NASHVILLE (BP) -- Our oldest son, Reed, started coming to the regular church service this year with my wife and me. As someone who works in children's ministry, I've always had strong beliefs about children's worship and certain opinions about how parents should help their kids get the most out of the service.
It was, however, quite scary when I faced the idea of taking my own child to worship.
At 5, Reed is an electronic guru. He's also an active kid, so I knew that keeping him engaged in the service would be hard. I determined that I didn't want to pacify him with my phone, so my wife Abbey and I decided that we'd have a few rules.
During the music portion of the worship service, Reed would be required to stand when we stood. In addition, he'd use the Bible during the Scripture reading, and while the pastor preached, he could draw in his notebook. When the time came, that plan worked for about five minutes. Believe me, I was tempted to give him my phone! But then something great happened.
Reed's first day in big church was the day our church observed the Lord's Supper, and as the deacons served the bread, Reed started asking all kinds of questions: Why can't I eat it? How could that be Jesus' body? What does it taste like? With each question, I became more convinced that Reed's little mind could handle more information than I previously thought.
Then we took the cup. Reed had even more questions: Is that really Jesus' blood? It's just grape juice, isn't it? Why would you drink blood? Abbey and I took turns answering Reed's litany of questions. The next time we took the Lord's Supper, Reed quietly whispered to us what he remembered from the first time and asked more questions he'd been pondering.
Easter is a great time for parents to teach their kids about Christ's death and resurrection. It's also a time that many parents appreciate their kids' Sunday School teachers doing the same because it's hard to gauge what to share and what not to share. Imagine explaining to your 3-year-old that even though Jesus never disobeyed His parents and never did anything wrong, He was beaten, spat upon and then hung on a cross. Christ's obedience to His Father and His love for us is what led Him to the cross.
The beauty of Easter is foreshadowed by the darkness of Good Friday. You should take every opportunity with your kids to share the hope of Jesus' miraculous life as well as the love and obedience He showed on the cross.
Here are a few ways to share the beauty of Easter with your kids:
Avoid the trap of a commercialized Easter. For our family, we've chosen not to have the Easter Bunny. Abbey and I felt that introducing its existence to our kids would take away from the Easter message that we want our kids to know. We want to keep Easter a sacred day in our home and help our kids know that it's something special. Getting caught up with the worldly view of Easter can create confusion for your kids, who may learn that Easter is more about coloring eggs and getting baskets than the resurrection of our Savior.
Tell the whole story. Though you might not share all the details of Christ's trial, persecution and crucifixion, you should share key parts of the biblical text with your child. Depending on your child's ability to comprehend, you can adjust the information you share. Your child should know that Jesus was judged unfairly, died on a cross and rose again. If you stop at the crucifixion, your child misses the glorious resurrection. If you start at the resurrection, your child misses Christ's payment on the cross for our sins. The whole Easter story is transformational.
Focus on Jesus. He's the hero of the story. Remind your child about His life and teachings. Talk about His perfect nature as the Son of God. Help your child to understand that Jesus came to earth knowing that His crucifixion and resurrection would happen. His earthly life was given for the purpose of being the Savior of humanity. He died for you and me. If your child is at the age where he or she is interested in becoming a Christian, this is a perfect opportunity for you to share how he or she can make Jesus Lord over his or her life.Keeping It Appropriate
Preschoolers need to know the basics. They generally don't understand words such as perfect, crucifixion and resurrection. You can tell your child that people killed Jesus on the cross, but Jesus was able to rise from death and is alive because He's God's Son. These concepts lay a foundation for future understanding. Talk to your preschooler in warm, reassuring tones.
Younger kids are capable of handling more detailed information. They can know that bad people unfairly tried Jesus and He was sentenced to death on the cross. You can point out that Jesus was beaten before He was crucified. Jesus died. He was buried. After three days, God raised Him back to life. Some key words to start to emphasize and define are crucifixion and resurrection. As you tell the story, try to share it in five to seven minutes to maintain your child's attention. Ask questions to check for understanding.
Older kids need to understand the details of the story. They need to know why Jesus' trial was unfair. They need to hear that Pilate could find no guilt in Him. They can hear about the people's demand for Barabbas' release. Share with them the agony that Christ felt as He was beaten and hung upon the cross. Allow them to read about how He was treated while on the cross. By this age, your child has probably gained the basic understanding of Christ's death and resurrection, so this is the time to add details.
Kids are full of questions. Here are a few questions kids may have about Easter and possible answers for you to consider:
-- Why did Jesus have to die? Jesus came to earth knowing that He would one day die. He died because people needed a Savior.
-- Did God want Jesus to be killed? No. God created people to be perfect, but then people did bad things. But because God's love for us is great, He sent Jesus to redeem our sins.
-- Did it hurt Jesus when people were mean to Him? Yes. Jesus had feelings. He felt pain and sadness when He was on the cross.
-- Why couldn't somebody else die on the cross? Jesus is the only One who could die on the cross and be the Savior because He never sinned.
Want to share the Gospel with your children but aren't sure where to start? Use this for guidance.
God's Plan for You
God rules. The Bible tells us God created everything, including you and me, and He's in charge of everything. (Genesis 1:1; Colossians 1:16-17; Revelation 4:11)
We sinned. We all choose to disobey God. The Bible calls this sin. Sin separates us from God and deserves God's punishment of death. (Romans 3:23)
God provided. God sent Jesus, the perfect solution to our sin problem, to rescue us from the punishment we deserve. It's something we, as sinners, could never earn on our own. Jesus alone saves us. (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23)
Jesus lives. He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again. Because Jesus gave up His life for us, we can be welcomed into God's family for eternity. This is the best gift ever! (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 3:18; Ephesians 2:8-9)
We respond. Believe in your heart that Jesus alone saves you through what He's already done on the cross. Repent, turning from self and sin to Jesus. Tell God and others that your faith is in Jesus. (John 14:6; Romans 10:9-10, 13)
Jeff Land is team leader of Bible Teaching for Kids at LifeWay Christian Resources. This article first appeared in HomeLife, a LifeWay publication that has been nurturing Christ-centered families for more than 65 years.
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