Mark L. Lowrey, Jr.
We all know the importance of the early years in a child’s growth and development. There are many skills, habits, and words that we teach our children within their first five years of life—more than we would want to count. Crucial to that teaching is our Christian faith and heritage.
We are to teach our children the great and powerful works of our God. We are to teach them God’s Word, his law, and his gospel as part of his covenant people. We are to teach them
things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done … that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments. (Ps. 78:3–4, 6–7)
Through our Show Me Jesus and Kids’ Quest curriculum, Great Commission Publications provides resources for the church and the family to assist in this important task for children from age 2 through the elementary years. Let’s focus on how we do this for toddlers (ages 2–3) and preschool children (ages 4–5).
Toddlers are beginning to learn basic vocabulary as well as the words of faith. Did you know that a typical two-year-old knows some 200 words, which grows to an astounding 1,800 words by age 3? How important it is, then, that both the home and the covenant community teach and model the words of faith! We do this by teaching both the Scriptures and our confessional standards. We tell our toddlers the stories of the Bible, introducing God’s redemptive-historical plan, beginning with the Creation and the Fall. We tell them of the promised Messiah and the coming of the Promised One, Jesus Christ. We show them how we, as God’s people, are to live before our holy God.
These little ones can even learn a basic summary of Christian truth (theology) by memorizing the first fifteen questions and answers of the First Catechism. Through this method, our covenant children learn these fundamental and profound truths, laying a firm foundation for the coming years:
As a child moves into the preschool years, the foundation is reinforced and strengthened. Four- and five-year-olds formulate ideas through concrete experiences. Therefore, lessons and teaching times are designed to take preschoolers from what is familiar and real to deeper truths about God and how they apply to their everyday lives.
Anyone who’s around preschoolers knows that they are generally curious, talkative, and growing in independence. They also know their attention span is short—five to ten minutes. Their worlds are small: parents, siblings, grandparents, playmates, classmates, and the church. Because of this, the basic concrete experience for a preschooler is the family in which he grows and learns.
But preschoolers are also taught and experience what it means to be part of God’s family and how to live as God’s children. That’s why we teach the Old Testament stories of Creation, the Fall, the promised Savior, and God’s faithfulness to his people. In the New Testament, they see that Jesus was sent because of God’s great love. They follow the stories of Jesus from the manger onward and encounter him through his powerful signs and wonders, the cross, and his resurrection. All this is designed to point children to Jesus—that they might believe that he is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing in him they might have eternal life as part of the family of God.
Here are our spiritual goals for preschoolers:
Preschoolers can also expand their faith vocabulary by learning First Catechism. In the Beginning Kids’ Quest curriculum, they learn the first forty-five questions and answers, covering such Bible truths as Creation, the Trinity, God, the Scriptures, Adam and Eve, covenant, sin, the Fall, and grace.
No matter what age group God has entrusted to your care, our prayer is that the Holy Spirit will mold the hearts of your children and develop in them a response of trust in and grateful obedience to the Savior. In all of this, show them Jesus.