem by C.M. Hanson, and Creative Hospitality, by LeFever.
Some special traditional foods may help to make the Easter season special:
- Hot cross buns for breakfast on Good Friday or Easter
- Lamb on Easter Day
- A lamb-shaped cake decorated with coconut and candles
- Grape juice to help us remember the communion elements and their meaning.
4. DECORATE YOUR HOME
Form a mountain out of clay, salt dough or other dough. Shape the mountain on a flat base, forming a “cave” in the side (the mountain itself could be formed over an oatmeal box). Shape a “stone” to fit over the door of the cave or find a real stone that will fit. Punch holes in the top of the mountain with toothpicks, which will later hold pipe cleaner “people” (or make people out of clothespins, or purchase figures to represent Jesus, the disciples, soldiers, etc.). Make a cross from two sticks or thin pieces of wood and make an indentation in the center of the mountaintop. Bake or allow to harden.
Use this scene as a centerpiece throughout the season. Use the scene along with the cross and people to play out the events of Holy Week. Place your Jesus figure in the cave on Good Friday night and place the stone over the door (candles can be placed nearby to represent the torches of the watchmen). Saturday night or early Easter morning, take the stone from the door and place your Jesus figure on the top of the mountain (you may like to arrange some tiny flowers or plants around the tomb opening to represent LIFE). You will be delighted at your children’s reaction to this wonderful surprise, especially if you have been carefully teaching the story all week.
Banners can be simple or highly complex; made of scraps you have on hand or of purchased felt, burlap or other fabric.
• Give your children scraps and let them create their own banners around an Easter theme (you should guide them away from eggs and bunnies).
• Make an Easter banner as a family activity (see idea starters below).
• Make banners around an Easter theme, a favorite verse or a special thought and give as an Easter gift rather than an Easter basket (for Grandma and Grandpa, or your own children).
- Palm Sunday—a road with a cross in the background, a palm frond in the foreground
- The Cross—use rough textures, perhaps real nails through the fabric
- Crown of Thorns—elongated triangles arranged in a jagged circle
- Communion elements—bread, wheat, grapes, a goblet
- ICTHUS symbol— “Jesus Christ, God’s son, Savior”
- Lamb or Shepherd—use cotton balls for wool
- Resurrection—sunrise, figure with arms raised, empty tomb (put a hole in the banner to make it even more dramatic), butterflies (symbol of rebirth) or words (“Allelujah,” “Risen Indeed,” “He Lives”)
Try hanging nails on the fringe of a burlap banner or hanging the banner from a thorny stick. Try a reversible banner using somber colors and a Holy Week theme, and a bright, bold resurrection theme for the reverse side (flip the banner early Easter morning).
Lenten (or Holy Week) Candles
Collect six candles and arrange them together as a centerpiece or in a special place set aside for family devotions. Light all of the candles the first week of Lent (or Palm Sunday, if you choose to make this a Holy Week tradition). Each Sunday (or each day) light one less candle in your grouping, like the reverse of the advent wreath. On Good Friday the last candle is blown out and none is lit on Saturday. On Resurrection Day re-light all the candles, perhaps adding plants or flowers for your Easter dinner centerpiece.
Symbolism of the Candles:
The candles represent the growing darkness of evil and Satan’s power as the events of the crucifixion approach.
Jesus is the Light of the World, and on Resurrection Day he proved that darkness had no power over him. You may like to read John 1:1-18 and other passages regarding Jesus’ victory over death and Satan.
A Dark House (taken from an article in the Children’s Ministry News by Diana Wyman, February 1998)
On Good Friday close all the blinds/shades in the main living area and remove all flowering and green plants. One can also add a black tablecloth to your dining area, large spikes at place settings and your recycled Christmas tree (devoid of branches) as a symbol of the cross. For two days this “darkened house” provides an added opportunity to focus on the sorrow, despair and confusion of the disciples as they witnessed what they surmised to be a tragedy of immense proportions.
On Easter facilitate the biggest contrast possible. Transform your dining area into a place of joy and light. Open blinds and shades, use a white tablecloth, feature gold, purple and crystal at the place settings. This aspect of darkness preceding light helps one to see the spiritual and emotional connection of moving from death to life, from despair to hope.