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Who Is God?

Children's Ministry Magazine

The questions kids ask about God-and how to respond.

"God can change himself into a baby," 4-year-old Nicholas mused. To many children, God is a magical being that may even come close to being as strong as Superman. Kids' views of God range from the super being to the old man with a long white beard.

So when adults talk to a child about God, the child may have a very different "God" in mind than the adult does. Many ideas about God are influenced and even distorted by the child's developmental level. Kids' questions at each age level give us insight into who they perceive God to be. Use this chart to help you respond to kids' questions about God on their level.

AGE 2 to 3 years

KIDS' QUESTIONS Does God love me? Is God like (Daddy)?

WHAT THEIR QUESTIONS TELL US ABOUT THEIR FAITH

Two- and 3-year-old children rarely ask about God. They listen to what adults say about God, and they generally accept our statements without question. They openly trust us and imitate our actions and attitudes. When we talk to God, they want to talk to God. When we say "God made all things" or "God is love," they receive our words and connect our attitude to the ideas they're developing. God becomes important to the child when the child is aware of God's work in the child's life and the people in the child's life.

HOW TO RESPOND

State truths about God in simple specific remarks. Talk about God's love for the child: "God is love." "God loves you." If a child's statement or question shows a misunderstanding about God, give a one- or two-sentence correcting statement. Talk about God in relationship to the child's immediate experiences and activities. And remember, our attitude when we talk about God has far more impact on the child than the specific words we use.

AGE 4 to 5 years

KIDS' QUESTIONS

Where is God? Who made God? Why can't I see God? How did God make (elephants)? Can God hear/see me?

WHAT THEIR QUESTIONS TELL US ABOUT THEIR FAITH

These are the philosophers of the human race. They ask the big questions that have puzzled people from the beginning of time. And they ask one question after another, often following our best answers with an innocent, but frustrating "Why?" To make things even more challenging, they expect simple, clear answers to their short, but deeply profound questions. They think about God in very literal, physical terms, and it frustrates them to receive abstract, "spiritual" answers.

HOW TO RESPOND

Give the shortest, correct answer possible. Then ask if the answer was helpful or if they want to know more. Avoid the temptation to explain all the facets of the issue the child has raised. When it's simply not possible to give a simple answer, point out that God is so great there is much about him that no one really understands. Then state one or two essential truths about God that we do know for sure.

AGE 6 to 8 years

KIDS' QUESTIONS

Does God love (strangers)? Why did God make (cockroaches)? How can Jesus be God? Did God write the Bible?

WHAT THEIR QUESTIONS TELL US ABOUT THEIR FAITH

Some children never ask questions and others seem to never stop asking. Usually a child's question grows out of an immediate experience, thus a list of questions a child might ask could be endless. Typically, the child's interest in God still focuses on his or her own experiences, but there is growing intrigue with people, places, and issues beyond the familiar environment. Their curiosity is aroused when something out of the ordinary occurs.

HOW TO RESPOND

Keep your explanations simple and personal. It's generally best to allow the child's questions and comments to open up new vistas. Until the child has shown an interest in something new, adult efforts to expand the child's horizons meet with only limited success. Invite the child to comment on your answer to a question, and be sure to listen attentively to the child's ideas. Be prepared for a degree of skepticism if an answer pushes the child too far away from familiar territory.

AGE 9 to 12 years

KIDS' QUESTIONS

Is God (American)? Why does God make (earthquakes)? Why do bad things happen? Does God still love me when I disobey?

WHAT THEIR QUESTIONS TELL US ABOUT THEIR FAITH

The older child still asks many of the same questions as in earlier years, indicating that a re-evaluation is in process. This child expects more extensive answers than are needed by a younger child-answers which are both logical and supported by a recognized authority such as Scripture. Simplistic cliches may be outwardly accepted by a child, but a child will have inner doubts if pressured to accept ideas about God that don't seem to make sense. While the child is interested in probing the "unknown" about God, he or she still has a deep need for assurance about God's direct involvement in the child's life.

HOW TO RESPOND

Always answer honestly, even if the answer is "I don't know." It never hurts for adults to admit there are things about God we don't understand. It does hurt if, as adults, we pretend to know more than we do or pass off our opinions as truth. To encourage a child to continue learning about God, ask follow-up questions such as, "What else would you like to know about God?" or "Why do you think that's an important thing to know about God?" Openly share your own learning experiences, including doubts and questions you've confronted. The child doesn't need pat answers. The child does need someone who lovingly and thoughtfully helps explore the great truths about God and the many ways God touches our lives.

Wes Haystead is co-author of Adventures for Growing Families (Victor Books).


TEACHER TRAINING MEETING

Kids aren't the only ones who have questions about God. That's why kids' questions can stump teachers. Use this teacher-training meeting to help teachers feel more comfortable with the unknown.

1. Questions, Questions-As teachers arrive, have them each write questions they have about God on 3X5 cards. Have teachers give the cards to you.

Then tell teachers to sit down. Tell them you'll read each question aloud and if they've ever wondered the same thing about God to stand and then sit down again. Read the questions. Skip questions that are repeats of previous questions.

Afterward, ask: How did you feel to discover other people have questions about God? What do these questions reveal about our faith? What do you think God thinks about our questions?

Read aloud Deuteronomy 29:29.

Say: We all have questions about God and that's okay. God is so big that we can't grasp everything about him. Part of the fun of being a Christian is the discovery process of getting to know God.

2. Fielding Questions-Use the age breakdowns in this article to form groups of teachers according to the ages they teach. Give each group a photocopy of this article. Have groups read the questions kids in their age group ask. Have teachers tell how they'd answer those questions. Then have them read and discuss the "What Their Questions Tell Us About Their Faith" and the "How to Respond" sections in their age group.

3. More Questions-Have groups each make a newsprint list of questions about God that kids in their classes have asked. Tape these lists to the wall. Have teachers tell which questions would be best to answer with an "I don't know" and which questions would require more research before they could be answered.

4. Marked-Give each teacher a question mark, either cut out from poster board or drawn on a piece of poster board. *Say: Kids' questions tell us they're really thinking about God and their faith. Don't be afraid of questions. Remember, it's okay to say, "I don't know." Let kids see that you, too, have questions about God and you're seeking to know God better.

Encourage teachers to each put their question mark in their classroom to remind them to welcome and encourage kids' questions about God. Then close in prayer.

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