A child’s most formative years are their youngest — from birth to age five.
About 90 percent of a child’s brain develops in that time, according to studies. And 85 percent of a child’s intellect, personality and social skills are developed by age five.
This begs the question, Is this also true with spiritual education?
Are the preschool years the most critical for a child’s relationship with God?
Personally, I think that most of us sell preschoolers short.
When I first started teaching kids, I was helping my youth pastor plant a new church.
I don’t recommend this, but I had all of the kids ages 3-12 in one room. (Admittedly, it was challenging finding messages that worked for that wide of an age span.)
One Sunday, we had a family visit with a three-year-old and an eight-year-old.
I was teaching on the Sword of the Spirit. I used a real machete for the Sword of the Spirit and some apples to represent the works of the enemy, like fear.
I quoted scriptures like “God has not given me a spirit of fear,” as I threw apples in the air and sliced them with the machete.
I was a little concerned at what Brooke, the three-year-old thought of my sermon.
I was relieved to see her family return the following week.
When Brooke’s parents dropped her off, they told me they came back to our church because Brooke said, “Mom, Dad, I want to go to the apple-slicing church.”
I have no way to measure how much Brooke understood about my sermon, but I am confident she understood more than I gave her credit for.
Here is a quote from an article by Mackenzie Ryan in the Statesman’s Journal.
“The preschool years are a critical time for a child to build the foundation for literacy, which is really about the early relationship a child develops with a parent or caregiver.
Research shows that these relationships — the frequency a parent reads to a child, the number of words a parent speaks to a child — can affect that student’s academic achievement years later.
A landmark 1995 study showed that how fast a child’s vocabulary grows is greatly influenced by how often their parents talk to them.”
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that a child’s spiritual growth is greatly influenced by how often God talks to them.
As teachers, our job is not to be a substitute parent, but to create environments where God can speak to kids.
Here are four important steps to facilitate this goal.
1) See your kids beyond where they are at. When God looks at a three-year-old, He doesn’t just see a three-year-old. He sees their whole life in a split second. The Bible says that Hannah sent young Samuel to Bible School when he was weaned. It doesn’t say how old Samuel was, but I am guessing he was around three. I’m sure her neighbors thought she was crazy, but Hannah saw something in Samuel that others didn’t see. What you believe about the kids in your class makes all the difference in the world.
2) Preach the Bible and trust God to speak to His kids. Many times it seems like preschoolers are not getting it. Don’t let that sway you. Do it by faith. Jesus is with you in your classroom and He is speaking to His kids.
3) Worship is super important. Jesus likes it when little kids worship Him. How do I know? He said so. “Out of the mouth of babies and toddlers comes prefect praise.” Preschoolers may not have large vocabularies. They may not worship for a long time, but that does not mean it’s not important. My granddaughter is 17 months old. She can melt my heart with two words, “Hi, Papa.”
4) Use a Good Curriculum. Teaching the deep things of God to preschool kids can be challenging. Most curricula sell the kids short and barely hit the surface. It’s not good enough to just tell Bible stories. We need to take the Bible and make it relevant to kids’ lives today. Give your volunteers the resources they need to create environments where God can speak to kids.
This is a perfect spot for me to insert my shameless plug for the new Kinder Church 2.0 curriculum.
Tomorrow is a big day for us.
What is unique about Kinder Church 2.0 is that we don’t hold anything back.
You just need to make it relevant to them. In other words, think about the world of a five year old.
What types of problems does he or she have and how can the scriptures help?
In the brand new Kinder Church 2.0 curriculum, you get the same depth of teaching that you already like about Super Church, but we have also added fun-filled games, powerful media elements, small group curriculum, parent curriculum and social media tools to reach tech-savvy parents.