A few months ago I opened up a dusty old box of Sunday school resources. How old was this box? The front of it bragged about containing four projector filmstrips, three cassette tapes, and twelve transparencies. I explored it to see what I could find. I released one of the filmstrips from its pop-top canister and held it up to the light. The words “Leading a Child to Christ” filled the first frame. On the next frame stood a freckle-faced, bowl-haircut, bell-bottomed cartoon host pointing at the first two bullet points: (1) Avoid symbolism. (2) Choose terminology carefully.

I was a little surprised. It wasn’t what I expected, but I loved it. I remembered all the metaphors, object lessons, and fancy language I had at times used as a children’s pastor in my best efforts to help kids grasp the complexity of the gospel. I thought of my own nervous confusion as a kid growing up in the church and gazing at diagrams, stick-figure pictures, and acronyms that led to salvation. And I remembered my eleven-year-old daughter sitting at the kitchen table and telling me about her salvation experience, “I’m always worried I didn’t do it right. Like, I’m scared I messed up the words when I prayed.”

When we talk with kids about salvation, we don’t need formulas or metaphors. A loving relationship with God is enough. That’s why we adopted Savior, King, and Friend (SKF) language at The Foundry Kids, and it’s why we incorporated that language into our new children’s curriculum, Eureka!

SKF language communicates salvation relationally, deeply, and without distraction. It is foundational, theological language that keeps the focus on three words central to the gospel message—Savior, King, and Friend. When we explain it to kids, the breakdown goes like this:

God loves you as your Savior. God’s love for you is enormous, and his Son is proof of that enormous love. Jesus brings God’s love straight to your door. Jesus loves you, forgives you, and renews you. He gives you new life right now and eternal life later on.

God loves you as your King. You are God’s creation, and his power surrounds you. His majestic design, perfect rule, and undivided attention flow throughout his kingdom. His power provides, inspires, renews, and restores. He is worthy.

God loves you as your Friend. God knows you personally, and he’s interested in you. He listens. He grieves. He speaks. He comforts. He walks with you on mountaintops and through valleys. His love isn’t over there. It’s right here, right now.

When we’re confronted with the reality of God’s great love, we’re compelled to love God right back.

When we’re confronted with the reality of God’s great love, we’re compelled to love God right back. We love him as our Savior—the only one who saves us from sin and darkness. We love him as our King—giving him our worship as we follow his authority. We love him as our Friend—spending time together, loving what he loves, and introducing him to our other friends.

As we do our best to teach kids about salvation, let’s go back to the wisdom passed along by the dusty old box of Sunday school material. (1) Avoid symbolism. (2) Choose terminology carefully. As we created the Eureka! curriculum and as we continue to develop new resources for kids, we do our best to follow this bit of old-school wisdom by using SKF language, precisely because it avoids metaphors and uses terminology that is familiar to kids but is also full of theological depth to be explored and developed for a lifetime. As kids get older and want to develop their faith more, they can build on the realities that SKF language has taught them. They never have to dismiss this language as too childish or simplistic.

SKF language is relational. It lets kids know that salvation changes our story right now, tomorrow, and for eternity. It takes the emphasis off following steps, saying the right words, or passing a mental exam. Instead, it puts the focus on God’s love for us and our love for God in response. SKF language makes it easier for kids to reflect, encouraging them to appreciate, develop, and embrace that saving relationship with their Creator. SKF language glorifies a God who loves us as our Savior, King, and Friend, and it invites us to live in the middle of that love each day of our lives—and even the days after that! SKF language doesn’t just explain salvation; it celebrates salvation. Let’s help kids celebrate a new life with Jesus—our Savior, King, and Friend.