I will never forget the moment when I told my mom I wanted to be a missionary in the Middle East.
I think I can still hear her scream of “WHAT?!” ringing in my ears! Now, my mom lovingly supports our lives here, but I definitely took her by surprise!
I was fearless. Newly married to my also fearless husband, we hopped on a plane and moved to the Middle East where we spent two years fearlessly proclaiming the gospel in a country where Christians had been martyred for their faith, and the news of another bomb going off had become a regular, somewhat normal occurrence. We traveled to parts of the country where many other foreigners would never consider traveling. We brought the gospel to a small, tiny village where it is very likely that we were the only Christians who had ever set foot on the dusty floors of their home and cafes. In the face of possible persecution, we were completely enamored and lost in our love for Jesus that we didn’t give any of these ideas a second thought.
Then, everything changed.
I realized it as I laid in a bed at the hospital after a long birth, holding this bundle of pink blankets where a tiny babe slept peacefully: my first daughter. A good friend and mother of four sent her well wishes, saying “Isn’t is amazing that you and your husband’s love together with the hand of God created this tiny and sweet eternal soul?” Wait, eternal? What? In that moment, I experienced fear about the work we were doing.
I wasn’t worried about her being hurt or losing her. My fear was deeper than physical fear. It was spiritual. Living here was fine for me, but what about my daughter? I have a stable walk with God- what about her? How would she respond to hearing the call to prayer five times a day? How would she handle being the only Christian child at her school? Or how was she going to handle the pressures of being raised with Christianity as the minority religion?
My daughter is now three and a half years old, and we have a second daughter now as well. Sometimes, these fears still creep into my soul, but when I remember the goodness of the Lord they subside.
Over the years of raising these girls in a predominately Muslim country, I have learned one very important fact: our children can handle theology!
“Why aren’t we like other people?”
This idea hit me right in the face one day: my daughter asked something that I had not prepared for yet. “Mommy?” she said. “The mosques are just so beautiful, why can’t we go pray in those like our friends do?” Wow! To be honest, I didn’t think she was old enough to understand that he friends prayed in a mosque. That is when it occurred to me that if she could understand this, then she could understand truth. I explained to her about how they believe in something else, something not from the Bible. I introduced her to the basic idea of Islam and how it goes against what we learn in the Bible. We talked about the rules of prayer that govern Islam and how we are free to pray at any time and any way, and how we are even instructed to pray all of the time! We talked about Jesus and how he wants our Muslim friends to know the truth. Now, sometimes when my daughter hears the call to prayer she says, “We can pray anytime we want, so let’s pray right now!”
Just as the Lord opens our eyes to understand His Word, we have to trust that He will do this to our children as well. After the mosque question, I began to introduce basic doctrine and theology to my daughter. We talk about how everyone has sin, even mommy and daddy. It might seem over their heads, but it isn’t. We talk about the Great Commission. We talk about how to love our friends like Jesus did, and we talk about persecution and how sometimes people may not like us.
What I had originally thought would be topics too mature for my three-year-old have turned out to be an enlightening and conversations for both of us!
Now, did she understand everything at once? No. Is she some theological prodigy gifted to understand these things early? No, I don’t think so. She is a normal, wild preschooler that I had highly underestimated.
Around the dinner table, and at the playground, and at the market…
Theology and doctrine have become regular conversations between my child and I. Originally I was scared of raising her surrounded by a false belief, afraid she would become confused about what is true and what is not. In fact, the opposite has been true. Instead of running away from these dramatically different beliefs, I welcome them as opportunities to shepherd my child in the way she should go. Instead of sheltering her, I am working to build a solid base for her from the very beginning. At some point or another, she is going to see and hear these beliefs, so I have decided that I would rather tell her about them myself rather than wait for someone else to impact her knowledge on these various subjects.
So, how do we go about teaching our kids theology?
Well, first we read the Bible with them!
We do not have to wait until a certain age to introduce the Bible to our children. The traditional Sunday School Bible stories are a great resource to enforce God’s great plan to our children. The Psalms teach our children how to worship. Working through Proverbs helps our children know how to act. Paul’s letters show us how to live, and the Old Testament stories contribute to God’s great plan of salvation. Even if our children don’t fully understand everything we are explaining, we are giving them a base for deeper theological topics in the future.
Second, we show them how important theology is to our lives.
When my daughter sins, I remind her that we obey God because he loves us and takes care of us. I reminder her to hope because of Jesus when she is discouraged. When she says that she just can’t be patient or she can’t be loving, I remind her that the Holy Spirit is here to help her. Not only do I guide her, I also try to demonstrate this by examples in my own life. I admit to her when I am struggling and need help. I confess when I sin against her and model asking for forgiveness.
Lastly, we strive to answer their questions to the best of our ability.
We don’t need to hide from these questions! Even basic truths are still truths. Sometimes these questions can be difficult. Just like the Holy Spirit is here to help our children learn, He can also help us to answer these questions. It is ok to tell your child you aren’t sure but you will try to learn and tell them. It is even ok to say you simply don’t understand, but you trust God and He says it is true and so it is.
My top three favorite resources for teaching theology to my daughter have been
The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung and Don Clark
This book is a short chapter book that describes the ultimate plan of God. The material is advanced, but the pictures are so stunning that even my three year old stays captivated and asks questions.
The Truth and Grace Memory Book.
This book has Bible verses, hymns and catechism questions split into different ages for children to learn. The catechism questions especially have been a great tool for introducing theology and how it applies to our lives.
I recently learned that for almost every memory verse, there is a video on Youtube of this verse in song. Singing these verses as songs with my child throughout the day has really helped her to remember them for herself! I would have never imagined that my three year old would have eight bible verses memorized. These songs have been a great tool for that, and a great tool for me to memorize some new ones as well!
Also check out Seeds Family Worship albums for great Scripture Songs that sound great to adult ears, too.
Raising up disciples
Our kids are smarter than we think! Instead of focusing on raising up children, let’s focus on raising up disciples who just happen to be children because…
They can handle it!
Powered by WPeMatico