Children have a faith that is ready to go. Let’s not waste that opportunity by delivering a humanistic Gospel.
But how well do we proclaim the Gospel to children? I’m not asking how well we teach children Bible stories, or how well we have taught the moral truths of Scripture.
The Bible as a Collection of Good Stories
Too often we teach the Bible as a series of isolated morality tales, like Aesop’s Fables. We want our children to learn how to live well, so we draw from the Bible stories of people who did the right thing and those who did the wrong thing.
We hope they are getting the idea that good is of God, leading to success, and bad is of Satan, leading to failure. If the kiddos can then live out and retell the story with the right names and main points, we feel like they have a grasp on the Gospel.
The Gospel is About What God is Doing
We miss the flow of God if we just take the Bible in isolated parts. And the flow is important to understanding that the Gospel is not just a group of ideas, but rather a plan that has been designed and implemented by a loving God for the saving of humans.
Ideas aren’t as personal as a plan. The plan runs the length of Scripture.
When we take the Bible as a series of isolated morality tales, we think about 66 books with hundreds, if not thousands, of stories contained within them. In actuality, there are not thousands of stories. There are not 66 stories. There aren’t even two stories with the Old and New Testament. There is one story and that is the story of what God is doing—redemptive history.
The Gospel is Not a Self-help Program
Part of the challenge is in the midst of sharing the Gospel. We want to teach morals to kids, but we don’t want them to become moralists.
People today often draw their theology from various sources, including the Bible. But they cherry pick Bible stories that work well with their worldview and adopt the morality found in the story. This will make them feel better and pleasing to God. Mission accomplished.
But that isn’t our mission. That’s not our desire.
The Gospel is that sinners have been saved and are part of a family of believers who edify and equip one another to go out to other sinners and tell them about the Savior. Scripture tells us how God has been searching for and saving people from the first Garden to the Eternal City. We have the privilege of telling that to others, including kids.
Contextualization for Children is Essential
I’m not a children’s pastor and do not have a Ph.D. in educational pedagogy.
Yet, I can tell that that we should not let the fact that children are still learning how to learn keep us from sharing the whole counsel of God with them. When Jesus taught about our acceptance of the Gospel, He said that we must become as children.
Children were designed to hear about the things of God and have faith in them with few hurdles. So let’s be honest with them about the Gospel. It will make more sense if it is delivered holistically, and it will have a greater effect in their lives.
Definitely contextualize, as you would anywhere to anyone else. But do not strip the Gospel of its power in your delivery. God has a Story, and they are in it.