Special thanks to Pastor Tony Harrison of Christian Life Cathedral in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Our series of blogs on talking to children about God is based on his sermon series, “How To Talk To Kids About God.”
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. – Psalm 139:13-14
Explaining God to children can be a challenge in some cases. While very young kids might accept the idea of God without many questions, older kids may ask an endless stream of questions, “Where is He?” “Why can’t I see Him?” “How do you know He’s there if you can’t see Him?” “What does He look like?” “Why did God make the platypus look so funny?” Each child will need to fit God into what they already understand about the world, and this may change as they grow. In the meantime, as parents we can do our part to be sure they understand the character of God.
God loves me
First and foremost, children should understand that God loves them. The idea that “God is love” (1 John 4:16) may be too abstract for young kids, but at every age they can understand that He is someone who loves them. They may connect God’s love to something in their own life and experience, “God loves me just like my mother and father love me.” This is normal. Even though we know that God’s love for us is more infinite and perfect than any person’s love for us, children must understand God in terms of their understanding of the world. As they grow, you can help them understand the true immensity of God’s love for us.
God made me
Small children may not grasp the whole creation story in Genesis 1, but they can understand that God made them. He made each part of their body and chose the color of their hair and their eyes. They can also understand that God did a good job when he made them! Talk about Psalm 139:13-14 in kids’ terms. As with every topic, their understanding will grow with them through the years. Soon they will understand that God made their family, that God made all people, and that God made all the animals. As they are ready you can look at the stars together and talk about how God made the heavens and the earth, or look at the ocean and talk about how God made the land and the water. At every age there are more wonderful things to understand about God’s creation!
Throughout the years, your children will be able to learn other things about the character of God. God is strong. God sees everything we do. God keeps His promises to us. God is perfect. God is trustworthy. God is holy. God is merciful. God is righteous. You can use stories and verses from the Bible to talk about who God is in ways that are appropriate. A 3-year old child can probably understand that God is strong, “Like Dad!” A 5-year old may understand that God keeps His promises. However, it’s likely that you will need to wait until the adolescent years to talk about abstract concepts like holiness, mercy, and righteousness. As you read the Bible together and see characteristics of God, simply choose the ideas and words that your child can connect with. You know your children better than anyone on this earth, so you are the best judge of what they are ready to understand.
Responding to questions about God
As your children grow and develop, your conversations about God will continue to change. Kids will undoubtedly ask questions – be prepared for lots of questions and maybe even some strange ones! Just tell the truth in words that are on their level. Keep your answers as simple and short as possible, especially with very young children. Try to connect your answer to something in the child’s world that he or she already understands. Kids, like all people, learn about new things by making connections to an idea or ideas that already exist in their brain. If a new idea is very different than anything they have heard or learned before, they may struggle to comprehend and believe it. Their worldview is rapidly expanding, so be sure to keep talking about these things as they grow. Their questions will get more frequent and more abstract, so keep answering them in age-appropriate ways that assure the child that God is directly involved in our lives.