Jesus' triumphant entry (Matthew 21:1-11)
Palm Sunday reminds us of the true story from the Bible, when Jesus arrives into Jerusalem. He didn't come in a flash car or with security guards - Jesus rode in on a donkey. The people knew that there was something special about him though, and they lined the streets, cheering and waving palm branches.
How many donkeys?
While the Palm Sunday story is covered in other gospels, this Matthew reading has an interesting detail that is often missed. How many donkeys did Jesus ride into Jerusalem?
Jesus asks for a donkey and a colt (a young donkey, less than 4 years old) to be Brough to him. "They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on" - Jesus sat on them - two donkeys!
Simple Palm Leaves
What you need:
Chalk Printed Palm Leaves
What you need:
What you do:
In advance, make a simple palm leave stencil by cutting out a leaf print out of a plastic lid or mat. You can use a craft knife for this, and care might be needed if the stencil lid is made of plastic.
Get a few big brushes and pots for children to join in and paint some palm leaves along the pathway outside church. The leaves should fade gradually and will provide a great conversation starter for children and adults. You could also do templates of clothes if you wanted to take it one step further!
Here are some photos of the amazing palm leaves from St Stephens Tamahere, Hamilton.
What you need:
What you do:
Please adhere to Tikanga protocol when using flax (harakeke) in New Zealand, as it is considered a taonga.
A beautiful image from the Visio Lectio project, created by the Anglican Diocese of Auckland. © Sarah West. All Rights reserved, shared with permission.
Every year we read the story of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and it is one of the few scenes we traditionally act out in our churches. What are we to do with the story, though? What do we do with the enthusiastic crowds and their expectations, given what we know comes next? Grace Morris joins us from her theological college in Chicago, together with Bishop Steve and Anne in her role as a last-minute fill-in! We thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, so hope you will too.
Pin Jesus on the donkey
What you need:
If you have very young children, make sure your donkey is low enough for them to reach easily.
For older children, spin them around (slowly) 2-3x before aiming them in the right direction.
Pin the tail on the donkey
A picture of a donkey minus his tail, a tail with a bit of blue tack on the end, a pen for marking where people place the tail, and a blindfold
What to do
Hang the picture of the donkey on a wall. Get all the children to line up at the other end of the room. One at a time, blind fold the child, spin them around three times, and then get them to try and pin the tail on the donkey without looking. After they have stuck it where they think it should go, take off the blindfold, mark the place with the pen and write the child’s name by it. Then let the next child have a go. Keep going until everyone has had a turn. The winner is the person who gets the closest to where the tail should be.
A parable of two sons (Matthew 21:23-32)
Have you ever told someone something and they didn’t believe you? What was that like? (pause) I remember once that my teacher at school let me be ‘teacher for the afternoon’ at school. This was quite a privilege and I was really excited about it. I spent ages planning a lesson for my classmates and getting all the things I needed together to make it really interesting and fun.
Well, everything was fine until I tried to be the teacher. My friends wouldn’t listen to me and decided to be silly about everything I asked them to do. It made me feel really embarrassed, and I thought that it was all my fault.
Afterwards, my teacher took me aside and talked to me about it. She said that I had done a really good job, that my planning was excellent and that she was really impressed. She also told me that perhaps the reason my friends had acted up was because they knew me as their friend, not their teacher.
In the story today, the chief priests and leaders were giving Jesus a hard time. Why do you think that was? (pause) Well, I think that maybe it was because Jesus was acting like a leader himself but they didn’t recognise him as one. So even though Jesus was speaking the truth about God, these chief priests and leaders wouldn’t listen just because they didn’t think he was good enough to be a leader with such authority.
I want you to take a moment and think about whether there is anyone in your life that has been trying to tell you something and you haven’t wanted to listen to them? (pause) God calls each of us to be leaders in different ways at different times. It’s God who gives us authority, not our friends or anyone else.
Perhaps the lesson from today’s story for each of us is to think twice before we ignore what someone says to us just because we don’t want to hear what they have to say.
A huge thanks to the Diocese of Dunedin for another great conversation. We are in election season here in New Zealand, and here we have two Gospel stories which are, arguably, about integrity. It makes for an interesting discussion among our Conversationalists this week! Join Bishop Kelvin, Rev Jenny and Rev Lucy as they and Archdeacon Michael tease out the passage's meaning for today.
A parable of two sons
Today's bible story explores the theme of faithfulness. Sermons 4 Kids have a modern day parable of this story on their website. You might like to update it with examples and activities that would be engaging for your children, e.g. Dad asks the kids to rake the garden, but the kids give excuses like playing Roblox, making TikToks.
You will need:
If kids ran church...
The following is an exercise for the children to get children thinking about how they would run church or to create their own children’s ministry programme. You may like to choose one or the other, depending on your setting.
For ease, the exercise below looks at how to lead a discussion about running their own children's ministry, but you could apply this to 'kids running church'. The theory is that by creating them themselves, they will be invested in making them work and it will help create a better children’s ministry group. There may be ideas that come out of this exercise that you would like to incorporate into your children’s programme
What you need: Giant pieces of paper, glue, magazines and newspapers, felts and pens
What to do: Explain to the children that today they are going to have the opportunity to design their ideal children’s ministry programme. Set up four tables each with a large piece of paper and supplies (or one table if you have a small group). Get them to think about the following things:
Then let them loose to create for about 15minutes. Encourage them but don’t take over or put your own ideas into it.
At the end of the time, get the groups to share what they have come up with to the whole group. Let everyone have a chance to share. Then, ask them to each choose one thing from what they came up with that they would like to see happen in your regular children’s programme. Write these down.
(If you can, you should show it to the adults in church as well and hang them up where they can look at them over morning tea.)
Note: You may not be able to incorporate everything that they come up with (eg a waterslide) but you may be able to do something similar (eg. An interesting way of coming into the room eg linked cardboard box tunnel) Make sure that you don’t promise anything that you won't follow through on.
Game - truth or lie
What you need: Pieces of paper, pens
What to do: Give each child a pen and a piece of paper.
Then explain that in no particular order they need to write down two things that are true about themselves, and one thing that isn’t. E.g. 1. My middle name is Charlotte (true) I have two sisters (lie) and I can drive a car (true). Give them a few minutes to do this.
Then, get them one at a time to read out their three things (in no particular order) and get everyone else to try and guess which the lie is!!!
The Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21:33-46)
God's amazing generosity
An interactive talk about the Parable of the Vineyard workers
In this story the workers who worked hard the whole day were angry.
Why was that?
Was it because they didn’t get the money they had been promised? Had the work been too hard?
No, it was because the workers who arrived later got given the same amount of money even though they only worked for a few hours. The full-day workers felt mad that the Vineyard Owner was so generous! They couldn’t stand the thought that others would get a whole day’s pay even though they hadn’t earnt it. They lost focus of the fact that none of them deserved to have been given a job that day at all. It was only because the Vineyard owner hired them that they were able to work and be paid that day.
We can sometimes feel this way about God’s generosity. He is so generous, He loves to give good gifts and bless people...just look at our beautiful planet.
We know He has blessed us. Let’s stop for a minute and you tell me some things in your life you are thankful to God for…
Sometimes we think there are some people who don’t deserve God’s gifts. People who ignore God still get good things. People who do things wrong still seem to have a great life. We can feel mad like the Vineyard workers and focus on being mad about what others have rather then giving God thanks for what He has given us. The truth is we always have something we can be thankful for.
Lets look up a verse. Can we find Matthew 5:45?
This verse says that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
What do we think that means?
It means God doesn’t just give good people blessings. The sun shines on everyone. Neither does He let bad things only happen to evil people, we all have times when it "rains" in our lives.
So we musn’t be mad when people get good things we don’t think they deserve. It's God's very nature to be generous to all people and we should be pleased that He is like this. Instead of being mad we should give God thanks for the good things He has given us.
Let's pray together and say thanks to God right now...
(Could also link this parable to that of the Prodigal Son and the older sons jealousy)
Many of Jesus' parables are very uncomfortable, and the one he tells the religious leaders about God's vineyard and those who care for it is definitely one of the most unsettling. How are we to understand it today? Where are we in the parable? Archdeacon Michael, from the Diocese of Dunedin, brings together Jonathan, Lisa and Mark to come at this passage from myriad directions, and leave us with a wealth of things to consider.
Parable of the tenants
The parable of the tenants told using watercolour artwork illustrations -- PDF can be used for onscreen show or for printing in colour.
It can be read by the teacher or more interactively by the children taking turns, or as the background/narration for a role-play or drama.
Last of all, he sent his Son
A story that explores how we have God's forgiveness through his Son. The story can be found on Sermons 4 Kids.
Parable of the tenants song
An animated song of the parable of the tenants, commissioned for the Savior Musical (Saviormusical.com) and made by 'Full of Eyes'
Song: To You Who Have Ears To Ear, by Jonathan Cashman.
An all age illustration
This is something we did one Sunday that might work for your context.
I chose 3 ‘bosses’ and gave each a bowl of lollies. Each boss had a team that had to complete a random picture (but we could have used any task). I told the kids that when the picture was done, they’d each receive something sweet. Some kids had to draw one circle. Others had to colour in 3 rectangles. Things like that. In other words, some kids definitely had to do more than others-but it still only took a minute or two. (but we had the space to play with this idea- it certainly isn’t necessary. Or you could really expand the task idea).
The gist of the activity was that the bosses got to choose how many lollies each team member got as a reward. I had spoken privately to the bosses and so they knew to give different kids different numbers of lollies having nothing to do with how long it took them to finish their part of the drawing, and I explained that at the end it would be made fair (some kids just won’t go along with hurting other kids!).
When all the kids had been given 1,2 or 3 lollies I asked who thought it was fair. Who liked the way the lollies were given out, etc. I let different kids respond and then said that it really didn’t seem fair (for the reasons they shared) Some had worked longer, some had done more. That’s when I introduced the story saying that Jesus once told a story about something a bit like this, where some people working in the vineyard didn’t think things were very fair. Then I told the story and tied it back with what we’d done. It worked quite well, even though I think it’s a bit of a tough story with kids
If I were doing it as part of an All Age service, and had space I would re orient the task to be something like filling a bucket with water or sand where some people make lots of trips and others don’t have to make very many. Or with the pews, maybe batting balloons down the pew row (where everyone does the same thing, but the rewards are different) I’d keep it quite simple and fast moving. You could make the person at the end of each row the “boss” with the lollies or get a few volunteers before the service started.