|A young girl was collected from the children’s church early because she was crying uncontrollably. When she was calm enough to speak she relayed that the last time she had attended church the story was the birth of Jesus, today’s lesson was on Good Friday and it was unspeakably evil to call it good when they nailed an infant to a cross.||Another child came to church every Sunday without fail, even though they came from a non-Christian family. Every palm Sunday they waved paper blanches and every Easter Sunday they celebrated the resurrection. Later in life they admitted they had never really grasped the idea that Jesus had been rejected by the crowd, or explored the story of his death.||After Easter a terrified child suffered such bad nightmares they refused to go back to church. A well meaning teacher had decided that the kids should see the truth and showed them a movie clip of an actor being flogged and crucified. Oddly, the crucifixion didn’t scare the child but the bloody flogging scene disturbed them greatly.|
Teaching Holy week is difficult. Some years I’ve waited until we know the end of the story before I’ve really explored it with the youngsters. Knowing it will end happily makes the scary part a little easier.
There is a lot of approaches to teaching youngsters the Easter story, and to be honest most of them involve hiding some of the ‘true events’ from the kids. Understandably, children can’t fully grasp all the things happening in the week leading up to Jesus’s death. However, which truths you chose to hide or omit from the story shapes the kids view of Easter. The regular attender couldn’t grasp the significance of the events any more than the other two terrified children. So how do we sensitively tell the truth to kids.
Do teach it, this is a central part of the Christian message, it should be taught every year!
Describe in simple words, eg. Jesus’s death destroyed the wall people had built between God and themselves.
Don’t miss the pain out of the story, Jesus knew he would face a painful death, it’s important.
Don’t teach only one part of the story, the empty grave and empty cross need to go together.
Being sad is OK. Some kids may cry, allow them to be upset but remind them that we know the rest of the story.
Be clear this is history not parable. put it in context of the 3 years of ministry and the roman empire.
Explore Holy week, before or after Easter spend a few sessions on the events surrounding Easter
Avoid blame. Jesus forgave, there is no baddie in this story, certainly not the children.
Avoid ignorance. Just because the disciples didn’t twig Jesus was coming back does not mean they were dumb.
Allow reflection. This is a powerful story, giving short pauses for reflection is important.
This post originally appeared on the 9th of April 2013