Jesus Christ: Super Hero: Faster than a prayer on wings, more powerful than dynamite, able to leap over any problem. Introduce Jesus as the real hero kids can look up to. But first, understand what qualities kids look for in a hero.
Childhood heroes — we all had them — are a timeless element of childhood that allows kids to look up to someone greater than themselves. Kids aspire to be like their heroes. Today’s kids have a range of heroes, some with questionable reputations, such as Britney Spears or Harry Potter. Others are undoubtedly the best in their field — Tiger Woods or Venus and Serena Williams. And since the attacks of September 11, community figures such as firefighters and police officers have once again gained hero status.
So where does Jesus Christ fit in? “I wanna be like Jesus” — isn’t that what we want our kids to strive for?
Kids need to know that Jesus isn’t someone who lived more than 2,000 years ago; he also lives today. Jesus is the ultimate hero. Let’s take a look at the magnetic characteristics that draw kids to heroes and how those same characteristics can be found in Jesus Christ.
The Professional Hero
The professional athlete and the successful business tycoon portray the characteristics of the hero who’s an expert in a field. Kids are drawn to this hero not only for the expertise but also for the power and wealth that often accompanies this hero.
Today’s kids desire to be successful, and they don’t question that this quality is achievable for them as they grow older. Kids dream of one day being a professional athlete, the next Bill Gates, or a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. Having a hero who’s a professional gives kids hope for the future and a goal to achieve. The professional hero is where legends are born.
Jesus the Professional — Born a carpenter’s son, Jesus learned his father’s trade and, more than likely, he was good at it. His expertise in the art of carpentry isn’t what makes him memorable; it’s his unique knowledge of intimate details related to God.
And that’s because Jesus is God. Jesus demonstrated that he was God by performing miracles, resisting great temptations, and teaching life-changing lessons despite his age or lack of education. His business practices are legendary, using ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Because of who he is, he has the ultimate power.
The Problem-Solving Hero
Abraham Lincoln, James Bond, and Mary Poppins all have an answer when there doesn’t seem to be one. Whether it’s solving a political issue that could change the future or providing a remedy to make the medicine go down, kids like a person who seems to have all the answers.
Kids are curious by nature and enjoy the challenge of solving a problem. Characters such as James Bond display quick thinking in a tight situation. Abraham Lincoln was able to think past the country’s problems to ensure a solution for future generations. Heroes who are problem-solvers inspire kids to create a better future. Problem-solvers challenge kids to be the person who finds a cure for cancer or discovers a new way to teach kids with autism.
Jesus the Problem-Solver — When the wedding party ran out of beverages, Jesus found a way to provide more. When faced with a hungry crowd and few available resources, Jesus came through with food to satisfy people’s hunger. And when he had a boat-full of friends who were fearful that they’d die in a storm, Jesus assured them they’d be safe.
Jesus faced many problems, and he never shied away in fear or doubt. His problem-solving skills still apply today, and his answers can beat the toughest of situations. Jesus always knows the way home.
The Fearless Hero
These heroes are often portrayed as animated characters such as Superman or the Powerpuff Girls. The fearless are also characterized in live-action movies and TV shows. These heroes show strength and wisdom in dealing with frightening situations. Kids are drawn to fearless individuals because kids want to be protected — whether by a superhero or their parents.
Kids live in a frightening world and often feel powerless. Kids today aren’t sure who they can trust, so they often trust no one. With constant media attention given to the bad things of this world, kids value a person who isn’t afraid. Kids desire to be fearless, and a fearless hero is one they can emulate in a frightening situation.
Jesus the Fearless — When faced by Satan himself, Jesus was able to stand up to evil and temptation. A severe storm? Jesus remained calm and collected. Even when he faced death, Jesus was able to triumph. Jesus provides triumph over evil and protection in the face of fear. In him, kids have nothing to fear.
The Superstar Hero
Kids are easily drawn to superstars because of constant media exposure. Yet many of these people have questionable lifestyles that make them controversial. Some even clearly vocalize that they aren’t role models for kids. But they’re still heroes in kids’ eyes, and the superstar is an easy role model for kids’ clothing, language, and interests.
Who doesn’t like attention or recognition? Kids see the superstar hero as a ticket to fame and fortune. Wishes such as “If I could just sing like Britney Spears” or “If I could only be as funny as Mike Myers” cause kids to model their hero’s behavior or dress like their superstar hero. These are heroes everyone seems to like, and kids want to be part of the “in” group. Kids want to know intimate details about superstars so other kids will think they’re “in the know.” These are the heroes who easily change with the wind or the top 10 on billboard charts.
Jesus the Superstar — Back in his day, Jesus may not have always been considered a superstar. His reputation and ministry, though, have stood the test of time. He’s still talked about around the world and more widely recognized than any other person over the centuries. Unlike many of today’s superstars, Jesus was humble in his public life. He asked people to follow him, even though he couldn’t offer a life of riches and fame. Yet people still followed. Today Jesus continues to ask people to follow him. Jesus is worthy of our worship and our time, and the rewards of following him far outweigh those of being a band groupie.
The Good Hero
On September 11, our view of good and evil was clarified. Suddenly the heroes of yesteryear — firefighters and police officers — were once again hailed as public heroes. These are the heroes who risk their lives to save others and who work hard to succeed. They’re individuals who are humble in their service. We may not recognize their heroism if we passed them on the street, but when they’re on the job we know they’re heroes.
To a child whose hero is a firefighter, the hero is more than likely nameless. But ask that same child why the firefighter is a hero and the child’s description will make it clear why the hero is one of the good guys. These heroes help kids know that good wins over evil. Kids have an inner sense of what’s right, and although they aren’t always good, they want to be on the good side. Kids want to help others, save the planet, and rescue the hurt and lost.
Jesus the Good — Few would disagree that Jesus is one of the good guys. He may not wear a uniform, but even those who don’t know him recognize the goodness portrayed in his outstretched hands. Jesus heals the sick, feeds the hungry, and helps the lost find their way home. He loves the unlovable, and he died and rose again to save the world. Jesus seemed like an average guy on the street, but in his ministry he did miraculously good things.
The Immortal Hero
These heroes never die; their reputation lives beyond their mortal bodies. The immortal hero is the action hero who — despite death-defying stunts and predicaments — still can save the day. These are heroes whose names are never forgotten and whose impact on the world is lasting.
Kids think they’re invincible; it’s hard for them to imagine that one day they’ll die. Heroes who are immortal give kids hope that life goes on despite death. These heroes also feed kids’ fantasies that it’s possible to do anything without consequences of being hurt or killed. The immortal hero allows kids to grasp that there’s a being greater than themselves — all-knowing and all-powerful — who stands the test of time.
Jesus the Immortal — Although Jesus died on a cross, he rose again and walked the earth three days after his death. More than any other person, Jesus has had a lasting impact on the world over the centuries. The impact he left when he departed to heaven lives on today; the story of his life has been passed down from generation to generation. Jesus truly is immortal, and his return is awaited by those who believe in him.
Author Carmen Kamrath’s childhood heroes were Laura Ingalls Wilder and Joe Montana. She’s the former associate editor for Children’s Ministry Magazine.