Faithful discipleship among the next generation means teaching children that God loves the nations and desires everyone to worship him. Teaching the children in your church about God’s heart for the nations is an excellent way to pass on important teachings about image-bearing, prayer, and God’s character (Psalm 78:4).
While there are many ways to teach children about the nations, our church has chosen to pick a nation of the month to learn and pray about in our children’s ministry. Younger children love to learn about the animals that inhabit Finland, Mexico, and Kenya. While we want to capitalize on their curiosity about the physical environment of a country, we use it as an opportunity to talk to them about the spiritual environment of a country.
How to Teach Children about God’s Heart for the Nations
Even when children don’t yet have a concept of where Australia is or how far Mongolia is from Dallas,Texas, there’s no need to delay in telling them about a good and gracious God who longs to see his gospel go forth to the nations. When we tell them about God’s heart for the nations, we are retelling them the gospel and laying a foundation for them to consider God’s larger family.
When we tell them about God’s heart for the nations, we are retelling them the gospel and laying a foundation for them to consider God’s larger family.
Teach Them that Everyone Bears the Image of God
One of my favorite parts of choosing to talk about and pray for a nation of the month is that we get to tell children over and over again that God made everyone with equal value and worth. We don’t shy away from the hard realities around the world; rather, we start with what makes each unique culture beautiful.
We talk positively about different languages and have pre-selected 36 countries that we rotate through over the course of three years that represent a wide variety of cultures and locations. When our kids think about these countries, we want them to think about the nations’ value, worth, dignity, and beauty. We want them to know that while there are important differences, each person shares the need for God’s mercy and grace.
Meet Children Where They Are At
As much as we want kids to understand the weight of the gospel, it’s natural that they are curious about what makes sense in their world. We lean into this by talking about the natural environment, languages, and animals. This is another way to model delight in God’s creation and curiosity around differences. We want to exemplify praising God and giving thanks for what God has created in addition to who he has created.
Don’t Shy Away from Brokenness
In the church, we underestimate kids a lot. Certainly, we want to communicate in an age-appropriate way, but if you’ve ever taught the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac to a group of three-year-olds, then you know they are more than capable of hearing big truths.
Knowing that young children today are in the most globally and technologically connected generation of human history means we have a responsibility to model for them what it means to lament and intercede for the nations. We use age-appropriate terms and definitions, but we don’t shy away from praying for people who are suffering due to poverty, unjust governments, and natural disasters.
Empower Them to Pray
When we are aware of the beauty and brokenness of the nations, we should be moved to pray. We invite kids to pray for the nations out loud, and when appropriate invite them to do so with our church family.
When we are aware of the beauty and brokenness of the nations, we should be moved to pray.
We highlight what God is already doing in the nations. Prayerfully, we ask God to sustain, protect, and encourage believers among the nations.
Don’t Be Surprised When They Surprise You
One of my favorite parts of my job is hearing stories of how children surprise their parents. I love it when children initiate prayer with their families. During recent unrest in Burkina Faso, one little girl overheard and said, “I don’t know what’s going on in Burkina Faso, but it doesn’t sound good. Let’s pray for them.” While children may not always be quite this articulate, the truth is they are listening and their hearts are looking for ways to make sense of the world God has made.
During a nation-of-the-month teaching recently, we prayed for the Bible to be translated into an accessible language. Very quickly a hand shot up and I received a string of direct questions from a very curious 1st grader. I did my best to explain linguistics and Bible translation on the fly, but I could tell that the seeds of compassion were being planted in her heart.
Let’s take their little hearts seriously enough to point them to God’s heart for the nations. They may even be our next intercessors and Bible translators.