Friday, 13 February 2015

Ash Wednesday: Liturgy, Prayers and Craft

Ash Wednesday can be tricky with children.  If you are a church that uses liturgy, the liturgy can be long and full of words that children would not necessarily use!  It's important, though, that as part of the body of Christ, children are included in key events in the church calendar.  Here is my attempt to open up some of the symbolism and meaning of Ash Wednesday in a way that (hopefully) might be useful to some of you!

I have based some of this on the Church of England's Liturgy for Ash Wednesday in Common Worship: Times and Seasons (Click here to go to an online version of the full liturgy on the Church of England Website- Ash Wednesday is on pages 15-26) and have focussed on key themes of being 'sorry', being cleansed and having hope in Jesus.

Make your ashes in advance!  I made mine by burning strips of paper in a metal tin.  Be careful!!

Talk to the children about Ash Wednesday as the first day of Lent which is a time of thinking about God and focussing more on Him instead of the 'stuff' around us.  Ash Wednsday is a day when we say sorry to God and think about our lives.

Talk about what it means to say sorry and why we might want to do that, especially to people we love.  How does saying sorry help?  

Next encourage the children to think of things they might want to say sorry to God for and give them time to do this privately.

Introduce the liturgy to the children so that they know what they will be doing. Some of them might want to add to the list of things we could say sorry for, so don't be afraid to add lines!


You will need: Ashes mixed with oil, a large cross shape made of card or paper, a bowl of water, a candle, paper hearts, scratch art cards and cocktail sticks

Say the words in italics and ask the children to join in the bold type words.  As they say their line, encourage them to dip their finger in the ash mixture and make the sign of the cross or a finger print on the large cross shape.

Thank you Lord that you love us and hear us when we pray
We are sorry for things we have done that have hurt you and others.

We have not loved you or others as much as we could
Lord, we are sorry
We have not helped others as Jesus helped us
Lord, we are sorry
We have been impatient
Lord, we are sorry
We have been angry
Lord, we are sorry
We have been jealous of others
Lord, we are sorry
We have told lies
Lord, we are sorry
We have forgotten to pray
Lord, we are sorry

Imposition of ashes on forehead (if this is something you and the children would like to do)

(Light a candle)
Hear us and help us,Lord
Work through us so that we can share your goodness and love in the world
Show us the joy and new life that Jesus brings.

(Children wash fingers in the water and draw a cross on the scratch art card as a sign of the hope and light of Jesus in the world)

(Take a heart and exchange it with someone else)
Thank you Lord for loving us
Help us to love one another.

Let me know how this works if you get the chance to try it out!


  1. I used this lesson today, the Sunday preceding Ash Wednesday. The children (ages 4-11) were very receptive. After the liturgy they lined up to receive a finger of ashes which they pressed on a paperboard cross. We followed with scratch art, but didn't plan far enough in advance and used leaf shapes which we had on hand. We decided to "turn over a new leaf" for Lent.

    1. Thanks so much for sharing! I'm glad it worked out well for you. God bless :-)

  2. I've just done this with two of my own children at home. We ended with crosses on the forehead. I was so pleased to see this as our Ash Wednesday service includes communion, is this evening, and is quite long for a four and six year old. I'm delighted that they've been able to join in. We personalised our prayers using your framework and it worked really well. I've also shown my kids the cartoon of Jesus in the wilderness (on YouTube) as in intro to lent before now. This also works really well. Thank you for this and all the other excellent resources.