One of my favorite chapters in Kristen and Reggie’s book, Playing For Keeps, is the chapter on stories. Stories let us relive those treasured memories of good times with friends and family. Stories let us dream of a future full of promise and adventure. Stories move us from the confines of here and now to the unlimited scope of the future.
We learn in the book that, when repeated over time, stories bring kids perspective. They get perspective about who they are personally, how they fit into their communities and their world as well as perspective about God. Those seem like concepts that are too deep to have anything to do with how we interact with preschoolers. But remember, the key to this entire book is in the phrase: over time. And yes, even at the preschool level, you as the church, are making those first impressions, forming those early perspectives of faith.
So, the question that follows is: as a preschool small group leader, how does this affect my time on Sunday? What can I do to make stories count in the lives of my few? I love this quote from the book, particularly in context of a preschooler,
“Never under estimate the power of your God-given imagination”
For the ministry leader of preschoolers, we are often tempted to discount the abilities of our few to understand the bigger story. But there is no discounting their imagination! When we amplify the stories they hear each week, we help them imagine the wonder of an amazing God who can do the impossible. This foundation will be the basis for their understanding of God’s bigger story, and their role in it, as they grow older.
So how can we amplify the story with preschoolers at church? The book gives us three suggestions:
Discover the arts.
While you may not be able to take your few to the theater or a concert during your class time, introduce them to other “art” forms. Tell the story, but don’t just use words.
Act it out in a skit.
Draw a picture of it.
Sing a song about it.
Watch a movie of it.
The more ways a child hears a story, the more a child can imagine himself in it. With these stories we let a child imagine what creation was like, what it was like to see Jesus heal a lame man or what Heaven may look like.
Capture the storyline.
Make a keepsake of special events with your few! And remember that special events can be special just because you say they are. Keep a photo album or a journal, anything that you can refer to from time to time to remind them of your ongoing “story” as a group.
Get in the action.
Help your kids live out their faith story at home. This will help them begin to understand their place personally as well as their part in God’s story for those around them. If you are learning that Jesus was kind, suggest to your parents that they be especially aware of acts of kindness that week. They can point out when their child is kind, draw a picture about it or start a Kindness List on the refrigerator! Do anything that will give them a chance to talk about these stories outside your time together.
When you emphasize the importance of these stories, you spark the imagination of your few. And when their imaginations are engaged, their minds are creating memories that will follow them for years and shape their faith stories. Don’t discount these early years. And never under-esitmate the power of your God-given imagination.