Helping Children Understand What Happened at the Cross + Free Giveaway


I am fully convinced that children can understand big theological concepts. And I believe that we, as adults, should introduce and explain big theological concepts to our children and students. One of these concepts that is of greatest importance is what really happened when Jesus died on the cross. Why was His death on the cross able and sufficient to save His sinful people? Here is an example of how you could explain the meaning of Jesus’ death by focusing on the meaning of two short verses.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness… (1 Peter 2:24a, ESV)

He is the propitiation for our sins, (1 John 2:2a, ESV)

Here is what these verses mean: Because Jesus always obeyed God and was sinless (righteous), He was able to be the perfect substitute for sinners. How? While Jesus hung on the cross, God took the sins of all the people whom He specially loved and placed them on Jesus. (Think of taking a bunch of icky garbage and placing it in a clean plastic bag.) So there was Jesus, now carrying many, many sins. What does God feel toward sin? Wrath. (Remember that wrath is fierce anger.) [Romans 1:18.] What is the right punishment? Death. [Romans 6:23a.] So even though no one could see it with their eyes, while Jesus hung on the cross, God poured out all His fierce anger at sin on Jesus. God punished His own Son to death.

Feeling God’s wrath and experiencing death was millions of times worse than all the mocking, whipping, beating, and nails that Jesus had suffered (the things people saw). But Jesus received God’s punishment willingly so that His people would never, ever, ever have to receive it. That way, God’s people would receive God’s smile, instead of His wrathful frown. That’s what the word propitiation means. Jesus received God’s wrath so that we could receive His smile. That is the most wonderful news in the whole world!

Unseen to anyone, Jesus took away the sin of His people and was punished by God in their place. Now God’s people could be completely forgiven, forever… [But when Jesus] died on the cross, He didn’t just take away something from His people (their sin). He also gave them something. What is it? His perfect righteousness (perfect obedience). Now God’s people would be able to live with God forever! From the very beginning, that is what God had wanted and planned all along!

This example is taken from my book, God’s Gospel (Making Him Known series, pages 103-104). The book walks children through the essential truths of the Gospel—beginning in the book of Genesis—by introducing key events and theological concepts, all explained in a child-friendly manner. (And yes, there is an entire chapter explaining the importance of Jesus’ resurrection, too!) Each of the 26 chapters also includes a “Learning to Trust God” section that offers parents additional discussion questions and/or activities to further spiritual conversation between parent and child. You can learn more about the book here.

Another helpful resource for families is Helping Children to Understand the Gospel. This booklet explores the following topics: preparing the hearts of children to hear the Gospel; discerning stages of spiritual growth; communicating the essential truths of the Gospel; and presenting the Gospel in an accurate and child-friendly manner. It also includes a 10-week family devotional to help parents explain the Gospel to their children.

Free Giveaway!

We have 2 copies of God’s Gospel that we would love to give away. Simply post a comment below by Friday, March 11, and your name will be entered in the contest. We will draw 2 names at random and will announce the winners on Monday, March 14.

Written by Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson

Jill Nelson is a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, and author. She has taught Sunday School for over 20 years and writes God-centered curriculum for Truth78.

50 Responses to “Helping Children Understand What Happened at the Cross + Free Giveaway”

  1. Allison March 9, 2016 at 7:22 am #

    Consistency and faithfulness with children, even when it seems you are not making much progress. God is faithful.

    • Frances Harrington March 11, 2016 at 6:17 pm #

      I feel that children understand much more than we give them credit for.
      It is crucial for them to understand the cross as a part of the basic foundation of Christianity; the belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God, who was born, crucified and rose from the dead to save us all.

  2. Allison March 9, 2016 at 7:23 am #

    Being faithful and consistent in sharing with children… Even when it seems you are getting nowhere. God is faithful

  3. Tonya walls March 9, 2016 at 7:25 am #

    I enjoy all of your materials. Thanks for your ministry

  4. Bonnie McDonald March 9, 2016 at 7:34 am #

    Thank you so much for your posts in helping us to help others understand effective ways to present the Gospel message.

  5. Julie Norris March 9, 2016 at 7:34 am #

    Wonderful concept! Thank you, Jill Nelson and CDG.

  6. Mary March 9, 2016 at 7:36 am #

    Would love this book. Thank you!

  7. Jana March 9, 2016 at 7:45 am #

    I would love to win this book. I also believe that teaching the big truth about God is fundamental to building a foundation of faith

  8. Kim Murphy March 9, 2016 at 8:10 am #

    I too believe children should be taught theology. I love your resources!

  9. Sandy Parker March 9, 2016 at 8:11 am #

    Great resource to help tune my heart and kids to sing God’s grace. Thanks!

  10. Angela Fewster March 9, 2016 at 8:11 am #

    Would love the book. Might look for it at your conference next month.

  11. Stephanie Jackson March 9, 2016 at 8:39 am #

    We are having our first Good Friday service this year. I’m excited to share this as a resource for families.

  12. Christina March 9, 2016 at 8:41 am #

    This book sounds great, and would be a wonderful Easter gift to equip other families too!

  13. Elizabeth March 9, 2016 at 8:44 am #

    I would love this book! Thank you!

  14. Hannah March 9, 2016 at 8:46 am #

    Would love to share this book with my 3 children.

  15. Maggie March 9, 2016 at 8:51 am #

    What a great resource to have for families! Thank you!

  16. Katie March 9, 2016 at 9:18 am #

    Looks like a wonderful resource

  17. Anna March 9, 2016 at 9:22 am #

    Not sure if I qualify to enter from the UK but I am giving it a go!
    Ps Thank you so much for this post. Im still quite new to running a bible club in a primary school and this will really help me to prepare how I teach the lessons this week to the children.

  18. Patty Constable March 9, 2016 at 9:27 am #

    Totally agree children can learn big concepts, so can parents while teaching them it’s never too late to learn.

  19. Susan Hastings March 9, 2016 at 9:52 am #

    I would love a copy of this book. Hoping =)

  20. Pam Rymer March 9, 2016 at 10:48 am #

    Sounds like an excellent resource. I will definitely be checking this out. Thanks

  21. Nicole March 9, 2016 at 11:09 am #

    I’ve been wanting to get this book to use during our devotion time for homeschool. Even if I don’t win a copy, I plan to buy it soon!

  22. Jessica Lee March 9, 2016 at 11:12 am #

    I have God’s wisdom and God’s names and my children and I have been so blessed by both of them. Would love God’s Gospel!! Thank you so much!

  23. Ellen March 9, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    Thank you for encouraging us to be fearless, trusting God, as we teach BIG TRUTHS to our kids!

  24. Gloria Tam March 9, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    I have used the Helping Children to Understand the Gospel in our AWANA teaching time. It was such a blessing, the illustrations are very helpful and I learned a lot about the essential truths of the Gospel just by teaching that myself. God bless your ministry!

  25. Marcia March 9, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

    One more resource to help parents and teachers to teach children glorious theological truths, in a way that they will understand. Thank you!

  26. Amber Morrison March 9, 2016 at 3:24 pm #

    These devotionals have been a huge blessing to my family and ministry. I am super excited for this latest one!

  27. Marie Derman March 9, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    I’d love to get this book for my granddaughter & her husband to use with their son.

  28. Denee March 9, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

    I love using CDG curriculum in my 4-5 year olds class–currently walking through creation with them and learning so much together!

  29. Kristy March 9, 2016 at 7:15 pm #

    We have enjoyed this series and would love to try another one!

  30. Meaghan March 9, 2016 at 7:36 pm #

    Thank you!

  31. jan March 9, 2016 at 8:40 pm #

    Sounds like a great book!

  32. Anna March 9, 2016 at 9:27 pm #

    Would LOVE this!

  33. Lisa March 9, 2016 at 9:40 pm #

    We have thoroughly enjoyed God’s names, and we would love to try another one! I hope I win it! 😉

  34. Jamie March 10, 2016 at 12:54 am #

    Thanks for being an encouraging resource!

  35. Vivian March 10, 2016 at 1:27 am #

    I’m brand new at doing children’s ministry. I started to plan a lesson for the Holy Week. Truly appreciate the insight given here.

  36. Hlulani March 10, 2016 at 1:28 am #

    thank you for material that helps us teaches children big truths

  37. Susanne March 10, 2016 at 7:01 am #

    I would love a copy of this book! Thank you.

  38. Cheryl March 10, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    Would love a copy of this book!

  39. Sadie March 10, 2016 at 6:23 pm #

    Looking forward to using these resources in our devotional time with our children.

  40. Bruce March 10, 2016 at 6:55 pm #

    I’m grateful for another resource helping families pass on the gospel to their children. Thank you, Jill!

  41. Steve Houser March 10, 2016 at 8:38 pm #

    Thanks for the giveaway! Always exciting to get new books to help introduce our kids to big theological ideas!

  42. Lydia March 10, 2016 at 8:45 pm #

    Thanks for the giveaway!

  43. Taryn March 11, 2016 at 6:29 am #

    Thank you for the reminder to take every opportunity to share the gospel with our children, and for the help in doing so.

  44. Gina Brussel March 11, 2016 at 10:51 am #

    There is no greater gift we can give our children, no better way to invest in them than, in dependence upon God Almighty, to do our utmost to help them understand this very center of the Gospel.

  45. Tina March 11, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    Yes, I agree-and thank you for exhorting us to trust in the LORD and that His gospel will bring forth fruit unto salvation.

  46. Anna Bullaboy March 11, 2016 at 1:10 pm #

    Thank you for your faithful posts regarding Jesus’ small lambs. Many are blessed by it .

  47. Lee March 11, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

    Thank you!Glad I found your article. Your book sounds like something I was searching for on this site. A way to teach children Big theological concepts. You and all the people behind Children Desiring God are truly a blessing.Looking forward to use the curriculum from this website.

  48. Jessica March 11, 2016 at 5:46 pm #

    Thank you for this wonderful opportunity. Any church would be blessed to have it.

  49. Eden Degu March 16, 2016 at 1:12 am #

    God bless you, i have been inspired to teach my 12 year old brother the wonderful and thick theological concepts i have learned so he can see Jesus and His glory and worship him truly. God help us that we might nurture and raise the little ones in Gods word faithfully and show it to them in our lives as well.

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