Just like the faith stages of a baby and a preschooler, elementary children are still developing in language, experiencing life through the five senses, enjoying imagination and learning by imitation. But as they move from these primary stages of faith into the third stage; we find them
- Starting to put a definition to their emotions.
- Understanding the value of friends.
- Needing to be a part of the greater community.
- Sympathizing with the pain and joy of others.
- Differentiating between what is real and what is fantasy.
- Thinking more abstractly.
- Wanting to practice what they are learning.
Their Faith Grows from Their Emotions and Relationships
One Sunday in our Kid’s Ministry at church, we showed the elementary children a video of kids around the world who needed shoes. Our church was doing a churchwide shoe drive, and I wanted them to get on board with this mission.
The organization we partnered with gave us a video sharing stories of kids who had no shoes. Their feet were dirty and battered by extreme weather conditions. At the end of the clip, I asked the kids how these children may have felt not having shoes to wear? Many shared how their feet probably hurt, or they were cold, sticky, and grimy.
The call for each child was to go shopping with mom or dad and purchase one new pair of shoes and bring them to church the following Sunday. These kids were so moved by the video that many asked, “Can we bring more than one pair?” How did their faith grow that day? From the seat of their emotions and their ability to relate; their heart loved others more than themselves, just like Jesus. (Philippians 2:1-11).
How to help kids, ages 7-12, grow in faith?
1. Share Your Faith Story. Using different ways to express the power of what Jesus did for us on the cross can help your kids decide to follow Jesus. Reading scripture, doing experiments, playing a game, drawing pictures, and watching (age-appropriate) Bible movies, can help kids see their need for the Lord in their life. But even more important than these is you, the parent, sharing with them the hope you have in Jesus; your story makes faith real and credible.
2. Read stories in the Bible where the faith of others is displayed. Stories impact kid’s hearts. Reading stories about Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, David, Abigail, Ruth, Esther, etc. empowers and inspires your kids to live with faith, courage, and hope. Learning about Judas, King Saul, and Eli can teach your kids what not to do. The Bible is exciting, and kids need to see this. The elementary years is also an excellent time for children to start reading the stories themselves, but don’t neglect reading with them. At this stage, they love learning with mom and dad.
3. Read biographies of men and women of God to your kids. As with the stories in the Bible, biographies of men and women of God give your children role models to follow. With all the negativity in this world that permeates children’s surroundings, its good to show them some great examples of good people who do what is right.
4. Involve them in service projects. Capitalize on their need to practice what they learn from those they are reading about; getting them involved in service projects with your church or your community is a great outlet for them to not just think of themselves but to think of others. Serving kids are happy kids. When they serve others, they gain confidence, feel important, and live with greater purpose.
5. Be consistent with church attendance. With extra-curricular events taking families away from the church, I have seen children attend church sporadically. Did you know that the average family attends church once or twice a month? And these are the regulars. I don’t want to tell you how to fix this problem in your family; you probably know what I would say; instead of telling you what to do, let me tell you what sporadic church attendance does to the faith of your child.
- Kids lose the relational aspect of faith, lacking the support needed from friends and teachers.
- They miss out on corporate worship and prayer which serves to strengthen a believer’s trust in their powerful God and gives them hope for the week to come.
- Many children begin to think that church is not necessary; over time this belief can leave them feeling isolated and alone. I believe that young adults start to walk away from the church when they are 8 or 9 years old. It begins when parents make compromises for other less important things of this world. In life we have to draw a line in the sand like Joshua did and say, “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). You won’t regret giving up extracurricular activities for the sake of attending church. But you just might regret giving up church attendance for the sake of extracurricular activities. When you draw a line in the sand, tell your kids why you are doing this. Tell them that sometimes in life you must choose what is best over what seems good.
6. Worship and pray consistently. Yes, we worship and pray in church, but there is something quite sweet when a family does this together. You can worship in the car or at home. You can pray at meals, and at bedtime; personally, I liked praying popcorn prayers with my kids. You can be in the car or anywhere. I had my kids say a thank you to Jesus for one thing. Or we would pray for Him to help us with one thing. We went around a circle doing this over and over. It made prayer easy, comfortable and fun for them.
7. Teach to the moment. This is my favorite. Sharing a fitting word from the Bible that meets the challenge or the need of your child in that moment helps them see God at work in their situation. In times like this when your kids are struggling, they are very receptive to the truth. It makes sense; as Solomon says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).
The elementary years are what I call ‘the golden years of spiritual impression.’ You can accomplish so much with your kids spiritually at this stage. They are hungry and thirsty! What you do with your children in this stage stays with them. Don’t miss out on the opportunity!
Jesus is a gift we give our children. His truth is like honey, a treasure, a pear of great price. We would never withhold a Christmas or Birthday gift from our kids, would we? And these gifts are things that will pass away one day; however, Jesus, He is the Eternal Gift – the Way, the Truth, and the Life! So, let us not “withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in our power to act” (Proverbs 3:27). Amen?