When children are little, they believe almost anything we teach them because they love and trust us. We pat ourselves on the back when kids recite a verse correctly and accept things we teach them in childhood ministries. But when we see those same kids ten, fifteen, or even twenty years later and they’re still embracing those things we taught them—that’s when we know faith has really taken root.
When teaching young hearts, we want to make sure we’re teaching with our eyes fixed on the future. We have to begin with the end in mind.
When thinking about the faith of five-year-olds and comparing it to their faith when they are thirty, married, and perhaps have children of their own, we must ask: How can we teach in a way that transcends a childhood belief system?
Share Your Journey
One way to go deeper than a mere childhood belief system is by sharing stories from our own lives. If we teach onlymemorization and knowledge and never share our personal journeys and experiences, then the kids can more readily conclude that those things we taught were untrue and walk away from their faith.
Encourage yourself and other leaders in your ministry to teach from more than an informational point of view. Tell them about an instance when you were fearful and God’s Spirit comforted you, or when you made poor decisions but God offered you grace. Share a story about a time when forgiving someone felt impossible but because of the lavish grace of God, you extended forgiveness anyway and saw the reward that came both in peace of spirit and a healed relationship. Ask leaders to think of a time when the lesson’s main point became real for them and to offer that story as an example when teaching.
You and your leaders will be sharing eyewitness glimpses into what transformation really looks like.
Practice Vulnerability and Authenticity
When parents and leaders in children’s ministry share their stories, children learn that a life of faith will be messy. They learn it’s not about living a perfect Christian life, but an authentic one. When we are vulnerable with children about our spiritual lives, we invite them to be vulnerable in return. This is when grace and forgiveness come into play.
Children might say things that shock and appall us, but it’s important not to react visibly to these feelings. God is never surprised by our sin. The essence of the gospel is that God provides salvation for us because He knows our sinfulness and He loves us anyway.
Often, parents either don’t want to or don’t know how to be vulnerable with their children. They hesitate to share their bumps and bruises and the mistakes they made in the past. Encourage them to share their own lessons with their children, especially when their kids are young and forgiving. These are times when parents and children can bond spiritually.
Consider spiritual formation and discipleship with the intention of establishing lifetime faith by being authentic and vulnerable. Encourage parents and leaders to receive the authentic vulnerability of the children in their ministry.