How Would You Explain Repentance to a 5-Year-Old?

How Would You Explain Repentance to a 5-Year-Old?

Repentance as a word is seldom used in our culture today. Confession or contrition may be more familiar, but they are still not synonymous with true biblical repentance. To apologize or offer remorse does not suffice either. What is repentance and how would one be able to explain it in teaching terms to a class of five-year-olds? 

First, we must define the term: “True repentance is godly sorrow for sin and a resolve to turn from sin such that one actually does turn from a life of sin; it is a change of mind and heart that leads to a changed life.” (Adventure Club: The Truth About Man, Sin, and Salvation, page 239.) This definition begins with a focus on sorrow, this is an inner sadness of the heart that is truly miserable knowing that wrong has been committed against God. This sorrow is so great that it produces change in the life of the repentant. It is a change of life that is not just set on avoiding a list of sins but also a renewing of the mind, and a replacement with good works (Ephesians 4:22–24). The thought continues in Ephesians 4:25: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” Here we can observe that cleaning up one’s speech is not just about putting away lies but is also about replacing the sin with speaking truth to others. 

Second, only believers can be truly repentant. It is both a resolve from the individual and an act of God by which he gives us the ability to see sin and turn from it to him. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” It is important to differentiate that the world can be remorseful over their sin but unless they turn away from it to God, it is not true repentance.

Reading Scripture verses to children on the topic is a great starting point because we know that God’s Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12). Then, defining the word in simple terms. For example, repentance is when someone is sad enough about their sin that they decide to change by turning from their sin to God.

In addition to these tips, having a few object lessons ready to illustrate the concept will be helpful. One idea is to read Ephesians 4:25–32 aloud to the class. Explain the fruits of repentance shown in these verses. Instead of lying, tell the truth; instead of stealing, work and share with others; stop harmful talk and seek to encourage others with their words.

Write different sins on a whiteboard and write in the opposite action to each such as the “put off” and “put on” model. For example, in the case of talking back to parents we can put that off and put on respectful speech.

Place a poster that says “sin” and one that says “God” on opposite sides of the room. Have the class face the “sin” poster, then have them turn and walk toward “God.” Explain how this illustrates repentance.

For more object lessons that correlate on the topic of sin, there are free videos available at Adventure Club Teaching Tips - Grace Media.

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