OOPS #4: We forget that kids’ perceptions of God are
evolving from concrete to abstract.
To test the theological astuteness of 7-year-olds, I asked them to
talk to me about Jesus’ death. The result was a surge of responses
with every conceivable explanation from, “He’s not dead; my mother
says he’s still living” to a novice understanding of resurrection,
“My dog died, but I got another one, so Jesus can come alive again,
too.” Since kids agreed that Jesus is still living, I asked whether
any had seen him. The responses varied–”He’s a spirit; you can’t
see spirits” and “When I pray I can feel him near me.” Kids are
expressing more than just their vivid imaginations in these
responses. What they’re really talking about is a developmental
movement from concrete thinking to abstract thinking–something
that happens with all kids when they’re developmentally
We make connections between ourselves and God through what we know
happened in biblical people’s lives. By sharing their stories with
our children, we communicate our beliefs and practices. How can we
talk about Passover, baptism, or even Easter without sharing the
story of the exodus from Egypt? How can we understand Matthew’s and
Luke’s accounts of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert without remembering
Israel’s 40 years in the wilderness? If we’re to speak of God who
promises us grace and peace, how can we leave out the story of Noah
and the rainbow promise or the covenant with Abram? Kids may not
immediately deduce the symbolic or abstract theological meaning at
the time they hear one of these events. But when they know these
stories and as they evolve from concrete to more abstract thinking,
kids begin to integrate the meaning.
Remember: Kids have definite perceptions of God.
I asked kids to talk with me about God: What did they believe? Who
was God? These kids have very concrete perceptions of life and
reality. Their world is made of absolutes. Generalizations don’t
have a lot of meaning. Reality is what they can see, feel, touch,
and taste. They had little difficulty telling me that God was like
a person. God lives somewhere. God has a home. God talks. God gets
hungry and angry and even lonesome. God acts like a parent. These
are kids’ perceptions. They fit a child’s perspective.
Tell it for all time. Talk with kids about how
they view God. You’ll learn how they feel about God–and you’ll get
to see their thinking as it evolves.
Kids LOVE these Sunday School resources!
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