The power of intergenerational ministry, the strength of connecting to others outside of our own tradition or experiences, is that we see God more clearly. We may arrive at some different conclusions about how our theology is lived out, but our spiritual family gets bigger and our capacity to imagine with wonder and awe about God grows exponentially.
So, how can we let them wonder?
- Let them ask questions and don’t have all the answers – I know that is so hard to do, but sometimes the best way for kids to learn about God is to wonder aloud to Him (we call it prayer) and let Him answer them in His way and time.
- Ask “Wonder Questions” – There’s a great curriculum called Godly Play written by Jerome Barryman that incorporates asking “wonder questions” into the lesson. In other words, while the lesson is being shared, the teacher will say things like, “I wonder why the shepherd went to find the lost sheep? I wonder why the other sheep stayed in the pen? I wonder who is our Shepherd?” I like to do this with my own kids, even my older ones, with normal everyday life situations. Things like, “I wonder why He made the grass green? I wonder why God made some things edible and some things not? I wonder if the birds are singing to Someone? I wonder if God is speaking to his/her heart?”
- Connect them to other believers – Expand their spiritual family table in width and depth; invite older and younger people into your home, believers from other theological streams and traditions; believers from around the world if possible. Give them a breadth of faith family to love and grow with.
- Listen to them tell the stories – Oh, I love, love, love this one! If you know your child, especially your young child, has heard a Bible story, ask them to retell it to you. There are so many times I’ve done this and instead of telling me word-for-word the “right” version of the story, they tell it with a little twist, a subtle plot change or a humorous undertone. What’s so cool about this is you get to hear who their God is according to how they heard and understood the story. And you get to underscore God’s love and goodness if they’ve missed it or even if they hit the nail on the head.
There is a story I’ve often heard repeated where three blindfolded people are led over to an elephant and asked to guess what they were touching. One touches only the side and guesses the he is touching a leather object. The other touches only the trunk and wonders if it is a snake. Another touches the tail and knows it is an animal but is unsure exactly what animal it belongs to. But when they speak to one another and share their experience, they are able to put together an accurate picture and determine they are touching an elephant.
This is what happened to our family in seminary. We got to hear other’s experiences with God, with Scripture, with the church, and with their faith. And, putting it all together, we were given the gift of a clearer image of God and our imaginations of who God is and how He interacts with humanity grew.
As a result, my kids don’t necessarily embrace their faith in the same way that I do. They’ve come to different conclusions about what the Bible says, what Jesus would do, and how God would interact with the world. They’ve talked to a lot more believers about their faith than I ever did.
But as a result, their God is bigger.
Bigger than the stories. Bigger than their own experiences.
A great big God.
This article originally appeared here.