Love One Another: Teaching Maundy Thursday to Children

Last year when we got home from Maundy Thursday service, I had a feeling wash over me that seemed to say, “Wash your children’s feet.” At the time, my kids were young enough that I wondered if they would really gain any understanding if I did it, but I decided to try anyway. I grabbed a large-but-shallow Tupperware bowl, a large towel, and a washcloth. I asked my kids to sit down, and then I told them about Jesus in the upper room. I told them about how he had served his disciples. He washed their feet because he loved them. He called them his friends.

Afterwards, I wondered how much they had learned, or if the experience had meant anything to them. It was a moving experience for me, but I wondered what it had been like for them.

The next day, when I picked my youngest up from preschool, she said, “When we get home, will you wash my feet again because Jesus loved his friends so much?” Amazing!

There is tremendous teaching power when we act out what happened so long ago. Our kids understand far more than we think they do. This lesson can be used with your own children at home, during a Sunday School lesson, or a children’s sermon. But, in the case of Sunday School or during a worship service, it may not be possible to wash feet – especially if girls are wearing dresses and tights. In those instances, washing hands might be a good way to teach. But, when possible, foot washing is best because it is something we don’t do everyday. Doing something out of the ordinary can leave a lasting impression.

And, just in case Maundy Thursday isn’t very familiar to you, here’s a short reading on what “Maundy” means, and where the idea comes from.

Love One Another: A Maundy Thursday Lesson

Supplies:

*A basin or bowl with water (room temp or very slightly warmer is best)
*A towel for kids to dry their feet with
*A wash cloth for washing feet

Ask the kids to remove their shoes and socks. If your kids are really young, you might have to help them with this. And then, tell them the story in your own words. If you want a refresher on the story, read John 13. When you tell it, it might go something like this:

Today, I want to tell you about something Jesus did a long time ago. When Jesus was in the upper room with his disciples, he got up from the table and took off his outer robe. Then he tied a towel around his waist. (If you have these things, you can demonstrate. Otherwise, the kids can use their imaginations.) Jesus told the disciples that it was important for him to wash their feet.

I wonder how the disciples felt when they heard their Teacher and Lord say he was going to wash their feet. How do you think they felt? At first, Peter didn’t like the idea at all. But, when Jesus explained to him how important it was, Peter was excited for Jesus to wash his feet. Jesus washed the feet of all of his disciples. (Wash the kids’ feet. Take your time. They might giggle a little too!)

Afterwards, Jesus explained why he washed their feet. He told them he was showing them an example of what they should do. It is important for us to serve others. Then Jesus told his disciples that he would have to go away, because he knew that very soon he would die on the cross. He wanted his disciples to know something very important. He said to them, “I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

The disciples had heard before how important it was to love God and to love their neighbors as themselves. But, Jesus tells them to love each other by the way they live, to love each other by serving. Serve each other – even when serving means jobs no one really wants, like washing each others’ feet.

Invite their questions. Ask them to tell you the story in their own words. And, don’t be surprised if they offer to wash your feet next. That’s what happened in my house!

Footwashing

About April Fiet

April is a pastor, wife, mom, and lover of words. She finds inspiration under the big Nebraska skies, in the garden, in the yarn aisle, and in the kitchen. Learn more about April here, and join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Amy

    I love this idea and I plan to begin this tradition with my children. I would love to see more ideas on teaching children about faith.

    • Amy, thank you! And…it’s been so amazing to teach these kinds of things to my kids. Usually, they end up teaching me just as much! 🙂 I’m making a note…and will plan to include more ideas about teaching children about faith in the future. Thanks so much!