As a young boy my favorite week of the entire year was Holy Week. I wish I could say I had a pious rationale for reveling in the most dramatic week of the liturgical year. But, truth be told, it was because I got to ride my Big Wheels at church.
My sisters and I grew up as PKs (pastor’s kids). Our dad was a solo pastor of a medium-sized church in a small town. Our mom was the church musician and also taught music at a parochial school in a neighboring town. There were worship services on Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday (including an awake-before-Jesus sunrise service). Each of these services came with a unique set of expectations for worship leaders. Mom and Dad practically lived at church during Holy Week, which meant they had to get creative with how to keep their young children occupied so they could decorate the sanctuary, write sermons, rehearse with musicians, coordinate the Easter breakfast, and arrange (and rearrange) the Easter lilies.
So, we got to ride our Big Wheels at church. We popped popcorn and watched movies on the church’s VHS player. We played hide-and-seek in the dark, and had contests to see whose paper airplane flew the furthest from the sanctuary balcony. (Mine made it all the way to the baptismal font!) We hid Easter eggs around the fellowship hall; “helped” our parents with projects as our abilities and attention spans allowed' and slept on the beanbag chairs in the youth room when we got tired. It was a blast.
Holy Week worship as a child
Of course, in addition to all the extra fun, there was worship. I remember waving palm branches and shouting “Hosanna” (and wondering why the lady next to me was saying “ho-ZAAA-na”). I remember the cantata the choir sang on Thursday and thinking it was cool that they were taking the place of the sermon. On Friday night, I remember wondering why everyone was crying. I remember the church being so full and noisy on Easter. Holy Week was special for religious reasons, too.
Four tips to help church workers engage their children during Holy Week
I’ve been a youth minister and a parent for 15 years—my oldest child was baptized on Palm Sunday 2003. It’s an exhausting week for a church worker with kids. Your children might not comprehend everything that occurs during Holy Week, but they will remember how their Holy Week experiences made them feel. It can be challenging, but there are ways for Holy Week to be a meaningful time for a church worker’s family. Here are a few suggestions for how you can be present with your family during a week when the church requires you to be ubiquitous:
- Invite your kids to help you prepare for Holy Week. It’s okay to involve them in your Holy Week preparations. Don’t just give them the jobs you dislike. They might be incredibly helpful at sermon prep or making pancakes.
- Take time to share the Good News with your family. Find ways to engage in the Passion story for yourselves. This week might feel like performance art to you and your family. Read the story together with nobody else around. Or just watch Jesus Christ Superstar a few dozen times.
- Honor your daily, non–Holy Week family routines. Try to keep a little normalcy during this hectic week by doing some of the usual stuff (reading stories, going for walks, bedtime rituals, etc.) you do the other 51 weeks of the year.
- Disregard your daily, non–Holy Week family routines. When it’s not possible to be normal, embrace it and have some fun. Frozen pizza in the church kitchen every night of the week might feel like a parenting fail, but if you frame it the right way, it can feel like an extra special treat for the kids.
Holy Week is unlike any other week of the year. I hope you and your family can find ways to embrace the chaos and have special moments together, with or without Big Wheels.