Protestant Reformation Lesson for Kids: Facts, History, & Timeline

Instructor: David Wilson

David has taught college history and holds an MA in history.

The Protestant Reformation changed the path of Christianity by calling into question the teachings of the Catholic Church, changing the religious landscape of all of Europe. Learn about the Reformation and its consequences in this lesson.

Who's In Charge?

Imagine that you go to school and find that there are a bunch of new rules -- you can't yell during recess, you can't have any chocolate milk at lunch, and you get twice as much homework on the weekend! Worst of all, you can't change these rules, and suggesting that you should change the rules might get you kicked out of town.

It might sound silly, but 500 years ago the Catholic Church had the greatest power in Europe to write the rules. They created a number of rules, laws, and codes that became so unpopular that it resulted in the Protestant Reformation, a movement that fought against church law and created an entirely new type of Christian faith.

Painting of the Basilica of St. Peter, the center of the Catholic Church
Basilica of St. Peter

My Church, My Rules

For nearly 1,500 years, the Catholic Church controlled most of Europe, stating that the only way to enter into heaven after death was to follow its teachings. They had the power to cut Christians off from the Church and from the chance of getting into heaven. The Church would also charge money for favors that could fast-track people's souls into heaven. These practices made the Catholic Church unpopular.

The first person to speak out against the Church's abuse of power was a monk named Martin Luther. He began the Protestant Reformation by nailing a document called the 95 Theses onto the door of a church. The 95 Theses identified practices of the Catholic Church that were not compatible with the teachings of the Bible. When the Church leaders found out about it, they ordered Luther to say it was untrue, but he would not follow their orders and went into hiding to avoid punishment instead.

Martin Luther, the monk who began the Protestant Reformation
Painting of Martin Luther

Reforming the Reformers

While Martin Luther was the first and most important member of the Protestant Revolution, many other priests and leaders who studied the Bible began to speak out against the Catholic Church. For example, a man named John Calvin led a Swiss city named Geneva in a new religious practice that has been called Calvinism. Areas of Europe, including Switzerland, Germany, and Sweden, broke away from the Catholic Church, though many other nations stayed loyal.

Picture of John Calvin, leader of the Protestant Reformation
Painting of John Calvin

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