Teaching is not all about us — it’s about our great God and the children we’re teaching and reaching for him. If our own faith grows and deepens in the process, that’s wonderful! But if that doesn’t happen for the kids we meet with each week, we haven’t reached our goals.
Is the following statement true or false? If only we can teach kids to believe the tenets of our faith, they’ll live and act like children of faith. Sounds good on paper maybe, but living the faith is not as simple as believing the right things. People who believe gluttony is a sin still overeat — and those who believe murder is evil still kill others with their unkindness and sharp words!
Teaching children means sharing the truth of Scripture with them — but it’s even more important to give them opportunities to put what they believe into practice. Children who learn to live their faith when they’re young have a head start on developing holy habits that stay with them long after you have moved out of their lives.
Here are some suggestions for helping your kids “walk the talk”:
- Don’t be too quick to give kids ready answers. Though it feels tidy to sum up your lesson each week with a single truth or moral, that may not be the most helpful to the children. Instead, ask good questions that nudge them to think for themselves. Motivate them to think about how they can apply what they’ve learned to their lives in the coming week. Challenge them to go deeper into the story, living out its truth. Instead of saying, “We’ve learned from the story of Ananias and Sapphira that Jesus is unhappy when we lie, so let’s please Jesus by being truthful from now on” ask, “When are you tempted to lie? What could you do the next time you’re in that situation?”
- Use role play to help your kids “practice” an answer or application. Though the situation may be artificial, role play allows kids to try answers on for size, fitting them to their experience and preparing them for future action. Instead of saying, “Today when you go home, try to do something that shows your family you love them” say, “Before we leave, let’s practice what we’ll do to show love to our families. Choose a partner, and then tell each other what you’ll do.”
- Rather than speaking in generalities, encourage your kids to make specific commitments. Invite them to affirm what they believe by agreeing to act in concrete ways in the week ahead; follow up by talking about how they kept the commitments they made. Instead of saying, “Each of us should think about something we can do and report back next week” say, “For the next five minutes, write about (or draw) one thing you’ll do differently this week. Put your commitment in an envelope with your name on it. Before we leave the room, we’ll pray about your commitments; next week we’ll open them and see how we’ve done.”
Do you have any other suggestions for helping kids put their faith into practice?