Q: How do you teach immature children the truth of the Gospel and a Christian life?
A: The same way you taught them how to use a fork.
I recently inherited my brand new baby sheep. With the start of every school year i get all the new 6th graders. It is always culture shock for them as well as for myself. They are used to children’s church and now they are being forced out of their proverbial nest into a whole new world of “mature” youth group. I know as adults looking back it is much harder to see the difference in maturity levels from children to youth but for those stuck in the middle, it is night and day. Last night was youth group and i remembered quickly that i am now entrusted with these special treasures, full of energy and short of attention spans. The initial split second re-action to the constant wiggling and whispering is first to pause and wonder what that noise is, then silently question why they can’t act like all the older kids (well not all the older kids) but that thought quickly dissolves in the wonderful memory of the elation when i was in 6th grade and getting to graduate up to the youth group. I love my 6th graders and honestly it isn’t at all hard for me to be patient with them. When it comes to teaching the immature, let’s face it, there is a right way and a wrong way, just like everything else, there is life and death. At times, this task may be overwhelming, difficult and/or frustrating, however, i like to think of it in these terms…
When your child didn’t at all know how to use a fork or use it very well, did you lower your standards for your own fork use? Did you make a mess on purpose and use your utensils poorly to teach them the proper ways or to make them feel better about where they were in their forking abilities or lack there of? No!
We, as shepherds, and as parents both biological and spiritual, are to walk uprightly and teach a true, whole gospel to our children; the generation that is following in our footsteps. Not water it down for the immature thereby prolonging the ignorance and adolescence. We are to meet people where they are just like Jesus did for us; becoming all things to all men. Now think for a moment what exactly that means, what shape that takes, when it comes to teaching a child how to use a fork.
There are the tricks, we had the mutations of the fork into wonderfully imaginative representations, we did the songs, and the games etc. It is made fun at times but the fun is always kept in a well balanced perspective to what was really important – teaching them how to feed themselves and greater yet, them eating! Eventually they were able to hold it on their own for a little while even if it was just to spread their mush around on their tray, and eventually in the course of the meal revert back to using their pudgy little fingers all the while making a wonderfully cute, yet inconvenient mess of the food provided them. More time goes on, and what do ya know, they are getting better and better at this whole fork business! All the while as parents and adults we never stopped eating properly how we know to eat, mostly mess free and yes we drop our forks at times, but in retrospect we have come a long way from where we started, making a mess now is the exception not the rule…
Let us eat well, and teach well! Amen.