Your child's spiritual development is closely connected to her physical and emotional development. For children to thrive spiritually, biblical truths needs to be presented in age-appropriate ways. Use these developmental clues to find out if your child's Sunday school program is having maximum impact:
Birth to preschool:
Children in this range are developing their sensory and motor skills. Lively and interactive spiritual activities can enhance their motor skills, and simple board-book stories will introduce a positive concept of God. Classrooms should be full of fun and laughter, not "shhh" and "sit down!"
Preschool to early elementary:
As children begin school, their interests become a bit more individualized. But they still rely on concrete facts as they form their understanding of God. They also grasp spiritual concepts through allegorical stories. Classes should still include a lot of activity, but stories and follow-up discussion times are needed to reinforce spiritual lessons.
Early elementary to middle school:
As children gradually move toward independence, their concepts about God also move that direction. They begin to want to discover and experience God in their own way. While activity is important for kids this age, Sunday school classes also need to help kids personalize stories and allow them time for self-reflection.
Middle school through adolescence:
Kids in this range are becoming more independent, and their spiritual lives and faith become very personal. As a teen's thought life accepts more abstract concepts, they're likely to ask more questions and explore the deeper issues of faith. Classes need to help kids think through their hard questions and show them how to apply spiritual truths to everyday situations.
Make Sunday School Special
It's just an hour or two every week. But you can make the most of your child's experience in Sunday school or children's church with these ideas:
Commit to a weekly routine. Make sure your kids get to class on time every week. Like regular attendance at school, your kids will develop a sense of comfort and belonging with consistent attendance.
Visit your children's classes. Better yet, volunteer to help. You don't have to teach, but you can help individual children with crafts or read a Bible story to the class. Your presence communicates to your children that you think Sunday school is important.
Have a conversation. After church, look through your children's take-home papers, drawings, or any other items they've brought home and ask what they're learning. "Tell me about your story in Sunday school today." "What did you draw and what do you think it means?" Ask what songs they sang, what activities they did, what they like and don't like about class. Again, they'll enjoy class more if they sense that it's important to you.
Attend parent meetings. Ask your pastor or Sunday school superintendent to hold monthly or quarterly meetings for parents. Connect with other parents and talk about your children's spiritual growth. Teachers can let parents know about upcoming lessons, and advise parents how to supplement lessons at home through prayer times, family devotion times, reading, and music.
Copyright © 2003 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian Parenting Today magazine.
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