Loving God with all their strength
James K.A. Smith argues that what we do shapes what we love; that the liturgy of our lives feeds our passions. While I think he overplays this, encouraging our children to love God with their actions is vital. This will involve us joining them in the doing. One of the best examples I know of this is a friend who takes his young son with him when visiting some of the older saints in our church family.
Alternatively, this could mean writing letters to our persecuted brothers and sisters, or our partner missionaries. Statistics show that most missionaries made their decision to serve between the ages of 6 and 14. This means shaping children’s actions now with involvement in the lives of the worldwide church.
Children have a natural sense of justice, and we should encourage this and help them learn how to fight for it in the right way. We regularly include an opportunity for our children to give. This gives us a chance to explore with them biblical motives for giving, and it also gives them a wider vision of the work of the gospel in the world.
It also means getting children involved in the work of the church family: welcoming, serving, praying and sometimes reading. I often give our older children roles in serving the younger children in the group, learning selfless patience as they do so. Sometimes I ask them to offer cups of tea to the rest of the church family after the service. These are small things, but they involve the children in the wider life of the church and help them understand how to love God with all their strength.
This will also mean helping our children to work out how the passage of Scripture you are reflecting on together impacts their whole lives. Again, this means knowing them and their lives, and reflecting deeply on what it looks like to love God with all their strength at school, in their homes and when they are playing.
It is likely that we naturally focus on one of these areas at the expense of the others. I’m oversimplifying here, but while those following a more traditional Sunday School model make good use of the mind, they are often less good with a full emotional response of the heart, which charismatics can be very good at. The Godly Play model is very good at dreaming, but may not leave the child knowing what to do with it. Meanwhile, an activist response is in danger of stopping at “read your Bible, pray every day” and going no further. To fully help our children enjoy God, we must be aware of the aspects we are under-emphasizing, be honest with where we are failing our groups, and change to better reflect the comprehensive nature of Jesus’ command.
This article originally appeared here.