Teachable Moments

Raising School Age Kids Who Thirst After Jesus

I wrote a book and I thought I’d give you a “foretaste” of what is in it.  It’s called, God Never Changes, But My Family Always Does, and you can buy it on Amazon. I hope you enjoy reading it if you do.  I love how I got the privilege of really thinking through what it means to disciple our kids to become God-worshippers throughout their childhood and adolescence.

Each life stage of a child is examined through a theological lens and then, practically worked out in everyday moments of family life.  Today, I’d like to look at our Elementary Age Kids – also known as the School Age or Middle Childhood years. These children are ages 6 – 10 years old.

I suggest we consider this:

“God is present with us, engaging with us on an intimate, emotional level.  God is also truthful…He never lies. This understanding of God along with a strong theology of work, offers a firm foundation for parents who are navigating the school age years (ages 6-10) in which children derive their future identity, purpose and faith.” (Smith, CH 4)

What theology is most pertinent to this life stage?

  • Work – God gives work to us as a divine responsibility and can show our faith in Him through our attitudes, behavior and work relationships.  The amount of work kids do at this life stage increases rapidly and exponentially.
  • Truth – God is the author of all that is true.  Children are learning more and more and as they think critically, have to decide what is true and what is false at this stage.
  • Emotions – God is an emotional God and we learn about our emotions and how to handle them as we study His Word.  Children’s emotions become increasingly more complex in this life stage.

What key things should we know about School Age Kids (6-10 year olds)?

  • BODY – these children form habits physically that they will carry with them for years to come
  • MIND – learning to read, developing critical thinking skills, and showing a preference for a particular learning style emerge
  • HEART – taking on more personal responsibility, growing in their self-efficacy, and developing their self-concept and self-esteem all influence their family relationships and friends
  • SOUL – discovering Bible facts, asking lots of questions about God and doctrine, and discerning where they stand in their relationship with Jesus are key faith formation issues

How does our theology direct how we interact with our kids on a day-to-day basis?

  • WORK:  School for children is the work of middle childhood.  Learning to read is one of their biggest tasks and making the most of their literacy skills helps ground them in God’s Word.  How can we help develop a biblical worldview of work for our child as they learn to read and get their homework done?
    • Monitor your attitude toward your own job.  If you complain about work, you might expect them to complain about school.
    • Develop conscientious work habits; we are to do everything we do with excellence (Colossians 3:23) as we work for the Lord.  Everything we do should glorify God – our attitudes and our actions in work (1 Cor. 10:31). Do children see that working hard at their schoolwork is a way they can glorify God.
    • Remember:  work isn’t just getting something done.  It is the divine venue God gives us to be a model for the world of what it looks like to serve and love God faithfully.  Discuss this with your child and model it with your life.
  • TRUTH:  As children develop their critical thinking skills, they will be trying to decide what truth is and where they find it.  How can we help children know what is true and where to find truth?
    • “God can never lie and therefore, we can trust God Himself and His word.  We can trust God’s will, promises and law. All that God reveals is true.” (Smith, CH 4)  Discuss what truth is and where it comes from so children know that God is the one they should turn to in order to understand their world and how to live within it.
    • “We do not set ourselves apart from the world because we are in fear of it, but rather we set ourselves apart in how we understand our world because of what we know about God.”  How does using scripture as a lens change how you see your everyday life and global events?  Discuss this with your child.
  • EMOTIONS:  Children learn to identify more complex emotions and feel more deeply as they grow older.  How can we help develop our child’s self-awareness about what they feel and how to manage their emotions wisely?
    • “God isn’t shy about expressing how He feels toward His creation.  God is always completely involved and is transparent with His feelings, expressing them appropriately and effectively.  God is many things, but He is never indifferent.” How does knowing that – we have emotions because we are made after the likeness of God and He has emotions – influence how we look at our emotions and how we handle them?
    • “God will never sin (impeccability) due to His emotions and is not tempted to be anyone other than who He is.”  Consider how your emotions tempt you away from being faithful in living a God-worshipping life and turn to God in prayer, asking Him for His Spirit-given self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).  Show your child we run to God with all that we are feeling.

Dear reader, let’s keep an eternal perspective while interacting with our children.  Realize that the ultimate goal is for our children to know and love God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength; don’t get too caught up in the hustle and bustle of raising school age kids that you miss the everyday Teachable Moments.  

May each of us be constantly redirecting our focus toward God and living a life that demonstrates what it means to worship Him moment by moment.  May our children notice and come to love Him too.

Blessings to each of you dear friends – thanks for reading!  Elizabeth

PS – This blog post is in honor of my dear friend, Dr. Mary Martin, who is following the call of God in her life by taking a new job.  While we may not be on the same faculty anymore, I have been blessed to work with you in the Elementary Education Major at Moody Bible Institute.  May God bless the work of your hands as you spread His truth by helping teachers and children love the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.  I miss you already, Mary. Love Always!

Teachable Moments

What Makes Us Special

“Mommy!  Why am I so special?”  was the question the little guy in front of me in the Walmart aisle was demanding his Mother answer.  His Grandma who was with him had just told him that he was so special, had pinched his cheeks and then kissed and hugged him enthusiastically.  Giggling and squirming aside, this little guy wanted a rationale for the explosive gestures of love he had just been showered with.  His mother went on and on about all his cute physical qualities, his amazing personality characteristics and how great he was as a son and brother; lists of attributes which set him apart was the basis of her reply.

Now on first listen, we may not think anything of her answer and in truth, there is nothing really wrong with it.  However, if we leave our “specialness” as people to what we are like, what we do, and what makes being in a relationship with us so wonderful, we actually miss the deeper theological truth we can share with our children.  Yes, tell them how great they are, but let’s not leave it at that.

What makes us special?  In Genesis 1 and 2, God lets us know that we alone in creation are made in His image; we are the object of His special love and the pinnacle of His creation. Being an image bearer sets us apart in some way, so now, we just have to figure out what that way is. Throughout the centuries, it is man’s communicable qualities with God, or his mission and function in the world or his relationship abilities that have been tied to image bearing.  And while all of these have merit, there is nothing that uniquely qualifies man to be set apart which is equally displayed throughout all the human race. We are indeed a diverse bunch!

What is the image we bear?  If we view Genesis 2 as an unpacking of Genesis 1, the one thing that emerges in Genesis 2:7 is that God breathed life into Adam; this can be translated the breath of life or perhaps even better, the Soul of life or the Spirit of life.  If we view this as what makes us special, then this explains why God sees all humans as equally valuable. Only humanity has what is required to be a participant in God’s special love (special providence).

If the soul qualifies us for specialness, then all external factors are secondary.  So whether our children are gifted intellectually or struggle, whether they have perfect eye sight or require braces to walk, whether they connect with everyone or are unable to attach to anyone, every person has a complete God-given soul which makes them equally valuable and a recipient of His redemption and glory; God’s general love applies to everyone.  

How do we communicate this image-bearing specialness to our children?  Children want to hear what makes them special and their unique qualities are great to articulate so it gives them an idea of how God has made them individually unique.  However, there is a specialness about them that has nothing to do with individual qualities but rather celebrates their uniqueness as a part of the human race. Connecting them to the whole of what it means to be human is just as important as what sets them apart from everyone else.  

Being made in God’s image, we as people are special because:

  • We are different from the rest of creation
    • See how beautiful the stars are and the flowers that bloom?  See how fun our puppy is and how cuddly our kitten?  We are more special than these.
  • God is Spirit and so are we; we have a soul.
    • We are the only part of creation that has the very breath of God (Genesis 2:7).  God took His very essence and placed this within us.  
  • As believers, our soul can be united with God.
    • We all sin; but God so values us, He removed the sin that separates us from Himself and unites our soul with Himself if we believe (John 3:16).  He does this for people alone – not angels, not mountains, not animals.  Only people are united with God spiritually
  • What makes me special is my soul, so it doesn’t matter if I’m not the prettiest, smartest, strongest or most popular.  I am already special no matter what anyone else says.
    • Everyone is worthy of compassion, time, attention and help merely because they are human.  Our worth is not based on our comparison to one another, but the mere fact that we have a soul, given to us by God.  We see this truth in the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

What makes me special?  When God revealed who He was to Moses, he said to tell the people that “I Am” sent you.  We could take this apologetic and echo it in our defense of our worth; I am special merely because I am.  That is enough. We are of infinite value and worthy of respect, and kindness and love merely because we are.

Dear Reader, how freeing it is for each of us and our children to realize our worth has nothing to do with what we can and can’t accomplish, or what our personality is or isn’t like, or what other people do or don’t enjoy about us.  My worth, your worth, their worth is untouchable. I encourage you to give your children a sense of their worth by not just telling them what makes them individually special, but why amidst all of creation, their worth is found in God’s design of them; they are image bearers with a soul and thus, they have an unshakable value.

Blessings to each of you!  Fondly yours, Elizabeth

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)