Heaven… ticketed guests only?

A Ticket to Heaven... The Worst Idea I've Seen in a Long, Long Time.

A Ticket to Heaven… The Worst Idea I’ve Seen in a Long, Long Time.

Like just about anybody who works in a church, I get a lot of catalogues. I mean, a lot. I usually flip through them quickly before dumping them in the recycle bin, but this week, a particular catalog caught my eye. It’s not important which one, but it was for children’s spiritual formation-type things: Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, children’s church and other similar things. I took a look at it while I was waiting for the rice to boil and it turns out that my blood ended up boiling right alongside the rice when I came across the product pictured above (side note: I just read some sort of article that suggested I use the time waiting for water to boil to “see how much I cleaning you can get done in your kitchen.” Ha. Ha ha ha.)
So… color your own “Jesus is my ticket to heaven” tickets for kids. Let me count the ways this product is upsetting to me. I wanted to let this one go. I really did. After all, there are a lot of Christian products for kids out there that aren’t my cup of tea. A lot of it is cheesy, or poorly made, or not my style. This “Jesus ticket” is not your run of the mill Jesus Junk, it’s actually offensive (in my oh so humble opinion). Some thoughts:
1. I don’t want my children (or any children I minister to) to get the idea that they need a ticket to get into heaven: Not a “be good” ticket, not a “believe exactly this” ticket, not a “if you’re not doing it right you won’t get there” ticket, and certainly not a paper ticket. There is a view out there that you have to have some sort of “ticket” to get into heaven. I think it’s hogwash.


2. Though adults can clearly understand that this craft is meant to be “symbolic” (of a ridiculous concept, see point #1) Many young children will view this as a  literal ticket to heaven. Sound ridiculous? It’s not. This is an object lesson, and many object lessons are too complex for young minds to grasp. For more on this, see Fowler or any other writer on faith development. Young children need safety and security not an implicit “You need this or you might not get to heaven” message. If even one child leaves the ticket making activity with the impression that they need that actual piece of paper to make it in to heaven, that is one child too many.

3. Jesus as a ticket to heaven completely misses everything Jesus was and is about.

So… what do you think? What am I missing here?


  1. Willie Wonka required a Golden Ticket in order to keep the undesirables out. How different is this and who is undesirable?

    There’s another layer to this as well. Ultimately these cute little symbolic grace givers not only get it wrong but you have to purchase the idea from the catalog and spend money in order to have what has already been promised previously by Jesus for free. This is, I would imagine, an unintentional throwback to the selling of indulgences which got the Church in trouble a thousand years ago.

    And after all, all the Church was trying to do back then was make an efficient way that the prosperous could register their worth and redemption (or as this idea goes, buy a ticket).

    Of course, money can by happiness! And the more you have the better seat or ticket or whatever you can buy. You think the best sacrificial lambs in the temple were cheap?

  2. Yes, I agree, you do have to be very careful when using symbolism with children and this idea misses the mark. I think you have to be careful with symbolism period. People from other cultures, that speak other languages, that simply have a different background from us can understand symbolic ideas very differently than we may intend. I might add this works both ways. There is a word in Portuguese that expresses a deeply held yearning for home that has no English equivalent and when I asked my Brazilian friends, they try but say they can’t quite adequately express this idea with English words. Saying what we mean and meaning what we say is not so easy. It’s even harder with children and therefore more important to choose your words and crafts with care.

    More to the point of this particular craft is the implication that their reason for believing in Jesus is so they can to get into heaven. If you don’t believe in Jesus, you won’t get into heaven. No ticket, no ride. Belief based on fear. Nope, not for me. I was not baptized as a child and, when I was around 10, I mentioned this to Cindy, my best friend, who was Catholic. She was shocked and said, “But you won’t get to heaven! You’ll go to hell if you’re not baptized!” Well, that was news to me, Holey moley, I didn’t have a ticket! I remember my response was rather short, “I don’t believe in that.” and then I went home and asked my Mom who reassured me I didn’t need a ticket to get to heaven. I was not raised to fear God. And if you’re wondering, I was baptized at my confirmation a few years later. See you in heaven, Cindy.

    Oh Nicky, the Willy Wonka golden tickets weren’t to keep the undesirables out, it was to let a handful of them inside. Once there all but one was thrown out. In other words, “no grace for you!” There’s a discussion waiting to happen! That observation aside you do make a point regarding this craft idea: I have a ticket and you don’t therefore I’m better than you. My God is better than yours, my faith is better than yours, I get to go to heaven and you don’t. Belief based on arrogant superiority. YIKES!

    So yeah, the ticket idea stinks.

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