Big Theology for Little Kids
We go out of our way to answer kids' questions, no matter how silly. Last year, a British journalist got experts to respond to children's questions like "Can a bee sting a bee?" and "Why do I get hiccups?" and "If a cow didn't fart for a whole year and then did one big fart, would it fly into space?" in her book, Big Questions from Little People: and Simple Answers from Great Minds.
One of the most frequently asked questions, even in increasingly secular Britain, was "Who is God?" Kids are curious, and they want to know about big theological truths just as much as they want to know why blood is red or whether there are aliens in space.
When our kids ask a spiritual question, they deserve a substantive, truthful answer. Too often, though, we insist on feeding them theology we have first cut into bite-sized pieces: a simplified Bible story, a single Scripture verse, a personal testimony of our own experience. But children can, and should, learn large concepts, too—salvation, atonement, sanctification—words they will hear throughout their lives, and the ones for which they may someday have to make a defense.
During Lent, Christians often discover or revisit spiritual disciplines to incorporate into family life. While Lent is drawing to an end, these disciplines are useful for every season of the Christian's life, and I'd like to suggest that we commit to systematically answering our kids' questions about faith. Our family does this through a practice called catechizing. Though many Protestants mistakenly think so, it's not merely for Roman Catholics. In reality, catechizing is simply teaching by using questions and answers; the set of questions is called a catechism.
Catechizing dates back at least as far as the Jewish synagogues of Jesus' time. The boy Jesus was found in the temple answering and asking questions—being catechized—in Luke 2:46. Later, Augustine, Anselm, Erasmus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox all wrote catechisms to be used in religious instruction.
New catechisms are being written for the church today, such as the First Catechism, which our family uses, and New City Catechism, published by Tim Keller and the Gospel Coalition. It's tech-friendly, available as an iPad app with videos and quizzing tools at your finger-tap.
In the real life of our 21st-century family (with kids aged four, almost five, and six) here's how it works: my husband and I spend a few minutes most days helping our kids to memorize, recite, and understand the answers to questions about the basics of faith. Over the years, we have taught them 150 questions that cover creation, fall, redemption, and new life in Christ.
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