One of my favorite parts of studying the Bible is discovering the culture in which it was written. I find that understanding the culture helps bring deeper meaning to passages and a new respect for the people who lived at that time. I often wonder how different our culture is from those in the Bible. So many times we hear from older generations about how different our culture is from “the good old days”, but the Bible says that there is nothing new under the sun. When we read the Bible, we see that they struggled with many of the same social issues we face today: sexual immorality, homosexuality, false religions, and questioning God’s existence. While many of these issues are not new, we are now daily saturated with them in the media. Just turn on the television and we’re daily “entertained” by teen moms, the new “normal”, and the Big Bang Theory.
The issue is that our culture does not have a biblical worldview, but one that is distorted by sin. Our worldview is how we interpret the world around us. It determines what we believe and how we live out those beliefs. Most of society looks at life through a fallen worldview, causing their values to become distorted, making way to sinful actions.
Our goal in children’s ministry should be to teach our children how to have a biblical worldview—one where God is at the center of all we do. When God is at our center, His Word determines our beliefs and His heart shapes our values. It is only then that our actions will be that of a holy and righteous people.
Part of the problem our children face is that a mixed message is being sent using Christian values and God’s Word to justify immorality. Society tells us that Christians are supposed to love everyone, we are all equal, and God made me this way. These can all be true statements when used in the right context, but today’s culture twists them to paint Christians as hypocrites and intolerant. It’s no wonder our children are confused and falling for the lies of today’s culture.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Satan twist Scripture for his purposes. In Matthew 4, we read of the temptation of Jesus. After His baptism, Jesus went out to the desert and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. The devil came to tempt Jesus, quoting the Psalms and manipulating their intent. However, Jesus was able to use Scripture as His defense. Jesus not only knew the Word of God, but more importantly, He knew the heart of the Father. The problem today is that the devil knows Scripture better than our children and is using it to tempt them and lead them astray. It’s the same trick he used to tempt Eve in the Garden. If our children don’t know the truth, then they have nothing to stand on and will fall for any lie of the enemy.
The first step in facing this issue is to recognize that there is a problem. We can’t be naïve or blind to the fact that the enemy wants our children. As George Barna states in his book, Transforming Children Into Spiritual Champions, Satan knows that “… if you win over children, you have won the war for at least one generation and probably more.” There are clear agendas from atheists, homosexuals, and Muslims, and they are targeting our young people. We need to wake up and educate ourselves if we are ever going to prepare our children to fight the war that is being waged in their schools, the media, and society.
Our kids are facing these social issues on a daily basis. No matter how hard we try to shield them, they are in this world and they will face these topics at some point in their lives. Many parents fear that if we address the issue head on, it will tarnish their child’s innocence. However, the world is already underhandedly slipping these beliefs and values into our children’s minds and we can’t ignore it. If we wait until they are teenagers or until there is a problem, we’ll be too late.
How do we teach our children to stand up for what is holy, while still showing God’s love? How do we break the Christian stereotypes, without compromising the truth? The key is to balance our ministries between teaching biblical truths and experiencing the reality of God. When we teach from a biblical worldview, these two things should go hand-in-hand.
A true biblical worldview means a balance between Word and Spirit. John 4:23-24 says that God is looking for a people who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. For years, children’s ministry trends have gone back and forth from an emphasis on Bible study to an emphasis on hands-on experiences. We can’t depend on just one way to reach our children. We need children who can stand on the Word of God and show His heart.
It is vital for our children to know exactly what they believe. First, children need to understand that the Bible is truth. In today’s world, there is a distorted view of truth. In The Last Christian Generation, Josh McDowell states that young people “… have been conditioned to believe that each individual has been given the right to say and do what that person thinks is best for him or her.” This is what our culture teaches. Contrary to that, Jesus teaches, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
It’s easy to see how this belief can be viewed as “narrow-minded.” Of course, Jesus also said, “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14). But, when we understand the heart of the Father, we see that He desires all people to have a relationship with Him.
We must teach the entire Bible as God’s plan for redemption. The Bible is how God chooses to reveal Himself to His people. Through it we can know Him better. Teaching Christian values are beneficial, but only when they are grounded in the Word and its purpose. It’s important to always note that the Bible speaks on behalf of God’s heart—to have a relationship with His people. Every lesson, story, and value we teach should have its foundation on that point.
Our children not only need to learn the Word, but it needs to become their reality. The Bible can teach what is right and what is wrong, but only when we know God’s heart can we show His love. The only way we can know someone’s heart is to have a relationship with that person. We can teach our children all about a God who loves them, but until they know Him intimately they will never understand the depth of that love.
Having a relationship with Jesus is more than just repeating a prayer or coming to the altar. Children need opportunities to put into practice what they learn. They need to see the gifts of the Spirit being modeled, as well as learn how to use their own gifts. Having a personal experience with God solidifies what they read in the Bible. And when the Bible is their foundation, they will understand the experience. If children have one without the other, it’s only a matter of time before they will begin to question what they believe.
A Word of Caution
We must be very sensitive when approaching these issues with children. Number one, because the subject matter is often too mature for young children. Approach topics at a child’s level and from a child’s perspective. Recently, our children’s ministry taught a unit on purity, a topic many would shy away from with kids. However, we approached it from a biblical worldview. We taught that people are created in God’s image, so we are special. We then taught that our bodies are temples where the Holy Spirit lives. When children know how precious human life is and the importance of their bodies, then it will influence choices they make as teenagers and into adulthood.
The second thing to do is communicate with parents. If you plan to teach on a sensitive subject, be sure to send notice to the parents prior to the lesson being taught. We sent home letters explaining our purity lessons two weeks in advance, and then sent home weekly letters detailing the lesson. Allow parents to ask questions and/or review your material. An open dialogue will hopefully allow for the discussion to continue in the home.
Sometimes, questions arise in class that we just aren’t ready for. Be led by the Spirit and use discretion when answering. You can never go wrong when guiding a child to the Word of God or by encouraging them to talk to a parent.
Lastly, be sensitive to a child’s home life. We never want to make a child feel shame. We have to be sensitive and aware that some of our children come from homes with a secular worldview, such as unwed parents, atheists, other religions, and gay family members. We must show love to these children and their families, while not compromising the Word of God. The only way we can do that is to have a biblical worldview ourselves, and model what we preach.