Beginning Formal Gospel Instruction With Toddlers


As mothers, we have an important mission field inside of the home.  Each of our children starts life as a sinner born from Adam, needing to hear the good news of the gospel.  When the word of God is heard, it can then be planted as a seed in their hearts, which will be watered through the family and church body over many years.  The hope being that someday, by God's grace, our children will understand, accept and believe the good news for themselves.  Most Christian mothers agree that passing along faith is crucial, but it's the 'how' that sometimes leaves us feeling passive and insecure.  I've felt this way too, and have spent a lot of time considering what it looks like to give our children every opportunity to understand and believe the truths that we hold so dear (while it is ultimately only God's grace that can finally transform them).

For the word of God and the gospel to be received and believed, it must first be heard.  This should happen in a variety of settings throughout our day as we naturally discuss the word of God, and as it's modeled by our lives.  However, we also must be careful to assume that our children will just 'get it' as they watch our lives and attend religious services.  While children can perceive a lot from their surroundings, they can also wrongly understand and interpret what we hope to teach them.  Instead of remaining silent to spiritual matters, there is at least some portion of our teaching that should be done intentionally and explicitly in the home.

Many months ago, I was convicted that I was dropping the ball in this area - considering biblical teaching like baby sign language (a nice-to-do but not need-to-do).  But as I've considered what type of treasure I'm putting into the hearts of our children, I've realized that I'll never regret spending time and energy making this type of investment into their lives.

After many attempts to do things that weren't sustainable for us, here's what I learned and some tips for getting started:

Build into a routine you already have.
When I first decided to do a 'bible learning time' I thought I could corral all of our little chicks into a nice circle for a 10-15 minute lesson.  In hindsight, the thought of three boys under three sitting quietly is a little laughable.  Getting into a new routine and 'adding' something to our already crazy day was extremely difficult and hard for me to remember.  What finally made things work for our family was doing the bible time during breakfast - something we already do everyday.  Instead of adding a new activity, I just utilize the time while they are sitting at the table as a mostly captive audience.  This has also been an excellent way to involve my husband, as he is able to take the lead on our bible time when he joins us for breakfast.  It's turned into a meaningful meal for our family, so much so that the kids ask for us to do our bible learning time if we forget .

Keep it simple.
My first attempts at teaching included printed plans with craft activities and songs to go along with the lessons.  What I learned was that gathering materials and preparation took too long and was too intimidating.  In an attempt to do the 'perfect thing' I didn't end up doing anything at all.  After I lowered my expectations and did really simple, repetitious things that required very little preparation, I found myself doing bible time very consistently.

Don't give up.
I can sometimes be an idealist, and when I miss a day on a new routine, I can feel like a failure.  But when I started our bible time, I decided that I wasn't going to measure success as "doing it every single day" but instead, that I would keep coming back to it.  This is the same philosophy I have with my personal quiet time.  It's the consistency over a long period of time that makes a big impact on growth, even if you miss some days here and there.  Something is better than nothing, and God can do a lot with a little, sowed in faith.  Right now we do our bible time about 4-5 mornings a week, which leaves room for hard mornings and unusual weekend routines.

Start early.
Something we've learned the hard way is this: whatever you start when your children are infants can stick.  It will become your habit and the child's habit.  So much so that there will likely be less resistance as you just continue that routine when they are toddlers and preschool age.  It's easy to expand on an already established expectation than it is to start something completely new with a child engaging in disobedience and power struggles.  Also, what you start depositing into their mind as an older infant really does make an impact.  We have a gospel book that I used to sing through with our oldest child before he could talk, and as soon as he had strong language skills I noticed that he could sing it along with me from memory.  I've heard this type of story from many parents who started to teach their children scripture or spiritual songs from an early age - you'll be shocked at how it's stored in their heart!


Here's our routine:
1.  Sing a song with biblical truth - This is usually something easy, age appropriate and right off the top of my head.
2.  Review the verse of the week - Our church is memorizing the foundation verses from Children Desiring God.  We follow along and I try to explain what the verse means in really simple terms.
3.  Discuss one vocabulary word - I drew these really simple flash cards with basic spiritual words that our children will need to grasp if they are going to understand anything else we are talking about.  Some of those words include; love, forgiveness, grace, prayer, bible, repentance, etc.  Terms like this are foundational!
4.  Sing and discuss one page from our "Simple Gospel" book - This is a book I made with the 'ten points of the gospel' (one on each page).  We have a tune that corresponds with each page (think - twinkle twinkle little star) so it's easily memorized.  My hope is that our whole family will know how to simply and clearly state the gospel, so we can preach it to ourselves and others!  Even though it doesn't click right now for our littles, one day I pray that they will take it to heart.
5.  Pray - We say a really short prayer about who God is (based on our bible verse for the week), and pray for the day ahead.  

Other things I occasionally add:
  • A finger play - A short / silly rhyme for toddlers and preschoolers that can help with transitions and getting attention
  • A book - something from the library to change things up a bit
  • An educational focus - like discussing shapes / colors etc.
This sounds like A LOT.  And it sounds really awesome on paper - but I assure you - in reality this takes as little as 3-5 minutes to go through, and the longest I ever spend on it is 10 minutes.  It took some time to compile these things and think about what I wanted to do, but on a daily basis it takes ZERO prep.  Also, most days our kids squirm and talk through the whole thing.  It seems like no one is listening and I often have to stop and give correction, but they genuinely enjoy it and I'm always amazed at what they remember.

I share these ideas because I really didn't know what to do with our kids, and I hope it at least helps get the ball rolling.  Sometimes you just have to do something and start somewhere until trial and error helps you decide what works best for your family (which might look nothing like what we do).

Finally, I want to emphasize that I don't think this type of religious training will 'save' our children.  Even if they become experts at scripture recitation and can spout off the whole gospel, we want them to know that what matters is their HEART - that they know and love Jesus more than anything else.  But with that being said, when they truly are transformed, I think it will be a gift for them to already have so much truth stored up in their soul.  

How are you investing in your child's treasure chest?


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