How to Teach the Crucifixion…even to Preschoolers
This is the second post of a two part series. Last week covered why we should teach the crucifixion to children. This week covers how to teach the crucifixion to children of differing ages.
Easter is drawing near. While the world is enamored with bunnies and egg hunts, the church prepares to celebrate the ultimate victory—Christ’s defeating sin and death in His crucifixion and resurrection. Even if you agree that teaching the crucifixion to children of all ages is paramount, that doesn’t make it any less of a daunting task. Let me offer these suggestions as you prepare:
1. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. If you have put your trust in Christ for salvation (and I certainly hope you have), you have the very Spirit of God in you! Rely on this gift! Ask the Holy Spirit to take over as you teach kids the pinnacle of the redemption story. Ask Him for words and wisdom to communicate the crucifixion story to your kids in a way that makes Jesus more glorious to them than He was before.
2. Know your kids. Forming community with the youngest of God’s image bearers is one of the beautiful things about serving children in the local church. You get to know them. You know Olivia is headed straight to the crafts table when she walks in. You know which gluten-free cookie is Luke’s favorite, and you have had more conversations about Ninjago and Minecraft than you ever dreamed. In all this, you learn how to communicate with the kids you teach. Keep your particular group of children in mind as you prepare to teach. Speak at a level they can understand. If you know that certain graphic details of the crucifixion account will distract them, simply avoid those. Preschoolers don’t need you to bring in a life-sized replica of the nails used to put Jesus on the cross, but maybe that is something that might fascinate your 6th graders.
3. Give them the facts. Jesus hung on a cross. He bled. He died. The One who did not know sin became sin for us. You don’t have to give them every gruesome detail, but the fact is that the evil deeds of those little sinners you teach is why Jesus hung on the cross. And just so no one is off the hook that goes for you and me, too. Seeing our sin and knowing the cost of our redemption is a lesson to learn irrespective of age.
4. Don’t be afraid of emotion. A wise counselor friend once said to me, “Health is feeling all your emotions.” Feeling emotions is one of the ways we humans bear the image of God. The crucifixion is a sad event. It is okay to be sad. The crucifixion was a scary event. It is okay to be scared. Experiencing those emotions is a good thing for kids, and it gives you the opportunity to train them to submit their emotions to their theology. Its okay to be sad, but that sadness won’t turn into despair because we know that Jesus rose again and is coming back for us. Its okay to be scared, but that fear won’t paralyze us because we know Jesus defeated death once and for all.
5. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.” The children in your class will have questions, and that is okay. Answer their questions as best you can, and don’t be afraid to say when you don’t know the answer. An untold number of books have been written about the cross. None of them have fully plumbed the depths of all Jesus accomplished. Mystery is what makes room for faith. A caution here though, be careful to simply answer the questions kids ask. Sometimes we adults think we need to give a theological discourse when a kid is actually just asking us if the nails hurt Jesus’s hands. The answer is simply, “yes.” As the adage goes: simple questions deserve simple answers.
6. Leave them with hope. As I said earlier, it is okay to be sad, but don’t stay there. There is a reason we call the gospel good news and why we remember the day Jesus died as Good Friday. He is risen! We are redeemed! We don’t have to fear God’s judgment! When God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of His Son! This is the hope of the gospel and it is GOOD NEWS!
We would love to hear your experiences of talking about the crucifixion with the children you teach. Share your comments with us below.
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. Karen has over 15 years experience in preschool and children’s ministry. Karen earned an M.A. in Christian Education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.