“It is a sin to bore a kid with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Jim Rayburn, Founder, Young Life
“How much longer?” Kids of all ages (and adults too!) are prone to asking this timeless question in class, during homework time, while waiting for their favorite TV show to start, and especially on road trips. For some parents, it’s like nails on a chalkboard. For others, it’s an invitation to find new ways to engage. They make up songs to sing. They turn what’s boring into games. They share their own childhood survival success stories. They play along to pass the time in meaningful ways. They listen to what’s draining to kids and redirect the momentum. In so many ways, they are able to take on the challenge to bring life back to the journey.
Following Christ is a marathon expedition and our discipleship “field guide” is a very dense book. The Bible is filled with amazing biographies, true adventure stories, life-guiding principles and eternal life-giving promises. It describes what a relationship with God is all about, demonstrates the power of unconditional love and defines what matters most both now and forever. Unfortunately, too many people never get past asking “How much longer?” to find this out for themselves.
Jesus said He came so we would “have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10) and that His words are “full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63). Relating to God through His Word is intended to bring life not deplete it. Boredom can be overcome more easily if a clear bridge gets built between the world of the Bible and today’s world. When kids start losing interest, kid-influencers and parents can bring God’s Word to life with kids by modeling these three ways to be fully engaged with Scripture.
Jesus regularly used parables and object lessons to help His followers understand truths about their heavenly Father. I remember sitting with a group of three year olds near a pile of Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head parts. Honestly, I had no idea what to talk with them about but then “the Body of Christ” came to mind (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). I quickly plugged all the holes in one of the toys with arms and another with only eyes. The kids laughed and told me how silly that was. I asked them some questions about why we need our different body parts and then mentioned how the Church family is like this too. We worked together to rearrange these puzzle people. We engaged with God’s Word, learned timeless truth and had fun doing it. No one asked, “How much longer?” In fact, more kids suddenly started swarming us. Sprinkling in a bit of creativity can go a long way to bring God’s Word to life.
In the eyes of children, the Bible is just a book and you are a real person. It is hard for kids to make the connection that God relates to His children through words on a page. Recently I took my 12-year-old son to the gym. As we got ready to work out, Aaron jokingly asked me if the Bible had anything say about exercise. He was quite surprised when I quoted verses in 1 Corinthians 6 and 9about who our bodies belong to and the importance of self-discipline. My son was so surprised he said, “Who reads Corinthians? Who memorizes Corinthians?!” I went on to share with Aaron my lifelong struggles with diet and exercise. I talked with him about how God’s Word has the power to change minds, hearts, and actions if we are receptive to what we read. By being personal, you and I have the opportunity to make real-life connections for kids between the world of the Bible and the world where we live.
For six years I took my kids to week long father-son camps in the upper peninsula of Michigan along the Tahquamenon River. Swimming is a daily activity there. I’ve been to camp 12 times and the water is never warm, so when Avery or Aaron calls out “Dad! Come swim with me!” my first instinct is to stand and wave. I’m not proud of this gut reaction, but I’m not alone. Parents too easily forget the importance of playing, of getting their hands dirty and their hair wet. When children see kid-influencers say they are involved but don’t see it in action, there is a discipleship disconnect. God’s Word teaches that love is a verb (1 Corinthians 13). It’s others-focused and action-oriented. Actually reading the Bible must follow telling kids that reading it is important. Actually serving people must follow instructing kids that selfless sacrificing matters. Standing on the sidelines with Scripture is an option, but it doesn’t bring God’s Word to life with kids (or in you!).
Changing the question
As I write I’m aware that 1 Corinthians is a theme running through each of these ways to engage with the Bible. There is no end to what can be learned in Scripture. I would love for kids and parents to shift from asking “How much longer?” to “Can we dive deeper?” By being creative, personal and involved, you and I can help bring God’s Word to life with the kids He places in our path.
THIS WEEK, WHAT IS ONE WAY YOU WILL HELP BRING GOD’S WORD TO LIFE WITH KIDS?
As Director of New Ministries and Parent Engagement at Awana (awana.org), Dan Lovaglia and the team he leads are finding fresh ways to equip kids, families and ministry leaders to know, love and serve Christ. He brings 15 years of discipleship ministry experience to the table and a passion for life-changing teaching, training and team-building. Dan and his wife Kate live in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with their two fantastic teenage sons, Avery and Aaron. Follow Dan’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram @DanLovaglia or his blog at danlovaglia.wordpress.org.