Jesus to a 4 year old

Okay, so I’m terrible at telling my kids about Jesus.  Yes, this is confession time.

Yes we have books about Jesus.  We have bought tons of books from the Christian bookstore.  We’ve tried to get the kids to watch Veggie Tales and I’m thankful that 3-2-1 Penguins usually throws in some Bible verses and prayer.  We say our prayers before the kids go to sleep.  Slight caveat – when we’re not completely exhausted and just trying to survive and get them to actually go to sleep.  We do say prayers when we sit down to eat although not so good if we’re in the car eating a happy meal.  You get the drift.

It’s weird that something that is a big portion of my life and significant portion of Mike’s and the rest of the families – is not something that I know how to communicate to two little people.  I’m starting to think that the kids during children’s sermons are humoring me and actually have no idea what I’m talking about half the time, or like I think – they’re just super smart.

So I’ve been trying to do better.  I’ve been asking Enoch about Jesus or what he knows about Jesus.  He immediately said Father Voss talks about Jesus.  Thank you again Episcopal Day School for coming through for me!  Enoch is now wanting us to tell him stories when he goes to bed.  And of course, he wants super heroes and Iron Man.

So last night I’m telling him about super heroes like Iron Man and Spider Man and Batman and the greatest, most powerful super hero of all – Jesus.  Could be kind of lame, I know.  And then he interrupts my story because he wants to know about the bad guys.  He is always curious about the bad guys.  Where do the bad guys live?  What do they do?  He even asked about their mommies and daddies.  So then I start telling him about the bad guys and I’m going down this path like not all bad guys are really bad.  Some of them want to be good, but they’re misunderstood.  You know – misunderstood – is not something I think Enoch gets.  So hear I am, this preacher who was an English major and I am struggling and I do mean struggling to tell this Super Hero Jesus story and give some exposition about the bad guys and use words that he would understand in his tired, just turned four year old state, and wowzers.  That is hard.

I came downstairs after Enoch fell asleep listening to my story.  (Of course my awesome story was not related to him falling asleep, that was just a coincidence.)  And I’m talking to Mike about telling Enoch about Jesus and I’m like, if only there was a cool cartoon.  An awesome very kid-friendly cartoon with Super Jesus.  But then I thought, well that would be potentially very cool but also could be very weird and not well done.  Although the healings and the teachings and the letting the children come to him would work well, I don’t know how the crucifixion would play.  And what would Jesus look like?  Our blond haired blue eyed Jesus or the for real Middle Eastern Jesus?

My mom has been looking a lot at children’s Bibles and Bible story books about Jesus’ life and she says it’s hard to find them now showing a picture of the cross.  Most seem to go straight from healing and teaching to Easter without any in between.  She was saying that it’s hard to tell the story in a way that makes sense when you start with a baby and end at Easter with nothing in between.  A baby that’s born in a stable and then grows up and comes back to life.  There’s so much more to it.  The teaching – the love, the sharing, the care for those that are sick, or as I was saying last night the one who is kind to people that aren’t feeling well, who are sad, who are scared, who need a hug.

Part of me thinks – no worries – when he gets bigger we’ll take him on mission trips, we’ll show him the joy of giving his clothes and toys away to people who need them, we’ll teach him how to share and be kind and honest with people.  It will be a lot easier to explain this stuff to him then.  But there is a foundation being built now in the world view of a child that separates the world into super heroes and bad guys.  We haven’t even gotten into the bad guy turned super hero or super hero turned bad guy.  It’s just funny to think about and ponder.  With as much Christian marketing and advertising and everything under the sun Jesus-related from mints to bracelets to shoelaces to action figures, you would think that it would be easier to explain something so all over the place.

And it is.  But it’s not.  How would you describe Jesus to a 4 year old or a 2 year old?  What do these stories that are our stories, our sacred texts – what do they say about God and Jesus and the Spirit and the world and us?  What do they say about how we treat one another or who we can go to when we’re scared or hungry or hurt?  How do we teach this?  Or sometimes even more importantly – how do we model this?  (I for real need to not watch South Carolina baseball around the children because I’m not such a good model during any Gamecock game.)

So, I’ll be continuing to figure out how to tell a child about Jesus.  I know some of you have that down pat and if any of you are in the Rock Hill area and want to take Enoch and Evy to lunch or to the park to tell them, let me know.  I trust that we’ll figure it out.  I trust that they’ll one day get it.  And I trust that in my trying to ineptly explain this to them, I’ll learn a heck of a lot too.

In thinking about how I learned about Jesus – I think about VBS and Sunday School and singing in children’s choirs.  One of the songs that I clearly remember is this one.  It is so in my head now.  AAAHHH!!!!

6 thoughts on “Jesus to a 4 year old

  1. Narcie, I’m not sure why I just got to reading this post…they come to my e-mail and sometimes I get to read them right then and sometimes I need to wait a little while. And I just saw this one again dealing with another e-mail! But trust me, this problem does NOT get easier as the kid gets older. You’re doing great. My 6-year-old saw The Prince of Egypt (a movie that almost made me lose my faith in seminary, btw) at “Wacky Wednesday,” and then declared right before bed (after our say-it-every-night-the-same-way prayers): “Mommy, I just can’t love God as much as you do.” He had been horrified by God killing little Ramses…Not fun for a mommy to try to explain after a long day, with a child who can’t sleep for that image in his mind! After trying for a while, I finally told him to think about Monster Trucks (his favorite things) and happy things, and go to sleep, and we’d continue the conversation in the morning. Ugh!!

  2. As a Christian, it is our job to teach our children about the Word of God, Jesus, Christ (whichever you may choose use), and the goodness of his works! Maybe even Bible puts it, “Plant the seed” and let God do the rest. Not necessarily in the manner that Mrs. Frink above did (paint horrible pictures of God “Killing”) especially to a small child who already has an over-active imagination, but to simply teach them about the Lord, in a way that they’ll process it and understand. If you are a Christian, and have reservations about passing your knowledge down to your children, first thing I’d advise is to learn more about it yourself. Do some more research & reading the Bible instead of relying on other people to tell you (as each persons interpretation & understanding varies). To answer your question, NO you are not WRONG for wanting to teach your child/ren about God, however the method in which you do so is up to you. You & your family will be in my prayers & keep up the good work mommy 😉

    1. Thanks for posting both of you! I definitely think we’re planting seeds with our children and those we meet along the way. From what Rev. Richardson-Frick said, it wasn’t her choice to show the movie to her son, but I can certainly understand the implications of him seeing it. When I taught VBS to different age ranges last week from 2-3 year olds on up to 5th grade the lesson we were supposed to do was about Passover. My co-teacher used a younger picture Bible for the younger children and an older one for the older kids. The younger one didn’t show a river of blood or talk about what the “passover” part meant in terms of sparing children, and the older one didn’t have a ton about it, but some. What was interesting was how many kids in the class had seen the movie and knew all about it. It’s often surprising to me what we think of as children’s stories and how very un-child-like they are. You’re right that a lot of it has to do with how we communicate it to the child and children respond in different ways. For me, it’s fascinating to try to come up with language for them to understand as a pastor who gives weekly children’s sermons and one is in full-time ministry. Our faith is so very basic and easy to understand in many ways. It’s just funny how we complicate it sometimes.

  3. I know you wrote this blog like a YEAR ago…but I just found it, searching for “how to teach a 3 year old about God” … I totally relate to this! I never feel like i’m doing enough. I thought you would get a kick out of what happened last night at our house. We FINALLY got some much needed rain, in the form of a very hefty storm and my 3.5 yr old wanted to run around in the rain…however there was also lightning and in explaining to him why he can’t play outside when it’s lightning I said, “you would go away FOREVER and Mom would be really sad”, …”Where would I go?” … “Well, you would go to Heaven, which is AWESOME, but I don’t want you to go there until you are very old.” …We have a Little Blessings book called “What about Heaven” (totally LOVE that book series, they are on Amazon, if you don’t have them) so as I’m saying “you would go to Heaven” and realizing I’ve been teaching him that Heaven is good, my argument for not playing in the lightning was falling apart. =)

  4. Narcie, it pains me so much cause I do not feel that we taught our kids enough about Jesus. As they grew up they did not like going to church. We actually left the church for about 10 years while they were small. When we came back they spent the time taking care of others in the nursery. They did not have much to do in Sunday School either. I pray they find their walk with The Lord especially for our son, Josh. I feel both our kids believe in God but is that enough? Teach your children now no matter how difficult cause there may come a time when they won’t listen. Praying!

    1. It is definitely NOT enough to believe in God! Even the demons believe in God and they definitely aren’t going to heaven! Your kids are never too old to have an honest discussion with them and a sincere invitation for salvation. Since this is heavy on your heart, you may very well be the person God wants to use to do just that.

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