This post is part of a series called The Gospel and Kids, where we are taking a hard look at how to help kids truly understand what a relationship with God truly requires and to help our ministries become more gospel-focused. In this post we will examine what kids need to understand about sin and what we can do in ministry and at home to continuously teach these concepts.
What Kids Need to Understand:
- Sin is when I know the right thing to do and I don’t do it. (James 4:7)
- When I do something wrong, it isn’t just bad because I broke a rule or hurt someone else. Sin is bad because it separates us from God. Sin is bad because it is choosing to do things our way instead of His way.
- Everybody sins. Kids can quickly tell you that brother and sister and friends sin. Sometimes they have a tougher time understanding that grown ups they look up to sin too.
Application in Real Life Ministry & Parenting:
- Don’t save the “sin” lesson for when you talk about Adam and Eve. One of the things I love about the Bible is how it shows us how many heroes blow it. When we taught the Ten Commandments this year, we incorporated the gospel numerous times. Our ending large group lesson focused on how we are all “rule breakers” who need a Savior.
- When dealing with discipline issues (at home or in the classroom), remind kids that it’s not just breaking a rule, it is disobeying God which is a big deal. Now, this is quite different from guilt-inducing statements to try to manipulate kids into behaving. ”You made Jesus cry when you wouldn’t sit in your chair” Really? That’s NOT gospel-focused. But remind kids that the reason we want them to choose well is because sin separates them from God.
- Be quick to say “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” Why do younger kids have a hard time understanding that even grown ups sin? Maybe part of it is because we don’t want to admit to little people that you do. Don’t let pride get in the way of showing kids that you, too, need God’s forgiveness.
- There are no easy answers when kids ask about why bad things happen in our world. But, we can remind them that we live in a sinful and fallen world. Everything that is ugly and bad is a result of sin being in the world. Even beyond the catastrophic events, we can relate this to the situations that seem catastrophic to our kids. When my child asks why a friend would hurt her feelings or why her sister would be mean, it is a great opportunity to gently remind her that we all sin. We all mess up.
- Remember, most of these teachings can be started early! Be age-appropriate, of course, but a kid shouldn’t wait til elementary age to know what sin is and why it is bad. When my little people could first start talking and understanding, we talked about how sin makes our hearts yucky. God wants our hearts to be clean because he can’t hang out with yucky. (Aw, I can see the deep theologians cringing – well, as if they read kidmin blogs, right? ) But isn’t that exactly what sin does – just put in a 2 year old’s vernacular?
What would you add to this? How do you teach about sin in your ministry and home?