Never before has the younger generation been so ignorant about God and His Law. This article gives you concrete, usable guidelines for teaching YOUR small children about God, about creation, about His plan, about life.
We receive many letters from perplexed parents who do not know how to give their five-year-old children simple, straightforward answers to their questions about God and the Bible. Here is a typical letter from a member of God's Church:
Please send any literature you have regarding teaching children about God. Yesterday my five-year-old son, Greg, asked me what God looks like. Of course, I answered him, but only in general terms. The blank look on his little face told me I had not fully satisfied his curiosity. I want to teach him the truth about God, but am not sure how to go about it.
How would YOU have answered little Greg? (See Rev. 1:13-17; Gen. 1:27; Ex. 9:3; Job 1:11 for help.) More important, how have you answered similar questions for your children? Arc you fulfilling your role as TEACHER of your children?
Let's find out! Give your child a quick quiz. How many of these questions can your three-year-old answer? How did the first man and woman come to be? Who built an ark, and why? Who is God's son! What does God look like? Where does God live? Granted, young children vary a great deal in their ability to learn. But as soon as they can put words together to make sentences, they should be able to comprehend these things. Realize, brethren, that God holds you as parents personally responsible for teaching your children His way! Hear God's charge: "And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning" (Deut. 6:6-7, The Living Bible). Here are a few basic guidelines to follow as you teach your children some of the most precious and vital knowledge they will ever learn!
Portray God's Word Accurately
Before you attempt to teach your boy or girl a lesson or relate a particular incident from the Bible, be sure you can portray it as God's Word tells it. In other words — "Tell it like it is!" To do this, YOU must study God's Word daily yourself — know what is in "the Book." Then you will have ready answers to questions like little Greg's. Beware of letting subtle errors or misconceptions creep into your teaching. Don't rely on books ABOUT the Bible. Many "Bible story" books for children are saturated with unscriptural concepts, or vie for their interest with exciting and violent fiction like cheap novels or comic books. Biblical incidents are often taken out of context. Their real connection with the very purpose of life is ignored. And even pictures are misleading — Biblical characters usually appear in various supposedly "spiritual" positions, generally with arms outstretched toward a rock, tree, or cloud, with far-off, contemplative expressions on their faces. But in reality, Biblical persons were DYNAMIC, ACTIVE, FORCEFUL! And that is what you should convey to your children.
Use an Approach Appropriate for Their Ages
Your children love to hear "stories" from the Bible such as the story of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses and events in the life of Jesus. For example, my three-year-old particularly enjoys hearing about Jesus' childhood — how He grew up in a small mountain town, was able to enjoy swimming in a nearby lake, and hiking in the surrounding hills. One thing for all to beware of, of course, is excessive fictionalizing. I use this opportunity to point out Jesus' perfect character — how He shared His possessions with others, was obedient to His parents, etc. As your child grows older — say he's eight or ten — teach him how the Proverbs relate to his everyday life. This will take considerable forethought on your part in some cases. But take just one proverb at a time — such as Proverbs 15:18 in The Living Bible: "A quick-tempered man starts fights; a cool-tempered man tries to stop them." Before attempting to teach your eight or ten-year-old this lesson, sit down with pencil and paper and think of all the various applications this proverb may have in his relationship with other children, with his teachers at school, with you — in other words, with any and everyone he normally comes in contact with. Think of WHY and HOW your child will benefit by inculcating the principle of this proverb into his life. Write these points down as you think of them and you will have a very effective Bible study. Another way to teach the Proverbs is to create hypothetical situations, then ask your child to explain the correct course of action based upon one of the Proverbs. This method stimulates your child to make God's laws an actual part of his thinking.
Always Teach Spiritual Lessons
Remember this. Your child can know the various Bible characters and stories, but without understanding the LESSONS involved in each incident, he is missing the real value of it. Strive to teach your children this vital, overall principle: OBEDIENCE TO GOD AND HIS LAWS PRODUCE HAPPINESS AND BLESSINGS. DISOBEDIENCE AND REBELLION BRINGS UNHAPPINESS AND PUNISHMENT! Emphasize over and over in different ways how beneficial and wonderful it is to obey God's commandments. Stress to your child how GOOD they are for him. ALWAYS stress the positive — the GOOD life that obedience produces. Remember. you are molding your child's concept of God and His way!
Relate Lessons to Their Everyday Life
When you describe how Adam and Eve disobeyed God, stress how they had to leave the garden and were very unhappy because of their disobedience. Now relate this to your child's everyday life by explaining that obedience to God always brings good things! And disobedience produces bad things. You can do this in numerous facets of his daily life. This is a language he understands. Another example you could use would be to show him that God created man!. helpful foods for us to eat. Show him that by caring a well-balanced diet and developing a taste for many foods, his muscles and bones will grow bigger and stronger, which will enable him to throw his ball farther, run faster and jump higher. By this simple object lesson, you have proved in one small way in his little mind that obeying God is GOOD! But Remember to keep your explanations SIMPLE. Don't get technical or overly didactic.
Make Lessons Interesting, Colorful and Exciting
Read Ecclesiastes 12:10 in The Living Bible; "For the Preacher was not only a wise man, but a good teacher; he not only taught what he knew to the people, but taught them in an interesting manner." How do you rate? How would you describe to your child the way David killed a lion. for example? Here's how you might do it: "As David's sheep grazed peacefully one warm, sunny day, little did they realize the savage danger lurking behind the trees just 50 yards away. "David looked intently toward the trees. He had seen a faint movement in that direction. He moved closer — to within a stone's throw of the trees, when suddenly the largest lion he had ever seen sprang out upon a helpless bleating lamb! "Before the tawny beast could kill or seriously harm the lamb with its powerful jaws, David was upon it — challenging this roaring, snarling creature, this bundle of destructive fury, with flashing, rippling muscles and knifelike teeth! "David quickly and silently asked God for strength. "Suddenly the lion charged. The earth seemed to tremble under David's feet as he saw the yellow blur leaping toward him, paws outstretched, mouth wide open, ready to snap his neck in one crunching bite! "David quickly side-stepped the frustrated animal and seized it from behind, killing it with the strength God gave him! Once again God had protected His faithful servant." Picture stories in your own mind as you tell them and describe things in detail. BE ENTHUSIASTIC, and before you know it, you'll be enjoying your stories as much as your children!
Have Regular Bible Studies
Make a definite time for teaching your children about God and the Bible. And when possible, have the entire family take part. Also, help your children to look forward to these studies. Remember to keep them short, so the children won't get overly tired, or begin to dread them. Do you recall the serials you used to hear on the radio when you were a child? Each episode ran only a few minutes, and of course it always ended with a note of suspense to be continued next time! Do you remember how eager you were to come back next time to find out what happened? Use the same principle in teaching your children. When telling or reading a Bible story, interrupt it at a point of suspense — "to be continued next time!" Cut off Bible study (or "Bible story time," as you might call it to three- or four-year-olds) BEFORE they begin to lose interest. And remember to take other opportunities throughout the day to point out certain lessons or principles of God — especially to very young children. Here is God's instruction regarding this: "So keep these commandments carefully in mind. Tie them to your hand to remind you to obey them, and tie them to your forehead between your eyes! Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting at home, when you are out walking, at bedtime, and before breakfast! Write them upon the doors of your houses and upon your gates, so that as long as there is sky above the earth, you and your children will enjoy the good life awaiting you in the land the Lord has promised you" (Deut. 11:18-21, The Living Bible) This does not mean, of course, that you should make a fetish out of writing Bible verses all over your walls. It's the principle that's important — keep God's laws in mind all the time.
God Holds You Responsible
God holds you — not your local minister or the Church — responsible for teaching your children about His way. Do you realize that YOU determine to a tremendous degree what type of person your child will grow up to be? "Teach a child to choose the right path, and when he is older he will remain upon it" (Prov. 22:6, The Living Bible). The great Creator God has granted you your children. He has given you God-like powers over them — you have the power to mold and shape attitudes that will remain with them the rest of their lives. What will YOUR child's sense of values and concepts of God be when he is thirty years old? Just what kind of individual will he grow up to be? The answer depends a great deal on how you teach him — now!