Many people around the web seem to be searching for resources to help explain the core stories of our faith, celebrated during Holy Week, to young children. In their inquiries I hear a fear and reluctance to talk to children about death and resurrection. Sometimes we hide this fear in metaphor by talking about dogwood blossoms or butterflies, but metaphors are confusing for most children. We will not scare children by talking about death. It surrounds them in the natural world. They play it dramatically in their games. Many see it within their families and community. The fear is more on the part of adults trapped in the cultural taboo of not discussing death, than it is in the minds and hearts of children.
So what can we say about death and new life that children will understand as they grow into these key concepts of the Christian life? Wendy Claire Barrie, Christian educator and member of the Forma Facebook group, has given permission to quote the words here that she used with the children in her church last year: We call Good Friday ‘good’ because we are an Easter people. Even in the name we give it, we can’t look at this day alone for the terrible thing that happened, that Jesus whom we love died on the cross. We look all the way to Sunday, when Jesus who died on the cross rose again. All the same, we don’t skip over this terrible thing, that Jesus whom we love died on a dark day when soldiers shamed him, nearly all his friends left his side, and he wasn’t even sure that God was with him. We tell the story of what happened that day because it is important, it’s necessary: Jesus was afraid, he suffered, he died… and God turned his fear, his suffering, and his dying into hope, wholeness and new life. We tell our story, our Christian story, over and over again because it tells us the truth: not that there is no darkness, but that “light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” Remembering that gives us comfort and makes us bold, it helps us encourage others and find goodness in the most difficult of days. We are an Easter people because we have been to the cross and the grave and we know the promise God makes to us in Jesus: God’s power and grace can transform anything, God’s love is stronger than the cross, stronger than death itself. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and make all things new.
Here are some other helpful sources around the web for talking to children about the events of Holy Week: