Younger children often have trouble grasping some of our adult theological concepts, but they usually have little trouble accepting a God who can do anything. How can we help fertilize the soil for deeper growth?
Second Peter 1:5-8 is to faith growth as The Old Farmer’s Almanac is to gardening. If we want a bountiful “faith crop” in our ministries, we do well to dig deeper into this passage. Peter’s outline for faith growth is as follows: “To faith we add goodness, to goodness knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control patience, to patience service for God, to service for God kindness for brothers and sisters in Christ, and to kindness add love.”
Pull on your overalls and grab your hoe. Because we’re going to explore this passage to discover how to plant deeply and help kids grow in faith.
What it looks like — Younger children can’t grasp some of our adult theological concepts, but they usually have little trouble accepting a God who can do anything. Developing a trust in adults who model Christlikeness fertilizes the soil for a deeper faith in God. As these children develop faith, their words and actions reflect the growth. You may find kids’ faith reflected in conversations, in unprompted sharing, in prayers, and in drawings.
Older children may wrestle with their understanding of justice. For example, they may question God’s justice after a drunk driver kills a child. This natural questioning actually indicates a growing faith. Older children are also more aware of God’s ability to guide them in decisions.
What to do — For younger children, create opportunities for kids to express their faith. Have children bring items that reflect evidence of God’s provision, such as food, interesting things from God’s world, or pictures of family members. Introduce Bible stories that tell of creation and the wonders of God’s world. Speak often of ways you’ve trusted God. Watch for and affirm children’s faith in God’s ability to do anything.
Encourage older children’s questioning faith growth by helping them recognize that God made us to be people, not puppets. Created in God’s image, we make our own choices. Sometimes we make wrong choices, but God doesn’t take the choice away. God may love with a sad heart when we make wrong decisions.
Use stories of Bible characters who had tough choices. Some made good choices and others made bad ones. Use role-plays and conversations. Pray with children for God’s guidance as they’re facing decisions. Watch for and affirm kids’ trust in God for guidance in decisions.
Reinforce your efforts by training parents to nurture kids’ faith growth. Lead a parents study on faith development.
What it looks like — In this kind of goodness, we open ourselves for God to work through us, admitting that we are God’s as we follow Jesus. Goodness is displayed as children show concern for others as Jesus did.
Kids’ goodness is often tested by peer pressure. Therefore, they need and appreciate heroes and stories of those in the early church who stood up for Christ even when it meant their death.
What to do — Teach young children stories of Jesus’ concern for others. Watch for goodness in children and affirm it by saying, “What you did was like Jesus. You and Jesus care for others.” Young children can retell simple stories and make them their own. Use creative storytelling, pictures, drama, and songs to make stories come alive.
Use adventure stories, role-plays, or “What would you do?” situations to help older kids experience the pride Bible heroes felt as they stood their ground. Watch for occasions when children decide to act as Jesus would instead of following the crowd.
Set up a mission-project clearinghouse where children apply to work on small projects, such as helping in the nursery, weeding someone’s garden, assisting an older person with grocery shopping, or reading to shut-ins. This helps your children develop a peer group that gives them peer approval for positive actions.