Toddler Theology

It has long been my desire to instill in my children a love and understanding of the things of the Lord from a very young age. A great goal to write down on paper when you’re a teen. A wonderful idea to dream about when carrying your first child in the womb. But how does one go about implementing it when your children are finally of the age to understand abstract ideas like “God”, “Heaven”, “Unconditional Love”, and “The Consequences of Sin”?

It can be so intimidating to think of yourself as a teacher of theology, responsible for the first and perhaps most deeply ingrained impressions made on the hearts of your children. I confess my own trepidation and, to be frank, ignorance of how to begin this important task. (you can read about some of my first attempts here)But I write this post as an encouragement to you, if you have young children or interact with them at any time through the day or the week. Don’t let fear of ‘doing it wrong’ stop you from the most important task that has been assigned to us as mothers and caregivers.

“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.” Matthew 10:16

The main thing is to try – and trust that God will guide you, and smooth over the rough edges of whatever you attempt. He’s good at that sort of thing. I just wanted to share with you some of the conversations Jesse and I have had in the past month, to show you what it can look like. I include the humor and the misunderstandings so you see that we’re not perfect, just trying.Teaching the things of the Lord to little ones can be as simple as starting a conversation. It can be spotting a simple analogy and explaining a spiritual concept with toys, or a story book, or something you observe in nature. Ask the Lord and He will open your eyes to how to bring our children to the kingdom.

Friday…While picking bugs out of a batch of rice that had not been put in an air-tight container, I decided to introduce Jesse to the concept of Heaven.

“There are no bugs in heaven.”

That got his attention. He is not terrified of bugs, but he believes, as his mother does, that they are a nuisance. Especially when they try and infest the rice we wanted to have for dinner.

“Everything God made is good, so why are there bugs?” I asked him a question I knew he couldn’t answer, just to get him thinking. He raised his eyebrows, listening for the answer.

“Some people were disobedient and that’s what made bucky bugs. But,” I repeated, “When we get to heaven, there will be no bugs!”

He did a little happy dance on his little stool and flashed me a grin as he picked out another bug from the bowl of rice. He liked the idea of no bugs.

Several minutes later he was still thinking about the concept of Heaven. How do I know? Because he told me – “Me thinking ’bout dis.”

Sunday…It may have been a mistake to introduce a spiritual concept in the middle of worship last Sunday. I was simply trying to explain some of the lyrics of the songs we were singing, but it opened the door to a barage of questions, whispered back and forth while every one around us continued singing…

“Is God a Man?” he asked. Knowing he was referring to gender, I replied, “Yes.”

“Does God live up there?” he asked, pointing at the ceiling tiles. I explained that God is everywhere, and that He lives in our hearts.

“Does God sleep up there?” Again, pointing at the ceiling tiles. I told him God never sleeps, much to his astonshment.

“Is there a mom God?” I told him, no, but there’s the Holy Spirit, Who comforts us like a mother. And there’s Jesus, who is God’s son.

Some of my answers may have been over his head, much as I tried to put them in terms a child could understand. But I see no point in waiting till I’m sure he’ll understand every concept I introduce. God doesn’t do that for us grown ups. He just patiently continues to reveal little glimpses of Himself, though we will never completely understand all of His way until we get to heaven. It’s a journey of continual learning. And it’s never too soon to help our children begin that journey. 

“And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up “.Duet. 6:6-7

Monday…we read another chapter from our new Bible story book. Chapter 2 was about God giving Adam the special job of naming the animals. After reading, we talked about how God gave each of us special jobs – mommy’s was to be a good helper to daddy, just like Eve was made for Adam. Jesse’s job was to be cheerful and obedient and be a good helper to daddy and mommy. Seth’s job is to smile and make us all happy. ๐Ÿ™‚

If you are not sure where to start with introducing your children to God in words they can understand, a good Bible story book can be a great jumping off point. I chose The Beginner’s Bible, as I had fond memories of reading that with my little sisters years ago. It is out of print now, but I found a gently used copy on Amazon for a few bucks. Really worth tracking one down for the simple text and brightly colored illustrations that a 2 and 4 year old get really excited about.

I hope I have not disturbed anyone with the mention of the bugs. As my mother-in-law comfortingly told me, we’re one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have to deal with bugs on a regular basis, and they’re nothing to freak out about. I Rinsed the rice well before using it.

If you have any tips on introducing spiritual concepts to young children, I would love for you to share! How do you encourage their relationship with the Lord at a young age? I’ll take any advice I can get! What cute things have your children said when on the topic of God?

3 responses to “Toddler Theology”

  1. Trina Avatar

    Belle, what a wonderful testimony. thank you for your 'long' comment. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Jessica Avatar

    Great post Trina! I think it's one of the toughest jobs to bring our little ones to Christ, but it is most certainly the most rewarding. Children learn by our own examples and if we allow Christ to shine through us, our children will see that too.

  3. Belle Avatar

    When I told my daughter God could see all of us here on earth she said, “Wow, he must have sharp eyes!”

    My daughters are now 38 and 41. I brought them up to know God the best way I could. I think reading books to them about God, as you are doing, is one of the best ways to do that.

    They both left God behind in their teens and twenties, but have now returned to him. I know that part of the reason they came back was because of what I taught them as children. Also, I had to let them go their own way and try not to lecture them. But that is awfully hard.

    God never let them go and I am so grateful to Him for his loving care over them. The Bible is right about teaching your children, for they never forget the lessons they learned. And now all five of my grandchildren believe in God also. This is kind of long, but I have so much to praise and thank God for.

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