The Trinity confuses even adults, so when you’re tasked (or inspired) to teach the Trinity to a child, teenager, or new believer, it can be overwhelming. What’s a Mama to say when the questions start flowing?
After all, God is confusing.
Jesus is confusing.
The Holy Spirit is REALLY confusing.
Now you’re gonna tell me they’re all the same but also different?
No wonder our babies feel lost!
The best way to teach the Trinity to ANYONE who is confused is with an object lesson. But first, let’s cover the basics. As a former youth minister and children’s minister, I’ve already done your research!
What is the concept of the Trinity?
Trinity comes from two word parts: tri, meaning “three,” and unity, meaning “as one.” The concept of the Trinity is that we have God in three forms – a union of three.
First, we have God. That’s the one we think of as the Father. The all powerful one who lives up in Heaven and either judges us mercilessly or loves us endlessly, depending on who you ask.
Second, we have the son of God, Jesus. He’s the one who walked the Earth blamelessly, performing miracles, and extending mercy and love. Jesus is the one whose life we try to copy.
Third, we have the Holy Spirit, which is also God, living in our hearts and guiding us through life.
Three separate beings, all rolled into one entity.
Why is the Trinity important to Christianity?
It’s obvious that the Trinity is important to Christianity because it’s the framework for one of our oldest texts that crosses multiple denominations: the Apostles’ Creed, written in the 5th century.
It may seem that the Catholic Church and all the Protestant denominations don’t have much in common, but they do have this creed to share. Many of us say it every single Sunday morning.
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
The Trinity is important to Christians because it reminds us that God is all-powerful, walked this Earth as a perfect human who can relate to our pain, and also lives on today in our hearts.
Looking for a great children’s Bible? I’ve already done your research at my local library. Here are the best children’s Bibles, sorted by age.
Object Lessons on the Trinity for a Child or New Believer
The easiest way to explain the Trinity is with an object lesson, and that’s true no matter how old someone might be. Below are several of the most popular ones. If you are teaching young children, these object lessons are both the perfect starting and stopping point.
However, these illustrations aren’t perfect, and really mature kids or teenagers (or adult new believers) could handle digging a bit deeper! After all, each of these illustrate the idea that God is made up of parts, and that’s not really true. The Holy Spirit isn’t like an egg yolk, because the egg yolk is only part of an egg, whereas the Holy Spirit isn’t part of God – it IS God.
Now let’s dig into these imperfect – yet better than nothing – representations of the Trinity for kids.
Here is an object with three parts: a hard shell, the egg white, and the yolk. Three parts in one, yet all very much an egg.
It’s probably the most classic Trinity object lesson, but it’s not my favorite.
The apple one is kind of cool. You can cut into an apple in front of your group.
Show them that there are three parts: seeds, flesh, and skin.
- God is like the skin because He protects us.
- Jesus is like the flesh, because He became flesh so we could know Him better.
- The seeds are like the Holy Spirit, because He helps us grow.
And yet, we run into the same problem again, because God isn’t made up of parts. It’s three things, but all are complete on their own. Sigh.
This one is kinda fun for older kids who understand a bit of science. Steam, water, and ice are all H20. It is the same thing in three different forms.
The trouble with this one is that it’s a bit less visual. Kids understand the three different forms clearly, as separate objects. Only older children will grasp the “in one” concept of H20.
Teaching the Trinity to a Teenager
Go ahead and start with one of the object lessons above. In fact, kids who have been in church for many years will probably have already heard one of these illustrations.
However, you don’t want to stop there with a student who can participate in a discussion.
Going Beyond the Object Lesson
Ask the teenager this question: “Where does this fall short? We’ve made a comparison between this object and the Trinity. How is God different? See if you can let kids arrive at the notion that God isn’t really made up of parts. Each person of God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) really IS God.
See if they can think of anything better, and be ready to discuss where different ideas might not quite work.
This is just an egg, or an apple, or H2O. It’s NOT God. You can’t find an earthly match for this concept. That’s what faith is – being content with our own confusion while still knowing that God is bigger than we can comprehend.
Divide your group into three teams and give each group a sheet of butcher paper or poster. Assign each group with one of the Godheads: God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), or the Holy Spirit. Ask them to draw it on the page. This is great fun to see how teenagers draw a picture of God. Does it look like Grandpa? Does the Holy Spirit look like Casper? What a challenge! Then, ask them to write words on the poster that make up the character of God.
Have a great discussion about it! Did your kids give each form of God different personality traits? Why, if they are ALL God? It’s not unusual for teenagers to give Jesus a bunch of loving characteristics and then put words like “justice” and “vengeance” on God the Father’s poster. How do we come to terms with these different ideas of God?
The Difference Between Teaching the Trinity to a Child vs. a Teenager
If you’re wondering how to explain the Trinity to a child, keep it simple. Begin and end with your object lesson, and be comfortable with the imperfect teaching. After all, children deal best with concrete ideas. It’s okay for them to have a very limited understanding of God.
With teenagers, you want to take a different approach, and celebrate the mystery of it all. Be cool with leaving the gathering with more questions than answers. After all, the Trinity is difficult to understand. Ignore the urge to tie everything up with a nice little bow.
Faith is recognizing that we don’t have all the answers and deciding that it’s okay to keep believing and growing. Ask teenagers hard questions about the Trinity that will make them think, and don’t bother trying to come equipped with the perfect answer to everything. It’s okay to admit you don’t know everything.
What does Jesus say about the Trinity?
The word Trinity is never explicitly mentioned in the Bible; however, countless scriptures mention all three forms of God. The most popular is probably the one found in the Great Commission:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit . . .“Matthew 28:19
After Christ rose from the grave, he appeared to the disciples and gave them a job to do: preach the Word to everyone. To this day, this scripture inspires the language we use to baptize people across Christian denominations.
Books that Explain the Trinity to a Child
3 in 1: A Picture of God – This one is for anyone interested in using the apple object lesson. It’s a clear and concise explanation that works great for kids.
If you’d like to get away from simple object lessons and move your child toward a deeper understanding of God’s nature, check out The Attributes of God for Kids. It’s a devotional book.