Kid-Friendly Stations of the Cross by Karen

Good teachers go to extreme measures to figure out how best to teach their students.  Research shows that people learn in different ways so it's essential to incorporate various techniques and types of activities: musical-rhythmic, visual-spatial, verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and naturalistic.  

Prior to having kids, I was blessed to work under the direction of a woman whose doctoral dissertation was based on Howard Gardener's theory of multiple intelligences.  I learned a tremendous amount about learning styles which shaped the way I approached education with our own kids years later.  When it came time for Katelyn, Anna, Jack, and Michael to attend preschool we chose a Montessori program that provided them with the opportunity to learn through hands-on activities and collaborative play.  Our kids responded well and seemed to develop a true love for learning.  

When the Lord made it clear that we were supposed to homeschool our kids it was an easy transition because we just had to do more of what we had already been doing for years.  Science experiments are always fun, math found its way into all of our daily activities, and we sang and danced as we learned about history and various world cultures, but how could we make religion engaging?  How could I leverage what I knew about multiple intelligences to teach our kids the tenets of the faith?        

When our girls were about 9 and 7 we took them to see The Cross and the Light for the first time.  For those who are unfamiliar, The Cross and the Light is "an epic theatrical experience and deeply moving musical journey through Christ's passion, death, and resurrection" which is performed each year during Lent in the greater Detroit area.  If you've never had the opportunity to experience this incredible event, I highly recommend that you do so - if not this year, then next!  

For Chris, Katelyn, Anna, and me, this dynamic production brought the Stations of the Cross to life in a way that nothing else could, and from then on, when we prayed the Stations at home, we could hear the soldiers jeering Jesus as we reflected on His scourging, and felt the women's sorrow as they consoled Our Lord on His walk to Calvary...but what about Jack and Michael who were too little to attend this graphic production?  How could we make the Stations of the Cross more relatable for them?  When I looked online I found a plethora of worksheets, including coloring pages and templates for little booklets that kids could make and use to follow along, but none of those would have engaged our boys.  I needed something that was hands-on and fun, but what?

By the Lord's grace and the Holy Spirit's guidance, I ended up painting a shoebox purple and filling it with the assortment of items that we'd need to pray the Stations with props.  It was an instant success and became part of our Lenten tradition for years to come.  

When we became missionaries we left behind the vast majority of our material possessions, including our hands-on Stations of the Cross prayer kit, and trusted that the Lord would provide all that we needed as we headed into the Amazon jungle.... and He did!  

A traveling group of evangelists passed through our small town during Lent and did a live reenactment of the Lord's Passion in our town square.  The crown on Jesus' head was made of real thorns, the soldiers wielded intimidating weapons of torture, and the man who played Peter watched from a distance as if he was really afraid.  Suffice it to say that after this our boys were able to visualize Jesus' Passion with no problem.    

With each year that passed we found ourselves so involved in the local activities that we didn't feel like we had time to engage in our own Lenten traditions; that is until a couple of years ago when I insisted that we recreate our hands-on prayer companion.        

As I was thinking about what I could share that might possibly help someone in their Lenten journey, it occurred to me that other young families may be struggling in the same way that I did when my kids were little.  If you or anyone you know is having a hard time keeping kids engaged while praying the Stations of the Cross, perhaps you could paint a shoebox purple and fill it with the following items.  Then, use it to help your little ones learn about the beautiful tradition of praying the Stations of the Cross during Lent.  

How to use the Stations Prayer Kit:
Have the kids guess each Station and then invite them to select the item that corresponds to the event.  Once chosen, the item is placed in order for all to see.  Our kids have always taken turns being the leader which means they get to hold the list and check people's answers.  

For example, the leader starts by asking, "Does anyone remember the First Station?"  When someone says, "Jesus is condemned to death", the leader confirms that the answer is correct, congratulates the guesser, and then asks him/her to choose the corresponding item out of the box.  If the item chosen is correct the guesser places it on the table or floor.  We chose a rope to represent Jesus' condemnation because we imagine that His hands were bound with rope.  If appropriate a short prayer or reflection can be shared for the given Station.  The leader then says, "We adore You, O Christ, and bless You."  Everyone else responds by saying, "Because by your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the world."  After the item is placed in its proper place the leader repeats the sequence for the next Station. 

Following is our list of Stations and the corresponding items:

1st Station: Jesus is condemned to death

2nd Station: Jesus is made to carry his cross

3rd Station: Jesus falls for the first time

4th Station: Jesus meets His mother

5th Station: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus

6th Station: Veronica wipes Jesus' face

7th Station: Jesus falls for the second time

8th Station: The women of Jerusalem weep over Jesus

9th Station: Jesus falls for the third time

10th Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments

11th Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross

12th Station: Jesus dies on the cross

13th Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross

14th Station: Jesus is put into the tomb

As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, and friends we have the responsibility to teach our little ones the faith.  Unfortunately, as creatures of habit, we sometimes cling to what we know even though what we're accustomed to doing may not be the most effective.  I believe that we need to leverage the collective knowledge of those who have dedicated their lives to the discipline of education to ensure that our methods are engaging so that future generations fall in love with the beautiful traditions of the Church and don't just participate out of obligation.  I pray that the remainder of your Lenten journey is fruitful and you're able to take that next step closer to the Lord.  In and through HIM, Karen

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