Each generation faces its own unique challenges. Children today are growing up in a world different from the environment their parents knew. But staying relevant to culture doesn’t mean keeping up with every trend. Instead, being relevant means that we keep a steady eye on what matters and then use current culture to engage people and guide them to Jesus. Yet children still process information and deal with life in predictably childlike ways. So understanding how a child sees the world today is a great place to start in meeting the child’s needs.
Characteristics of a Child’s World Today
- A child’s world is sometimes scary. Children now live in a post-September 11, post-Columbine, and post-Sandy Hook world of fear and danger. Some children enter their school buildings through metal detectors and past police officers. Even at school, children are no longer safe from guns or drugs. A child may live in a neighborhood plagued by gang violence. Child abuse and abductions are common headlines. While most children will never experience such extreme tragedy, even small communities are not immune from calamity. The church should be a safe haven where a child feels protected.
- A child’s world is full of information. With cable TV, MTV, the Internet, magazines, and DVDs, children are exposed to a wealth of information, including material too sophisticated for young minds. Fashion styles, fads and music change at lightning speed. What’s in today is out tomorrow and impressionable children struggle to be cool and acceptable. With this media exposure, children are tempted to talk, dress and behave like adult or teenaged role models in ways inappropriate for their age. They mimic adults without understanding their actions. Although a child may try to act mature, his or her young mind is still that of a child. The church can minister to children by providing a sanctuary from the constant barrage of news and peer pressure that can overwhelm them.
- A child’s world is techno-savvy. DVDs, CDs, video game systems, cell phones, computers and other technology are a way of life for today’s children. Even preschoolers can load and turn on a DVD. However, this high-tech lifestyle may often result in low-touch relationships, as children communicate more through instant messaging and cell phones rather than face-to-face encounters. The church is an “unplugged” place where cell phones are turned off and the focus is placed on children’s experience of genuine, firsthand relationships.
- A child’s world is geocentric. “It’s all about me.” The younger the child, the more deeply the child is the center of his or her universe. Infants use this survival technique to command the parent’s attention and get food or care. Even to children of elementary age, the most important time to a child is what is happening to him or her now. Children are unconcerned with long-ago events that occurred to other people, and they have little awareness of the future. A 2,000-year-old book about a faraway land with strange customs is meaningful only as far as it directly affects the child’s life today. The church can be a place where adults model and teach how to move beyond self-centeredness to identify and respond to the needs of others, as well as to live out what the Bible teaches.
- A child’s world is full of imagination. Children love fantasy and make-believe! They relish hearing stories and playing creatively. Children are constantly active and have short attention spans. They are just beginning to develop their ability to reason logically and are unable to make sense of complex doctrinal arguments. The wise church helps children learn through activities that engage their bodies and all of their senses as well as their minds.
- A child’s world is diverse. No community is homogenous anymore. Children have friends and classmates of all races and ethnic backgrounds. They know schoolmates with physical and cognitive challenges. There is no longer a one-size-fits-all model of family life. Children may live with two parents, one parent, a stepparent, a relative, foster parents, parents of different races or same-gender parents. The church classroom is a place where children of all backgrounds can learn and play together because every child is valued and loved.
These are just a few of the ways that children today view the world. To provide this information to those you do ministry with, and for tips for communication between a child’s world and yours, click here for a FREE Download.
To talk with someone about how to use this information in your ministry, please feel free to call us at 1-800-4 GOSPEL. For prayer requests, click here.
Content adapted from Gospel Light’s Teacher Training Smart Pages.