Make a big deal about Pentecost! Pentecost, the "birthday of the church," celebrates God's sending of the Holy Spirit, creating understanding and unity among the early followers of the risen Christ. It was originally a Jewish harvest holiday; it became, in the early church, the culmination of the "great fifty days" following Easter. For the church today, Pentecost is almost the only significant Christian holiday that has not been usurped by commercialism, so make the most of it with these terrific ideas for celebrating!
With Young Children
Young children will catch your enthusiasm for Pentecost, and will learn that we read about Pentecost in a very special book, the Bible. Preschoolers are eager for parties, especially birthday parties, and will happily celebrate the birthday of the church with cookies or cupcakes and candles. Although they may miss the historical details, together you will establish positive memories about this significant day.
Young children enjoy acting out stories and dressing up. Provide costumes for the children and help them dramatize the story as you retell it. Encourage them to use their hands to demonstrate "tongues of fire" on their heads, and to make the sounds of the mighty wind.
If you worship in a sanctuary with stained glass windows, enliven children's natural awareness of color and shapes by helping them discover the color red and to find doves and flames that represent the day. Don't forget banners and kneeling pads if you have them!
School-age Children and Pentecost
Emphasize Peter's courageous role (especially in light of his earlier denial of knowing Jesus) in the Pentecost story. As fans of action heroes, help the children understand Peter and the other disciples as brave heroes for their faith.
Middle- and older-elementary children, who are beginning to think symbolically, will enjoy activities that include the symbols of the day like the descending dove and the flames. Include activities that emphasize the outreach of the church, such as ways we care for people in need, and how the church ministers across the world.
Ways for Everyone to Celebrate
Adapt these ideas for your age group and class size.
- Have a birthday party! Bring a birthday cake to share. You can also let the children decorate it using red icing and the symbols of Pentecost.
- Instead of having "party favors" to take home, help the children make a simple gift that they can share with their community. Make Pentecost-related tray favors for the nursing home by drawing doves on cards and decorating them. If there is a daycare or preschool in your church, have children make pinwheels to be shared with the children. Remind the children that when the Holy Spirit carne, the Bible says it sounded like a mighty wind.
- Make a banner! Explain that the followers of Jesus spoke different languages, but were miraculously able to understand one another. Help the children make a poster or banner using the word peace in as many languages as possible. Incorporate the Pentecost colors of red, white, and gold.
- Invite persons from different nationalities in your church or community to share how Christians worship and observe Pentecost in their countries.
- Emphasize that the Holy Spirit was poured out "upon everyone" (Joel 2:28). Teach your class about one of the missions your church supports that demonstrates the love and peace that the Holy Spirit brings (or describe the Heifer International, Habitat for Humanity, or another outreach project). All of these activities emphasize the empowerment the church receives from the Holy Spirit.
- Sing church "birthday" songs like We are the Church or Jesus Love Me include other languages and don't forget Happy Birthday!
The Coming of the Holy Spirit
Describe the symbols of Pentecost through your newsletter, bulletin, and website. Help members of the congregation understand that red represents the tongues of fire, white represents the dove of the Holy Spirit, and that streamers are often used to represent the wind. (You can also add wind chimes!) Encourage everyone to wear red on Pentecost, and provide red ribbons and pins in case some forget. Ask your pastor if the children may read and interpret Acts 2:1-4 for worship on Pentecost Sunday. If you teach older children, ask two children to read the story aloud. Have one child read the narration and another read the places where people speak. Have other children be the "spirit bearers" who, each time the Holy Spirit is mentioned, wave short dowel sticks, wrapped with streamers of crepe paper. Children will enjoy developing other actions and sounds for the wind, the voices, and the flames.
Celebrate the presence of the Holy Spirit by singing songs like I'm Goin' a Sing When the Spirit Says Sing, Spirit of the Living God, Surely the Presence of the Lord, and Sweet, Sweet Spirit.
A Celebration of Wind
Acts 2:2 tells us that when the Holy Spirit descended, there was a sound "like the howling of a fierce wind." We often refer to the Holy Spirit as the "breath of God." Have a celebration of wind by making pinwheels from red, orange, and yellow paper. Or fly paper airplanes with Pentecost symbols on the wings, blow bubbles, or fly a kite! Let the children take pleasure in the wind that God has created.
Ask children and their families to bring windsocks or wind chimes from home to decorate the sanctuary. The sound of the wind chimes will enhance worship for persons of all ages.
No matter how you decide to celebrate Pentecost in your classroom, don't be afraid to make a big deal about it! Use your imagination! The Holy Spirit comes to open us to new possibilities!
So make a big deal about Pentecost!