As Son of God hits theaters this weekend, many parents will struggle with how to explain the more difficult aspects of Jesus’ life—such as the virgin birth and the crucifixion—to their children. Fortunately, American Bible Society’s Children’s Ministry Senior Advisor Margi McCombs is offering tips to help parents navigate the complicated conversations.
“The Bible is the grand narrative of God’s love for and pursuit of humankind,” said McCombs. “But parts of that narrative are hard to understand and even emotionally gut-wrenching. It’s important that parents help their children experience the story of the Bible in general, and of Jesus in particular, in a positive way.”
To that end, McCombs offers five tips for talking to children about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
- Prepare them ahead of time. Don’t wait for Easter or after a showing of Son of God to tell the story of Jesus to your children. When possible, don’t try to do this all in one sitting. Plan ahead and take children through one portion of Jesus’ story per day over several days.
- Provide historical context. Familiarize children with social, economic and medical conditions of First Century Palestine. Explain that crucifixion was used as a fairly common method for executing criminals at that time.
- Anticipate and prepare for difficult topics.
- The Virgin Birth: Very few young children will ask in-depth questions about the virgin birth. It is usually sufficient to tell a child that the angel Gabriel came to a young woman named Mary and told her she was going to have a baby and that baby would be Jesus, the Son of God. If older children ask questions about Mary’s virginity, parents can respond that God, the Creator, can do anything He wants to do. So He placed His Son into Mary’s womb by His infinite power.
- Good Friday: Jesus knew he was going to die on Good Friday and He let that happen because it was God’s plan to save humankind. The crucifixion was horrible and painful. But Jesus knew He had to die first before he could be raised from the dead and, by doing that, conquer death. Even on the cross, Jesus showed love for the men who put Him there by asking God the Father to forgive them. Remind your children that Jesus’ story didn’t end on the cross; He rose from the dead three days later and that is what we celebrate on Easter.
- Satan and Demons: Supernatural evil can be extremely frightening to children, and the Bible stories of Jesus communicating with and casting out demonic spirits can be difficult for children to understand. If children are exposed to these stories and have questions, remember, what they need, above all, is assurance that they are safe. Let them know neither Satan nor his demons can hurt those who belong to God.
- Preview the content for yourself: Before you take your children to see Son of God or any Bible-themed movie, consider viewing it yourself first. If you decide to take children to see the movie, talk with them about the most graphic scenes and let them ask questions in advance. Let them know it is okay to be sad or upset and give them coping strategies (e.g., “You can close your eyes or bury your face in my shoulder if something upsets you.”) And remind them before the film begins that we already know how it ends—God wins!
- Know your child. Children have different emotional capacities that may not be connected with their chronological ages. While some 10- to 11-year-olds may be able to understand and handle the emotional stress of watching a crucifixion scene, some tender-hearted teenagers may not. Talk to your kids and gauge whether they are ready, regardless of their ages.
Parents can find additional resources to help prepare children to experience the grand story of God’s Word by visiting:
- Acts Tracks: http://acts.americanbible.org/engage/children/resources
- Bible App for kids: http://www.bibles.com/bibleadventures
About American Bible Society:
Headquartered in Manhattan, the 197-year-old American Bible Society exists to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so all people may experience its life-changing message. One of the nation’s oldest nonprofit organizations, today’s American Bible Society provides resources across a variety of platforms enabling first-time readers and seasoned theologians alike to engage with the best-selling book of all time. For more information, visit AmericanBible.org.