Children believe in what they cannot see. They seek God. “It’s like there’s a homing device in each of my children,” a mother told me, “God looking to connect with my child as my child looks for God.” When we talk to a child early about God there is an automatic responsiveness.
By contrast, some adults have had negative experiences.
Religion was drilled into us and we want to avoid doing that to others. Some of us feel that spirituality is deeply personal, so children should find their own way. Some of us have no firsthand experience with God and don’t really know what to say. I would argue that…….
…..It is far better to tell children about God, even if you have doubts of your own.
Something simple, like: You can’t see God but he can see you, and he loves you. He is very good and he wants you to have a good life. He hears you when you talk to him. That is called prayer.
Understand that a child’s vantage point is different, like in photography.
A mother describes the morning her daughter held the camera, moving through the house clicking at everything she saw.
“Can you show them back to me now?” She holds the camera out to me. Her arm around my neck, we scroll through her photos on the glowing screen.
Frame of a table. A doorknob. A bookshelf skewed on a tilt. Yet her photos surprise, every single one. Why? It takes me a moment to make sense of it.
It’s the vantage point. At 36 inches, her angle is unfamiliar to me and utterly captivating–the ceiling arches like a dome, her bed a floating barge. The stairs plunge like a gorge. She’s Alice in Wonderland, all the world grown Everest-like around and above her.” (Ann Voskamp)
Emphasize what God thinks of the child.
- C.S. Lewis advocated that the most fundamental thing is not how we think of God but rather what God thinks of us–this relentlessly pursuing love, so bold.
- Describe God’s nature. This blog’s Resource page has a resource page of what I tell children about God. What can you say about God?
Family photos reveal much about us and the people who shaped our early years. Why not take time with your children to learn something new from them? Dig a little deeper into scenes from previous generations. With photos on the screen before you, or with photo album in hand, here are a few ideas.
- Vocabulary words associated with family religious ceremonies (for example, kaddish, sanctification); and words that are no longer used by your family, and why.
- Words of wisdom: favorite expressions or words to live by used by people in the photo.
- Holiday decorations used in the photo and what they symbolize.
- Event pictured in the photo that triggered a change of heart or changed the relationship between people.
When children connect with God, they are forging their bond with a primary caregiver. They are establishing a stable relationship to God and a secure attachment pattern with God.
Some children express their faith through a combination of sensory perception, rituals and images. Lacy Borgo, a Spiritual Director for children, says: “Communicate that you’re here to listen. When kids are silent, hold that silence open for them without filling it with your words.”
Main point: Some kids experience God when they see beauty in stained glass windows or when candles are lit or other ways that don’t use words. These images reflect your own inner beliefs of who God is.
Meditation: ”Be still, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Let’s talk: How is God at work in what you’re looking at? What meaning does it hold for you?
Not only are children’s interests different, but how they connect with other people is different. In a similar way, how they connect with God is going to be different.
Main idea: Some kids feel closest to God when they think and think, until they really understand something.
Meditation: “Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord…” Isaiah 1:18. “Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21
Let’s talk: When you’re using your mind, how are you seeing life through God’s eyes?
To be able to sense God’s presence in everyday life is something many people desire. One way we strengthen that way of living is to stop for a minute in the day and consciously focus on God’s goodness.
Main idea: God loves to care for you and give you what you need.
Meditation: “Give all your worries to him, because he cares for you.” I Peter 5:7
Let’s talk: Agree or Disagree —God is the one person you can trust to know what you need better than you do yourself. If you agree, why? If you disagree, why?
For some children, the accuracy of their beliefs is very important because, from these beliefs, he or she will stand for a cause, even at great personal expense.
Main idea: When you understand the truth of a situation or a principle, you stand up for it.
Meditation: “The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8
Let’s talk: How did you express your Christian beliefs or ethics this past week?