Yes, Heaven is For Real: Family Activity Guide

Heaven.  It's a word we are all familiar with.  But do we really believe that it exists?  In the spiritual sense?

If you have faith that the Bible is real, as my family does, you probably think of heaven often.  It's discussed as both a reward for someday and as a description for our most blessed times here on Earth.  The God I believe in promises that those with faith will receive it, and our troubles here today will seem like faded memories.

But not everyone agrees on what heaven will look like or even that it is as literal as the Bible states.  I like to think that God is bigger than what we can imagine, however, and that's why I love the message of the new movie Heaven is For Real, out on DVD and Blu-Ray right now!

Based on the amazingly popular book by the same title Heaven is Real is the movie adaptation of the book about the Burpo family from my home state of Nebraska, who experience the pain of almost losing a child to a ruptured appendix.  The father is a pastor of a church, and everyone comes together to pray as the child heals.  They then learn, over time, that their 4-year-old came out of the health scare with a vision of heaven.  As you would expect, the congregation doesn't all agree that this is possible; doubts creep in as to whether it's "appropriate" for a pastor to acknowledge visions of heaven, and some certainly don't want the experience shared from the pulpit.  What results is a beautiful telling of how the family deals with the conflict in the community, as well as within their own home.

My whole family watched this film together, and the tears flowed... the younger ones did well with the subject matter, which was mild but definitely a bit heavy -- especially when the son was almost dying.  There was also talk of a miscarried baby, whom the boy says he meets in heaven.  Overall, however, there is nothing that my kids couldn't see and discuss with us in a positive way.

I have had a few close friends and family state that they would not watch this film, based on the fact that they don't agree with the concept of "near death experiences."  It's important to point out, however, that the movie (I can't say anything about the book -- which I did not read) does not claim the boy "went" to heaven.  It only suggests that he saw heaven.  The father acknowledges that it could have been a vision or a message, but the we may truly never know for sure.

My favorite part of the film is a touching scene with a woman in the church who goes against the Burpo dad for daring to claim heaven was revealed to his son.  The reasons behind her anger are not understood at first, but as we get to know her, it's apparent that she is hurting.  The film challenges us to love one another as Christ commands us.  It's probably the most important lesson to take away -- even more important than if heaven is a real concept or not.

This made for a very touching movie night for my family.  There wasn't a dry eye in the room when it was over.  I highly recommend sharing this film with your own family, and here are a few ideas for making it a great experience:

1.  Read about heaven.  Scripture can tell us many things about what to expect in heaven, and kids enjoy seeing actual verses that have helped shaped our modern-day picture of what to expect.  Have kids that can read take turns reading.  Younger children can draw pictures of what they hear.

(Verses to get started with include:  John 14:2, Revelation 21:4, Revelation 22: 1-5)

2.  Compare to culture.  Ask the kids what references in media they have seen made about heaven.  What do their favorite cartoon characters make heaven seem like.  Does it match up with what the Bible would say?  Why do they think heaven is such a common theme in entertainment today?

3. Exercise Empathy.  In the movie, Mr. Burpo has a chance to be a good friend to the same woman who criticizes him.  He is given the opportunity to empathize and understand her situation despite the way she treated him.  Ask children if there is someone in their own lives that they have had a conflict with.  Is it possible that they are hurting and need someone to understand their situation?  What could kids do to take a small step toward putting the person first?

We also had a discussion about loved ones and whether they would be in heaven.  In the film, it was very important to Mr. Burpo to know that loved ones were there.  I have often had this same conversation with my husband regarding whether we would meet up with our loved ones in heaven.  We always tell our children that we can't know about each and every person, but that we can trust that God is just.  He wouldn't unfairly judge or punish, so we have to be assured that He knows best and will handle things beyond our control.

My handsome Grandpa, whom I hope to see in Heaven.

Walmart currently carries the film, which stars Academy Award(R) nominee and Emmy(R) award winning actor Greg Kinnear as Todd Burpo and co-stars Kelly Reilly as Sonja Burpo.  It also has an exclusive bonus disc, which includes the following:

  • The Burpos: 11 Heavenly Years Later - An intimate sit down with the Burpos and a look at their home town to get a sense of their life now and how Colton’s miraculous story changed them. 
  • Heart of the Movie - Todd Burpo reflects on the events from his story and how they are reflected in the film 
  • Answers - Todd Burpo reflecting on the events in the movie. 
  • Religious Leader Vignettes – Religious leaders reflect on the themes of the film and how they translate to real life lessons for everyone. 
Have you seen the film? If not, will you?  What did you take away from the experience?

As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I've received compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.