Make It Concrete

My oldest daughter is in fourth grade this year. Her spelling lists have gotten a lot harder, and she now has to know what the words mean as well as how to spell them. She often comes home with words that she doesn't know what they mean. My favorite lists are when she comes home with words that are defined with words that she also doesn't know.

When we talk with our kids about God, church and the Bible we need to be careful that we are using words that they understand. If you've been a part of a church for any length of time, you just naturally tend to pick up the terminology that your church uses to describe things. When we talk about being saved, becoming a Christian or being alive in Christ, we need to remember that children tend to be concrete thinkers. They will take big, abstract concepts and try to fit them into their concrete way of thinking, sometimes with amusing results.

When I was a kid, I always thought God must have a big oven so he could bake a whole bunch of bread because the Lord's Prayer says "Give us this day our daily bread."

Keeping this in mind, when you talk about things like salvation will help you present the ideas in terms that your children understand. So often when talking to our kids, we revert back to terminology that we learned. Just because it's familiar to us, doesn't mean it will make sense to our kids. Here's some easy ways to break down some big concepts for your kids.

  • Salvation -- Sin is the stuff that we do that God tells us not to. For kids, that's things like disobeying your parents and being mean to your sister. Sin keeps us from being close to God. The Bible tells us that the consequence of sin is to be forever separated from God. But Jesus died on the cross so that we could be close to God -- we can be His sons and daughters. All we have to do is tell God we're sorry for doing wrong things and ask Jesus to be in charge of our lives, and we can be close to God forever.
  • Why bad things happen -- God doesn't cause bad things to happen, but He doesn't always stop them from happening. Bad things happen -- people get sick, people hurt each other, natural disasters happen -- as a consequence of sin. Because people can choose to do wrong things, the world isn't perfect and bad things happen. But, if we have Jesus in charge of our lives, we know that God can use even the bad things for good.
  • Why everyone doesn't follow Jesus -- God gives all of us a choice. God loves us and doesn't want anyone to be separated from us. But God wouldn't get any joy from forcing us all to follow Him. He wants us to choose to follow Him. Some people choose not to because they think following Jesus is just a bunch of rules or they don't think they need God. We can pray for the people we know who don't follow Jesus.

No matter the topic, remember to find ways to explain things to your children in the most concrete terms you can find. If possible, give them a visual picture of what you are talking about. And whenever you don't know what to say in answer to your kids' questions, ask God for help. I promise He'll supply you with exactly the right words.