Ever wonder why it's so hard for your grade-schooler to pay attention during church? Dr. Christine Readdick, a professor of child development at Florida State University, says it's because elementary-age children still think in concrete terms. "When the minister talks about fishes and loaves, kids can understand," says Readdick. "But when he talks about abstract things like morality, that's when children start to shuffle, lay their head on your lap, or kick the pew in front of them. It's literally over their heads."
One way to help your child stay connected is to draw the sermon or Scripture readings for him during the service. In the book The Hidden Art of Homemaking (Tyndale), author Edith Schaeffer says that simple line drawings, which require no more than a willingness to think creatively, can illustrate the message for your child. "Anything that can be depicted with a stick-figure drawing will be better understood by children this age," says Readdick.
For example, if the sermon is on the story of Zacchaeus the Tax Collector in Luke 19, draw a short stick-figure of Zacchaeus (maybe with a dollar sign on his body) sitting in a tree and trying to see Jesus. Then draw a group of stick people surrounding Jesus. Draw the scene again, only this time draw Jesus reaching out to Zacchaeus. Draw question marks over the people's heads as if they questioned why Jesus would join a sinner like Zacchaeus. Next, show Zacchaeus giving his dollar sign to Jesus representing repentance. Use exclamation points to illustrate excitement, and write the words "salvation" and "seek and find" near the pictures to label the lesson.
As your children get older, encourage them to create their own illustrations. They can even take on the role of drawing pictures for younger siblings.
The purpose is not fine art, but better understanding. Your child will find even crazy art interesting—and since he's paying attention, he'll want to understand more.
Drawing Your Child to the Word
As you begin this exercise with your child, remember that it probably won't go perfectly the first time. Don't give up. Be aware of what works and what doesn't. "Take into consideration that some children are more visual, some learn by listening, and others only learn by doing," says Readdick.
- Find a blank notebook just for Sundays. It will quickly become a family treasure as you add to it each week. On each page write the date and the key Scriptures from that day.
- As you listen to the Scripture reading, draw whatever comes to your mind. You can draw boxes around the pictures as the story unfolds. Embellish as you listen.
- Involve your child by writing simple yes-or-no questions and let him circle the correct answer. He may want to add his own details to your pictures.
Some sermons seem full of picture potential while others have more abstract messages. Think about how your child might apply the abstract concept to his own life and draw it. Write out main points in simple words. If the sermon is about forgiveness, draw your child saying, "That's okay," after little sister knocks his block tower down ("Oops!"). Don't feel you must draw constantly. Just get the main ideas on paper and have fun. You're bound to see your child's newfound enthusiasm during church, and that's a blessing.
Copyright © 2002 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today magazine.
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Summer 2002, Vol. 14, No. 3, Page 21