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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Simple Theology for Preschoolers

Theology can be a difficult topic for adults to understand, so is it possible for very young children to "get it"? I am a firm believer that very young children CAN understand matters of faith, much more than we give them credit for. You've heard the expression "child-like faith", and it's true. The gospel is very easy to understand, faith in Jesus is not difficult, except that we make it so! I wanted to share a few of the things we've been doing with our children, to help them understand such "lofty concepts".

Our church uses a very simple tool to teach children the gospel. It's called the "Wordless Book" and uses colors so that even 2 and 3 year olds can remember it! It goes like this:
Gold is for Heaven, a real, perfect place where there is no sin. John 14:2 "In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you."
Black is for sin, which isn't allowed in heaven, and we all sin. Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Red is for the blood of Jesus, which he shed to make a way to heaven for us. Hebrew 9:22 "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."
White is for being made as clean as snow. Jesus' blood washes away our sins. Psalm 51:7b "Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."
Green is for growing as a Christian, through praying, reading the Bible, going to church, sharing our faith, etc. 2 Peter 3:18 "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."

That last verse talks about grace, which can be a difficult concept to explain. God gave my husband a very practical way of teaching the concept of grace to our children. It's called the "grace bite". If our kids finish their dinner, then they have earned dessert. If they don't finish their dinner, they often ask for a "grace bite" of dessert. Grace is getting something we don't deserve, like getting some dessert without finishing dinner. Mercy is the other side of the coin. Mercy is NOT getting something that we DO deserve. In a child's terms, we can show them mercy by deciding not to give them a consequence that they deserve for misbehavior, a perfect time to illustrate the mercy that God shows us by not punishing us for our sins, IF we accept the gift of Jesus' blood to cover our sins. We can tell a child that we will show them mercy (by not giving them a spanking, for example), but they could refuse that mercy and choose to take their punishment. Though most children would never refuse that mercy, that is exactly what we are doing if we don't accept Jesus' mercy towards us.

We've also taught our children the "ACTS" prayer. ACTS stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication, and can be a easy way to remember to include all aspects into your prayers, not just the usual "thank you for this and please give me that", which we all fall into from time to time (me included). Children don't know what those big words mean (hey, even most adults don't!), so Ted explained what they stand for by making a fill-in-the-blank prayer. Our kids call it the ACTS prayer, and even if they don't know what the letters stand for, they know each of the four concepts and can do the prayer themselves. Here are the beginnings of each sentence:
A: "God, you are so..." (powerful, loving, etc.)
C: "I'm sorry I..." (hit my sister, disobeyed, etc.)
T: "Thank you for..." (butterflies, the food you give us, my family, etc.)
S: "Please..." (give me good dreams, help my friend feel better, etc.)

If you have any questions about any of these concepts, or if you have ideas of how you've shared things with your kids, please email me, either in the comments or privately. I'd be happy to talk to you about these things, and my kids would be too! :-)


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