Worship for Kids: Pentecost Sunday 2022

January 2nd, 2022

From a Child's Point of View

Acts 2:1-21. This passage tells of the giving of the Holy Spirit and is the key story for Pentecost Sunday. Because children will have trouble following the text, they will depend on you to retell and interpret the story. Two points are of particular interest to them. First, the coming of the spirit with wind and fire invites their imaginations to work on "What it was really like." (See Sermon Resources for suggestions for exploring the feel of the wind, fire, and Holy Spirit.)

Second, the miraculous ability of the disciples to speak foreign languages on that day, in order to tell the good news to travelers from around the world, points out that God intends that we be united. Peter cites Joel's list of all the people (sons and daughters, old men, and even slaves) who will receive God's Holy Spirit as further proof that we are to be united.

Genesis 11:1-9. This is the story of the Tower of Babel, understood by the church as God's response to sinful human pride when we try to make ourselves equal to God. It is read today as a contrast to the Pentecost story, in which people of all languages are drawn together by the Holy Spirit. But children will catch none of this as they hear the passage. The story line, with all its details about brick and bituminous mortar, is hard for them to follow. And God's words sound almost as if God were intimidated by human capabilities and that God therefore erected an obstacle (differing languages) to keep us under control. So read the story from the Bible and then retell it in order to present its intended points clearly.

OR Romans 8:14-17. (The Revised Common Lectionary suggests that either Romans or Genesis be read this Sunday.) This is another passage that is hard for children to "hear" as it is read, but one which offers ideas that are meaningful to them. Its first truth is that the Holy Spirit is not scary, nor does it make us afraid of God. Wind, flames, and a Holy Ghost can sound spooky to children. If your tradition uses the term Holy Ghost, this is a good time to "define out" the Halloween connotations and explore God's presence as a positive, desirable experience. The second truth is that because God's Spirit lives within us all, we are all brothers and sisters, sharing Christ's glory and suffering in God's family.

Gospel: John 14:8-17 (25-27). This is a sophisticated Greek discourse, put into Jesus' mouth by John. The repetitive statements in verses 8-11 will lose many children they are likely to hear only occasional phrases thereafter. But this description of the work of the Holy Spirit is helpful for children because it shows that:

1. The Holy Spirit lives deep inside each of us.
2. The Holy Spirit helps us to know God's love and will, and reminds us about Jesus. The Holy Spirit is speaking when we know that God does not want us to do something (maybe to call someone mean names) or when we feel God calling us to action (perhaps to defend someone who is being teased, or to make friends with someone who is lonely). The Holy Spirit reminds us that God made us special and loves us—even on days when everyone else is treating us like junk.
3. Because the Holy Spirit lives in us, we can experience peace inside—even when it is not peaceful around us.

Psalm: Psalm 104:24-34, 35b. This passage celebrates God's creation of the sea animals. The poet credits God's Spirit with both creating and caring for these animals. Before reading this lighthearted praise poem, alert children to the presence of a sea monster named Leviathan.

Watch Words

Use the word Pentecost often to build familiarity with the name of this less-well-known holy day.

Choose your Holy Spirit language carefully. Holy Spirit or God's Spirit are probably the best terms for children. Holy Ghost sounds like a possibly friendly Halloween spook. Comforter, counselor, and helper are more helpful as descriptions than as names. Breath of God, if examined in relationship to the wind symbol, can become a meaningful way to explain and understand how God lives within us. Either stick with one term or use as many terms as possible, challenging the children to collect them, and explaining them as you go.

Let the Children Sing

Sing "I'm Gonna Sing When the Spirit Says Sing" and offer original verses related to the worship theme. Or sing "They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love."

Try "Breathe on Me, Breath of God," with its repeated phrase at the beginning of each verse (if you have explored the "breath of God").

To continue the praise of Psalm 104, sing "All Things Bright and Beautiful," "This Is My Father's Things Bright and Beautiful," "This Is My Father's World," or "I Sing the Almighty Power of God."

The Liturgical Child

1. Decorate the sanctuary with flame-red paraments. Invite worshipers in advance to wear something red in honor of Pentecost. Use red flowers in the worship center. Print the bulletin on red paper or in red ink. To emphasize the gift of the Holy Spirit to all, drape around the shoulders of each worshiper a red crepe-paper stole decorated with Pentecost symbols to wear during worship. (An older children's class may make the stoles by gluing cut-out symbols on either end of 36-inch red streamers, the class can help distribute them after the reading of Acts 2.) In the worship center, place a birthday cake for the church, decorated with red icing and twenty red candles. Serve it with red punch after worship.

2. Point out Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost in weekly responses such as the Gloria Patri and Doxology as you come to them. Note its significance in each song.

3. Invite the congregation to sing the one verse of "Spirit of Living God" as a response to spoken prayers for the church and the world. It may be sung once at the end, or several times as a response to specific prayers within the whole prayer.

4. After the benediction, ask children or ushers to give each worshiper a red flower as a reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life.

Sermon Resources

1. To explore the significance of the fact that people of all nationalities heard the good news in their own language, paraphrase Acts 2:5-12, replacing New Testament countries with more familiar current ones. For example, "Are not all these who are speaking Mexicans? How can they speak to each of us in our own language? Germans and French and Japanese, people from Zaire and Argentina."

2. Explore the Pentecost wind and fire symbols so that children "get the feel" of God's presence. Recall experiences with "strong rushing winds." A stiff breeze in our face usually feels fresh and good. We feel strong as we walk into it. An autumn wind blows away the dead leaves of summer to make way for new growth next spring. Children often play in the wind with pinwheels, kites, and streamers (and often with the scarves we wish were on their heads). Thus the wind of the Spirit can easily be perceived as a cleansing, invigorating, welcome presence.

Children who camp have the edge on appreciating fire as a symbol of God's presence. Just as a flame ignites a bright lantern (the lantern is a brighter light than a softly glowing candle), God's Spirit ignites wishy-washy, easily frightened people into brave folks who will stand up to tell the world the good news. Just as a campfire or fireplace is a source of warmth and comfort on cold nights, God's Spirit comforts us when people are treating us coldly. Just as a flame may be used to sterilize a needle when we remove a splinter, God's Spirit works within us to clean out bad attitudes, ideas, and ways.

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