Monday, February 22, 2016

Teaching the Gospel to your (very young) children.

A friend's blog that I follow, Oakland Avenue, recently did a podcast series with her sister-in-law called Risen Motherhood. They were so good! I would highly recommend them. I wish there were more than five. I listened to each one as I cleaned the kitchen, and I left each one feeling a wonderful mix of encouraged, challenged, and inspired.

The one I am specifically talking about today is Beginning Gospel Instruction with Young Children. I thought it was very good- filled with practical ideas. She also has follow up articles, posts, and references on her blog to go along with the podcast.

For all the Christian moms out there with young children, how do you practically teach them about God? How do you talk about it in ways they can understand? How do you make it fit their short attention span?

Norah, my daughter, is 15 months right now. So, her attention span is really short and there is no way we could do any sort of "formal instruction" with her right now. Listening to the podcast definitely got me thinking about how I want to proceed with teaching her the Gospel as she gets older. I definitely feel that this is a team effort with my husband, and I am so glad we can parent together and that we can help/lean on each other. However, being a SAHM, I am the one that spends the majority of the time with Norah, so I want to be ready with ideas and tips for how to effectively teach her and be a good model.

Before having Norah, I taught preschool at a Christian school for three years. I was blessed and honored to be able to share His love with the kids in my class. While I was there, we did a Bible story a week, where we read the same story out of different children's Bibles, sang songs, talked about relating points/questions, practiced retelling the story, and tried to make it applicable to them. This will definitely help me once Norah gets older since I've had experience with it (not that that makes me great, but experience helps), but I would love any tips for how you teach very young children!

So, what are we doing right now? Here are some simple practical things.

1. Play worship music in the background. Occasionally I will play actual children's worship music (meaning music geared towards young children), but most often I just play my own worship music. I think this is huge, both for Norah and myself. If I am having a tough day, I'm amazed at how quickly turning on praise music can change my mood, attitude, and thought patterns. I strongly believe Norah will pick up on that. She will learn those songs and hearing them play/hearing me sing them will be impactful. Music is powerful.

2. Pray before meals/bed. This is something I want to get better at. We pray before supper, but Norah hasn't always been with us during every supper (because of naps), and before bed every night, but there are too many lunches where I forget. I'm trying to do better! I really want to pray with Norah, as she gets older, during other parts of the day when situations arise, especially during discipline, but for now I want to make it a habit of instilling prayer into our lives on a daily basis at set times.

3. Read Christian books/Bible stories. Norah has some Christian board books that we put in her reading area, but just in the last few months we have started reading a Bible story to her every night before bed from one of her children's Bibles. Since she has several, our plan is just to go through them all, and once we finish one, start with another! Here are a few of the children's Bibles that Norah has:

A Child's First Bible- This is the Bible our church gives to all the new babies.
The Beginner's Bible- This is one of my favorites and we used this a lot when I taught.
The Beginner's Bible for Toddlers- An even simpler/shorter version of The Beginner's Bible. We have a board book version of this which is great for them to handle, and we also have a hardcover version. The hardcover has more stories in it than the board book.
Lift the Flap Bible- A story a page with flaps.
Jesus Calling Bible Storybook- This one would be better for more preschool-aged.
Jesus Calling for Little Ones- A simpler version of Jesus Calling Bible Storybook.
Tiny Bear's Bible- A short synopsis of stories in board book form.
My Very First Bible- Fewer stories in this one, but they are a little longer/more in depth than some of the quick summaries in other Bibles. Also, the pictures are great.
Day by Day Devotional- This would be better for older kids. It has something for every day of the year with a verse, short summary of a story, question, and prayer.

4. Model/explain what you are doing. Norah is learning and will learn so much by watching me and following me. That's a big responsibility, but a great one too! Even if she can't fully comprehend, I try to tell her what we are doing because they learn so much by doing. What's happening during church? Why are we praying for this person? Why are we bringing them a meal? It's easier to explain the good things, but this also goes along with the bad. When I get frustrated or say something I shouldn't say, I want to ask for forgiveness from Norah and explain how much I need Jesus. I've told Norah a few times that I was sorry for something, and she just stood there and looked at me, which was kind of funny, but we can learn something from how quickly toddlers forgive!

Kley and I pray so often that God would equip us to be good teachers and models to Norah. It's amazing that He entrusts His children to us to raise up.


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