Good Friday: Why to bring your children to the Tenebrae Service

Good Friday: Why to bring your children to the Tenebrae Service

I wanted to encourage you all to attend the Good Friday service at 7:00 pm. I also wanted to offer you a few logistical things that may be helpful for you as you prepare your children for this solemn service.

In terms of the the liturgical church year, Good Friday is one of the most significant days of the year. I urge you to change your schedule (including your kids’ schedule) in order to attend this worship service. There would be no Easter, no Christmas even, without Good Friday; we ​give honor to our Redeemer and King by investing​ an evening of our time to reflect on His Passion story.

The Good Friday service is also called the Tenebrae service. The word “Tenebrae” is Latin in origin and literally means darkness. The Tenebrae service on Friday is quite dramatic in nature, and its use of symbolism is rich, which can be very powerful (and sometimes intimidating) for the little ones. Please take time to explain to your children the meaning of the symbols used in the Tenebrae service.

The symbols:
Loud drums symbolize the earthquake at the moment Christ gave up His spirit. The gradual extinguishing of candles symbolize the death of Christ as He is mocked, beaten, and spit upon. They also symbolize​ the darkness of sin, as even His own disciples desert Him. The dark sanctuary — when all lights are off — symbolizes​ the end of the Light of the World (Jesus). This is the disciples’ perception of what has happened, but notice that the Christ Candle NEVER is extinguished! It is removed from the sanctuary until our Light rises again on Easter Sunday! Also, as the congregation sings the hymn, “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross,” you will hear a “heartbeat” on the drum. This represents Christ’s heartbeat. Encourage your children to listen to what happens to the heartbeat at the conclusion of that hymn: the heartbeat slowly stops, symbolizing when Jesus’ heart stopped beating, as he gave up his life — for ours. And, of course the most powerful symbol of all, the cross, which will be visible and illuminated the entire service. Share with your children that this is the reason we are using a screen off to the side for all our song lyrics.

Because children are such hands-on, kinesthetic learners, the dramatic sensory-driven aspects of the Tenebrae service, I believe, have the potential to shape your child’s heart for the Kingdom eternally.

As parents, you know your children best. If your child is sensitive to loud drums, and dark spaces, perhaps take him into the cry room toward the end of the service. It is my hope that with your explanation of the symbols your child will be prepared for the dramatic aspects of the service and he will gain a deeper understanding of sin, redemption and the great sacrifice of love that the cross represents.

The length of the service will be approximately 1 hour and 20 minutes. About the same length as a Sunday morning church service. No childcare will be provided.

If you were not planning on attending this service, I ask that you pray about it, asking the Lord to lead you and being willing to give up your Friday night, your start of the weekend, to reflect, meditate, listen and remember what Jesus did for you on that Good Friday.

– Laura Hauck