Sunday, March 1, 2009

On Not Traumatizing Young Kids

So, the Old Testament today was Noah and the ark. (You know, great flood, God saves, rainbow in sky...) For the sermon, I had a great prop of a simple boat-shaped pulltoy that I have filled with Ikea finger puppets of animals. At the 10 o'clock, I invited the kids up and had a conversation with them on the story. The idea was to use play to discuss myth and legend, and how Noah's ark wasn't a real story, but a legend passed down so we could know a great truth about God (God intimately interacting with God's people through salvation). The kids were 7 and 10.

Developmentally, they are just getting into different places. I asked, at one point, how could there be a ship where a desert-dwelling elephant and a swamp-dwelling frog could both be happy. The 10 year old replied that the ark was just the precursor of the big cruise ships, and they'd just be at different ends. There they go, with the image of the giant, city-sized boats of today floating in their mind.

When I got to the part where I started working on "the story isn't factual", I started seeing the seven-year-old's eyes getting bigger and bigger and a look of abject horror growing on her face: the same sort of look kids get when you are about to destroy the tales of Santa Claus. Whoops!

A lot of quick restructuring happened, right then. The rest of the sermon pretty much blew, since it all hinged on "the story doesn't have to be real in order for us to know a great truth about God". But at least I did not make a seven-year-old cry in church.

Whew. Poor kid's mom is going to have her hands full. "Mommy, why is Noah and Thumbelina different types of stories?"

Somehow, developmental ages never came up like that in Seminary. No one ever cautioned us to be careful around Noah and kids, lest we destroy the magic.

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