Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Teaching Toddlers About God

Something that has been on my mind a lot lately is what to teach Aydon about God. I've been thinking about how child development fits into the picture of my teaching. The Bible urges us to always be talking to our children about God, when we wake up, when we play, when we lie down.

I think that something that is different between children and adults is that children, especially little ones, will accept anything their parents tell them as true. They don't need proof; they just accept it. They also have overactive imaginations, and cannot understand everything the way that we understand it. When Ryan (my husband) was a little boy, his church showed a series of end-time videos. He did not understand the context of these videos, and for many years he had a terror that birds would attack him and peck his eyes out (this was on the videos).

Sometimes without meaning to, we try to "scare" children into heaven. We tell them how bad they are. We pound into them that they will go to hell if they don't believe in Jesus. This sort of emphasis with young children can cause them to have intense fear that if they don't really see how terrible they are, they will never be able to trust in Jesus for salvation.

Have you ever noticed that when the gospel is shared in the Bible, the focus is always on Christ and what He did and how that was enough to save us? When Paul reminds the Corinthians of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 the focus is on Christ and what He did! Now, that is not to say that the Spirit does not use the law to convict us of our sins so that we see our need for Christ. I think that an understanding of God's law is essential for us because that is what shows us our brokenness. But I think that the way we share the gospel with our wee children might look different than the way we share the gospel with our children as they grow older. The gospel message should always stay the same, of course: Christ died for our sins. Accepting his death on our behalf is the only way for us to enter heaven and for us to have a relationship with God.

Aydon is a two year old. He believes what I say. When I say that Jesus died for our sins because He loves us more than we could imagine, Aydon believes it. Right now, that is my focus. It is on Christ and what He did.

Another thing that I am teaching Aydon is that there is a right and there is a wrong. Hitting is wrong, for example. As Aydon grows, I will teach him more and more rights and wrongs. (As an aside, this does not mean that I have to make him feel bad for doing wrong, just that I need to teach him. Furthermore, I need to be careful not to deceive him into thinking that when he acts "good," he is more acceptable. My acceptance of him/love for him should never change. I deal with him through the eyes of grace. The Bible says that even our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.) These rights and wrongs will help him to understand what sin is, and why Jesus had to die for sin. It is important to remember, though, that while I teach him what right and what wrong is, it is God's spirit who will work in his heart.

Finally, I am teaching Aydon who God is. I teach him that God made everything we see outside. I teach him that He made us. I tell him that God is everywhere, and that God knows all things. I instruct him that God is more powerful than anyone. I teach him that God is equally loving and fair. I tell him the story of Adam and Eve.

Again, toddlers believe what their parents tell them. We need to think about the picture we are portraying for them of who God is through both our words and our actions. Are we showing them a God who loves them so deeply that He was willing to die for them, or are we inadvertently telling them that God is scary and mean, ready to destroy them if they make one misstep? As they mature and begin to ask "why" questions, they will want to know things like why there is only one way to heaven. They will ask why Jesus had to die for their sins; why that was the only acceptable payment. We can share with them stories of how before Christ an animal always had to die for someone's sin, but now that Christ has come there is no further sacrifice necessary.

As we teach our children, we need to keep in mind that God created human beings with a will because He wanted us to freely choose Him. He did not want us to be like robots, forced to trust Him. While God gave the law to show us our sinfulness, He has never and will never use scare tactics to get us to trust in Him for salvation.We need to look to God for discernment as we teach our children spiritual truth; we need to share this truth with them without inducing fear. Only God's spirit can give us wisdom in this matter.

1 comment:

  1. "Furthermore, I need to be careful not to deceive him into thinking that when he acts "good," he is more acceptable. My acceptance of him/love for him should never change. I deal with him through the eyes of grace."
    -good thing for me to work on