Children are participating in sports, in the arts, in education, and organized socialization at younger and younger ages. There are infant enrichment classes, Toddler soccer leagues and more. While there are lots of opinions on the value of these early introductions, it made me wonder what people think about the early faith development of our youngest children.
In His book, Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions, George Barna did extensive research on the ages when people are most likely to accept Christ as Savior. His findings looked something like this:
Probability of Accepting Christ at this age
Ages 5- 12 year olds = 32%
Ages 13-18 years old =4%
Ages 19 + years old = 6 %
Statistically, elementary children are much more likely to accept Christ as Savior than any other age. This statistic alone can give us much to talk about. But I want to lean in on the ages that are not represented in this survey.
What about birth to 4 year olds? Where do they factor into the faith development stages?
Certainly society believes that starting early is an asset not only to a young child’s current stage of life, but helps lay some foundations for socialization, education, motor skill and sports development and more. Whatever your opinion, for the sake of argument let’s just look at the positive effects of early introduction.
For many years the preschool/nursery section of churches were used primarily for child care purposes. These wonderful leaders, took care of our youngest attenders, while their parents and older siblings, and went to “real” church.
It is time to look again at the value of early faith introduction. Some of the same value that we get from the early introduction to sports and socialization programs outside the church can be found in the church. With one huge added bonus… they get to hear about Jesus. Yes, our younger classes look different, they have to... Developmentally, these little ones do not have the skills or focus to learn well from the structure that most of our other classes have. We can and should designs these classes to include learning through play, integrating God’s love, God’s ways and God’s word in their world.
It reminds me of seed planting. You put the little seed inside the dirt and you water it, pull the weeds, make sure it is feed and get the sun shine. You protect it from the weather, and you prune it so that it can produce good fruit later.
Can you see where I am going with this? Our little ones may not be able to conceptualize deep spiritual truths, but you can plant seeds of faith in them, that can have the opportunity to grow at a later date, when they are ready. You can water that seeds, repeat the story and lessons, and demonstrate God’s love, and live it out in your day-to-day life. You can protect/prune it from weeds (harmful input that could confuse young minds) and regularly let it get “Sonshine” (pray and ask God to help you lead your children in their faith walk.)
This will not only be helpful to our children, but to us as well.
In George Barna survey, he does not address faith experiences of our youngest group for obvious reasons;
They would have trouble communicating what they know, believe, what they understand about God.
Developmentally they may have trouble differentiating between what mom and dad think about God and who God is to them personally, but they are great soil to begin planting those seeds of faith for future development.
Ask yourself, what is the benefit of planting seeds of faith in our children? Early advances in sports, socialization, and education can be helpful when they begin school, but what they believe about Jesus, can impact them through eternity. Tell them a simple Bible story - tell them about Jesus and His amazing love for them. Plant... Plant… Plant…