This is the age of
beginnings. Spiritual learning begins here, before your child can
walk, talk, or even sit up. If she is to be emotionally healthy,
your child must know first of all that you love her. The feeling
of being loved will also provide the foundation for her
understanding of the biblical truth that God loves her.
As an infant, your
child can learn what it means to trust. If she can trust her
parents for her basic needs, she will someday also be able to
trust God for her spiritual needs. Your ability to show your child
gentleness, love, patience, and firmness may determine how she
responds to God later in life.
Your child believes
most of what he hears, and he will certainly be open to spiritual
truths. Because you converse with him in words, you can introduce
some simple but significant spiritual truths.
understand symbols such as the "lost sheep" or the
"bread of life." Nor can he understand spiritual
concepts such as man's sinful nature, the Trinity, or that Jesus
is both God and man. However, he will understand such concepts as
love, trust, forgiveness, and the consequences of sinful
actions-if they are related to everyday experiences with which he
Your child can know
that God is the Creator and that He is all-powerful, perfect, and
our provider. He can know that God is a real person who loves and
cares about him, even when he is bad. Your child can begin to say
his own prayers when he is about three years old. He can begin to
express his own love for God the Father and Jesus.
Your child can
identify with Jesus as a real person and as Someone who wants to
be his best friend. He can know that Jesus is loving and caring
and that He came to earth a very long time ago as a baby, grew up
as a boy, and became a man. He can know that Jesus died on the
cross, though he will not understand all the implications, and he
can know that Jesus took our punishment for the bad things we do.
He will not understand death very well, however.
Your child can
learn that the Bible is God's Book and that it teaches us how to
obey Him. It also teaches us all we know about God and Jesus. He
can understand and enjoy certain stories from the Bible if they
are told on his level. Get your child into the Bible. Bible
storybooks are a good start. Show him a picture and build the
story (on his level) around it, using your own words.
Pray with your
child. Encourage him to pray. Have two kinds of prayer
times-established times, such as at bedtime, and spontaneous
times. Teach your child that praying is a natural and enjoyable
way to talk to God. Prayer pleases God, because He wants us to
talk to Him. There will be times when your child is tired and
cranky and may not want to pray with you. It is better not to
force him to knuckle under but to be an example and to pray
yourself. Remember, your child is a great imitator.
Your child at four
and five can think of God in a personal way. She understands that
God is perfect and the Creator. She senses God's greatness and
wonder. She can associate God with things that are good, true, and
beautiful. It cannot be emphasized enough, however, that much of
your child's concept of God the Father is related to her
relationship with you. Can she trust you? Can she depend on your
love and discipline? Do you show love to her in spite of her
shortcomings? If you can say yes to these questions, then you
have profoundly helped your child develop a better sense of who
Your child can deal
with Jesus as a personal friend. She can understand that Jesus is
God's Son, but she will not understand the concept of the Trinity.
At this age, she is
gaining a deeper understanding of the difference between right and
wrong. Her conscience is emerging. She can know her wrong actions
are sin in God's eyes. She can feel sorry for her sin and confess
it. If you have expressed genuine forgiveness of her wrongdoings,
she can better experience God's forgiveness. She needs to
understand that God loves her even when she is bad.
Your child at age
four or five can become a Christian in the true sense of the word,
but let her grow into this in her own time. Too many parents have
pushed their children into a decision for Christ when the children
were neither ready intellectually nor spiritually. A child will
often come to the Lord gradually without being able to identify a
specific moment of decision.
The Bible can and
should become an interesting and important book for your child. The
Living Bible is easy to read, and your son or daughter will be
able to understand much of the narrative. A picture Bible
storybook is also excellent. Cultivate a time each day for Bible
reading with your child. This will do much toward developing her
love for the Word.
Your child can
worship in a very real sense. She is naturally fascinated by new
things she discovers each day. When her fascination and wonder are
directed toward an appreciation of God and His greatness, worship
becomes very natural and real for her. She may not understand
God's invisibility, but she believes she can talk to Him. Singing
and praising God is natural for your child. She loves rhythms and
action songs. Sing along with her-she'll be delighted.