Years ago, I sat in a church for a missions conference. Looking out across the full auditorium, the host said, “Please rise if you know someone who lost their life for Jesus last year.” Eyes glanced from left to right. Most didn’t know anyone facing such persecution. But slowly, a half dozen field workers got to their feet.
Across the globe, Christians suffer great costs for their devotion to Jesus. One in seven experiences intense persecution. For those of us who reside in the West, it can be challenging to comprehend such realities, let alone teach kids about them. But if we desire our children to understand the cost of following Christ and the state of the global church, we must intentionally teach them about persecution.
Why Teach Kids About Persecution
As an expert on the persecuted church, Ruth Ripken says, “There’s no such thing as the persecuted church and the free church, there’s just the church.”
Scripture describes the church as one body with Christ as the head (Col. 1:18; Rom. 12:5). While we affirm the reality of local churches, this universal body has no geographic boundaries (1 Cor. 12:13; Rev. 7:9). As members of that body, Christians are exhorted to remember the persecuted (Heb. 13:3), for when “one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor. 12:26).
Since many of us don’t experience persecution regularly, we easily forget the plight of believers worldwide.
Since many of us don’t experience persecution regularly, we easily forget the plight of believers worldwide. But if we ignore the hardships of our brothers and sisters, we’re possibly neglecting our responsibilities to them (Gal. 6:10) and unintentionally modeling callousness to our kids.
While Christian parents may feel powerless to help, we can still pay attention to the needs of the global church and model prayer for the persecuted within our families. And God may use this to prepare our children to one day suffer or to be those who take Christ’s gospel to the nations.
Resources for Different Age Groups
Of course, teaching kids about persecution requires sensitivity to what is age-appropriate. As we explain what suffering entails, we should build on foundational biblical truths about who God is and why our children can trust him. We can also expose kids to stories of saints and missionaries who have suffered well.
Thankfully, resources exist to help our families grow in awareness of and care for our suffering sisters and brothers. Here are some tools to help cultivate a heart for the persecuted church for children of different ages.
1. Preschool and Early Elementary
Courageous (book series, preschool–2nd grade)
This Voice of the Martyrs picture book series captures the importance of boldly sharing our faith. The set includes six books about well-known men of faith who endured despite persecution.
Secret Church Coloring Pages (preschool–2nd grade)
Open Doors provides families (and churches) these eight coloring pages with a kid-friendly perspective on the persecuted church around the world. These pages meet little ones where they are developmentally and provide parents with a springboard for deeper conversations.
Prayer Passport (ages 4 and up)
These printable passports give kids the opportunity to “visit” 50 countries through prayer, then receive a stamp to mark their intercession. Our family is using this passport to guide prayer over the course of 50 days. (Parents who want to continue beyond the prayer passport can also remember the unreached people group of the day.)
2. Middle Grades
The Witness Trilogy (documentary series, ages 9 and up)
Voice of the Martyrs has produced this three-part series based on the perspective of the apostle John, exiled on Patmos. Through these videos, kids explore the life of the first disciples as they follow Christ despite persecution. As my own family watched this series, the importance of boldly proclaiming the gospel created excitement in our hearts.
Challenge on the Hill of Fire (book, ages 7–12)
This Imagination Station series book draws kids into the life of Bishop Patrick (the man behind Saint Patrick’s Day) as he stands up for his faith in God—even if it may cost his life. The story format provides a unique lens for kids to understand the cost of following Christ in history.
The World Watch List Map (ages 9 and up)
Open Doors created this 2022 visual map to guide youth to pray for the persecuted church. At a glance, kids can see countries where Christians face the most persecution. It serves as a tangible reminder to pray that families can incorporate into their regular rhythms.
3. High School and Young Adult
The Insanity of God (documentary)
This documentary traces a missionary couple’s journey as they grapple with loss and learn from persecuted believers around the world. Their experiences powerfully showcase the worthiness of Christ above all else and are sure to provide ample content for quality discussion and debriefing. Parents will benefit from watching as well.
Dispatches from the Front (book)
In this book (which complements a documentary series), Tim Keesee allows readers to travel through parts of the world where persecution is the norm. His reporting offers a glimpse into the persecuted church as you witness the amazing spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
Each spring, this one-night online event hosted by David Platt provides an interactive way to connect with suffering Christians. Participants spend six hours receiving biblical teaching at night (mirroring the experiences of suffering believers) and join with others to remember the persecuted church.
Remember the Suffering
Exposing our children to the stories of faithful Christians around the world and throughout history equips them to stand for Christ in the face of suffering. As we teach our families about the persecuted church, we also model the responsibility and joy to pray for our worldwide family of faith.
May these resources foster family discussions and prayer and help us link arms with the global church as we seek to follow our crucified and conquering Savior.