This is the point where I interject with a well sounded 'yeah but'. Simplicity is both good and bad. Bad in the way that we boil it down so much that we actually aren't speaking the truth of the bible. Simplicity is good when it can be understood by both children and adults. This is forever a challenge, but one that I think is very much worth our time!
One of my favourite things about working with children is the clarity of their faith and their want to know and understand. I can recount many times when teaching in both big groups and small groups, when in the middle of the teaching time, a well-meaning child has put up their hand to ask a question. This is never an interruption. It is an opportunity. It's an opportunity to be more clear.
One of the most important things about the Christian faith is talking about who Jesus was, as well as what he did. For many people today, Jesus was a good guy, who did good things. He had some good ideas about being nice to people, and going the extra mile. He healed people who were sick, and apparently died at Easter time? Sounds like a good story & easy enough to understand, but it is not the complete gospel according to the Bible.
When we speak of Jesus Christ, we need to speak of not only the life that he lead, but also who he was, and why he had to come. If we miss these parts we are just telling a story of a some good guy who had some great party tricks. Once we start talking about who Jesus was things get tricky, and this is where 'theology for children' starts to get fun.
If you are still with me at this point, let me tell you my bias. Theology is knowledge of God. All Christians needs to consider their own theology, no matter your age and stage. This means, when we talk about who Jesus was, it doesn't matter if they are an adult or a child, our theology needs to be clear and well thought out. A theology for children is the exactly same as a theology for adults. We need to try and be clear about WHO Jesus was, WHY he came, and then WHAT he did.
Can be difficult
Explaining who Jesus was can be really quite difficult. It is something I have realised the more I practice, the more clearer I get. It's not about having the right answer, it's about having an answer that is real… and a perfectly good answer is sometimes 'I don't know.' Not knowing is not losing. You can always follow the person up another time.
People tend to respect when you don't know things, and happy to wait for a thought out answer. Better to be thought out, than try to fake an answer on the spot. It is also great to be well thought out, as it shows both children and adults that we can wrestle with our faith, and that this is a good thing to do!
There are some typical questions that come up. Was Jesus a real man? Yes he was. But was Jesus God? Yes he was. But how was Jesus both God and person? And here is where we need to put in lots of thought into our explanation. Not only do we need to know our Bible well (The gospel of John helps here, especially the first chapter), but we also need to practice a concise explanation that both children and adults can understand.
All questions are great questions! There are always questions both adults and children love to hear answered. We shouldn't be afraid to think about and answer these questions and many more like it.
Try to think about how you would explain to talk about who Jesus was, why he came and what he actually did. If you get muddled, that's great. Take a breath, and try again. This is the basis of our faith after all, and something that is great to share.
Stephen Urmston is based in Melbourne and currently completing a Masters of Divinity at Ridley Melbourne. He works at St Jude's Anglican Church as an Associate Children's Minister.
Stephen Urmston's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/stephen-urmston.html