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  Children's Ministry Today    

Today's Featured Article

Understanding Your Child's Spiritual Development  (Part 2 of 3)
                  Paul Heidebrecht


As Christian parents, we want our children to believe in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord and to have a personal relationship with Him. But we cannot give our adult faith directly to our small children, because they are not yet ready for it. Spiritual development--like physical, emotional, and intellectual development--is a gradual process with definite stages.

We can most effectively guide our children to Jesus if we understand how the stages of spiritual development work.

Ages 6-7

Make God a constant subject of your conversation with your six- or seven-year-old. God is a real person who is part of your family life. Your child will proba≠bly ask where God is and why He cannot be seen. His understanding of God will remain somewhat vague in spite of your explanations, but he can understand some basic truths about God.

He can understand that God loves him, his family, his friends, and all the other people in the world as well. He can know and appreciate God's forgiveness for wrongs he has committed. He can understand that God's omnipotent power can make a person well or calm a storm. Bible stories that show Godís power are exciting to him.

Your child can have a personal relationship with Jesus. He knows that he has committed sin (though the concept of a sinful nature is too abstract for him) and that this is not pleasing to God. He can understand and believe that God forgives him because Jesus accepted the punishment for his sin on the cross. He can also invite Jesus into his life and know that he belongs to God's family. He can look forward to living forever with God.

Do not pressure your child into a formal conversion experience. Let him initiate the decision himself. Concern yourself with providing him with sound Christian teaching that will prepare him to respond to God's call. Let him share in your relationship to Christ by encouraging him to pray, read the Bible, and obey Godís commands. Pray for him daily, and let him know you are praying for him.

You can play a vital role in your child's relationship to Jesus. Have a time of personal devotions with him each day. Talk about some scripture with him, and relate the Word to specific situations in his life. He should have a children's Bible of his own.

Remember that biblical truth is best communicated relationally. This means that your example and the loving relationship you build with your child will convey more scriptural truth to him than long, lecture-type family devotions. Concentrate more on helping him understand concepts (such as what it means to love our enemies, what is meant by Godís omnipotence) than on having him learn and memorize facts about the Bible (such as how many chapters there are in Acts).

Ages 8-11

Your child should be able to recognize sin as sin when she hears stories of people doing wrong, but to identify her own sins is not so easy. However, she will naturally have a keen sense of justice. This will help her feel more responsible for her own wrongdoings. She now begins to understand why God must punish sin, that Jesus took the punishment, and that she needs to give her life to the Lord.Because your child can now read, she will take new interest in the Bible if you encourage her to do so. Be sure she has a Bible of her own. A modern version with pictures and maps is best. When she is around ten years old, she can begin a habit of daily personal Bible reading. She will learn to do this much more readily if she knows you do it yourself.

Your child also loves to be read to. She particularly loves Bible stories that have plenty of action and heroes. However, she may be bored by stories she has heard many times. She will enjoy acting out Bible stories as well as listening to them.

She is now old enough to know in a deeper sense that the Bible is God's Word, that it is without error, that it is to be obeyed, and that it provides direct answers for many problems she faces in life. But she needs to be guided in finding those answers. She can memorize Scripture easily, but her memorization should be accompanied by explanations from you of the meaning of the Word's truths as they relate to her experiences.

Your child's sense of loyalty can be directed toward the church and the Lord. Jesus can also be a hero figure in your child's eyes. A personal relationship with Jesus is generally easy for an eight- to eleven-year-old. She can learn that she needs Jesus Christ to control her life. She can know that Jesus will help her with her fears. But how much of this she learns will depend to a great extent on your example.

Part 1  -  Part 2  -  Part 3
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