Talking with Children about Lent

Talking with Children About Lent

Believe it or not, there’s more than one calendar in the world! The church calendar is an annual schedule of holidays and seasons that mark certain events or seasons both in the earthly life and ministry of Jesus, and in the faith experience of his followers.

The church calendar was devised as a teaching tool during pre-literate times so that every year Christians who could not read Scripture for themselves were walked through and learned important facts about the work of salvation that Jesus had accomplished for them.

One of the seasons on the church calendar is Lent. Lent is the season that precedes Easter. It’s a season that you’ve probably heard about before. But why do Christians mark this time as special during the year?

Lent is a season 40 days long that reminds us of Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness during his temptation by the devil. The Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this time in Jesus’s life. You can read about it here. It came right before he started his public ministry of teaching, preaching, and healing.

During his 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus fasted (went without eating), prayed, and meditated on God’s Word and on the mission his Father had called him to fulfill. That mission included teaching and preaching about the plan of salvation that God had for his people. But the bigger part of the mission was that Jesus, the only Son of God, was going to die himself on a cross in order to pay for the sins of his people—and then after being dead, he would return to life on the third day after his death (that’s the resurrection, which we celebrate on Easter).

Jesus’s mission was a huge mission—the biggest there would ever be—and he wanted to prepare for it in this special way. And so during Lent, many Christians remember what Jesus did for them and for the world in a special way by focusing on Jesus’s teaching, and on his suffering and death on the cross.

Many Christians also use the season of Lent to remember why Jesus came and died to save them—because of their sin. And, they devote themselves to a process of repentance—which is loving God, resting in his forgiveness through Jesus’s work on the cross, and turning away from sin and sinful temptations.

So, during Lent, Christians often give up things as a reminder of Jesus’s fasting in the wilderness. Some of the things we tend to give up are bad habits (like cursing, smoking, overeating, and so on)—but we also give up things that keep us from turning to Jesus and enjoying his presence in the first place. Some of those things could be dependance on technology (like cell phones), social media, TV, or streaming.

There’s no requirement to give up anything for Lent. But some people do because they want to follow Jesus’s example of not allowing anything (even eating!) come between them and their relationship with God. People who choose to give something up for Lent often choose to fill that time with Bible reading, prayer, or just being silent before the Lord, to draw closer to him.

There are many ways to observe Lent. Here is a resource you might find helpful to walk you through some of those different ways. It was developed by Alyssa and Stephen Wood from Liberti River Wards Church in Philadelphia and is a Lent and Easter Guide for Families. You can click here to go to the page on the Liberti River Wards website where you can download the booklet as a pdf for free! (Just click on the link, go to the page, and then click the button that reads “Download Family Guide.”

Lent is a time to remember what Jesus has done for everyone who believes in him. But it’s also a time to be transformed as we practice repentance and drawing near to God!

Our sincere thanks to Liberti River Wards for sharing this resource!

Talking with Children About Jesus

What do children need in order to thrive? There are so many answers to that question: Unconditional love. Safety and security. Opportunities to explore their God-given gifts. The stable and faithful care of parents, grandparents, or other caregivers who will nurture them and show them how to live. Friends. Someone who will help them build good self-esteem. Learning to exercise self-control. Someone who will help them learn to live primarily for others, rather than only for themselves.

All of these good gifts are indeed necessary. But there is one thing more, without which no child can truly and deeply thrive. One thing of paramount importance. That thing is to develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Why? It boils down to this: every person on earth was made for relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. Jesus says: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Without that relationship, nothing in life develops as it was designed to be. Nothing matters. It’s as though a talented artist created a beautiful masterpiece, and then locked it away in a closet for no one to enjoy.

Notice that I speak here of a relationship with Jesus. The word relationship is key. To have a relationship with someone is very different from simply knowing facts about that person. I know many facts about my wife. But those facts alone do nothing to help me or to bless her. If I don’t have relationship with my wife, those facts are meaningless.

To have relationship with Jesus is not only to know about him, but it is to know him. To experience his love, to feel the comfort of his presence, to know the faithfulness of his care, to rest in the finality of his work for us on the cross. Jesus is a living person who knows us and wants us to know him.

What are some things you can do to help your child develop a relationship with Jesus? ere Here are a few simple ways to begin.

  1. Teach your child about Jesus. Yes, I did say a moment ago that simply knowing facts about Jesus is not the same as knowing Jesus. But how else do you help start a relationship between two people, except to introduce them? Learning about Jesus is the first step in growing in relationship with him. You can do this through reading Scripture with your child. Begin in an age-appropriate way. For older children, you can read with them directly from the Bible. But for younger children, it might be easier to use a children’s Bible or a Bible storybook. Links to some suggested resources may be found below.
  2. Talk with your child about your own relationship with Jesus. Most children learn anecdotally, through example. Regardless of the depth of your own relationship with Jesus, give real-life examples of how you know Jesus loves you. Talk about how Jesus has answered your prayers. Talk about how you know God has forgiven your sin because Jesus died on the cross in your place. Even if you feel you don’t have much first-hand experience, trust that the Lord will not only use you to help your child know about Jesus, but that the Lord will grow your own with him as you do it.
  3. Pray for your child. You have a sacred privilege as a parent, grandparent, guardian, or caregiver to intercede on behalf of your child. Ask the Lord to give your child faith to believe in Jesus. Pray that you would be a good example of a faithful Christian for your child. Pray that the Holy Spirit would protect your child from Satan’s influence and deception. Pray that the Spirit would give your child a tender heart, and that he or she would recognize that they are a sinner in need of God’s grace.
  4. Pray with your child. Praying with your child is not only a way to bond with your child and help them to bond to Jesus, but a way to teach them how to pray themselves. The prayers don’t need to be long, but sometimes having regular times to pray during the day is helpful. Some parents pray with their children in the morning, around mealtimes, and before bed. And praying with your child when difficult things happen—like disappointments, temper tantrums, or fights—is a good way to teach your child to turn to the Lord. The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) is a prayer all by itself, as well as a good basis for many other prayers. If you’d like some additional ideas about ways to pray with your child, a short list of resources follows at the end of this article.
  5. Bring your child to church and Sunday school. God’s people aren’t just a bunch of individuals; they are a community. Jesus established this community (called the church) as a way to make his character and work known to the world, and for the benefit of all of the members of the church. Many churches have Sunday schools that help children not only learn about Jesus, but where children can develop relationships with peers and where parents can develop relationships with other adults. Going to church isn’t meant to be a legalistic thing. It’s actually a gift from the Lord, which enables us to grow in faith and in love with God and with one another.

This article only scratches the surface concerning talking with your children about Jesus. But it’s a start. If you’d like some more ideas, talk with a trusted Christian friend, your pastor, or one of the teachers or administrators at one of the Jubilee network Schools. And check back to this blog for more articles on helping your child learn about Jesus.


Children’s Bibles and Bible Storybooks


Prayer Books for Children

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve lower-income students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.