Lately I’ve been engaged in a lot of conversations about what and how we should teach children in the church. And naturally, these conversations lead to measuring what kids have learned and applied to their lives. I know that most (hopefully most, if not all) ministers of children know that it’s not about how much information kids know that’s going to change their lives… and yet, for some reason, many seem to be hung up on assessing spiritual growth by how much kids know about God, the Bible, Jesus, the Church, etc… I really struggle with this concept because I grew up knowing a lot about God and Jesus… I knew bunch of stories from the Bible, and pretty much, I knew almost all the right answers to the questions teachers asked at church… but that had absolutely nothing to do with the condition of my heart and my life. Don’t get me wrong… I don’t mean to minimize the importance of memorizing verses nor knowing Bible stories. Of course those are important… but where I have trouble is that we often equate knowledge with spiritual maturity in kids… and where I have trouble is the mere fact that we, as kidmin leaders, feel the need to even quantify children’s faith. Maybe I’m the crazy one here (I often feel like I’m on crazy pills… go figure…), but I think we need to let go of control, be faithful in leading and helping kids love Jesus, allow the Holy Spirit to work in the lives of these kids, and loosen the grip on trying to measure the faith of children in our ministries. Once again, please don’t misunderstand me… we need to know where our kids are coming from and their knowledge of what we’re trying to teach… but what I’m saying is that we need to stop equating spiritual growth with head knowledge of the Bible, Church, Jesus, etc… (forgive me, it’s midnight, and I’m awfully tired… but just need to get this out while it’s in my head…)
I recently heard this story (paraphrased for space-sake):
Dad (talking to his 2 children 7 & 10 years old): How am I doing as your dad these days?
Kids: Okay, but sometimes you’re impatient with us… or don’t spend enough time with us…
Dad: I’m sorry. I will try to do better. (Dad write and signs a covenant with the kids… promising to be a more patient dad who spends more quality time with them. At the end of the covenant, he writes down few practical action plans, and promises to owe them $10 every time he fails in those areas).
7 yr old: But Dad, isn’t forgiveness enough? Why do you have to pay us $10 if you break your promise?
Wow… I don’t know about other people’s reaction.. but to me, this is evidence of child’s spiritual growth… She had been taught that we forgive when someone wrongs her just as Jesus forgave all of us… She’s trying to apply this to her life. She may only be 7 years old, but even 7 year olds like money… but she’s trying to see how what she’s learned about forgiveness fits into her real life… that’s evidence of her learning and applying Biblical truth… and to me, this speaks louder than 20 verses she can recite verbatim or naming all the disciples.
In short, I don’t think we can necessarily measure a child’s faith… but for me, stories of what kids genuinely say and do tells me that they’re learning, loving, and growing in Jesus… (I’m really hoping this is coherent when I re-read it in the morning…) time for bed…