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The cross is one of the most iconic, recognizable symbols in the world. So, what does the cross mean to you?

The cross represents the sacrifice and love that God showed towards us when He sent Jesus to earth… it’s a symbol of hope and redemption.

Use this preteen lesson to remind students that the cross of Christ is more than just a symbol.

- Nick Diliberto, Preteen Ministry



Written by Stef Litzler

Bible: 1 Corinthians 1:18; Romans 3:23; 6:23; Hebrews 12:1-2; Matthew 16:24-25

Bottom Line: The cross of Christ is more than a symbol.


• Images on paper or CG images of symbols

o Examples: bathroom signs, Apple, dollar sign, check mark, McDonalds, Nike, Starbucks, emojis of any kind, Mickey Mouse, Disney castle, power button symbol, Olympic rings, AED heart, Jesus fish, First Aid, Peace, scales of justice, peace sign, Avengers, hazard sign, NBC, Mercedes, your state flag or country’s flag, copyright, shell oil, railroad crossing, fleur de lis, your local team’s logo, music sheet symbols, shamrock, PlayStation, Xbox, etc.

• Image of a cross
• Buzzers, bells, or a small object
• Table



Have the images ready in your desired format.

Divide your students into two teams of equal size.

Place the buzzers, bells, etc. in the middle of a table at the front of your space.


Say: Today we are going to play a game called the “Say that Symbol.”

You will be divided into two teams and will compete against one another.

The goal is to be the team with the highest score at the end of the game.

Each team will send one player at a time to the table to compete.

Each player will keep their hands behind their back until they see the first symbol.

When the symbol is displayed, if the player knows the symbol, they will buzz, ring, or grab the item on the table.

Then, the player will guess what the symbol represents.

If the first player guesses the symbol incorrectly, the other team’s player will have a chance to steal.

If neither player knows the symbol, reveal the symbol to the teams.

Play as long as time allows or until you are out of symbols… end with a picture of a cross.


Say: Today, we are talking about the cross.

We ended our symbols game with a cross.

I want to take a few moments to share what you think of when you see a cross.

Allow a few responses from students.

For believers, the cross is the most common symbol.

We see crosses on steeples.

We see crosses on the front of our Bibles.

We see crosses on jewelry.

We see crosses in home decor stores.

We see crosses on walls in homes.

So, why is this image so prevalent in our spaces and on our objects?

Let’s look at what Paul writes to the Corinthian church about the cross.

Read 1 Corinthians 1:18.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Say: The cross is not just a symbol of the power of God; it IS the power of God.

Without the cross, we would not have salvation.

Without the cross, we would still have the weight of our sin.

Without the cross, we would not know a Savior who defeated death.

Without the cross, we would not know the deep love of the one true God who desires to have a relationship with us.

God’s power was loud and proud on the cross!

So, to understand the power of the cross, let’s begin with the weight of sin.

Read Romans 3:23; 6:23.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Say: We know that our sin is what separates us from God.

Sin is anything that is less than what God desires for us.

Sin keeps us from enjoying God’s goodness and mercy.

As Hebrews says, sin easily entangles us.

I think of being stuck in quicksand, trapped with no way out on my own.

Say: Everyone take a piece of paper and write down a sin that weighs you down.

Now take that paper and crumple it up and toss it away from you.

You can try as hard as you can, but you’ll never be able to get rid of your sin on your own.

Those pieces of paper are still in your presence.

You can still see that sin, tempting you from across the room.

God’s power is the only power strong enough to defeat sin.

We see this power on the cross.

We know that God hated our sin so much that He had to have a way to destroy it once and for all.

This is why Jesus had to die on the cross.

The weight of our sin was so heavy that death was the only option.

Jesus, who was without sin, bore our sin on the cross.

Jesus carried our sin and shame.


Say: Everyone find a partner.

One partner will be the cross and one partner will be the carrier.

Now carrier, carry your cross across the room.

After you cross the room, switch roles and cross the room once more with a new cross and carrier.

Ask: How many of you could imagine Jesus carrying his cross to be crucified?

Can you imagine the love of Jesus as He carried the very thing that would kill Him?

Say: Jesus wasn’t just carrying a heavy wooden object as He approached Golgotha.

Jesus was also carrying our sin.

It pained him.

It was a heavy burden to carry.

But Jesus knew the power of the cross.

Jesus loved us so deeply that He knew the cross was necessary to rid us of our sins.

Read Hebrews 12:1-2.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Je-sus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Say: Jesus knew that the cross would bring joy.

He knew that God loved the world so much and wanted to make a way to bring people back to Him.

He knew that the cross was part of God’s plan.

Yes, the cross was used for one of the most excruciating, painful forms of execution.

In the 1st century, death on a cross was reserved for criminals.

The Son of God who came to earth and lived a perfect life was brutally killed on a cross.

On each side of Him were actual criminals.

But Jesus… He was no criminal.

Jesus took His place on the cross because of our sin and shame.

The people yelled for Jesus to be crucified.

Jesus knew this was the plan.

Philippians 2 says that Jesus humbled Himself.

He was obedient to death.

He knew the joy set before Him.

In John 10, Jesus says that no one took His life, but that He laid it down of His own will.

The cross, in all its heaviness, blood, and pain, also represents the joy of salvation.

Lastly, let’s look at what Jesus tells His disciples about “taking up their cross.”

Read Matthew 16:24-25.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny them-selves and take up their cross and follow me.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Say: This may seem strange to us.

Before Jesus even goes to the cross to die, He is telling His disciples what they must do to be His followers.

And what does it include?

Taking up their cross!

Now, does this mean we go out and find two pieces of wood attached across one another?

Of course not!

Jesus was saying that to follow Him, we have to be willing to let go of the “me” show!

We can’t only give Jesus a little bit of ourselves.

We can’t be so focused on what we want for our lives AND want what God wants.

We can’t focus on what makes us happy and satisfied.

We have to be willing to let go of ourselves and follow Him.

Following Jesus means we don’t follow the world.

Following Jesus means we don’t follow our friends.

Following Jesus means that we don’t put ourselves first.

Following Jesus means that we have to make sacrifices.

Following Jesus means that sometimes we’ll experience pain and suffering.

Following Jesus means that sometimes we’ll have to do the hard thing.

Following Jesus means that we can have JOY even though things aren’t exactly the way we’d like them to be because following Jesus matters more than having things the way we like them.

So, when you see a cross, what do you see?

I hope that you’ll see a cross and remember the power of God.

The cross can symbolize the SIN that traps us and separates us from God.

The cross can symbolize the terrible DEATH that Jesus died for us.

The cross can symbolize the WEIGHT of sin and our attempts to remove it on our own.

The cross can symbolize the JOY that comes with believing that Jesus died for your sins and made a way for you to be right with God.

The cross can symbolize the LOVE of God and His desire to get rid of the sin He hates so much.

The cross can symbolize the SURRENDER of our daily lives to follow Jesus and put His ways ahead of our ways.

But remember, the cross is not JUST a symbol.

The cross is the power of God at work in the lives of His creation.

Allow time for prayer and then move to the discussion.


1. Besides the symbols we saw in our game earlier, what are some symbols that you can think of that you see regularly?

2. Outside of the cross, can you think of other religious symbols that represent the Christian faith?

3. Do you ever use the cross as a symbol when you are drawing or writing?

If so, where or how do you use it?

4. Why do you think the symbol of the cross is so popular?

Do you ever see it used outside of the Christian faith?

5. Can you share an example of a time that you felt the weight of sin?

How did you feel trapped or entangled by it?

What helped you get “un-trapped” and find freedom from that sin?

6. What have you learned about the crucifixion and how the cross was used to put criminals to death?

7. Why do you think God chose the cross for Jesus to take away our sins?

8. For many, the cross is a sign of death, pain, and suffering.

Can you see the cross as a symbol of joy and hope? Why?

9. Why do you think we call the Friday before Easter “Good Friday”?

How can such a terrible death for such awful sins be considered a good day?

10. Take a moment and use your paper to draw a cross.

What does that cross symbolize to you today?

Write what you feel on the cross that you draw.


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