Inside: How to explain the Holy Spirit to a child through the Biblical narrative, as person of the Trinity, and through the works of the Holy Spirit.
Both kids and adults ask questions like:
- Who IS the Holy Spirit?
- Why do we need the Holy Spirit?
- What does the Holy Spirit do?
- Where does the Holy Spirit live?
The Holy Spirit can be such a tricky concept to explain to children because they are such concrete thinkers. It’s also a little dicey because different denominations have slightly different views of the Holy Spirit. Some things I think we can all agree on, however, is that the Holy Spirit is the presence of God helping us live a Spirit-filled life. What follows is a way to explain the Holy Spirit to a child of almost any age, with teaching that’s foundational enough to appeal to all Christian denominations.
RELATED PODCAST EPISODE: How to Explain the Holy Spirit to Kids (The Christian Parenting Podcast)
1) How to Explain the Holy Spirit to a Child Through the Biblical Narrative
Jesus lived on earth for 33 years. He was fully God, but he was also fully human, which meant he could only be in one place at a time and only impact a few lives at a time.
During the last supper, he said to his disciples,”It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:7 ESV
Jesus’ followers had some questions.
❓ How could Jesus going away be a good thing?
❓ Who was this Helper Jesus promised to them? There was very little talk of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament so they struggled to understand at first.
⭐️ Jesus knew he needed to leave so the Helper could be with each of his followers at the same time, just as if he was standing right next to them, even if they were scattered all over the world.
☁️ So Jesus went away, up to heaven, leaving his disciples sad and quite confused. A few days later, the disciples were gathered together and something totally wild happened…
“And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.”Acts 2:2-4a ESV
Great news! The Holy Spirit is the Helper Jesus promised!
The Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus to remind the world of what Jesus taught and did.
Pentecost was the first time anyone had ever had God’s Spirit inside them instead of just on them or with them. The first time the Holy Spirit came to live inside people was wildly obvious, but the Holy Spirit wasn’t just for the first disciples.
The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to every Christian, and lives in every single person who follows Jesus. He doesn’t normally come in flames and wind, but he lives inside you, as the Helper Jesus promised to send. The spirit of God helps you show the love of God to those around you, he helps you grow in the fruits of the Spirit, and helps you do God’s work in the world.
2) How to Explain the Holy Spirit as Part of the Trinity
I want you to close your eyes for a moment. Imagine you have taken a time machine trip way back to the beginning of time. I mean the very beginning, before the universe existed.
There are no hot dogs, no siblings, and no computers. Nothing to taste, smell, see, touch, or hear. All there is right here, right now, is God.
But here is the enormously strange mystery. While there is only one God, God exists as three persons. They are called Father, Spirit, and Son.
The three persons of God are separate, but the same, kind of like the three separate points on a fidget spinner. One fidget spinner has three points. But when you spin the fidget spinner, it all looks like one solid piece of plastic. God as three persons in one is called the Trinity.
These three persons love each other deeply. The Greek word for the relationship between Father, Spirit, and Son, is perichoresis (pear-i-COR-ee-sis). That’s a very big word to describe something like a dance of love, where the Father, Son and Spirit dance and swirl and rotate around a common center of divine love.
They dance together in perfect love and peace.
Out of this love, God created you and me and everything around us, and God invites us to dance with him.
In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us.” We were designed to be part of this dance, to love God and love each other perfectly. But of course, we failed. God created laws to help us, but those laws only showed how unloving we were.
In John 15:9, Jesus said, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” It’s hard for us to remain in Jesus’ love, isn’t it? We have a hard time trusting that God actually loves us, which makes it hard to love him back.
So God, out of love, sent the Son to free us from our sin so we could join in this dance of love.
All you have to do to join is to accept that God has given you this gift, and to choose to join the dance with God.
The Father created you, the Son saved you, and, once you accept the gift of salvation, the Holy Spirit lives inside you, helping you love God and love others.
**This section is an except from my book, “Fruit Full: 100 Family Experiences to Grow in the Fruit of the Spirit”.
3) How to Explain the Work of the Holy Spirit to a Child
If you thought that was going to be an easy topic, think again! As far as I can tell, the Bible tells us of at least 70 things the Holy Spirit does.
Um, yes, that’s a lot. How about we just hit the high points today?
Just before Jesus died, he promised to send a Helper. But what exactly does the Holy Spirit help us with? Surely he’s here for more than helping us find a good parking spot at the mall.
THE HOLY SPIRIT…
GIVES US SALVATION
Titus 3:4-5 says “When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.” (NLT)
All that salvation stuff we talk about, the big reason why God became human and walked with us? Well, none of that works without the Spirit. The New Testament teaches that salvation comes through the Holy Spirit.
IS GOD’S GUARANTEE THAT HE WILL KEEP HIS PROMISES.
“He has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.” 2 Corinthians 1:22 (NLT)
God said “I’ll keep my promises” and proved it by putting his seal on us, like putting a stamp of ownership on a book.
HELPS US WORSHIP AND PRAY
You know when you’re just not feeling into worship, or when your prayers feel dry and sticky in your mouth? The Spirit’s here to help with that!
Ephesians 5:18-19 talks about being filled with the Spirit and singing songs to God. Ephesians 6:18 commands us to “pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.” (NLT) Romans 8:26 literally says that when we don’t know what to pray, the Spirit prays for us! The presence of the Holy Spirit can help you worship and pray.
HELPS US MAKE GOOD CHOICES
“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.” Galatians 5:16-18 (NLT)
When you get that feeling like “ooooh boy, I’m about to do something really dumb,” you can cry out to the Holy Spirit for help and he will help you make the right choice!
(To read more about living in the power of the Holy Spirit, read Galatians 5:16-26 and Romans 8.)
GIVES SPECIAL GIFTS TO HELP THE CHURCH
God gives us gifts, but they don’t usually come wrapped up with ribbon.
Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 talk about many of the different gifts that the Holy Spirit gives Christians. The point of any gift of the Holy Spirit is to help others know Jesus and to help strengthen the Church. These gifts go beyond what talents you already have, although often, God uses what you’re already good at and makes it shine for his glory by giving extra spiritual gifts. We see this in the story of Pentecost: Peter, who had recently denied Jesus out of fear and had said some dumb things even before that, suddenly could preach about Jesus all over Jerusalem once he received great power and the gift of the right words from the Holy Spirit.
Wow, that WAS a lot! And we didn’t even cover it all.
I’d love to know what you think.
I’d also love to invite you to read my brand new book, “Fruit Full: 100 Family Experiences for Growing in the Fruit of the Spirit”. It can truly help your family understand the work of the Spirit as you talk about how to grow in love, joy, peace. You’ll see the work of the Spirit concretely through Jesus, through his hands, his habits, and his heart for humanity.
Each of the 100 devotions will help kids see the fruit of the Spirit in a concrete, practical way through the life and teachings of Jesus and the Holy Spirit himself will help them grow in the fruit!
I’d love for you to pick up a copy of the book to use in your home or ministry, and I have some resources you can download as well! Sign up for them here!