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Does Your Child have Nursery Rhyme Faith?

  • Jeff Anderson Author, Speaker, and Founder of Acceptable Gift
  • 2018 5 Oct
Does Your Child have Nursery Rhyme Faith?

Nursery Rhymes and Your Child’s Faith

Many young people today suffer from what I call “nursery rhyme faith.” We’ve given them simplistic platitudes, applauded when they parrot them back to us, and then wonder why their faith fades in high school or college.

“Jesus died on the cross for my sins,” they say.

Yes, this truth is a powerful force in the heart of a child. The words might even help them want to be baptized. But the point is not getting kids baptized at eight years old. The goal is that they walk with God when they’re eighteen and twenty-eight years old.

Nursery rhymes and textbooks

Kids learn:

  • Jesus died on the cross
  • ABCs
  • 1+1 = 2
  • George Washington was the first President of the United States 

A few years later:

  • Jesus loves me, this I know
  • “i” before “e” except after “c”
  • Multiplication tables
  • The scientific method

In middle school:

  • Big Bang Theory
  • Evolution
  • Algebra
  • American government

Meanwhile, back at church:

  • Jesus died on the cross.

In high school:

  • Calculus
  • Philosophy& debate
  • Sex
  • Jesus died on the cross. (Kind of like Ghandi, right?)

College begins:

  • World Religions
  • Politics
  • Abortion
  • And yes, Jesus died on the cross (Poor guy. Whatever happened to him?)

It’s no wonder so many young people’s worldview eclipses their faith.

Stories and Myths

Over a lifetime in church, kids hear plenty of stories (those happy animals prancing into the ark, for example). After a while, these stories seem less impressive… and less believable. (Were Adam and Eve even real?)

They may try to hold on to “Jesus died on the cross,” but if that’s all they have the expression has less meaning for their life—if it ever really did in the first place.

Faith is like a muscle. It must be exercised to become stronger. There’s a progression that builds on understanding fundamentals. Think of how kids develop an understanding of mathematics. They start with addition and subtraction, then long division, and fractions. Later comes algebra, geometry, calculus.

They move from memorization to working out problems.

The same applies to reading and writing. After kids learn to copy the alphabet, they write words, then sentences, then paragraphs, then essays, and then deep research papers.

They move from imitation to articulation.

Meanwhile at church, it’s Jesus died on the cross for me. And the expression often ends there, with young people never being challenged to ponder the deeper themes of the Christian faith.

Will God really judge mankind? Why did Jesus have to die? What kind of life will we live in heaven? How should Christians respond to social issues? Why do bad things happen to good people?

The next thing they know, they’re not really sure what they believe. And more importantly, they’re not really sure it matters. Faith isn’t concrete, after all. A vague feeling is all we can expect, right? 

Parents must elevate the conversation   

We must help our kids think more deeply, so they can believe more deeply.

Acquiring knowledge, and challenging kids to articulate both affirmations and questions, is not about raising the standard for salvation. It’s about raising the standard of understanding. We must challenge them to learn basic doctrine, to read books that teach entry-level theology, to think more critically about some of the deep mysteries of the faith.

Do they know the basic timeline of the Bible? (Approximately 4,000 years of Biblical history)

Do they understand the basic plot-line of the Bible? (Working out God’s promise from Genesis 3:15).

Do they have a vision for what heaven will be like?

Can they tell you what they believe and why they believe?

Instead of trying to react to an ever-changing barrage of information directed at our kids, we must be proactive and address the root cause of nursery rhyme faith: lack of honest Bible engagement.

Instead of feeding kids pat answers and slogans, they need deeper context for their faith and answers to their (mostly unasked) questions.

Resetting the table

A faith reset begins with a decision: your decision to give God a place at your family’s table. In my own life, when I’m walking closely with God, I have fresh material to share in an unforced way. When my head is in the Bible, the Bible gets in my head—and in conversations with my kids. (When I’m not, I miss opportunities to share faith in practical ways.)

It’s not that young people quit believing. Rather, they finally realize they never had enough substance to believe in.

Faith transfer requires conversation. As parents, you have what it takes to create these conversations.

JEFF ANDERSON speaks and writes about walking with God and leading your family into deeply rooted faith. He’s the author of Plastic Donuts, Divine Applause, and the new book, Power-Read The Bible- A Companion Guide for Your 60-Day Journey.

Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/evgenyatamanenko

Publication date: September 20, 2017