A young mom greeted me with a new question this week, “Is it really important that a child understand concepts in the Bible at a young age?”
“No,” I carefully answered. “What IS important, is that you teach Bible concepts in their language, so eventually they DO get it.”
Six-year-old Kimberly sang the church hymn “He Lives,” at full voice. When she got to the chorus she belted, “He walks with me and talks with me, along Estero Way.” That’s how she heard it. (The actual words are “He walks with me and talks with me, along life’s narrow way”) Since she lived on Estero Road, her parents enjoyed Kimberly’s translation and never corrected her.
At ten years old, “Along life’s narrow way” was not an easy explanation to Kimberly either. (Personally, I like her first interpretation better)
We all smile at the cute stories of kids misinterpreting hymn or scripture phrases, but what do our kids actually hear when we talk about God? And if they hear it, do they understand it?
One summer, Tommy, 9, attended a weeklong vacation Bible school.
Each day the teacher invited the children to receive Jesus as their Savior, and each day Tommy left without understanding the concept. He had never before heard “saved” or “become a Christian” terms.
On the last day, as Tommy was leaving with his armful of completed crafts, one of the helper’s asked him if he had any questions about the week’s lessons.
Tommy admitted, “I really didn’t understand much that was taught this week.”
So, in his own “language,” the helper explained how Jesus had come to earth so Tommy could be forgiven of all the bad things he’d ever done or would ever do in the future. Tommy could go to heaven someday if he would believe that Jesus paid for his sin, and if he would accept the gospel story he heard that week. Tommy eagerly gave his life to Jesus once the concept was clarified.
How important is teaching kids in their own language? Tommy actually lived down the street from my grandmother. The week following his profession of faith he drowned in a swimming pool accident.
We haven’t the luxury of crossing our fingers and hoping kids understand the lessons we teach about God week after week. Like Tommy, the significance of their relationship with God is critical- as soon as they are ready to hear it.
“God looked down from heaven upon the children of men,
to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek God.” Psalms 53:2