Imagine going to a U2 concert with a group of toddlers.
Or buying tickets to see Yo Gabba Gabba with a middle school group.
Or watching Barry Manilow with all 3rd-grade boys.
Hopefully, you’ve never done any of these things. Musicians, even great musicians, play for a specific audience. Not everyone relates to country music, or hip hop, or jazz. That doesn’t make those genres less inspiring. It just means the musician has to know more than music if they hope to connect with their audience.
The same is true if you want to help kids and teenagers connect with their Creator. Kids at every phase have been made in the image of God with the ability to know God.
Your job is not to redefine God at every phase, but your job is to help kids rediscover God in a new way at each phase.
Keep in mind the three drives that are hardwired in every kid – wonder, discovery and passion.
If you think about those drives as dials you turn to help a kid to connect with God, then what if you turn those dials to different volumes for different phases?
It’s just like finding the right mix for a love song. Wonder is like the melody. Discovery is the harmony. Passion is the rhythm. Your role as a leader to discover the right mix to play for your audience.
The idea of the right mix isn’t new, but maybe that’s why there are four different gospels. Matthew was written for a Jewish audience to introduce Jesus as the prophesied Messiah. Luke was written for a Gentile audience to show how Jesus’ resurrection was good news for everyone. Mark’s a more condensed version. And John focuses on some parts the others don’t mention. They tell the same story, but they are mixed with different audiences in mind.
Consider the way each age group thinks.
- Preschoolers think like an artist. Their world is full of wonder and imagination.
- Elementary kids think like a scientist. They combine wonder with discovery to search for answers.
- Middle schoolers think like an engineer. They blend wonder, discovery and passion to solve problems.
- High schoolers think like philosophers. They search for meaning and passion to discover their place in the world.
Leaders need to think not only in terms of child development but also spiritual growth. Have you ever stopped to consider what spiritual growth implies? It means something is growing, changing and moving. It’s dynamic.
Sometimes, adults make the mistake of connecting kids and teenagers to a God who seems irrelevant.
God is relevant to every phase of life. But there are aspects of God that may feel more relevant at some phases than others. When you leverage distinctive opportunities to influence a kid’s faith, you look for ways to appeal to their phase to help them relate to God.
Other times, adults make the mistake of connecting kids and teenagers to a God who seems false. That may sound harsh, but with the number of teenagers disconnecting from faith and walking away from church, we need to seriously consider what makes them disconnect. One of those reasons may be that we introduced them to a fixed view of God – the kind of view believe once you meet God, that’s it. You now have Him. The problem is as kids grow and change their perspective and life experience changes. If they have a view of God that is too fixed, and something challenges who they thought God was, God may seem like a lie. When you leverage distinctive opportunities to influence a kid’s faith, you help them develop a dynamic view of God.
When it comes to leading the next generation, spiritual growth means helping kids mature in their ability to relate to God.
In order to grow up and know God at every phase, kids need adults to help them rediscover how to relate to God in every phase.
This article is an excerpt from the book It’s Just A Phase—So Don’t Miss It: Why Every Life Stage of a Kid Matters and 13 Things Your Church Should Do About It. Read more about the book and order your copy here!