Hands-on Discipleship Moments: Ideas for Celebrating the Ascension

Here is a beautiful hands-on way to disciple your children and point their eyes towards Jesus. Celebrate and Learn about the Ascension! {crafts, food, and discussion ideas!}
Celebrating Christmas gives us faith; it affirms that our beliefs have roots in the historical fact of the incarnation.
Celebrating Easter gives us assurance; it affirms that Christ wiped away our sin by his great sacrifice and triumphed over death.
Celebrating the Ascension gives us hope and points us toward transformation; it affirms that we can become more and more like Jesus is right now….Without the ascension, we might look around and forget that Christ is the ruling Lord of this fallen, broken world….not just that he will reign when he comes again or that he did reign over death, but that he is reigning right now.”

Gary Thomas penned this in his amazing book, The Beautiful Fight: Surrendering to the Transforming Presence of God Every Day of Your Life.  I was reading it several years ago in the weeks leading up to Resurrection Sunday and knew right then that I wanted to take time to introduce my children to the wonder of the Ascension.  We love to spend a few weeks building up to Easter and it just seemed to be a natural progression to continue on and celebrate the Ascension (that occurred 40 days after the Resurrection) and then Pentecost (10 days after Jesus ascended)…

Jesus conquered sin and death at the cross and resurrection and He will come again and reign.  But He also reigns here and now.  As Gary Thomas continues, we can participate in the spread of his reign now by “surrendering to his dynamic, life-transforming presence within us, by letting him change the way we see, think, feel, hear, speak, and serve.  It’s the life of Christ in us, continuing his work, exercising his reign, manifesting his presence.”

Focusing on the ascension of Jesus can help us to recapture the dynamic reality of Christ manifesting himself through us!

With that in mind, here is some hands-on inspiration that we’ve utilized to to communicate the glorious nature of the ascension and cultivate in my children an appreciation for and understanding of the ascension.

With young children you want to start by focusing on understanding. Don’t try to tackle ALL of these ideas…  With older children or over a period of a couple of days you can venture into some of the application of Christ’s reign here and now! I found this information on the history of the church celebrating Ascension Day interesting.

Read, discuss, create, savor…

Explaining and Celebrating the Ascension to Children

Key themes you can emphasize:

LOOK UP (anticipate His return) and LOOK OUT (how can we share the Good News)

 

  • Read Acts 1:1-11.  Review how Jesus spent 40 days with his disciples instructing them and opening up the scriptures to them in light of his death and Resurrection.
  • Jesus Returns to Heaven {an ARCH book}Read the ARCH book,  Jesus Returns to Heaven – a book with beautiful illustrations and rhyming text that tells this account or you can check out  correlating accounts in The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible.  (We love ARCH books. They were favorites in my childhood home and my kids now love them too!)
  • Count out 40 days on our calendar to the ascension, starting on Easter Sunday. The Ascension is historically celebrated on the Thursday 40 days after the resurrection.
  • Talk about the Great Commission.  We have a job to do!  If you have the book, I’ve Got a Job to Do, read it.  It is a wonderful picture book that helps kids connect and build excitement for carrying out the Great Commission! Discuss with the kids about what this can look like for your family!  How can each of you carry out the Great Commission in your local community?  What can you do as a family to support the work of the Great Commission being carried out world-wide? We plan to possibly take another #EndBiblePoverty Challenge this summer.
  • Read Revelation 1:7 in addition to reviewing Acts 1:10-11.  Discuss how Jesus will return again the same way he ascended.
  • Go look at and admire the clouds.  Talk about heaven.  Talk about the return of the KING!

skyjello

  • Make Sky Jello – If your kids are anything like mine, eating a rare sweet treat like this is sure to loosen them up and provide opportunities to review what you’ve discussed! My Sky Jello tutorial is here.
  • Jesus Ascending Craft – Do the below presented craft.  One year, we made it from supplies I had around here and creative energy I had available.  Another year, {hello pregnancy} I was running low on energy and simply ordered a set from Oriental Trading Company that first gave me the inspiration for this craft.  Isn’t it nice to have options!?!?!
  • Dramatize the story.  Gather your legos or little people and have your kids recreate the scene.  They can use the craft they just made!  This will help them make meaningful connections that will really last!  It also gives you a glimpse into what they understand or maybe don’t.

Ascension Craft Tutorial

To mark the ascension which occurred 40 days after Easter (that would be Thursday, May 14th this year), we made this craft so they can re-enact that wonderful event.  We had so many beautiful conversations about Jesus, the ascension, His return and Heaven in the weeks following this craft last year!

Supplies you’ll need:

  • Blue cups or cups covered with blue construction paper (or possibly painted).  We went the construction paper route.
  • Cotton balls and glue.
  • Ribbon, yarn or thin strip of white tulle or whatever you have on hand.
  • Jesus paper figurine.

Jesus-Ascending

>> Start by letting your kids play with the cotton balls and gently pull them apart to make fluffy clouds.

>> Next let them spread glue on their cups.

(This is the favorite part of the craft in our home…  Glue is almost as cool as fire.)

>> Poke a hole through the top of your cup.  Depending on your children’s ages/temperaments and your mood this might be a mommy job.

>> Thread the tulle/ribbon/yarn through the hole-punch and then poke it through the hole in the cup. 

>> The idea is that you can pull the string and ‘lift’ the Jesus figuring up into the clouds.  Let them play and dramatize the story for you over and over and over again!

Preparing for Pentecost!

Preparing for Pentecost: Host a party!

I ended up caving and making my kids that yummy jello treat when we celebrated the Ascension last Thursday.  My grocery store didn’t have any blue jello, so we fudged and I made juice sweetened jello (with white grape juice and blue food dye).  It was a hit and something we’ll definitely do again next year!

In addition to celebrating the Ascension, it is now tradition in our family to celebrate Pentecost.  Pentecost falls 10 days after Jesus ascended up into heaven, making it 50 days after the Resurrection.  It was so much fun to talk about the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church last year that we knew we wanted to do it again this year!   Oh the anticipation…  We get to start our Sunday morning worshipping with other believers and then following that up with a celebration!

Here is a peak at what we did last year:

We started by reading some great books, and talking about the ‘gift’ of the Holy Spirit.  We also went shopping for our ‘party’ supplies for the Pentecost party!

Next up, we made our tongues of fire crowns for each person to wear at our party! (tutorial included!)

And finally the big day.  Xander sang his little song about the church that we had been practicing, we all sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to the church and were thankful afresh that God sent a helper, the Holy Spirit to help us walk out our faith.  Red is historically worn and used to decorate to represent the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Whether simple or involved, taking a little bit of time to talk to our kids about the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church can be a special opportunity to share in the anticipation and gratitude for this wonderful event!
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Pentecost

All of our preparations and activities this past week and a half culmintated in our Pentecost party.  Sunday marked 50 days after we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus.  And 50 days after THAT day was when the Holy Spirit came, giving power and boldness.  That was the day that the disciples boldly proclaimed the good news of Jesus and over 3,000 decided to follow Jesus.  The church was born.
The boys helped gather balloons and finish the crowns.  Candles were lit!
Celebrating the birth of the church at Pentecost with a "Pentecost Party" and "Tongues of Fire" crowns. (tutorial/printable included)
Celebrating the birth of the church at Pentecost with a "Pentecost Party" and "Tongues of Fire" crowns. (tutorial/printable included)
And a meal was shared.
Celebrating the birth of the church at Pentecost with a "Pentecost Party" and "Tongues of Fire" crowns. (tutorial/printable included)
The highlight for the evening was of course the ‘birthday’ cake and singing.  The boys also sang one of the two songs they had learned.
Celebrating the birth of the church at Pentecost with a "Pentecost Party" and "Tongues of Fire" crowns. (tutorial/printable included)
We have been talking about how the church is “who” not “where.”  This is  difficult because our terminology really can mislead.  We refer to the building as the church or the Sunday morning meeting as church.  But what we need to really understand at a deep level is that those who believe in Jesus are the church.  Sunday morning is simply the gathering of the church.
To reinforce this, I taught the boys a song that I learned as a child.  I only remembered the chorus and first two verses, but was excited to discover that there was more, including a verse directly relating to Pentecost.
Wobbles, courtesy of a certain 2 year old who wanted to ‘watch’. 

We are the Church from Heather Haupt | Cultivated Lives on Vimeo.

We Are the Church
Words and Music by Richard K. Avery and Donald S. Marsh, 1972
Chorus:
I am the church, you are the church;
we are the church together.
All who follow Jesus, all around the world.
Yes, we’re the church together.
Verses:
The church is not a building, the church is not a steeple,
the church is not a place, but the church is the people.
We’re many kinds of people, with many kinds of faces,
all colors and all ages, too, from all times and places.
And when the people gather, there’s singing and there’s praying,
there’s laughing and there’s crying sometimes, all of it saying:
At Pentecost some people received the Holy Spirit
and told the Good News through the world to all who would hear it.
Celebrating the birth of the church at Pentecost with a "Pentecost Party" and "Tongues of Fire" crowns. (tutorial/printable included)

I’m excited to explore this again next year.  There are so many different aspects to mediate on – the history of the early church, the Holy Spirit (fruit, gifts, filling, power, comfort), the Jewish feast of Pentecost or First Fruits.  So until next year…

Tutorial: Pentecost Crowns

A simple tutorial and free printable for making tongues of fire crowns to celebrate Pentecost.

One of the perks of parenthood is taking the time to really think about spiritual things since I have the job of teaching it to my young one’s.  I’m finding during this season that my thoughts are drawn to what the disciples must have felt during this rapidly changing time.  The events leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus and then the whirlwind of days as they began to see with new eyes as Jesus made clear His plan that had been set from the foundation of the world.

As I read about the disciples waiting on the Lord in prayer, my heart is drawn to verses like:

“I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him.” Psalm 62:5 (NLT)

So I’m drawn to waiting, praying, seeking.  I find myself refreshed and expectant.

There is so much depth here.  How do I explain the significance of what was happening as the disciples witnessed Jesus’ ascension and waiting for the coming of the promised Holy Spirit?  Sometimes my attempts seem so feeble…

But then I remind myself that it is not my job to ensure that they are blown away by this and affected at a deep level as I am.  This is a job that only God can do.  But I can faithfully teach and share my joy, wonder and awe at these events.  I can try and find ways to make it easier for them to relate to the excitement and then pray that God would open their eyes and unlock their hearts!

And so we continue our preparations for our Pentecost party this Sunday to celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of His church.

After reading our book on Pentecost, Xander announced that he wanted all of us to have tongues of fire for the party.

And so we commenced with making our Tongues of Fire Crowns.

First, I gathered supplies.

  • glue, cotton swabs, paper plates, scissors, glitter and paper.
  • picture of a flame: download here

I printed flames and cut them out.

Then I gave each child a plate with a flame.  On a separate plate I squeezed out glue and handed each child a cotton swab to spread glue.    [Gripping this little cotton swab is a great activity for developing fine motor skills and that important pincer grasp.  See, we get Bible and general preschool activities at the same time.]

Once a thin layer of glue is spread on the flame, comes the potentially messy part.  I chose to monitor this pretty close since I’m not a fan of cleaning and didn’t feel like getting glitter all over my carpet…  I placed a small amount in their palm or let them carefully tap the orange glitter which had a special lid.

As we let these dry, we began the cutting phase so we would have strips to make the crowns.
I discovered that my 5.5 year old could make some quality cuts and that the 3.5 year old wasn’t interested on that particular day of even trying to follow the lines…  So we just let the two younger one’s cut for fun while Xander focused on getting the strips done.
Finally we glued the flame to the middle of a black strip and stapled two black strips together and then measured each head to get a proper fit before stapling it all together.

The excitement is building over here!

All of my Pentecost posts, including details about our Pentecost party, books we love and a song we sing!

Helping Kids Prepare for Pentecost

pentecost-books-understand
After Jesus rose from the dead, He spent another 40 days here on earth.  He talked with His disciples, opened up Scripture and explained why He had to come and why He had to die.  Right before He ascended back into heaven, He told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem.  They ended up waiting 10 more days for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

To introduce this to the boys, I used two wonderful resources:

This story Bible for kids is a gem because it really helps give the overall “big picture” of what the Bible is about.  It all centers around Jesus – the Old Testament leading up to him and the New Testament telling about Him.  This book does a fabulous job of doing just that.  We enjoyed re-reading from the ascension to the birth of the church at Pentecost.

This book is wonderful.  For those that are not familiar with Arch books, they are Bible stories set to rhyme that are very faithful to the text.  They are a great way for kids to learn, especially when it comes to the less common Bible stories, such as this one.  I loved how this one not only included the events from the Ascension to Pentecost, but also included Peter’s preaching of the word and the subsequent birth of the church!

After reading this to the boys, we talked about birth and birthdays.  I explained that Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit gave the disciples the power and ability to proclaim the good news of Jesus.  And when they did, 3,000 were added to their number that day.  That day, marks the birth of the church.

So we’ve decided to have a birthday party and celebrate this next Sunday since it is 50 days after Easter.  Being little boys who love anything birthday related, they were practically bouncing off the walls.  (In hindsight, I probably should have made this announcement in the morning instead of at bedtime.)

The next day we went to the dollar store to prepare.

For our Pentecost Party, we will be celebrating with candles and lots of red to remind us of the Holy Spirit who came in a gust of wind and FIRE!

The boys asked for little watering cans when we were at the dollar store, so I decided to get one for each one.  As we remember the disciples waiting for the gift of the Holy Spirit who would come in power to grow the church, so we wait for our little watering cans which will help grow our garden.  (Have I mentioned recently that I STILL have a black thumb and part of my problem is not giving my plants enough water???)

When we arrived home from the store we decided to make our own wrapping paper by drawing pictures inspired by our readings about Pentecost and the coming of the Holy Spirit on some butcher paper!

Sometimes the simplest of activities are the most rewarding.

A big scrap of paper and a handful of drawing tools in the hands of creative boys proved to be a delightful combination!

tongue of fire and a mighty wind
(by Keegan, 3.5)
Even the two year old was delighted to take part with his brothers and leave his mark on the project!
And now we wait…