7 Ways to Engage Little Minds with Big Truth
Isn’t it too hard to teach theology to little kids?
If there’s one question I’m frequently asked, that’s it. Teachers rightly love to tell children bible stories, but when it comes to teaching theology, well, things become a little tense. No doubt, teaching big theological truths requires some hard work, but it can be done in a most wonderful way.
Here are seven ways to make big truths come alive to our precious little ones.
Scripture repeatedly highlights that children have the ability to grasp spiritual truths that some may (wrongly) presume are beyond their cognitive capabilities (Deut. 6:6–7; Matt. 18:3–5). We should never be surprised when children show understanding, for God is at work through his Spirit as we teach his Word, and he can illumine their minds. So as we teach big truths we must do so prayerfully, naming the children and asking God to grant them the ability to understand. We should also pray for ourselves, that God would give us skills to teach clearly and effectively.
Make it concrete
Children find abstract concepts hard to understand—and big theological truths are generally abstract concepts! Some shy away from teaching kids theology because they believe children lack the necessary intellectual ability. But rather than sticking with safe Sunday school stories, we should work hard to transfer abstract theological ideas into accurate, tangible, concrete examples. It takes determination, but it can be done with a little imagination.
Commit to working hard on illustrations
Every theological truth taught to children should be well illustrated. Good illustrations help children understand how a big truth makes sense in their little worlds. Stories, testimonies, songs, activities, sports, object lessons, films, and even computer games can be used to illustrate the functional importance of every theological truth. Regrettably, we’re often lazy illustrators, producing predictable or outdated illustrations. To illustrate well, we must know the children in our groups, their interests and hobbies, their families and friends, their likes and dislikes. Good illustration makes all the difference when teaching theology to children.
Bring your creativity
Theology can have a reputation for being rather dull—but this has nothing to do with the theology and everything to do with the teacher.
Communicating big truths to little children must be done in a creative and dynamic way. Children enjoy learning using multi-sensory methods: by doing, seeing, and hearing. A good lesson will allow children to engage theological truth through a variety of means, with each creative activity enabling them to grasp the main concept a little more.
Keep it real
We need to help children understand how each theological truth applies to their everyday lives. Because children lack maturity and discernment, they often can’t make the connections between theology and real-life situations. We need to apply truth in a way that illumines their minds and thrills their hearts. Our instruction should always include application that is age-appropriate and clearly apprehensible. Through application, we can move theological understanding from little minds to little hearts.
Say it once, say it twice, then say it again
Children, much like adults, will never grasp the depths or richness of theological truths through one encounter. In order for theology to shape their hearts and minds they need to engage with truths repeatedly. We mustn’t presume that one lesson per concept will suffice. Instead we need to rehearse familiar doctrinal truths, make connections between those truths, and delve deeply into their implications. We need to instill the mindset of lifelong learners into our children, helping them to relish opportunities to recall things they’ve learned and rejoice when a theological truth becomes clearer than before.
Be passionate about the truths you’re teaching
Children are most influenced by the attitude of those instructing them. They learn through observation, and they observe the adults who presume to teach them glorious truths about God. We must demonstrate to children just how much these beautiful truths mean to us—how they shape our lives and help us stand firm. They should recognize that, as we grapple with and grasp them, they make us love our heavenly Father and precious Savior more. Apathetic, insincere teaching will be obvious to children; they can spot a fake a mile away. So as we prepare to teach children, we must ensure that we ourselves delight in the theological truths. May the combination of our passionate communication and the Spirit’s work captivate the children in our care for the glory of God and the building up of his kingdom