by Sarah Bragg
Have you ever felt like you walked into a trap? Maybe somebody had it out for you at the office. Or someone tried to twist your words from an email. You realized that they wanted to trick you into responding in such a way that reflected poorly on who you are. This was the situation that Jesus found Himself in in Matthew 22. The Pharisees were angry with Jesus, so they sent a lawyer to try to trap Jesus in His own words. They asked, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ (Matthew 22:36-39 NIV). With those words, Jesus silenced them. He summed up the entire Law in a few short phrases. Love God. Love yourself. Love others.
When it comes to building the faith of the next generation, the same statements are true, and we summed it up into three words: Wonder, Discovery, Passion. We need to incite wonder; provoke discovery; ignite passion in a child’s heart. We need to incite the wonder of who God is. We see that when we step outside or see pictures of creation. We are reminded of His greatness when we try to count the stars or try to understand the complexity of the Internet. That is wonder. That’s what causes our love to grow simply by experiencing something new that we know He created. What if children grew up amazed with the wonder of their heavenly Father and how much He loves them? What if that wonder enabled them to believe that He was big enough to handle whatever they may face in life?
We need to provoke discovery of who God made them to be. God has created each one of us in His image and uniquely gifted us, experienced us, and skilled us to be apart of His great story. You saw that the first time you realized you were talented with a musical instrument or that you were great with building things. We discover this a lot of times through relationships with other people. Maybe someone pointed out a unique way that you are wired. What if a child’s identity was determined by a personal relationship with Christ and allowed the Holy Spirit to guide their life?
We need to ignite a passion for other people. God knew that our love for Him should not be separated from our love for others. You see that when you read the Old Testament. Over and over, God commands His people to care for those who can’t care for themselves. Why? Because that is His heart. None of us can ultimately care for ourselves which is why we needed a Savior. Our love for Him grows when we love others. What if children saw their part in God’s big story and that mobilized them to do what Jesus did on earth?
You experience the fullness of God’s heart when those three concepts are turned in your life. Wonder is most naturally experienced in the life phase of the formative years. The elementary and tween phases most naturally enhance their need for discovery of identity and wise decision making. And teenagers need consistent opportunities to put into action the truth they have learned so that they can understand how to be the church.
Wonder, Discovery, Passion—you can’t have one without the other. It’s difficult to love others when I have a hard time loving myself. And it’s difficult to really love God when I can’t love my coworker. All three are all connected.
Now, think back to your own faith. Think about the ways you’ve experienced growth. When you saw the beach or a sunset or the birth of a child, did your faith in God increase? When you realized a way that God uniquely created you, did your faith in God increase? And when you went on a missions trip or helped the homeless or sat next to a lonely person, did your faith in God increase? I bet the answer is yes.
To increase the faith of the next generation, we need to create ways to incite the wonder of who God is in their hearts, provoke discovery of who God made them to be, and incite a passion for others.