For the past two months the kids ministry at my local church has adopted a discipleship ministry that has been on my heart for over a year. Since the beginning of August, I have been standing in front of a group of kids to teach them deep doctrinal truths for the purpose of seeing them grow in the grace and knowledge of God in Christ. I have learned a lot and been surprised by many things. However, there is one thing that has not surprised me and is in fact the motivation for this new teaching ministry: Kids can and do understand deep theological truths. And kids in Christ love these truths!
With regard to teaching children, Charles Spurgeon once said,
If there be any doctrine too difficult for a child, it is rather the fault of the teacher’s conception of it than of the child’s power to receive it, provided that child be really converted to God (Come Ye Children: Practical Help Telling Children About Jesus, 10).
For anyone involved in kids ministry, these words from Spurgeon are like a punch in the gut, especially for those who have resorted to teaching kids no more than a running list of morals or children friendly versions of Bible stories. I never have understood how Noah and all of those animals could look like they were taking a walk on the beach when an earth-destroying flood was on the way. But I totally agree with the heart of Spurgeon’s thought here. Kids can understand deep theological truths and the onus is on the teachers to communicate these deep doctrinal truths in ways that are accessible to kids.
I am both humbled and encouraged by these words from Spurgeon. I am humbled because I look at my life and my abilities and clearly see that I am inadequate for the massive task of teaching deep truths to young minds that can so easily be manipulated. How am I to plainly teach some of the most important and deep realities to kids? How am I to employ kid friendly illustrations in a way that kids can understand without straying from the essential message of the Bible? These thoughts and more enter my mind on a weekly basis as I prepare to stand before 20-40 kids on any given Wednesday night and teach the Word.
Although the task of teaching deep truths to young and hungry hearts is massive and even a bit frightening, there is reason for encouragement in taking up the task of teaching theological truths to kids. There is no age requirement or intellectual test a person must pass in order to be saved. Kids and adults alike are saved by the pleasure of God’s glorious grace. It is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone that a person is saved. Kids come to Christ because Christ bids them, “Come!” In the words of Spurgeon,
He is the receiver of all who come to Him…All His life might be drawn as a shepherd with a lamb in His bosom: never as a cruel shepherd setting his dogs upon the lambs and driving them and their mothers away (Come Ye Children, 18-19).
Jesus receives children and never pushes them away. We must do the same in our teaching in kids ministry. We must not push kids away from deep truths that their hearts crave–care, love, leadership, instruction, and satisfaction. In my experience leading kids, it is abundantly clear to me that kids desire satisfaction above all else. This is manifested in various ways in various kids, but every kid, no matter where they come from want to be satisfied in one way or another. When we teach big truths like the doctrine of God, the Trinity, original sin, substitutionary atonement, biblical inerrancy, etc. we offer to their hungry hearts the food that will satisfy like nothing else.
Every week I have the greatest opportunity in life. I teach the Bible and preach the gospel to kids every single Wednesday night. I am humbled by this responsibility, but encouraged by the opportunity. God saves sinners. Children included. He saves through the message of the gospel. The capacity of a kid to understand and communicate big doctrinal truths once amazed me and is now (gladly) becoming a glorious normality. And when a child trusts Christ and actually understands what is going on, I am immensely delighted. Young minds need big truths. May we never stop teaching!
It is ours to make doctrine simple; this is to be a main part of our work. Teach the little ones the whole truth and nothing but the truth; for instruction is the great want of the child’s nature…Children in grace have to grow, rising to greater capacity in knowing, being, doing, and feeling, and to greater power from God; therefore above all things they must be fed (Come Ye Children, 10).
Mathew Gilbert is a student at Boyce College (B.A. Biblical and Theological Studies). He is the author of the forthcoming book Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God (CrossBooks). Mathew lives in London, KY with his wife, Erica, and their dog, Simba. You can follow him on Twitter @Mat_Gilbert.