If you have a live donkey, encourage children to invite friends to come to Palm Sunday. The donkey can be a real selling point, and allow children who might otherwise be shy a way in to asking friends to church.
If you don’t have a live donkey, spend your children’s time this Sunday making a banner, or donkey puppets, or posters (which you can then laminate and put on sticks to make placards) or something else, for children to carry or use in the procession.
Buy real palms, not just palm crosses. The fun of waving around big branches adds a real element of participation and excitement to this festival. And they’re not that expensive. If you have a large church garden, or parishioners with large gardens, you could ask people to bring in a branch or two from whatever shrubs or small trees they have, or provide branches from the church garden.
The Passion reading is very dramatic, but many churches stick to the traditional way of reading it – a few adults standing in a line at the front.
With an hour’s rehearsal, the adults can dramatise it – act it out, use simple costume pieces – or with a bit more time, you could include children.
Include the congregation as the crowd and the soldiers. The drama of going, in half an hour, from shouting “hosanna!” to shouting “crucify him!” is incredibly powerful, and underlines the culpability of all of us in the death of Jesus. It wasn’t a few specific people in a faraway time who bear the guilt of his death – it’s the sin we all share.
Many churches will be singing “All Glory, Laud, and Honour” – the chorus is easy to learn, and allows children to participate more fully in the procession. Take some time the week before, or a few minutes at the start of your procession, to teach the chorus so children can sing it with the rest of the congregation.
Send home materials for the Holy Week Box, a wonderful way of extending children’s exploration of the story at home throughout the week.