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bible-kid“So, we’re going to present the story of Job to preschoolers?”

I still remember the kids’ team meeting for The Gospel Project where we looked through the list of Bible stories we were going to introduce to children. Session 5 was the story of Job, not a story you come across very often in typical children’s Bibles.

The decision to tell kids – even preschoolers – the story of Job wasn’t hard to make. We’d already decided that we wanted to challenge kids with The Gospel Project material. If we were doing a lesson on Obadiah, why not Job?

But how would we make the Christ connection? Would we really introduce a big word like “mediator” to 3- and 4-year-olds? Here’s what we wanted to tell kids:

Job’s suffering and his request for a mediator give us a glimpse of our Savior, Jesus. Neither Job nor Jesus experienced suffering because they sinned. Unlike Job, Jesus never questioned why He had to suffer. Jesus understood that we needed Him to pay the price for our sin and be our mediator before God.

I remember thinking about my daughter, Julia, as we had this conversation. She was three at the time. My wife and I were frequent fill-in teachers for Julia’s preschool group in our church. I saw those cute, rambunctious kids in my mind as we discussed how to present the story of Job and the Christ connection.

The question came up, “Will a preschooler have a clue what we’re talking about? How much of the story will they get?” After some good discussion, we decided they probably wouldn’t understand it all.

So did we ditch the idea? No. Instead, we decided to introduce the word “mediator” to preschoolers. We would simplify the Christ-connections for preschoolers, and we’d make sure we explain what big words mean, but we would not shy away from a four-syllable word that helped point them to Christ.

Taking the Long View of Bible Teaching 

In the end, we made a decision to take the long view with regard to Bible teaching instead of just thinking about individual lessons. We are fully aware that some words or phrases will go right over kids’ heads. I don’t expect my daughter to come home explaining to me in great detail what a mediator is. But the next time she goes through this story (in three years), she’ll already have a big word in the back of her mind. Then the third time she goes through The Gospel Project, as a fifth-grader, she’ll get it. At least, that’s what we hope and pray.

All that to say… we recognize that some of the material is challenging. That’s by design. We want to introduce important theological concepts, knowing that kids might not understand everything all at once. But our hope is that when they go through the curriculum a second time (when they’re young kids), they’ll already have a base and some of it will be familiar. By the third time through (when they’re older kids), they will have it down.

At the same time, we want teachers to adapt this curriculum to the needs of their children. The Gospel Project is not meant to shackle teachers to an outline but to free them up to personalize it and make it as accessible as they can. The point isn’t filling little heads with theological knowledge but introducing little hearts to the God who has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ.

Big Words for Little Hearts

Every night, I pray the Lord’s Prayer with my kids. Right now, Julia is four. She knows the words by heart. And yes, I know she is praying big words like “hallowed,” “kingdom,” “debts,” and “temptation,” words she doesn’t quite understand.

What to do? Should I steer clear from the Lord’s Prayer? Not at all.

I’m praying my daughter grows up into those words. I look at her the same way I look at a kid trying on mama’s shoes. The feet are too small and the shoes are too big, but one of these days, she’ll grow up and they’ll fit. That’s how we pray. That’s why we introduce foundational biblical truths. That’s why we teach our kids the Bible stories that challenge their assumptions, raise expectations, and point them to Jesus.

Small kids need big words. Not because they understand everything all at once but because, over time, God uses the inspired words of His Book to convict kids of sin and convince them to repent and believe in Christ.

Repent and believe. Those are big words too. That’s why even now I’m praying for the day those two big words represent the reality of my kids’ little hearts.

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12 thoughts on “Why Little Kids Need Big Biblical Words”

  1. Rod Pitts says:

    Ever since “The Gospel Project” was announced, I was in eager anticipation to use it. I signed up for the pilot program, but wouldn’t get to use it until this summer. It was then that I began using it for our Fun Friday (kids) program at church. As I taught the lessons and presented terms and gospel connections, the kids began responding and asking questions! I was surprised! And they were actually retaining a lot of what they were being taught! Needless to say, we’re wanting our whole church to go through it!

    “The Gospel Project is not meant to shackle teachers to an outline but to free them up to personalize it and make it as accessible as they can. The point isn’t filling little heads with theological knowledge but introducing little hearts to the God who has revealed Himself to us in Jesus Christ.”

    I didn’t use every aspect seeing that we were only teaching the kids for a short time each Friday. I personalized it according to the type and amount of children that came. But I am so thankful that there are options available to use for many group settings in case we decide to do them. It is such a joy to have such a wonderful resource to use in order to present biblical truths chronologically while connecting them to the gospel!

  2. Wesley says:

    Man Trevin i could not be more on board with you in this regard. I’m not saying we overboard here but, absolutely, let;s fill our kids up with the truths of the gospel (even the ones they don’t yet fully grasp) and place these larger ‘logs’ along with the usual kindling around their hearts so that when the Holy SPirit sends His regenerating fire, we don’t just get a flash in the pan but a life-long, slow burn. Excited to see this material.

  3. This is great. We keep kids dumb when we never push them. Use big words, just define them. That’s the philosophy I have with my college kids. :) Still, teach it early and let it go deep.

    Ps. Our church is meeting with a Gospel Project representative today to see if we want to use it for our student ministries. I’ve been pushing and my children’s director has gotten really stoked on it.

  4. Ryan says:

    Absolutely fantastic post. I am 110% on board with this.

  5. David S. says:

    I signed up for the pilot program, but only used the first lesson. It is not because it was not good it was really good. It is that when I signed up I was still taking my youth group through Job expositionally. When we finished that I had one week before joining our youth class with the adult class to start an evangelizing series.
    There is no reason not to push young minds and to teach them what the Bible says. Too many people and resources refuse to challenge kids and have the mentality “they are too young.” I will stop there as I was about to go off on a tangent, but I am glad to see the Gospel Project challenges not only the children but the teachers as well.

  6. Peter Holmes says:

    Trevin, I am a children’s minister in Kentucky who has been using the Gospel Project for 5 weeks now. When I first heard about the Gospel Project I got quite excited. The more I use it the more excited I become. One thing that I really like about is that it is not afraid to use concepts that children would not be able to fully understand. By teaching these concepts to children we are putting these on a “higher shelf” and hope pray that these children will grasp these concepts later on. Although it can be easy to fall into the trap of teaching things that would be considered easy to understand, like morals, we must remember as parents, teachers, and ministers our responsibility is to teach the Gospel clearly and fully.

  7. John says:

    I think this is great. I would love to see more of this type of article on TGC and less articles about deep doctrinal issues. I love that a group called The Gospel Coalition is using its platform to show how to share the Gospel.

    Thanks guys

  8. Lydia smith says:

    One of my favorite children’s songs at the moment is Colin Buchanan’s “Big Words that end in Shun” on his Super Saviour album. Great definitions in song of concepts such as justification, propitiation, sanctification etc!

  9. Vicki Krebs says:

    This concept makes me so happy, because it is so needed. My Daddy was so great at using and explaining biblical/theological words to his four children. He also often illustrated the words with biblical stories and other illustrations. I was genuinely converted at the age of 5, and already had a fair understanding of words like justification and sanctification. These are the ABC’s of our faith, and my own 6 children grew into them as you describe. As a grandmother, I want to help my grandchildren know and love these words that describe the work of Christ!

  10. Elizabeth Cooper says:

    Is there a sample lesson available? I love the concept but am hesitant of having another curriculum for children filled with busy papers that take up way too time…and shallow, cartoon characters…)O:

    1. Trevin Wax says:

      You can take a look at four sample sessions here.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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