18 Mar, 2022 Theology for Toddlers and Kids
By Summer Lane
There are two things that are important when it comes to children. First, they are able to understand far more than anyone gives them credit for. And second, the Bible makes it clear that little children are very special to Jesus, and that we should all have the childlike faith that most little ones have (Matt. 19:14).
Often, there are problems with how the gospel is presented to children (and frankly, even to adults) in the modern American church. The message of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is sometimes brought forth to an audience of children who have no real context for what any of the Biblical accounts actually mean.
Many churches fall short when it comes to delivering rock-solid theology that prepares children for facing the philosophical and intellectual attacks on their Christian faith as they get older – particularly when they reach college. In fact, more kids are falling away from their faith than ever before by the time they roll onto university campuses (Desiring God postulated in 2018 that 70 percent of kids who enter college will graduate with little to no faith).
How to Avoid Raising “Fall-Away” Kids
What can be done to avoid this? The answer is preparation. Remember that God has called us to be warriors for His truth, and children cannot grow up to be warriors if they are not properly trained first. Ephesians 6:13 says this: “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
For those with little ones, you have plenty of time to lay down the groundwork for truth and Biblical worldview that will provide children with a safe and solid foundation as they grow older – and a way for them to weigh questions of morality in a society that is increasingly hostile to objective truth.
Remember that children under the age of 5 relate everything to their limited experience of 5 years
Children understand the concept of having a Heavenly Father extremely well – better than most adults. They get this, because kids understand the idea of having a parental authority in their lives. A lot of people forget that kids just want things simple and direct: Jesus is God. He made them. He loves them. He is the good shepherd. He is the vine, and they are the branches. He is the bread of life. These are all easy, simple ideas that a child can grasp. Try using catechisms and primers to really drive these ideas home. They worked great for the Puritans, the early American colonists, the fearless pioneers…and they can work great for your kids, too.
Kids cannot understand salvation unless they understand that there is a need for it
Kids are very present-oriented, meaning that, when they are really little, the concept of yesterday or tomorrow are abstract ideas at best. The concept of needing Jesus because they are going to die someday is a really weird and really confusing idea. So, how do you explain what they need to be saved from? Consider explaining the concept of sin as action and reaction, or sin and punishment. Most kids know what it’s like to have a time-out if they’ve been behaving badly. Action – reaction. Jesus got in trouble so that they didn’t have to.
Toddlers do not understand big words right away
Most children who come into church ministries (unless they have grown up in a Christian family that has taken the time to talk to their kids about Christian theology) have no concept of the definition of words like Crucifixion, Savior, Atonement, Sacrifice, Salvation, and so forth. These are huge words with very adult connotations. While every child is different, and every kid can understand more complex subjects at different ages, little minds and hearts can easily be educated on core theological principles by simply using easier language. “Jesus loves you, so he got in trouble for all the naughty things you did. Because He did this, you get to live in heaven one day, if you believe in your heart that He is the only way to heaven, and that He is God’s only Son.” Take slightly more advanced ideas and simplify it a little for your child’s precious little mind and heart.
Teach your kids young, while you have the chance
To pave the way for children to understand complex Biblical principles, the foundations need to be laid as soon as possible. Remember this: everyone on the planet is indoctrinated with some kind of bias or worldview. Even a “lack of” bias or worldview is a myth. There is no such thing as neutrality. Thus, it’s important for parents to instill Biblical beliefs and foundations in their children because, guess what? If you’re not teaching your kids about morality and objective truth, somebody else is. And that somebody else is usually the secular, fundamentally flawed agendas of the public school system or the hyper-sexual, politically-motivated messages of television and social media influencers. If you don’t take control of your child’s evolving worldview, you will lose your chance to do so – and you’ll lose to the world.
Integrate God into everyday conversations
Little children easily grasp and understand the idea of Creator and Creation. It’s important to instill an awareness for the presence of God in everyday life. When kids get a little older, you can begin to explain the basics of the Trinity to them, but let’s face it: most toddlers aren’t going to get it yet. And you know what? That’s okay. The toddler years are about laying the foundation. The basics!
Lastly, do not count on the church to take care of the spiritual health of your child
If you are handing over the responsibility of spiritual education to the church and avoiding engaging with your kids about Biblical subjects at home, don’t be surprised when your children grow up, go to college, and “fall away” from the Christian faith. The church is a great community, but as a parent, it’s your responsibility to raise up your child in the way he should go, so that when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6).
Resources for Parents
Ken Ham – Answers in Genesis
An excellent resource for teaching children the core tenants of the Biblical account of creation and the origins of man.
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Summer Lane is the #1 bestselling author of 30 books, including the hit Collapse Series and Resurrection Series. She is an experienced journalist and columnist who reports on news within the U.S. and abroad. Additionally, she analyzes politics and policies in weekly op/Eds.
Summer is also a mom and wife who enjoys rural country living, herding cats, and gardening. She is passionate about writing about women’s issues, parenting, and politics from a theologically-grounded perspective that points readers to the good news of the gospel.
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