How do you talk about crucifixion/resurrection with kids?

The crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are defining elements of the Christian faith, yet not very easy to explain to kids. Church services mention the concepts in passing often, and I wonder each time how much the children in the congregation understand.

With Easter upon us, it’s hard, even for non-Christians, to miss the prevalence of discussions of these difficult concepts.

I am wondering how parents introduce and explain these concepts to their children? How old are children before they really understand? Does it scare or upset them when they really get what those words mean?

I would think it would be even more difficult for non-Christian families to explain to their kids what their friends may be talking about. How do you as a non-Christian handle teaching about these Christian beliefs?

93 comments Add your comment

JJ

April 9th, 2009
8:15 am

This should be interesting. I can’t wait to see the responses. I may chime in but everyone knows, I’m not religious at all, and I don’t believe any of this……but I’m looking forward to reading the posts today.

Everyone be nice!!!!

Photius

April 9th, 2009
8:25 am

It’s very easy, speak at their level of understanding and simply tell them the truth. I wonder how many adults in a poll believe which Christian holiday is the apex of the faith: X-mas or Easter?

Lupe

April 9th, 2009
8:32 am

Oh this is easy….Just sit them down and make them watch The Passion. Thank you Mel Gibson!

clyde

April 9th, 2009
8:37 am

Tell the kids that it was never mentioned before or since,so statistically it is very improbable that it ever took place.To the point of,no it didn’t happen that way.No resurrection.The crucifixtion was a form of capital punishment.That’s easy to explain.The Immaculate Conception?That’s a defense that’s been tried many times,with bad results for the pregnant one.

Brett Pike

April 9th, 2009
8:43 am

It’s the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. What’s left to be explained?

Bubba

April 9th, 2009
8:48 am

Skeptics, be glad you’re dealing with a religion in which the response to skepticism isn’t beheading.

Jeff

April 9th, 2009
8:56 am

There are plenty of short story books that are available that help illustrate this glorious event to all age levels. You can’t expect a 6 year old to be able to grasp the whole string of events and definitely wouldn’t show them the Passion..that’s just too graphic. But would recommend that movie to adults.

And in a question to Clyde, where do you get it was never mentioned before or since? The topic was predicted in several books of the Old Testament and was reiterated in the latter books of the New Testament. I believe Paul came to his faith by talking with the resurrected Christ.

“To the point it didn’t happen that way”. What way did it happen?

AW

April 9th, 2009
8:59 am

Great questions…

Easter is the apex because without the resurrection Jesus becomes just another prophet in history.

My wife and I explain the resurrection to our children based on what the bible says…the only reliable source. Different ages require different levels of added details which are often found in bible commentaries, etc. We’ve been teaching/sharing this with our kids since age 2-3.

Clearly the Easter story requires a lot of faith to believe but I’d submit you don’t need to be religious at all to really believe it. Religious and faithful are too often lumped together and causes some folks to be misled. Unfortunately there are a lot of ‘religious’ folks out there whose faith is very questionable and it shows in how they lead their lives.

This is a good ‘can of worms’ to open up during this Holy week.

betty boop

April 9th, 2009
9:02 am

You just tell the kids the truth: that there is no Easter bunny and that hunting for eggs comes from an ancient pagan fertility custom. Then, you explain that because God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross and shed His blood for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16). Tell them that this selfless act was necessary because the first man, Adam, sinned against God; and because he was the first man, his sin fell upon ALL mankind. But, God is a holy God and cannot abide sin. Therefore, He sent His Son Jesus down from Heaven to live just like a regular man. Jesus, the Son of God, was born to Mary and Joseph, He lived just like a normal child, grew up to be a powerful man that could perform miracles. But when He became about 30 years old, it was time for him to die on the Cross to redeem, or buy back mankind from the power of Adam’s sin. Tell the children that although it seemed a cruel thing for God to do, He had to allow Jesus to suffer, bleed and die on the Cross because only blood can redeem man from sin. Tell them that the best part of Jesus’ death is that the grave could not hold Him; and He rose from the grave after being in the tomb for three days. And then tell them that when Jesus rose from the grave, He made provision for all who receive Him as Lord and Savior to rise also, even after we die and go to the grave. Tell them the truth: that the only way to Heaven is to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, because He said that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man can come to the Father (God), but by Me.” Let them know that they are not too young to receive Christ as Lord and Savior, either. Let them know that if they sincerely repent of the sin that they inherited from Adam and if they can believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; then they can be saved. That goes for adults, too. If kids can believe in Harry Potter, and in Dungeons and Dragons, and in Easter bunnies that have no power to save the soul, surely they can believe in the only Son of God and His redemptive power. For all the adults who wonder how to be saved, pray this simple prayer:
Father God, I admit to you that I am a sinner. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He came to save the world from sin. That includes me. Father, I renounce and repent from all sin; and I ask that you make Jesus Christ my personal Lord and my Savior. Now, God, fill me with your Holy Spirit, so that I might live a saved life that is pleasing to you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
I prayed that same prayer nearly 30 years ago and God has never failed me. If you dare to pray, He will hear you and redeem your soul and you will never be the same!

Robert K

April 9th, 2009
9:06 am

Bubba: There was a time when the Christian response to skepticism (or even rival forms of Christianity) was to burn people alive. What’s fortunate is that we live in a Republic in which the excesses of religion are kept at bay by the Constitution.

Lupe: Showing Gibson’s Passion to children must qualify as a form of abuse. It might also give them the idea that Christianity is founded in blood-soaked sado-masochism. Or is that the point?

johnnyboy

April 9th, 2009
9:08 am

@Bubba – at least not this century, eh? Ever hear of the Spanish Inquisition?

I’d suggest painting it with a broad brush to a child. Some people didn’t like what Jesus was saying, so they tried to get rid of him. But his love and message were too strong. The important thing is that children get the message, not that they can repeat the plot.

SEK

April 9th, 2009
9:08 am

Betty Boop– Thank you for posting what many don’t have the courage to post. Accepting Jesus IS easy–folks think there has to be more to it than that, but there’s not. HE paid the price for us on that Easter long ago, and all we must do is accept Him.

David S

April 9th, 2009
9:17 am

Like JJ I am curious too. I was raised as an atheist by a former Catholic mom who wanted me to find my own way. By my own choice I went to a Catholic high school (great science curriculum) and found much of the ritual, etc. to be rather amuzing. Many of the kids I knew loved the Saturday midnight mass because it let them go to mass drunk on Saturday so they could blow off church on Sunday. Several kids I knew liked to drop acid on ash wednesday before services. I guess they had read about Timothy Leary’s similar study with divinity students. But the most amuzing stuff was from teachers who knew I was not Catholic or even Christian and who would try to explain some of the teachings to me. I remember the discussion of the feast of the immaculate conception which occurs in December as I recall. A bit surprising if you think that was Jesus’ conception since his birthday is celebrated only a few weeks later. No, that holiday is for Mary who I guess needed to be “immaculate” too according to the later church. You would have thought that if this was so important, it might have been mentioned in the gospels.

Overall, it just seemed like the whole thing was built on tenuous “faith” and that even the believers had a hard time explaining any of the story with any seriousness or sense of solid belief.

In the end, I am so glad that my parents let me find my own way. I think it allowed me to look at faith and my relationship with the divine in a much healthier manner.

Frankly, if you have a difficult time “explaining” the core events of Jesus’ life to your kids, maybe you should think about working out your own “faith” and understanding before imposing these ideas on your children simply because you think they need “religion.”

Sean

April 9th, 2009
9:17 am

Good stuff Betty Boop!!! Great way to put it!

LydiasDad

April 9th, 2009
9:18 am

The Christian bashers are just amazing. Without Christianity, there would be no schools, charities, or hospitals. Remember that.

As a Sunday School teacher to 5yo kids, I’ve wondered how to approach the topic on Sunday. I think the best way is to simply tell them that Jesus “goes to heaven” on this day. There are a couple of bright ones who will ask “does that mean he died?”, and then I’ll tell him that he did. I’ll tell them that some mean people, who didn’t understand him, killed Jesus. I don’t have to go into detail about the cross, nails in the hands, and such. I think the kids will be fine with that.

M

April 9th, 2009
9:18 am

Tell them that God REALLY loved this bunch of people that he had never met…so he decided to torture and kill his own son just to prove it. Then look at your child and ask how good they’ve been lately.

Jesse's Girl

April 9th, 2009
9:20 am

The Easter Bunny has never visited our home. At least Santa was a good man who made the lives of the poor and forgotten a little better….I can relate him to Christ-like behavior. Not a whole lot I can do with a rabbit with a bad pituitary glande:)

Our children were fortunate enough to be born into a family that celebrates both Jewish and Christian beliefs. They get to see the shunning of Christ and the acceptance of Him. They get to learn about the repression of His people and why some still don’t recognize Him as Savior. We have explained that we all have a choice to either welcome Him or turn Him away. We touched on free will and how that is he one gift that God gave us that both helps and hurts us. We have also explained that there are likely some things written in the Bible that may not have happened EXACTLY as it says. But that its the spirit behind the passage that means the most. We have explained faith to our children. We thought that faith would have been too abstract and difficult for them to grasp. But it was easier than explaining Lott and his wife! They didn’t get the whole “salt” thing:)

We hoped, but did not demand, that our girls would pray the prayer of salvation. They came to us…they wanted to ask Him into their hearts. The Boy has said he will do it when he is 7….no pressure. Cramming Christ down someone’s throat is a sure-fire way to make them turn and run. I want our children to see the little miracles and works of faith that happen everyday….I want them to want Christ in their lives. Not because they see mommy singing about it or daddy reading to them about it. It has to be their choice…their journey.

Sue

April 9th, 2009
9:20 am

Betty Boop Amen! It is also important to note that Jesus chose to die for us. It was God’s plan but when Jesus was hanging up on that cross, he could have called legions of angels to rescue Him but He didn’t. He wanted to die for all of us and complete God’s plan for the world. Praise God Jesus is alive today!! For all of you that don’t believe in Him, He still loves you and He died for you too. All you have to do is realize that and accept it in your heart. It truly is amazing when you think how Jesus died for all of our sins long before we were ever born. Oh how I love Jesus because He first loved me!!

Bubba

April 9th, 2009
9:25 am

Yes, Christians once did resort to burnings and inquisitions. Then came the 19th Century.

Corey

April 9th, 2009
9:27 am

Easter isn’t about bunnies and Easter baskets. Christ died for our sins/mistakes so that we may live in heaven. After 3 days He arose from death. Simple, now go tell your children.

johnnyboy

April 9th, 2009
9:30 am

So nothing before the 19th century counts? There goes Easter!!

lakerat

April 9th, 2009
9:31 am

It is widely believed that the resurrection (Easter Sunday)is considered the apex of Christianity; however, Jesus’ rising from the dead is not the first time life after death occurred in the Bible – i.e. Lazarus (the brother of Mary and Martha and one of Jesus’ closest non-disciple friends), and the Centurian’s daughter, are two other times people rose from the dead. Yet, most churches and religious leaders only teach the resurrection without, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story”.

Hence, it is the ascension of Jesus into heaven several weeks later, witnessed by several of his followers, that is the real apex of Christian belief. Without this, all you have is the “Greatest Story Ever Told” without the final ending.

TP

April 9th, 2009
9:32 am

It’s not difficult to explain Christ’s resurrection to children; after all they have “child like” faith. They accept the story of the resurrection, because the doubts and deception of our world hasn’t yet affected their ability to trust. I wish I had the faith JJ does; it takes great faith to ignore historical record, evolution, and science as evidence of our Creator.

Robert K

April 9th, 2009
9:33 am

Yes, Bubba, times have changed, thanks largely to the rising secularism in Western culture that started in the late 18th century.

But then, wasn’t it just last year that people who believed one form of Christianity attacked school children (children!!) from families who believed another form of Christianity? (This was in Northern Ireland.)

Explain that to your children.

Juanita

April 9th, 2009
9:34 am

My husband and I raised three daughters. They are adults now. However, we told them what we believed to be the Truth. We read to them the Holy Scriptures and explained to them that Jesus died and rose again for us. The children (at that time) participated in the Church plays and programs and they got a better understanding. As parents we sometimes complicate the simplest things. Just sit down, and talk to the kids, and they mature, they will ask questions and can search and find more answers. In all your getting, get understanding.

M

April 9th, 2009
9:36 am

You can also tell them that if they don’t grasp the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, they can look at any of the other myths of that era for a fun story about the death-to-life experience of a god (Osiris, Mithra, Tammuz, Attis, etc.). They’re all pretty much the same.

Sweet Pea

April 9th, 2009
9:44 am

Betty Boop – well said! As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Christianity isn’t “religion” in my eyes, it is a way of life. Religions are just individual interpretations. I am Christian but refuse to put limits on myself by being put into a “religious” box. Unfortunately, too many Christians get sucked into “religion” which opens up the debate. For me, there is one guiding principal – believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be saved. Everything is just window dressing.

For my Christian friends, may you be blessed this Easter season with all the glory of the resurrection.
For my Jewish friends, Happy Passover! Remember the deliverance and seek the deliverer.

Denise

April 9th, 2009
9:46 am

Betty Boop – you just blessed me this morning. I am saved but there is nothing more powerful to me than saying the sinner’s prayer every time you get a chance.

TeeinCSG

April 9th, 2009
9:48 am

Wow.
If you have faith and believe Jesus died for your sins, relay to your kids the story as told in the Bible.
If you don’t have faith and don’t believe because you’re an atheist, or because you have some kinda religious aversion, then don’t.
Simple as that.
Do you!
Betty Boop, great narrative.

David S

April 9th, 2009
9:53 am

Its funny that The Passion of the Christ was mentioned because I think that one of the greatest criticisms of Christianity is that its primary focus is on the death of Christ rather than on his teachings. Certainly a fair criticism.

The teachings of Christ are significantly consistent with the teachings of all the great religions of the world. The only major difference is the reliance on the conception and death stories in Christianity while the others focus on living a daily relationship with god. One of the things that has always confounded me is that the simple act of “accepting Christ” becomes a justification for a lifetime of personal irresponsibility. It seems to me that focussing on Christ’s supposed absolution of your sins is a much easier approach than focussing on his teachings and making them a part of your life. “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven”. Sounds pretty convenient to me.

Bubba

April 9th, 2009
9:57 am

Guys, my post was almost 20 words, so I know it’s tough to read the whole thing. But I used the present-tense verb IS. That means now. Present time. Try to comprehend.

PJ

April 9th, 2009
10:08 am

This goes out to JJ and David S. I can understand your beliefs about “Ressurection Sunday” or “Easter” as most people would refer to the day, but would both of you do me a big favor? Go to the website of http://www.creflodollarministries.com or just Google Creflo Dollar, click on the “broadcast” icon and watch his sermon from Tuesday morning. It’s definitely an eye opener!

Edward

April 9th, 2009
10:12 am

Bubba, stating your religion is better because someone else is much worse isn’t much of a compliment to your religion, now is it? Many of your fellow revelers drool at the thought of some beheadings and floggings right here, but it is our secular laws that keep them at bay.

Now go play with the talking snake.

Name (required)

April 9th, 2009
10:14 am

I don’t allow my family to participate in cults.

JJ

April 9th, 2009
10:18 am

PJ – Creflo Dollar – really? That man is totally money hungry. I would NEVER watch that phoney!!!! He is fake and is only in it for the almighty dollar. I refuse to watch or listen to any tv evangalist. Ernest Ansley anyone?

LydiasDad

April 9th, 2009
10:18 am

The Christian bashers are just amazing. Without Christianity, there would be no schools, charities, or hospitals. Remember that. Events like the inquisition were in the distant past. Get over it. The dinosaurs aren’t relevant either.

As a Sunday School teacher to 5yo kids, I’ve wondered how to approach the topic on Sunday. I think the best way is to simply tell them that Jesus “goes to heaven” on this day. There are a couple of bright ones who will ask “does that mean he died?”, and then I’ll tell him that he did. I’ll tell them that some mean people, who didn’t understand him, killed Jesus. I don’t have to go into detail about the cross, nails in the hands, and such. I think the kids will be fine with that.

HM Roberts

April 9th, 2009
10:21 am

Thank you Betty Boop. Everytime I hear the Sinners Prayer I am awestruck at the love our God has for us.

Robert

April 9th, 2009
10:29 am

I would think the most difficult part is explaining how if death occured on Friday afternoon/evening how being absent from the grave at daybreak Sunday, about 36 hours, constitutes resurrection on “the third day.” The Romans knew the prediction and were prepared to observe what was to occur. Followers of the cult removed the body early to preserve the myth.

Sunday School Teacher

April 9th, 2009
10:30 am

Christianity teaches God is Love. That Christ was the “Word” of Love. But its not really supposed to be as much a history lesson as a way to live one’s life. By practicing this religion, you are saying that you are willing to give up your own life in order to help others. The story of Christ is a literal giving of his own life, but that is meant to illustrate to us that if you decide to live a life of Love for others, that you will certainly sacrifice your own wants. Christianity also teaches us that the “Kingdom of God” is with in us. This is a fairly simple thing to grasp as we certainly all think of love as coming from within us.

Basically Christianity is simply a method or “Way” as the early church called itself, to devote your life to the service of others.

When i meet an athiest and they say they don’t believe in God, I ask them if they believe in Love. If they say, “Yes” then I tell them our differences are semantics.

If a child asks, “Did Jesus really die and then rise from the dead?”, then I reply that I don’t know whether that is a literal meaning, but I suspect that it is simply a metaphor for if you are willing to live your life and sacrifice your own wants for the needs of others that you will live again in the Kingdom of Love which is found within us.

bailey

April 9th, 2009
10:34 am

Thank you Betty Boop – you said it all!!Thank you!! That is how I was taught as a small child and that is how I taught my children and that is the way we are teaching our grand children. The truth! It is not easy to know how Jesus died, but is awesome to know why he had to die and how he is still alive today!!

Tom

April 9th, 2009
10:45 am

Good response, Sunday School Teacher. We all know that it isn’t literally true, since it’s impossible. But your answer teaches a valuable lesson. As the kids get older, you can address the literal truth, which is that it’s a late-Bronze-Age myth of some peasants in a backwater of the Roman Empire.

Vickie

April 9th, 2009
10:49 am

We need more Christians like Betty Boop………I am so proud of you!!!

BH

April 9th, 2009
10:54 am

Tell the kids the truth. It’s all fiction, a lie. And might as well tell them the same about Santa Claus. And parents should read “Letter to a Christian Nation,” by Sam Harris.

Matt

April 9th, 2009
10:59 am

Here’s a better idea: Quit corrupting their minds and let them develop their own beliefs!!!

Pamela

April 9th, 2009
11:01 am

My son is 14 and when he went to Catholic School they told him – at his age level – all about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. My family is Christian and my son has always known the truth. Churches usually offer classes for children at their own age level so they understand.

AW

April 9th, 2009
11:02 am

Tom, I believe the story is possible if you consider who the main character is. God isn’t confined by human constraints such as time, space, or death. I choose to believe the story of Jesus out of faith because my little human brain cannot conceive or make sense of it any other way. If we use our tainted-by-the-world adult faith to make sense of things we will likely hit many obstacles. If we develop a child-like faith we are more likely to ‘get it’ and be able to enjoy the rewards that a life in Christ brings. I’m sorry that the world’s views are obscuring the Truth for you but I am hopeful that one day you’ll see the Light.

AW

April 9th, 2009
11:07 am

If I don’t teach my kids the truth as I see it, the world will most certainly teach them its version of the truth. That includes a ‘do it if it feels good’, ‘if it doesn’t hurt anyone else it’s ok’, etc. approach that is not what God intended. Turn on the TV at 8 PM each night or read the covers of the magazines at the checkout stand or see the direction the Europeans have taken…this is letting the world teach you. Yuck.

M

April 9th, 2009
11:11 am

Again…an OMNIPOTENT God has NO OTHER WAY of redeeming mankind for eating the apple that the talking snake told them to eat but torturing and killing his own son?

JJ

April 9th, 2009
11:20 am

I don’t believe in heaven or hell. I don’t believe a woman had a child without having sex. I don’t believe a man died, then came back 3 days later, moved a 2,000 pound rock to get out of the “tomb”, and is roaming among us 2,009 years later. I don’t believe anything really in the bible (And I have read it). There is no way Noah gathered every single animal on this earth two by two and put them on a boat. I don’t believe the earth was flooded for 40 days and nights………There is nothing you can say to me to make be believe any other way. Just like I cannot convince anyone this isn’t real, you cannot convince me it is. I just don’t buy it. Never have, never will. But I will not FORCE my beliefs on ANYONE. That’s where I have a problem with religion.

A friend of mine asked my niece if she had read the book “The Shack”. My niece’s reply was (Wide eyed) “Oh no, I’m not allowed to read that book, my Pastor said its full of lies” and she was serioulsy freaking out. My reply to her was, read it for yourself and form your own opinion. To me, her Pastor is censoring a book. And I do not want anyone to tell me what I can and cannot read.

Stan

April 9th, 2009
12:07 pm

Well said JJ.

I’m not 100% of what I believe…but I strongly doubt the Bible in many areas. And attacking me and trying to force your beliefs on me will in NO way help you cause.