Explore the doctrine of the Trinity with your children using this Celtic Trinity Knot activity. Discover how God is a dynamic community of loving relationships between Father, Son, Spirit and us!
My daughter has been enjoying her math lessons at home this year. She’s learning her number sense, addition and subtraction. After doing a Trinity lesson sent by our youth Pastor this week, she thought herself very clever to notice that 1 + 1 + 1 = 3 …. not 1.
“I don’t understand mommy. How can God be one and three?” she asks, very skeptical.
“Ah, my love! That’s the beautiful mystery at the heart of God. Isn’t that exciting?”
How to explain the Trinity to children
I want my children to enjoy a deep relationship with God and an important part of this relationship is encouraging them to grow in their understanding of who God is. We believe in a gracious and loving God who is revealed to us as ONE God that exists as THREE distinct PERSONS – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It’s a puzzle that Christian thinkers have tried to make sense of for thousands of years and I’m certain, will do so for many more!
God is an exciting mystery!
I think the first step is to admit that the Trinity is a mystery that is beyond our ability to perfectly comprehend. No one metaphor or explanation can capture everything God is. The images we turn to and explanations always fall short.
And that’s okay! It’s exciting and wonderous! God is bigger than all of us. Even if we have questions, we can still believe and trust His revelation through the bible and in Jesus.
What is the Doctrine of the Trinity?
The doctrine of the Trinity tells us that there’s ONE GOD who is THREE distinct PERSONS existing as a community of self-giving and loving relationships with each other. This is one of the reasons we say that “God is LOVE”. (Describing God as LOVE is my favorite way of understanding the Trinity. Check out the children’s lesson at the end of this post!)
1. There’s ONE God
Unlike other religions practiced at the time, the Jewish people in the Old and New testaments were monotheist. They believed that only one God existed. Echoing the words of Deuteronomy 6:4, Jesus affirmed:
The most important [commandment], answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29-30 RSV)
Paul said the same thing: “There is no God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4 RSV) and in Ephesians 4:6 (RSV) “one God and Father of all.”
2. God is THREE distinct Persons
The bible reveals God is the Father (Ephesians 4:6, 1 John 3:1), God is the Son/Word (John 1:1, 14; 1 John 5:20; John 3:16, Colossians 1:15), and God is the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10; Ephesians 4:30).
It also reveals that each member of the Trinity is distinct from each other. We see all three linked together in scripture, for example commissioning us to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19 NIV) and found in the benediction “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” (2 Corinthians 13:14 NIV).
Not only that, we see each Person relating and interacting with each other. The Father sends the Son (Word) into the world (John 3:6). Jesus often talks about his Father (John 17:5; John 5:19) and prays to Him (John 17:20-26; Matt. 11:25-26; John 12:27-28). The Holy Spirit descends on Jesus as a dove in his baptism (Luke 3:22) and later Jesus promises to send this same Spirit from the Father to his disciples (John 15:26).
3. Each Person is Equal, 100% God and shares the same Divine Nature
The Doctrine of the Trinity also helps us understand a few more important truths about God.
- Each Person of the Trinity is believed to be completely God. God isn’t One God sliced into three parts like a cake.
- The Father, Son, and Spirit are not three properties of God or just different roles.
- The Trinity isn’t Three Gods combined into one.
Each member of the Trinity is different but 100% God. They’re all equal. And they all share the same divine Nature.
4 Analogies and Illustrations of the Trinity
We often use metaphors or analogies to try and get our minds around the conundrum of the Trinity. Many of these do a great job of shedding light on some important aspects of God but can also lead us astray. Rather than tossing them out, I think it’s a valuable lesson for our children to explore both how each analogy or illustration helps us better understand the Trinity and in what ways God is different. Then I’ll share an activity using the Celtic Trinity Knot to explain the Trinity to children along with the love that exists between each of its Persons and us.
1. The Trinity is like an egg or apple
The Trinity is like an egg. Just as ONE egg has THREE different parts – the shell, the white, the yoke – ONE God has THREE different Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Similarly, we often hear the Trinity compared to an Apple. ONE apple has three different parts – the skin, the flesh, and the seed.
Explaining the Trinity with an egg is a great way of helping our children understand how ONE thing can also be THREE distinct things! But how is God different than an egg or an apple? An apple suggests that the members of the Trinity are just three different parts of God. They’re not equal and don’t share the same nature. The skin is a different material than the seed and the flesh. It’s not 100% of the apple and the parts are not equal. Look how much smaller the seed is! (This is called the Partialism heresy)
2. The Trinity is like water
The Trinity is like water (H₂0) which can exist in three different states: a liquid, a gas, and a solid. When we get a glass of water from the tap it’s a liquid. But when it’s frozen it turns into ice (solid) or steam (gas) when it’s boiled.
Another excellent way of demonstrating THREE in ONE. This also shows how each state of water can be different yet is actually made of the same thing (H₂0). Our glass of water is 100% water – so is ice and steam. How is God not like water? Water can’t exist as a solid, a liquid, and a gas at the same time. This suggests that God changes His ‘mode’ so that sometimes He’s the Father, sometimes He’s the Son, and other times the Holy Spirit. But we know from the bible that God exists as ONE God and THREE persons all at once! (This is called the Modalism heresy)
3. The Trinity is like a shamrock
The Trinity is like a three-leaf clover which has THREE different cloves coming together to make ONE leaf.
This metaphor dates back to the fifth-century attributed to St. Patrick, a missionary serving in Ireland. I love using things we find in creation to talk about God – here showing God as ONE and THREE. It also shows us how each clove is equal and made of the same nature as the others. How is God different than a three-leaf clover? This is similar to our apple and egg analogy. Each of the three cloves is ‘part’ of the shamrock but is not fully the ‘leaf’ without the other. We know that God isn’t divided into three parts (the Son isn’t 1/3 God, the Spirit 1/3 God, or the Father 1/3 God) and each Person of the Trinity is fully God all on their own. (Another Partialism heresy)
4. The Trinity is like a Man
The Trinity is like a man who is a father, a husband, and a son.
This analogy is something our children can relate to. Dad is their father, their mother’s husband, and their grandma’s son. We call God the Father and the Son, so the terminology makes sense. How is God not like their Dad? Their Father can’t be both a dad, husband, and son to the same person. This is similar to the water analogy – God isn’t a part-time Father, Son, and Spirit. He’s always all three. (Another Modalism heresy)
How to explain the Trinity to Children with the Celtic Trinity Knot
In 1 John 4:16 we learn that “God is Love.” This is more than just saying God is loving – although He certainly is! John is talking about something special about God’s nature itself. Inside the Trinity is an everlasting relationship of Love that flows between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is actually made of Love!
Lesson: The Trinity for Kids
1. Three Persons of the Trinity
When we look at the Celtic Trinity Knot we can see three distinct loops in the design. My daughter and I talked about how God is revealed to us as three different Persons. We labeled one loop as the Father. One as the Son. And the last as the Holy Spirit.
2. One God
Next we looked at the loops in more detail. We noted that the loops are equal (we measured with a string just to make sure!) and we talked about how each member of the Trinity is also equal and 100% God. Each loop is made of the same ‘material’ (a line or string) and we talked about how each member of the Trinity is made up of the same ‘God material’ too.
4. God is Love
I asked her what she thought this ‘God material’ might be? We read the passages about God in 1 John 4 and read out our key verse 1 John 4:16:
And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.
1 John 4:16 (NIV)
Love! God is made of love!
I asked her to put her finger on the top of the ‘Father’ loop in our Trinity knot and followed the line all the way to the top of the ‘Son’ loop.
“The Father gives everything He has and all His love to the Son.”
We traced the line from the Son back to the Father.
“The Son gives everything he has and all his love to the Father.”
We traced our line from the Father to the Holy Spirit.
“The Father gives everything He has and all His love to the Holy Spirit.”
We traced the line from the Holy Spirit back to the Father.
“The Holy Spirit gives everything she has and all her love to the Father.”
We did the same activity to show the love flowing between the Holy Spirit and the Son.
That’s a lot of love! And it never stops! It keeps flowing between each of the Persons in the Trinity.
“Alyvia, do you know where you are in this picture? Right here at the very center of God. [the triangular space created at the middle of the knot] God invites us to live with Him, surrounded by and filled will all His love.”
We put her name in this center space to remind us of God’s gracious gift of love and celebrate the wonder of how in God 3 can equal 1.
5. Trinity Knot Craft Ideas
Decorate your Free Celtic Trinity Knot printable with paints, stickers, crayons or try some of these ideas:
- use a Q-tip to fill your trinity knot with a pattern of dots.
- use a white crayon to add Father, Son, and Holy Spirit labels to your Trinity Knot loops and see them ‘revealed’ by filling in the design with water color paints.
- turn your Trinity Knot into a stained glass art-piece for your window. [tutorial is included in your download]
- Try out these Celtic Knot cookies from Martha Stuart as an added treat!
FREE TRINITY FOR KIDS CELTIC TRINITY KNOT ACTIVITY
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I hope you enjoyed your Trinity for Kids lesson and activities. What illustrations have you used to explain the Trinity to your children? Do you have a favorite? How did your children respond to your Trinity lesson? Share with us in the comments below!