At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:1-3 NIV
Over the years I have learned a lot about faith and attitude about God’s Word from children as I have observed them. Here are a few of those lessons.
Children look at life and the study of God’s Word with great enthusiasm, honesty and curiosity. Do you remember the days when a child (perhaps your child) would ask you lots of questions every day? Fun questions like: “Why is the sky blue?” “Why did God create mosquitoes?” Embarrassing questions like; “Where do babies come from?” Or when you as a pastor talk about the birth of Christ and they ask, “What is a virgin?” Sobering or hard to answer questions like, “Why did grandfather die?” ‘What is heaven like?”
Children seek answers. One of the lessons we can learn from children is to have the same passion about learning as we study God’s Word and to see passages that we have read often as though you were seeing it for the first time. We need to provide an atmosphere where persons can feel comfortable asking any question. We have to develop an environment as teachers to be able to say honestly “I don’t know” sometimes. Young adults want to ask the hard questions as they deal with issues like science & faith, cultural issues and more. We need to be open to their questions and seek to walk alongside them as they find answers.
Children innately recognize their dependence on God and others. Children know they need God’s help and our help as they grow and become. I still remember a Max Lucado story from one of his books about his daughter. She was scared during a thunderstorm as she jumped into bed with her parents and honestly told them about her fear. Max told her that God was with her and there was no need to be scared. She exclaimed, “I know God is with me, but right now I need someone with skin on.” There are times when we all need someone with “skin on.” We need persons to encourage us, challenge us and reassure us that God is with us.
How are you providing an environment for persons in your class to turn to each other?
Are your class members willing to let down their guard and share their fears and insecurities? Children can teach us to do so. Remember II Corinthians 12:9,
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Children are ready to help when another is hurting. I realize, as you do, that children are learning boundaries and sometimes hurt others in the process. I, however, see the power of children to reach out and help another person in need as a great lesson for us. They are quick to set aside their agendas and own choices when they see another person hurting. Years ago my daughter taught me this valuable lesson. She was in kindergarten at the time. The kindergarten class had a nap time and snack time as a part of their day. The children were expected to bring a snack, and we made sure Tara had one. After a couple of days into school, she began asking for two snacks. I quickly responded, “You don’t need two snacks princess.” She quickly responded, “Dad, the extra snack is not for me. It is for a boy in my class that doesn’t ever have one.” At that moment I thanked God for my child’s sensitivity for one in need.
How does your class care for each other? Do you have a ministry care group list? If you are wondering what I am talking about, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be glad to share a Ministry Care list form and how to use it. It is still true that a person who misses 3 weeks in a row is 50% more likely to stop coming altogether. Caring for a person who is sick or in crisis is not only Christ-like, but what a child would do!
Perhaps Robert Fulghum was right as he stated in his book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten:
All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at school.
These are the things I learned:
- Share everything.
- Play fair.
- Don’t hit people.
- Put things back where you found them.
- Clean up your own mess.
- Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
- Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody.
- Wash your hands before you eat.
- Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
- Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
- Take a nap every afternoon.
- When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
- Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
- Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
- And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.
Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation. Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.
Take any one of those items and extrapolate it into sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your family life or your work or government or your world and it holds true and clear and firm. Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments had as a basic policy to always put things back where they found them and to clean up their own mess.
And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out in the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.