Spurgeon was once quoted talking about John Bunyan as saying, "Why, this man is a living Bible!" Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is.” Oh that the same would be said of you and I, that when kids think of us they think of the living Word of God. We should bleed the gospel. Every thought, every word, every action should point children to the cross.
Let’s consider how we might apply that truth in our teaching each week in our various churches and ministries. How can we practically make Christ and the cross central in our ministry to the children of our churches
Here are just a few thoughts....
What children see- our rooms/ environments should portray Christ. If you look around, do you see anything that hinders you from seeing the cross? The first step to having environments that portray Christ is to be very intentional about the toys and books and puzzles that we have in our classrooms. We don’t want children to see anything while they are here that would point them to anything other than Jesus. One thing to consider may be to avoid having toys or books with characters. Not that there is anything wrong with these toys, but we want everything, even play time to point to Jesus. I prefer to keep toys simple and limited to blocks, dolls, food & cars. Blocks can be the ark when you’re learning about Noah, the tower of Babel, the city of Jericho, a mountain, a city, a cross and so many other things. We want children to see the Bible and to see Bible truths.
What children hear- Other than the obvious proclaiming of the truth through the lesson, this comes across in 2 key areas.... the songs we sing and the conversations we have.
When we think of songs, we choose songs, even for the littlest children, based on their gospel content. With young toddlers we might sing “Jesus died on the cross, on the cross, on the cross. Jesus died on the cross to take away our sin.” With older kids we sing songs like “Mighty Mighty Savior.” We want every song to point children to the truth of their sinfulness and Jesus’ death in their place. Other children’s songs are fun, but they aren’t why we’re here.
As we think of conversations we should always be pointing them back to the cross. This could be retelling the story or asking review questions while 6-7 year olds are coloring (we don’t want to waste those precious moments), or when 10-11 years ask difficult questions, answering them with the Word (actually looking up and reading the Word) instead of just worldly wisdom, or something simple like having 1 year olds repeat Bible truth as you hand them a cookie - can you say Thank You God for my snack. God takes care of us. Or, repeating truths over and over with 2-3 year olds. This summer when I was teaching that age group I remember one week where there were 4 things to glue on a page for a craft. With each one I went around the circle, handing them the piece and asking repeated questions. While glueing the cross it was - who died on the cross? where did Jesus die? why did Jesus die on the cross?, repeated over and over. Look for opportunities to weave gospel conversations into the time you have with the kids.
During times of discipline - When children misbehave we have the perfect time to talk about the gospel.
(a) We can ask them why they did what they did. Usually they’ll say they don’t know. At that point you can say, ‘I know why you hit your friend. It’s called sin. The Bible tells us that we are all sinners. This means that our hearts are sick and we do things that we know are wrong.’
(b) Ask them what the consequence should be for their behavior. Most children will admit that they there should be consequences. Talk about the consequence (sitting in time out, or telling their parents), then say something like, ‘The Bible tells us that we deserve to be punished for breaking God’s law. We all deserve punishment, because we are all sinners. Thankfully the Bible also tells us about Jesus. Jesus came to earth and took the punishment that we deserved. Jesus died on the cross in our place. Jesus died to pay for our sin.‘
(c) With older kids this can be a great opportunity to talk about repentance and forgiveness. You can help kids see that because of sin we all need salvation and that salvation is only possible through Jesus.
- During times of prayer - Prayer time is a great opportunity to point kids to Jesus. In older groups you’ll often have kids ask you to pray for things for them. With older kids we can use their prayer requests to teach on the character of God. If they ask prayer for a sick family member for example, you can ask if this person knows Jesus. You can then pray for their physical healing, and you can also pray that they would trust in the sovereign God. You can pray that this sickness will help them to grow closer to God. This is also a great time for them to hear you praying and see prayer modeled and is also a good time for you to direct their prayer. We can use pray time to teach children to praise God and not just give a list of requests. In classes with little ones (babies and 1 year olds), you can pray over them while you are comforting them when they’re upset so they can hear truth proclaimed.