3 ways to teach your kids about Easter, death and the cross

3 ways to teach your kids about Easter, death and the cross

My 4-year-old daughter Maggie has always been a bit studious for her age. She knew colors when she was 2, was reading the entire alphabet when she was 3, and by the time she turned 4, could read a digital clock.

So I was a bit surprised when my wife told me toward the end of last year that Maggie had failed a holiday pop quiz. The question from my wife was the same one that Charlie Brown shouted to all of his friends: What’s Christmas all about?

Maggie’s answer: “presents.”

I’m sure she said it in an oh-so-sweet voice, and I bet she even had an oh-so-precious smile on her face, but she also was oh-so-wrong. Christmas, my wife told her, is about Jesus—even if presents can be part of innocent holiday funBy the end of the day Maggie had watched a cartoon about baby Jesus and had been read a book about baby Jesus, and it’s safe to say she went to bed that night knowing that Christmas wasn’t all about dolls, dollhouses and pretty pink necklaces.

Of course, it’s easy to teach children about Christmas, with its spotlight on a sweet tiny baby surrounded by animals and shepherds on a clear, starry night. It’s such a “sterile” and “clean” story that even non-Christians are attracted to its power.

But what do we do about Easter? Instead of a baby, we have a bruised and bloodied man. Instead of shepherds in worshipful awe, we have mocking, hate-filled onlookers. Instead of a stable, we have nails, a crown of thorns and a cross. And instead of a story about life, we apparently have a story about, well, death. How do we teach our children that?
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‘Dad, who is Satan?’

'Dad, who is Satan?'Teaching kids the basics about God can be easy—at least compared to other subjects.

For instance, even a young toddler quickly can learn the answer to “Who made you?” And after that, they just as easily can learn the answer to two related questions: “What else did God make?” (Everything.) “Why did God make you?” (For His glory.)

But if you raise children to think biblically and even theologically, pretty soon they’ll toss a curve ball your way and you’ll be left speechless, not sure how to respond in simple, kid-level language.

“Dad, who is Satan?” my 3-year-old son asked a few weeks back.

I know the “adult answer.” But the “kid-level answer”? I was speechless.

No doubt, my son knew Satan was bad—his books and DVDs certainly implied that—but that only got him so far. That’s because we’ve taught him that a lot of people in the world are bad and that there are “mean people” who would harm him. Satan, though, is far, far worse than your everyday “bad” person. And he’s technically not even a person. So what do you say?

My first answer? “He’s the embodiment of evil.” Thankfully, my wife intervened and gave me some tips—well before I confused my son. And then I read my favorite theological resource (Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”), added some verses, and boiled it down to four points to share with my son:
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3 simple and easy ways to teach your kids to pray

3 simple and easy ways to teach your kids to prayChildren were a focus of Jesus’ ministry. He used the loaves and fish from a boy to feed the 5,000. He healed at least one sick child and raised another one from the dead. He told his followers to have the humility of a child. He even took children into his arms and blessed them when his disciples wanted to send them away.

I think about Jesus’ view of children often when my three children pray some of the most heartfelt, inspiring and even entertaining prayers I’ll ever hear.

Consider, for example, my oldest son’s prayers when he was 3.

When I told him we should thank God for everything in life, he took it seriously, even providing God plenty of detail.

“God, thank you for my train table and those two plates on the wall that are next to the smoke alarm,” he said one night while lying in bed, describing two colorful ceramic birthday plates that, yes, were right next to the smoke detector in his bedroom.

On other nights, he felt a bit more academic.

“God, thank you for the letter B, the letter D, and the number 3.”

And on some nights, he was feeling a bit theological.

“God, thank you for crushing Satan’s power,” he said, quoting, verbatim, what he had read in one of his storybook Bibles.

But there are plenty of times in which my children refuse to pray—when we go around the table at suppertime, finding no volunteers. Just like me, and perhaps you, too, they can be stubborn when facing spiritual matters. If we want our children to pray, we ourselves must first believe in the power of prayer (James 4:2-3)—and then set the example.

Here are three specific ways to do that:
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‘Dad, what does it mean to glorify God?’ — 3 ways to help your child understand life’s purpose

'Dad, what does it mean to glorify God?' Before they were 2, my children could answer the first question of the catechism – “Who made you?” – by pointing skyward and shouting in their respective sweet voices, “God!”

Soon they also were learning why God created them. My daughter had just celebrated her second birthday when she would respond to “why did God make you?” with an excited and precious “goalie!” – her best effort at “for His glory.”

Of course, she doesn’t know what that means, but many adults don’t, either.

The theme of God’s glory is spread throughout Scripture, but we too often walk away puzzled. And that, in turn, makes it difficult to explain the concept to our inquisitive children as they grow older.

One of my favorite verses is 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” Sounds great, but what specifically does that mean? How do we glorify God in everything?

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word “glory” carries the idea of “greatness” and “splendor.” In the New Testament Greek it means “dignity,” “honor,” “praise” and “worship.” [1]

So, yes, to glorify God means to praise and worship Him, but we can’t stop there. That verse in 1 Corinthians tells us to glorify God in everything we do. But how? The answer’s actually quite simple, and we can draw a parallel to the relationship between a parent and child. How does a child please his or her parents? By loving them and obeying them. And that’s how many kids’ catechisms explain this difficult question: We glorify God by “loving him and doing what He commands” throughout the day.

We glorify God when we sing to Him and pray to Him and read His Word, but we also glorify God when we do what He tells us to do and when we love Him – in “whatever” we’re doing, as 1 Corinthians 10:31 says. John Piper defines glorifying God by saying it’s when we feel, think and act in ways that reflect His greatness, that make much of Him. We glorify God when we do that which we were created to do. Children’s author Sally Lloyd-Jones summed all that up by saying it’s when we “make a big deal” of God. I like that definition. It’s simple … and biblical.

How, then, are we to explain this to small children, without pulling out the theology book and putting them to sleep? My suggestion: Explain God to them in such a way that their only response is to praise, worship and glorify God. Here are three ideas:

1. Make a big deal about God’s splendor. Begin with creation, to which kids are naturally drawn. Teach your children that God made everything, that God owns everything, and that God is bigger than anything. At an early age tell them (excitedly) all the amazing things that God made – the animals, the trees, the oceans, the stars – and then as they grow older help them understand the infinite size of God. But keep it on their level. When my oldest son was about 4, I naively told him that God was bigger than the earth, the sun and the universe, when he turned to me and asked innocently, “Is God bigger than a mountain?” To him, a mountain was the biggest thing anywhere and to him, the universe’s size meant nothing. Now 6, he’s amazed that God knows the number of stars in the sky and grains of sand on the beach and hairs on his head. Additionally, teach your kids that God owns everything, too – their house, their room, their toys – and that they’re merely tenants. Soon, they’ll see that this God must be a big deal.

2. Make a big deal about God’s holiness. It may seem challenging to teach kids about this concept, but it’s really not. Begin by teaching that Jesus never sinned – even as a child. I tell my children that Jesus as a boy never disobeyed His parents, that Jesus loved even the boys and girls who were mean to Him, and that Jesus never lied. Of course, the Bible is largely silent about Jesus’ childhood, but we’re not stretching Scripture by making these basic points. After all, we know He was a child at one point, that He never sinned, that He had parents, and that all children play with other children. My oldest son still finds it amazing that the boy Jesus never sinned. Stories like these are a great stepping stone to discussing a larger concept: God is pure and holy and hates sin.

3. Make a big deal about God’s love. Discuss regularly with your child all the ways God loves you and has blessed you, even when life is difficult. He gave you food and clothes and a place to live and (perhaps even) good health. That’s a lot on its own – and those are just the things we take for granted. I’ll often remind my kids that children in some parts of the world don’t have any toys, much less a batch for virtually each season. Of course, the central story in teaching about God’s love is the Gospel: That God the Father sent His Son to the earth to die on the cross for our sins, that Christ took the punishment we deserve, and that He rose from the grave. Tell them with a big smile that God loves them more than anyone does – that He loves us even when we sin, that he doesn’t give up on us, and that He’s constantly pursuing us. That’s an amazing kind of love — a wonderful love that should lead us, and our children, to glorify God.

[1] GotQuestion.org

Michael Foust is an editor and writer who blogs about parenting and fatherhood. He loves his family and also really likes stove top popcorn. Interested in re-posting this in your publication or on your blog for free? Send me a message in the comments section below (the message won’t go public). Also, check out my video section

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3 great resources to teach your children theology

3 great resources to teach your children theology When it comes to asking tough and sometimes comical theological questions, nothing comes close to an inquisitive child.

I should know. My oldest son, who is 6, currently is the reigning world champion in the “asking tough questions” competition, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

Take a recent dinner table discussion, for instance. His cup had pictures of superheroes, and he asked with a serious look on his face: Does God hate the Incredible Hulk? (No, I told him, God loves all people, and besides, the Incredible Hulk isn’t real, anyway, and just because the Incredible Hulk has a mean look on that cup doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy.)

Then there’s the constant question he asks when we discuss heaven: Will his favorite stuffed animal – the one he sleeps with every night — be in heaven? The problem: If I say “no,” heaven isn’t looking so grand to him. He once cried when I told him “no.” (My latest stab at that for him was more of a non-answer. I asked with a smile, “Do you want him to be in heaven?” He said “yes,” and we moved on. I do tell him that I believe dinosaurs will be in heaven – which excites him.)

Children’s storybook Bibles are plentiful, but children’s theology books? Not so much. I have found two that I really like, although I am certain there are others out there. Know of others? Let me know in the comments section.

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