“Hey kids, grab your Bibles, today we’re going to learn about Jesus.”
When we tell children we’re “going to learn about Jesus” we’re indicating our intent to get near to Him or talk about things concerning Him. That’s well and good – or is it?
One of my undergraduate majors was history. I learned about Alexander, Temujin, da Vinci, Luther, Stalin, Hitler, Churchill, and other bygone people who profoundly influenced the course of world affairs. I learned about them – but I didn’t meet them. My perspectives, gleaned from a distance, were filtered through the reports of others. I knew something about their lives, but it was second-hand knowledge.
When you teach children about Jesus, is it like a history lesson? Are they reading/listening to Bible stories to learn who He was, what He did, and how He was an example for them? Or do you open the Bible to do something more than teach them about Jesus?Bible engagement should be Jesus engagement. Click To Tweet
Bible engagement should be Jesus engagement. When we open the Bible with children, it should never be like a history lesson. Bible engagement isn’t about acquiring knowledge per se. When we ask a child to open the Bible, it’s not about getting near to Jesus. Near means, there’s still some distance between us. Near isn’t close enough. Jesus wants to take the children in His arms (cf. Mark 9:36-37).
So how do we help children meet Jesus? They can’t Zoom, text, or book an appointment to visit Him. Jesus lived on earth more than 2,000 years ago. So seeing Him in the flesh (short of a dream/vision, epiphany miracle, or His return) is out of the question.
Meeting Jesus isn’t easy, but it is possible. Children can transcend the limits of their current knowledge, environment and reality.
Here are three biblical things we can do to help children meet Jesus:
- The Lord says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV). We must tell children that meeting Jesus starts with an authentic deep-rooted all-pervasive desire to see Him. When children get serious about finding Him and want Him more than anything else, that’s when He’ll reveal Himself to them (cf. Hebrews 11:6c).
- The apostle Paul says, “… without holiness no one will see the Lord” Hebrews 12:14 (NIV). We must teach children that we’re set free from sin so that we will sin no more (cf. Romans 6:1-2). In addition, we must teach children that friendship with the world is enmity with God (cf. 1 John 2:15). When children give their love, allegiance, and devotion totally to Jesus and not to the world, that’s when they’ll get a glimpse of Him.
- Jesus indicates in Matthew 25:35-40 that connecting with people in the margins (poor, unnoticed, needy, underprivileged, discriminated against, or disregarded people) is a way to connect with Him. When we facilitate a child’s involvement in feeding the hungry, providing a room for the homeless, or visiting the sick, we provide opportunities for them to do it to Him.
When we kindle connections with Jesus we ultimately rely on the Holy Spirit to point children to Him. Children’s ministry specialists David Csinos and Ivy Beckwith note that “while we can certainly create spiritual environments and foster practices that can help children sense the presence of God, it is God alone, through the Spirit, who can reach out to them and let God’s face shine upon them.”
So let’s graduate from telling children about Jesus to helping them meet Jesus. Meeting Him is far better than learning about Him. When we learn about someone, it’s remote and impersonal. But when we meet someone, it’s up close and personal. When it’s up close and personal, that’s when transformation happens.
Up close and personal – I like the ring of that phrase. Intimate personal connections with Jesus should never be overshadowed or ignored. Imagine the children you know being up close and personal with Jesus. Imagine them with His arms around them. Believe you me; it would be earth-shattering and world-changing! None of us would ever be the same again!
© Scripture Union, 2019