I am A God/Jesus believing Judeo-Christian. I have been a believer for over 40 years. For the better part of those 40 years I have selected to teach children in church; mostly children aged four and five. I find this age group a great challenge. Their innocence along with their inquisitive nature makes wonderful opportunities to share God’s lessons. Be careful though, you may find yourself being taught as well doing the teaching.
For example, one Sunday morning my class was discussing Noah’s ark and how Noah followed God’s instructions to build a boat. When asked, how many animals of each kind did Noah place on the boat, one little girl replied two of every kind except the fish. He did not have to do the fish because they could swim in the water. I had never really thought about the fish until that very day.
During my years of working with children I have been asked all kinds of questions, but below are the five that come up the most often. My answers are not the only answer to these questions, but these have worked well for me in the past. I encourage all working with children, whether they are your own children or a class you teach, that you be open minded, listen to the children and answer truthfully and honestly. You never know, the answer you give a child today may lead to great decisions in their life in the future.
¨ If God created the world, then who created God?
From a young child’s eye telling them that a single person created everything is hard to understand. I start with, close your eyes. See all the blackness? Once upon a time there only one person that existed, this was God. He was just sitting there in the dark; hanging around with the angels. One day he decided to change the darkness so he began creating things. He created light; water, land just all kinds of stuff. He created all the animals, and then he created people to watch over all the animals and the land he created. He did not have to, he could have just continued on with just him and the angels but he likes having animals and people around. They bring a smile to his face. So you see, no one created God, he’s just been there forever!
¨ I can’t see God, so how do I know he’s real?
Children believe in what they can see and touch, so it’s hard for them to understand that as adults we asked them to believe in a person that can not see, hear, or touch. Start with the obvious, do you think air is real? Do we need it to live? What happens if we do not have air? So, we all agree that air is real and we need it to live. Can we see air? We see trees blowing in the air, and we feel in on our face sometime, but we really don’t see the air do we? God is like the air. We can not see him, but if we look around we do see all kinds of things that help up believe he’s real. Look at the birds. They know how to find food, make nest, feed their babies, and even go to warmer weather in the winter, how do they know how to do that? Look at butterflies. They start out as caterpillars; some not very pretty at all, then end up as very beautiful creates that fly around. In each of these special creations we see a piece of God. He understands our questions, and asks sometimes that we do things that we may find hard; like believing he’s real even if we can not see him.
¨ What’s heaven like?
I can only imagine what kinds of pictures children have in their heads if they hear adults talk about streets of gold. I know when I was younger my own picture had heaven as a fancy shiny place; as I got older though and listened to children trying to imagine what heaven is like I found myself really thinking about how I wanted children to think about heaven. We will be there to worship God and Jesus like a big party, what better way to help children think about this. I now tell young children that heaven will be like a big party; laughing and singing and having a great time. We get to see Jesus, we will never cry, or have any boo boo’s. They really like this, and we talk about what we think this great big party is going to be like.
¨ Ok, so I prayed but I did not get what I asked for; why should I believe God is real?
I think adults often have a tough time understanding why God does not give up what we ask for all the time, for children it can be even tougher. To help answer this question for a child, first ask what they were praying for. Ask what they expected the answer to be. Then work with the child to see if you can find a way God answered the prayer, but maybe not in the way the child was hoping. For example, Bobby prays that God lets him get his very own puppy. His next door neighbor got a puppy and Bobby really loves it. Bobby’s baby brother is really allergic to dogs so Bobby’s family can not have a puppy but Bobby does not understand this. He’s been told if you pray about your needs God will answer, but God has let him down! As you talk to Bobby about his prayer request you discover that when Bobby’s neighbor went out of town for a week he was asked to take care of the puppy. He did such a good job in fact, that other neighbors have asked him to take care of their pets for them while they are a work or on vacation. In this story God answered Bobby’s pray by not given him his own puppy but rather using Bobby’s love of animals to help all the neighborhood pets. Helping a child see this kind of answer to their pray will help them learn to be more open to the answers to their prayers.
¨ So if God is such a loving God, why does he let bad things happen to good people?
This if probably one of the most asked questions from children and adults as like. We talk about how much God loves us; how he takes care of us and meets our needs but then people around us get sick, have bad car wrecks, and lose their jobs. Wars happen. Where is the loving God in all this? For me, I came to the following resolution, and try to share this with the children that ask this question. When God created us he could have created us so that all we did was worship him. Instead he gave us free will; the ability to choose whether or not we would live a perfect life or make choices that leads us from a perfect life. The first people God created chose the not perfect path, even though they were with God. No matter how hard we try we can not live a perfect life. Our free will does not allow it. This same free will causes us to be exposed to all kinds of bad stuff in our life. God does not like that we suffer, in fact he is very saddened that we have so much pain. He is there for us to help us deal with our pain, and promises us that even though bad stuff happens here on earth, once we get to that big party in heaven there will be no bad stuff to bother us.
If you are ever asked one of these questions by a young child, my prayer is my answers will help you formulate your own answers and that you will feel good about helping form a young child’s heart and mind.