As a teacher (and a dad) I often ask myself how to effectively nurture the spiritual lives of the children God has placed in my care. Here are five ideas that helped me answer this question.
Take time to understand kids.
God has wired kids a certain way. We should work with the Holy Spirit and realize that not all kids are super active or quiet contemplatives. Take the time to observe your kids to find out how they relate to God.
Be a guide, not a dictator.
Overcome the temptation to explain every story or Bible lesson! We need to make room in our services, and at home, for kids to experience God on their own terms. If God can speak to Samuel as a child, he can do the same for kids today as well.
Think about incorporating listening prayer exercises (e.g., have kids draw what they think God might be saying to them) into your services. Or, tell the Bible story and ask kids what they think God is saying through it. It is worth remembering that many of the parables Jesus told were only explained to the disciples, not to the crowds who heard them.
Be real with kids.
We are often tempted to shy away from difficult topics in the Bible when we teach children. Unfortunately, many kids are no strangers to hardship. Talk honestly about how people in the Bible handled their own difficult times (and avoid the temptation to rush to the end where it all worked out). This can help give kids a framework to do the same.
Consider that one third of the Psalms are prayers of lament people prayed when they were angry, sad, or in trouble. Prayers like Psalm 13 (or Psalm 137 for a really graphic example) are reminders that God can handle our honest emotions. They can help kids process how God works in the midst of their own hardship.
Use (or create) stories when you teach.
One of the primary and most effective ways Jesus taught was through stories based on every day things His listeners could relate to. Popular stories in our own culture can also be a gateway to the Gospel; there are many spiritual themes to be found (not so different than what Paul did in Acts 17 when he referenced the statue to the unknown God in Athens). Eugene’s selfless act of cutting Rapunzel’s hair in Tangled is just one example of this.
Never underestimate how God can use you.
The best resource you have to reach kids is not a book, curriculum or app; it’s you! You know the kids in your care better than any curriculum company or publisher. One of the best ways to pass on faith is to model what it looks like. Consider how God can use you to do this today.