This is the first post of a two part series. The week covers why we should teach the crucifixion to children. Next week will cover how to teach the crucifixion to children of differing ages.
The Easter season is upon us. Pastel colors and candy abounds, but as believers, we know Easter means remembering and celebrating the event most crucial to our faith, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Some preschool and children’s leaders approach this time of year with trepidation. How am I going to talk to four-year-olds about the cross? What if we have guests who have never been to church? I don’t want to scare them. Some leaders may avoid the issue altogether. Kids will be hyped up on candy anyway, they reason. Let’s just have a party. Maybe we can do an egg hunt?
For those of you who teach The Gospel Project for Kids, you will notice that we do not shy away from teaching the crucifixion to kids of all ages, even preschoolers. Here’s why:
- The cross is the center of the gospel narrative.
What is Christianity without the cross? In the grand narrative of Scripture, we see everything pointing to Jesus’ death on the cross. Avoiding the crucifixion story is like fast-forwarding through the climax of a movie. We won’t fully grasp the happy ending if we don’t see the pain and toil the characters triumphed over. How will children understand the gravity of redemption if they don’t know the cost? Celebrating the resurrection without the crucifixion just doesn’t make sense.
- The cross equips children to deal with the harsh realities of life.
We live in a culture that tries to shield children from anything sad or scary. The problem is life really is harsh. Sometimes the baby in mommy’s tummy doesn’t come home. Sometimes the kid on the playground gets very sick and can’t come out to play anymore. Sometimes Grandma spends months in the hospital and then we go to her funeral. Sooner or later, kids of all ages will encounter suffering and loss. Rather than avoiding pain and death, we can teach kids to confront pain and death head-on with hope. Teaching the crucifixion shows children that their hope lies not in this life but in the one to come. The message of the cross points little ones to the One who swallowed up death in victory. We want kids to say with triumph, “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?”
- The cross saves children.
The proclamation of the gospel is the means by which God ordained that people are saved. There isn’t a special gospel message for kids and another one for adults. There is only one message—Christ and Him crucified. I think it is safe to assume that, for every Christian parent and kids ministry leader, our greatest desire is to see our kids turn from sin and trust in the finished work of Christ. How can a child trust in what Jesus did on the cross if he doesn’t know about it? Our goal with The Gospel Project for Kids is that preschoolers and children would have such a thorough knowledge of the gospel that when the time comes for them to repent and believe they will respond with faith. There is no salvation apart from the cross.
As you teach preschoolers and children this Easter season, by all means, tell them why we celebrate! Trust that God has created children with the spiritual capacity to understand His message. And most of all, trust the Father in heaven to reveal Himself to even the youngest ones in your midst.
Karen Jones is the preschool content editor for The Gospel Project for Kids. Karen came to LifeWay in 2014 after serving as Minister to Preschool and Children at Third Baptist Church of Murfreesboro, TN for seven years. She has over 15 years experience in preschool and children’s ministry. Karen earned an M.A. in Christian Education from the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.