Heaven and hell can seem confusing and scary to kids. Throughout society, people doubt the existence of both places. They debate what qualifies someone to go to either place. And they question what we’ll spend all our time doing for eternity. So it’s no wonder kids have questions about heaven and hell!
As we teach children about heaven and hell, we must remain Bible-based. And we must help kids understand eternal issues in ways they can comprehend. Different children grasp various concepts at different ages. But the following guidelines will help children’s ministry teachers address this sometimes-tricky subject.
Heaven and Hell: What to Say and When
1. Birth to Kindergarten
First, let’s begin with the youngest children. Understand that few have had to deal with death. It’s best to talk about heaven as a physical place where we can someday live. At this point, don’t try to emphasize the spiritual aspects of heaven. For now, help children understand that heaven is a wonderful place where Jesus lives. Emphasize that there will be no crying, pain, or sadness in heaven.
Again, for children younger than 2, the spiritual implications are harder to understand. So focus more on heaven. Simply refer to hell as a bad place. As kids grow, they’ll begin to understand heaven as a wonderful place where Jesus lives and where they can someday live as well.
2. First & Second Grade
By this age, an increasing number of kids have had experience with death, on some level. This may be through the media, or the death of a pet, or even a grandparent. So these kids may look at death differently. At this age, kids start to discover that Jesus took the punishment they deserve so they can live in heaven with him.
In simple terms, kids understand heaven is good and hell is bad. You may hear lots of questions from these kids about heaven and hell. Don’t be afraid if you don’t have all the answers! Be honest with children. Then research the subject so you can continue the discussion next time.
Most questions will be about why people go to heaven and hell when they die. This is a great time to explain that Jesus wants everyone to live in heaven. Explain how kids can tell others about Jesus’ sacrifice and love.