Confusing terminolgy and spiritual concepts for kids: God

Posted on 15. Mar, 2010 by in Fresh Ideas, Philosophy

confused-fullHere’s the first spiritual concept our kids seem to be really confused about. I’m not sure it’s exactly something we’ve taught wrong, but maybe something we’ve not been clear enough about. It deals with the trinity. Don’t worry, I’m not about to get into various methodologies of teaching the trinity. There are plenty of theories and illustrations on how to best teach that and you’re on your own there. However, a huge number of kids seem to regularly interchange “God” with “God the father.” You may feel that I’m splitting hairs here, but I think it’s more significant that a simple mistake.

I was reading a blog last night where a young girl was explaining the relationship between God and Jesus. God and Jesus? Isn’t that like going to a Mexican restaurant and ordering cheese queso? Jesus is God and God is Jesus, but the young girl intended was God the Father and Jesus. I’ve encountered this more times that I can remember. If there’s a way to poll your kids without “leading” them, you’d probably be surprised how many kids believe the trinity is made up for God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Again, it seems like a really nit-picky detail, but the misunderstanding can have huge ramifications. Continuing to mistake God the Father with God further promotes that Jesus is not the same person as God as neither is the Holy Spirit. Confusing God with God the Father also mistakenly elevates God the Father to position of importance above Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Although God the Father has a role of authority among the other persons of God, he is equally important as Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

Explaining the trinity isn’t easy and understanding it isn’t easy either. How you explain it is up to you. However, take note on how you describe and reference the persons of God being careful to name and reference all three equally as God. Each person of the trinity plays an important role in our lives, so it helps immensely to have a proper understanding of all three

Meet Kenny

Kenny Conley has written 1805 posts on CMO.

Kenny Conley is the primary author of Childrens Ministry Online and the NextGen Pastor at Gateway Church in Austin, TX. In addition to creating the Illuminate Conference, a high quality kidmin conference designed specifically for volunteers, Kenny is a published author and speaker. For more biographical info, click here.

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12 Responses to “Confusing terminolgy and spiritual concepts for kids: God”

  1. Pastor Jared

    15. Mar, 2010

    Thank you so much for starting with this! I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying here. I really like that you pointed out the fact that doing so makes the other two persons (Jesus and the HS) seem like less. I think this is something that we epecially need to partner with parents about, because, in my experience, they are doing the same thing as the children.

  2. Craig Gyergyo

    15. Mar, 2010

    Great post, Kenny. It’s not as simple as cracking a hard boiled egg open and explaing away the Trinity is it???

    The three are one, yet the three each have their own distinct identity. I bet your hunch is right that we have no problem remembering the uniqueness of God, Son and Spirit, but that we easily forget that they are all God!

  3. Jared Kennedy

    16. Mar, 2010

    So, I’m cheating a bit… but how would you address this methodologically, Kenny? Especially when teaching the OT stories–because the OT text itself doesn’t always clearly delineate between the persons of the Trinity.

  4. Theresa Haskins

    16. Mar, 2010

    This actually came up Sunday – I lead a 4th and 5th grade small group (faithGirlz). Anyway, I said that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were one. The kids were completely confused. I went on to say that if we could understand everything God IS, He wouldn’t be God (and that we won’t understand everything in this life – but we should make a list of questions for when we get to Heaven!). I told them I didn’t really understand it either – for example, if Jesus WAS God, why did He pray TO God? I concluded by saying, “If Jesus WAS God and needed to pray, how much more do we need to pray?” Then I explained that He may have done it as an example for us to follow. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong…I don’t want to mislead anyone!

  5. Kenny

    16. Mar, 2010

    How would I teach it methodically? Well, we do use curriculum and if I had to guess, it wouldn’t bring up the trinity very often. However, for those who develop their own or tweak their own curriculum, I think there are times where the trinity is foreshadowed in the Old Testament. In the creation account, God uses we and us statement which lays foundation for the triune God. Although that may not be the point of the message, it may be worth bringing up. If I were writing a lesson on creation, I’d probably make the point “community.” Why were we crated? To be in community with God and with others. God is in community as Father, Son and Holy Spirit and he created us for community with both him and with each other (why he created Eve as it’s not good to be alone). There you teach a lesson about creation but the point is that God both wants us to be in a relationship with him (reason for creation) and to be in relationship with each other. The fact that God is 3 in 1 ties into the lesson as a valuable point. Isaiah 53 and 63 illustrate the persons of the Son and the Holy spirit, but I’m not sure those passages would ever be the subject of a Sunday lesson.

    You asked more specifically though of how I illustrate that through OT stories becasue the OT doesn’t clearly delineate. I don’t think you have to try to make it fit, but when you have an opportunity, you communicate it as best you can. If I remember correctly from college, the Jews didn’t really have a clearly developed eschatology until maybe after their exile (I could be totally wrong on this though). David talked a few times about the afterlife in Psalms but even as you read the OT stories, not a lot of attention is placed on heaven. In the same way, I don’t think you have to make it try to fit, you just teach it when you can.

    Again, we use curriculum that probably isn’t going to get into that. I think a clear view and understanding of the trinity creates a clear context for so many of the Bible stories the kids might learn on Sunday as well as a child’s personal relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For us it might just have to be some resources we give our parents or we do a special series. I’m not sure exactly how we do that in our context right now other than at some point, we’ll need to figure that out.
    .-= Kenny´s last blog ..The Google Empire =-.

  6. Kenny

    16. Mar, 2010

    I’m not meaning to pick on you Theresa, but what you said in you comment perfectly illustrates my point. You said that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit were one. Why didn’t you say the father? I’m sure that you said God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, you meant that God was the father, but that’s confusing. Jesus is God. The Father is God. The Holy Spirit is God. All three are God. Yeah, it’s confusing and not easily understood either by child or adult.

    Here’s how I would answer that question about Jesus praying to himself. Although he and the father are one God, Jesus was praying to his father. His father was in heaven and Jesus the son was on earth. He was praying to his heavenly father. Although they are both fully God, they are separate persons and in that case, were in two different places. Jesus prayed to the father many times. When Jesus went back to heave, he said he’d send the Holy Spirit. Now Jesus is in heaven with the father, but the Holy Spirit is here with us.
    .-= Kenny´s last blog ..The Google Empire =-.

  7. Jared Kennedy

    17. Mar, 2010

    Kenny, I look forward to you one day writing a curriculum. :)

    I have known some curricula that teach chronologically through the Bible which begin with a few theology lessons at the beginning to explain the Trinity and

  8. Jared Kennedy

    17. Mar, 2010

    … and the Bible as God’s words without error.
    .-= Jared Kennedy´s last blog ..The Manliness of Children’s Ministry =-.

  9. Donna E. Marcou

    18. Mar, 2010

    When I taught Sunday school, it was important to me to be clear, to do the Father, Son & Holy Spirit justice by accurately depicting Him without “dumbing” it down to the kids or insulting their spiritual intelligence. It really is God who teaches all of us anyways. So, this teaching unit from The Foursquare Church was valuable in instilling good … See Moresolid doctrine. http://ce.foursquare.org/articles/143,1.html
    Who is the Holy Spirit? Lesson 1 in Pdf format is fabulous with an example of an egg and watermelon to explain the Godhead. One God; three parts. It also explains what God is not. Valuable information for children when there is so much misinformation too. Hope this helps. Bless you all.

  10. Pastor Jared

    18. Mar, 2010

    So, we talked about the trinity a month or two ago, so last night I put my kids to the test. I asked each of them who the parts of the trinity were. All replied, God the father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I was so proud.

  11. tiera

    10. Feb, 2012

    Ok I know this is such an old discussion but I’m hoping that my two cents will help anyone else that would happen to wander on this page in search of clarity. I always looked at it like this, Jesus is God’s son, God is the the heavenly Father, and Jesus was sent to.earth with all of Gods character, and spirit and essence imbedded in him so that he can embody it for all on earth so that they can understand it. He is the embodiment of God because people didn’t have (and many still dont) an accurate view of him, they di dn’t realize how deep his love is, and lacked faith. Hence the reason Jesus wept (because the people lacked faith I’m God, how beautiful that he had been beaten, hated, and spat on bit the only time he wept was when the people lacked faith in God) also is how he was able to converse with God before the crucifixion and tell him that even if he died on the cross and never came back (he wasnt sure if he’d return) he would be ok with spending eternity wherever he had to go whether tht be a tomb or wherever as long as we could experience even a bit of the Gods love the way he had. (the most beautiful love story to date if you ask me!) That’s what is meant by “me and the Father are one,” he is the son sent with all of the Father’s essence, and the holy spirit is the spirit of God and extension and expression of his love, the great comforter and comprehender. I can go much deeper into.this and explain this.further as it may still be a bit baffling, please feel free to email me with any questions, objections, add-ons etc! God bless.

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