Easter is a central holiday to the Christian faith, and its celebration is a wonderful time for the church community to come together. But sometimes it is easy to overlook the fact that children don't yet understand how all the different parts of Jesus's life, death, and resurrection fit together. Celebrating Easter with children without them understanding the meaning of Good Friday, which comes before it, is like jumping to the triumphant end of a movie without watching everything that leads up to it. Yet, parents and other caregivers often find it difficult to teach children about something as serious and sad as Good Friday. Where does one even start? Below are our tips to help you begin this conversation with children.
Introduce context for the story
Children are exposed to a lot of different stories about Jesus, and what they remember or understand isn't always in chronological order. Anchor the story of Good Friday to other stories they do know by saying something like "After these stories of Jesus's ministry, but before Easter..." This can go a long way to helping the young concrete thinker understand what's happening.
Employ age-appropriate language and themes
You are the ultimate judge of what terminology and themes children are ready to process. You don't want to frighten them by going into too much detail about the crucifixion before they are ready, and you don't want to confuse them with more characters and locations than they can remember. It’s important to keep in mind that you know the story well because you’ve heard it so many times, but for someone hearing it for the first time, it is a lot to take in. That said, gage your young audience as you talk with them. You might be surprised by what they show interest in.
Explain what Jesus did for us
It is important for kids to learn not just what happened on Good Friday but why. While human sin, Jesus’ self-sacrifice, and the salvation of the world are all key aspects of Good Friday and Easter, they might not be where you want to start. Instead, talk to little ones about how Jesus came to teach us how to love one another, but his kindness to all people made some powerful leaders scared that they would lose control over people. They put Jesus to death, and his friends were very sad. But with God, love always wins, so on Easter we learn that Jesus didn’t stay dead!
It's a big job, instructing children in the ways of the Christian faith! But remember that you are up to the challenge, and you are not alone on this journey. Pastors, Sunday school teachers, and other parents (not to mention the awesome grandmas and grandpas!) in your community are all great resources. Trade experiences with parents who have been where you are now. If children have questions about the story that you don't feel equipped to answer on your own, ask your pastor together. This will not only get you both the information you need, but it will show them that it is all right to ask questions to grow in their faith.
Break up the conversation
You don’t need to tell the whole story all at once. It is difficult to cover a story as big and important as Good Friday without feeling you are leaving some things out. As they mature, you can add in more of the details, context, and characters. The important thing, especially when they are little, is to get the main themes across in a way they can understand. Then, as they grow, the story can build upon the foundation that you started laying when they were younger.
Originally Published 4/13/2017