I am a children’s ministry director at our church and I have worked with children since I WAS a kid, so it’s been a good 18 years of teaching (arrrg that makes me sound so old!). To me, introducing children to Christ is fairly simple and even somewhat of a “no-brainer.” I don’t say that to sound condescending; only to say that when you’ve been doing it for so long, you forget that it’s not “the norm” for everyone else.
This past week, I got an email from an old friend who wanted to know how best to introduce her 16 month old son to God. I began thinking that if she asked for advice, others might want the same. So, here’s some simple ways you can introduce your young preschooler (or older toddler) to God because honestly, it’s never too young for them to meet!
–Pray with them before meals. If they’re speaking, they can repeat after you simple thank you prayers. When they start really talking more, have them thank Jesus for things as well.
–Pray with them before bed – same idea.
–There are preschool devotions out there that are wonderful. CBD online has good resources for good preschool devos. We have one book that has short devotionals that are age-appropriate for E. that we use.
–Read a children’s Bible to them as often as possible. The ones with beautiful pictures keep their attention really well.
–Talk to them about things like, “Who made that bird? Who made you? Where does God live? God loves you so much more than that dog! God made you so special! Let’s thank Jesus for that beautiful sunset.” Throw it into the every-day living that you do.
–Sunday School is never too early. E. will be 3 the end of this month and children’s church has been HUGE in teaching her that Jesus loves her, that He created her, and then taught her simple songs, too, like “Jesus Loves Me.”
–Christian videos, like Veggie Tales, and then talk with them afterwards.
–Have them see you and your spouse do devotions together. We try to do devotions as a family each evening during dinner and the kids sit and listen.
–When you get upset or you have an issue with your child, take time to pray with them before continuing on with the rest of the day. I’m learning that it makes a big difference after we fight to stop, apologize, then have E. sit with me while I pray out loud and ask for forgiveness and for Jesus to help us the rest of the day.
–When they’re naughty, take time to explain to them (before or after the punishment) that it makes Jesus sad when we’re disobedient. Even take the time with them to pray and ask Jesus for forgiveness. They won’t understand, but it’s a good practice to begin now. There are many times where, when the punishment is over, I’ll have E. say, “I’m sorry, Jesus,” before we move on. I try to help her understand that sin isn’t just bad to mommy and daddy – it’s bad to God, too, and that’s a bigger deal.
–Pinterest is a great place to get ideas for how to celebrate Christian holidays in an age-appropriate, simple teaching way. Coloring pages, activities, conversation starters, etc.
The most important thing I’ve learned is to seize every opportunity, big or small, and put God into it. Are you facing a big family decision? Be sure they knows that you’re trust God for it. Did God supply something for you unexpectedly? Be sure they knows where it came from. Do they LOVE some animal or some view from the car window? Talk to them about how God created it, but that even though that animal is really cool, God loves them even more.
Keep in mind that God purposefully made the Gospel simple enough for a child. They are also observant and will mimic what you do, so if you make God priority in your life, they will want to make Him a priority in theirs. If you are constantly late for church or skipping church for things like sporting events, then they will pick up the queu that learning about God in church is not important for them, either. If you want them to read their Bibles, let them see you doing it now. Introduce them now so God can save them later. You cannot force them to accept Christ as Savior, but you can provide them with enough info to make an informed decision as soon as they are able. Never discount how much they understand and never think that what you’re doing is in vain. God’s Word will never return void, even if it falls on young ears.