Last Friday, we posted an article and video from Sally Michael about why we should teach big and difficult doctrines to children. As a follow-up to that post, we thought it important to offer some suggestions for how to teach these doctrines in a way children can understand. Here are four “how-tos” from Sally…
1. Introduce basic concepts early, and then build on them (starting at a level the child can understand).
When we teach children, we need to teach precept upon precept using age-appropriate language. Children can’t always see the big picture. The big picture sometimes looks like a dot-to-dot picture—it doesn’t make much sense. But little by little, we explain the dots, and we begin to connect the dots until the big picture can become understandable.
Example: The Doctrine of Sin
Start with simple truth:
Toddler—we do bad things.
Preschooler—we have bad hearts that make us do bad things—we disobey God; we need new hearts.
Add context and depth:
Early elementary— sin is disobeying God; we do bad things and think bad things because we have sinful hearts; everyone is a sinner; only Jesus can give us new hearts.
Later elementary—God is holy and righteous (perfect in every way); God made us to be like Him; we must be holy and righteous—obeying His commands, perfectly all the time; we are not holy and righteous, obeying God’s commands perfectly all the time—we are sinners; sin is disobeying God; we were born with sin, so we are sinful or have a sin nature; sin must be punished.
2. Use concrete illustrations and explanation.
Example: The Holiness of God
Show a clean, white shirt and ask, “Would you put it in a toolbox? Why not? Would you not want this shirt to be anywhere near a tool box, where it might get grease on it? God is like the white shirt. He is so pure and spotless and good that we cannot bring sin near Him (into His presence).
3. As you teach the doctrine, help the children look at life through the lens of this doctrine—relate the biblical doctrine to real life
Though informal and formal teaching situations are wonderful contexts to teach doctrine, all of life should be interpreted in light of the truths of Scripture.
Example: God’s Sovereignty
If a new child joins your Sunday school small group, you can say to the child, “I’m so glad that God put you in my group.” You have interpreted that life experience for the children through the lens of the sovereignty of God. It was not the teacher who put the child in your group, but God who orchestrates all things.
4. Teach the hard doctrines in context of the other doctrines of the Bible
Teaching about hell should be balanced by teaching about heaven; sin should be accompanied by redemption; and the wrath of God should be set in the context of the mercy of God. Doctrines should not be isolated, but taught within the framework of the whole counsel of God.
In the second half (29:30) of this video you can watch Sally as she unpacks and give numerous practical examples.