God-connected children: Small things that make a big difference, Part 2

Ruth Bromley

24.1.2023 | Congregational Life, Youth & Children, Families


Ruth Bromley, PCI’s Children’s Development Officer, reflects on the theme of children’s discipleship in the second of a series of three fortnightly blogs.

Tools for cultivating God connection

In the first of this series of three blogs we looked at what a God-connected child is - one who lives in
a vibrant two-way relationship with God, sharing life with him every day.

We also looked at two tools that we can use, both at home and in children’s ministry, to help a child
make and build their own connection with God – creating windows into our faith and framing the
world through a God-shaped lens.

In this blog, we are going to look at two more tools.

Unwinding

christopher-luther-pQSwcTA_qCY-unsplash-(1).jpgSometimes children can get a mixed-up view of who God is and their perception needs some
readjustment. For example, if they are bullied in school, they cannot reconcile that experience with
knowing that there is a God who loves them. Why would he let them be bullied if that were the
case? Or maybe they have got the idea that God is an old man sitting on the clouds surrounded by
angels, looking down on the earth. They may see God as distant, not interested in the small details
of their lives, only the big things going on.


Unwinding is the process of spotting and then gently correcting any misperceptions children may
have about God. There are two parts to this process. We first need to understand where the
misperception came from and then help them unwind it.


Some of the misperceptions about God can be:

  • The distant, busy God: Far away, preoccupied and hard to talk to.
  • The jolly, optimistic God: Always happy, but happiest when we get things right.
  • The angry God: Easily offended, best left alone or you could be punished for a mistake.
  • The mysterious, eccentric God: Unpredictable and unknowable, best to let him get on with
  • things.
  • The buddy Jesus: Our best friend, but mainly my friend – and can be a bit boring.

So how can we unwind? We need to understand the child’s view of God and we discover that
through talking about him and asking questions. What do they say about God? Which Bible stories
do they like? Try asking them to draw a picture of these stories, or God – this can be very
revealing. Then we start to unwind those misperceptions by helping to broaden children’s
understanding of God – getting the balance between the mysteriousness of God and the idea that he
loves us, wants to talk to us, promises to be close to us and has plans for our present and future.

Try reading Bible stories together that show different sides to God’s character, watching and
listening as you chat together and share your own relationship with him (see blog 1 - creating
windows
).

When teaching a Bible story in a children’s ministry setting if you are unsure as to whether children
have understood who God is in a story, instead of using the worksheets for the lesson give the
children a blank piece of paper and ask them to draw or write where they see God and what he is
doing in the story. This will give you the opportunity to correct and retell stories as necessary.
In what ways might we need to do some unwinding?


Surfing the waves

There is lots to discover about having a relationship with God. As parents’ disciple their
children, you may notice that your child’s interest in spiritual things can move in waves. One
minute they love reading their Bible. Then they change to wanting to only listen to worship
music. Then maybe they become outraged about modern slavery.

Childhood and teenage years are periods of discovery, when we try out lots of different
things to decide what we enjoy doing most. As parents, we need to learn to surf the waves
of interests, supporting and enabling children and young people along the way.

Watch what your child focuses on. It may be a television programme, a series of books, a
game or hobby. This will be a good start to understanding what is going on in their minds.
What is making your child curious? Maybe they are fascinated by mission or spend time
with the tech team at church. Or maybe they are interested in a book you are reading. Are
there recurring themes in your child’s role play games?

This can also be an indicator of their interests. Does your child sometimes have ideas that seem to come from nowhere – wanting to play church at home, lighting a candle at mealtimes, wanting to sit outside and look at the stars. Children ask lots of questions, but sometimes they come out with several
on the same theme or with really searching questions. This could indicate something that is
niggling them.

Give space in conversations and in what you do to allow children to explore these interests.
Encourage them to read, listen, watch and ask questions and point them to others who can
also answer their questions and help them with their passions.

It’s good to help the children in your church’s children’s ministry to explore their interests
and to understand that they can use them to serve in church. Can you help children get
involved in reading or saying prayers in services? Can they play their instruments in a
worship band (even if they are only starting to learn)? Can they help the tech team, or serve
on a welcome team? Think about places in the church family where children can use their
gifts and develop their passions.

How can you help children to surf the waves?

Next time we’re going to look a final tool that both parents and children’s ministry leaders
can use to create God-connected children.


A reminder of the first blog in the series, available here.


Ruth-Bromley-3.jpgRuth Bromley is PCI's Children's Development Officer.

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