Using Age Appropriate Language When Talking About God
1. Speak in concrete terms. Children are concrete thinkers. For example, learning to count using concrete thinking involves touching or pointing to real objects. Abstract counting is using mathematical symbols. A lot of the concepts in the bible are very abstract, so for children keep language and concepts simple and find a way to use concrete examples.
2. Be thoughtful with confusing language. Biblical concepts and stories use language that is unfamiliar and unclear. For example ‘Jesus saves’ could mean that Jesus is like a life saver at the beach and rescues people or it could mean that Jesus is very good at saving money and so is rich. Give examples and make confusing language clear.
3. Think ahead for difficult concepts. Stories in the bible include concepts that are not frequently raised with young children. For example sin, death, hell, infidelity, prayer and predestination. Don’t shy away from these concepts, but consider in advance how to explain these to children. For example ‘It wasn’t right that David married Bathsheba because he was breaking God’s rules for marriage. God says that a husband and wife promise to be married to each other for their whole life. David made up his own rules for marriage and this was disobeying God. David needed to be forgiven by God, just like we need to be forgiven when we disobey God.’
4. Listen to language used in Christian music for children. Artists like Colin Buchannan are very clever and thoughtful in the language they use in their lyrics. The words are age appropriate and memorable. Use these as a prompt and guide. For example ‘Jesus number one, right at the to where He belongs. Who He is and what He’s done makes Jesus number one’.
5. Use repetition for reinforcement. Children don’t necessarily understand all that they hear. Part of language development and acquisition is exposure to new words. Therefore, repeat the important words to reinforce what is important. For example ‘Jesus loves you’ or ‘We can say sorry to God’.
Recommended Resource: Gospel Coalition Article: Teach Difficult Bible Stories Kids