So often I find myself in bleachers watching two very special little boys play one sport or another, and I am amazed by how much effort coaches and volunteers put into planning these games and matches. There is usually excitement all around, and inevitably there are tears. The one thing that I see as a disconnect as one observing is the struggle for communication. Leaders really want to connect with the children, but sometimes the message is lost in translation.
I once witnessed a former coach who led the young players in a game of “Simon Says” but replaced “Simon” with “Jesus”. You know I had to sigh… The coach told the story of how important it is to do what Jesus says. He used the text from James 1.19b “let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger”, and lined the children up in three groups behind signs that read “QUICK TO LISTEN”, “SLOW TO SPEAK”, and “SLOW TO ANGER”, and then commenced to playing “Jesus Says” with these tiny athletes.
Coach: Jesus says, raise your right hand!
Everyone raised their right hands.
Coach: Spin around!
Of course most of them did spin around, so they were sent to the back of the line.
Coach: Jesus says, hop on one foot.
Most of the children looked around to make sure others were hopping before hopping themselves.
It was at this point that I said softly to the people around me, “Do you think he realizes that Jesus didn’t say these things?” After a few naughty chuckles, we did what we could to follow the message. But, in the end, the message was a bit too complicated for anyone under the age of 12 or 13, and the children were having a difficult time keeping their right hands raised.
There were two things that crossed my mind. How often do we stretch so far to make a point with children that we lose the essence of the lesson? Why can we not just make our messages simple? I also wondered why the coach didn’t say, “Jesus says love your neighbor” or “Jesus says love God”. This seems a fitting message that children understand. I think that there are times when we take a simple message for our children and complicate it to a point that they leave more confused than when they came.
Although the Disciples frequently misunderstood Jesus, we have the gift of the written word to study and search so that we can share the simple messages of God with children.
BOOKS to share with children:
God Created by Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones
Adam and Eve and The Garden of Eden by Jane Ray
Noah’s Ark by Jerry Pinkney
The Moses Basket by Jenny Koralek
Exodus by Brian Wildsmith
Psalms for Young Children by Marie-Hélène Delval
Let’s Make a Joyful Noise: Celebrating Psalm 100 by Karma Wilson
Jonah and the Big Fish by Sekiya Miyoshi
On Noah’s Ark by Jan Brett
Cain and Abel by Sandy Sasso
J is for Jesus: an Easter Alphabet and Activity Book by Debbie Trafton O’Neal
The Miracles of Jesus by Tomie dePaola
The Lord’s Prayer illustrated by Tim Ladwig