What kids really know--and think--about the
"The first book of the Bible is called guinessis. God created
the world. When he got tired, he took the Sabbath day off."
"All the Egyptians got drowned in the desert. After that, Moses
climbed Mount Cyanide and got the Ten Commandments."
A Sunday school teacher spent half an hour telling her class about
the powerful kings and queens of the Old Testament. "But there is a
higher power. Does any one know what it is?" she asked. "Sure,"
said one little boy. "Aces."
We all get a chuckle from kids' remarks about the Bible. Their
"misinterpretations" can be hilarious, and their confused sequence
of events often gives us a humorous new perspective on
circumstances. But kids' misunderstanding also provides significant
insight: These amusing renditions remind us that what we intend to
teach isn't always what kids learn. Let's take a look at some of
the biggest mistakes we make when teaching children--and how to fix
OOPS #1: Figurative language confuses concrete
A young girl visiting her grandmother, who was recuperating in the
hospital after open-heart surgery, anxiously asked, "Grandma, did
they really open you up and see inside?" "Yes," said Grandma,
trying to reassure her. "And the doctor fixed my heart good as
new." "Grandma," the girl asked with wonder, "did they see God
Apparently when the little girl had recently asked her Sunday
school teacher where God lives, the teacher answered, "In your
heart, my dear, in your heart."
Remember: Kids take your explanations literally.
Adults are comfortable with symbolic speech, and we frequently use
symbols, metaphors, and other figurative wording to convey
information and emotions. We do it so often that we do it without
realizing it: "What's up?" "This headache is killing me." "God
lives in your heart."
Kids are wired to be spiritually curious, and so as a way to help
them grasp the importance of our faith and God's impact in our
lives, we resort to detailed, abstract language. But children
reason concretely, and this language isn't lost on them. Rather, it
sticks like glue. When kids hear figurative speech, they absorb it
in a literal and concrete way. When we don't teach with children's
perspectives in mind, they hear a confused and misleading
Tell it like it is. Use simple, concrete terms
when you're teaching. Whenever possible, incorporate tangible
examples and images so kids can clearly see what you're talking
about. When you're tackling an abstract or hard-to-understand
point, break it down into the most concrete terms possible, and
check frequently for kids' understanding by asking follow-up
questions. For instance, bring a heavy piece of wood to let kids
get a feel for how heavy the cross Jesus carried might have