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Explaining God to a Child: How to Give Age-Appropriate Answers

explaining God to a child

Children have many questions about God. How can you respond in age-appropriate ways? Check out these suggestions for explaining God to a child, no matter his or her age. Bonus: See the Teacher Training Meeting about this topic at the end of the article!

“God can change himself into a baby,” 4-year-old Nicholas mused. To many children, God is a magical being who may even come close to being as strong as Superman. Kids’ views of God range from the super being to the old man with a long white beard.

So when adults talk to a child about God, the child may have a very different “God” in mind than the adult does. Many ideas about God are influenced and even distorted by the child’s developmental level. Kids’ questions at each age level give us insight into who they perceive God to be. Use this chart to help you respond to kids’ questions about God on their level.

Explaining God to a Child: 2 to 3 years

Kid’s Questions: Does God love me? Is God like (Daddy)?

What Their Questions Tell Us About Their Faith

Two- and 3-year-old children rarely ask about God. They listen to what adults say about God, and they generally accept our statements without question. They openly trust us and imitate our actions and attitudes. When we talk to God, they want to talk to God. When we say, “God made all things” or “God is love,” they receive our words and connect our attitude to the ideas they’re developing. God becomes important to the child when the child is aware of God’s work in the child’s life and the people in the child’s life.

How to Respond

State truths about God in simple, specific remarks. Talk about God’s love for the child: “God is love.” “God loves you.” If a child’s statement or question shows a misunderstanding about God, give a one- or two-sentence correcting statement. Talk about God in relationship to the child’s immediate experiences and activities. And remember, our attitude when we talk about God has far more impact on the child than the specific words we use.

Explaining God to a Child: 4 to 5 years

Kid’s Questions: Where is God? Who made God? Why can’t I see God? How did God make (elephants)? Can God hear/see me?

What Their Questions Tell Us About Their Faith

These kids are the philosophers of the human race. They ask the big questions that have puzzled people from the beginning of time. And they ask one question after another, often following our best answers with an innocent but frustrating “Why?” To make things even more challenging, children expect simple, clear answers to their short but deeply profound questions. They think about God in very literal, physical terms. And it frustrates them to receive abstract, “spiritual” answers.

How to Respond

Give the shortest correct answer possible. Then ask if the answer was helpful or if they want to know more. Avoid the temptation to explain all the facets of the issue the child raises. When it’s simply not possible to give a simple answer, point out that God is so great there is much about him that no one really understands. Then state one or two essential truths about God that we do know for sure.

Explaining God to a Child: 6 to 8 years

Kid’s Questions: Does God love (strangers)? Why did God make (cockroaches)? How can Jesus be God? Did God write the Bible?

What Their Questions Tell Us About Their Faith

Some children never ask questions, while others seem to never stop asking. Usually, a child’s question grows out of an immediate experience; thus, a list of questions a child might ask could be endless. Typically, the child’s interest in God still focuses on his or her own experiences. But there is growing intrigue with people, places, and issues beyond the familiar environment. Children’s curiosity is aroused when something out of the ordinary occurs.

How to Respond

Keep your explanations simple and personal. It’s generally best to allow the child’s questions and comments to open up new vistas. Until the child shows an interest in something new, adult efforts to expand the child’s horizons meet with only limited success. Invite the child to comment on your answer to a question, and then listen attentively to the child’s ideas. Be prepared for a degree of skepticism if an answer pushes the child too far away from familiar territory.