Helping Our Children Engage with God’s World
by Eryn Lynum
We’re hearing more regularly about the physical and mental health benefits of time in nature. We understand it’s good to encourage our kids to put down their devices and take a walk outside, climb a tree or plant flowers. However, as we encourage our kids to go outdoors, it benefits not only their bodies and minds—but also their spirits. We can nurture our children's faith as we take them into God’s creation.
Teaching Outdoors Like Jesus Did
Have you ever noticed that throughout the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, when we read stories of Jesus teaching truth to His followers and the crowds, He is most often outside? John 1:1-3 tells us Jesus was present at creation with God, “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was at the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
When Jesus returned to earth in human form, He utilized everything He and the Father had fashioned together at creation to anchor truth in the minds and hearts of His listeners. He used visuals like sparrows, sand, wildflowers, olive branches and soil and seeds. If Jesus used nature to nurture the faith of His listeners, we can do the same with our children.
Our kids are naturally inclined toward this way of learning because God has tucked wonder into their hearts. In my book, Rooted in Wonder: Nurturing Your Family’s Faith Through God’s Creation, I share, “God placed curiosity in your children’s minds and spirits to compel them in their pursuit of him. If nature is a place where we find him, then curiosity is the compass guiding us.”
Helping Our Children Discover God in Creation
God wants us and our kids to know Him, and He reveals Himself to us in two main ways. Theologians—those who study God and the Scriptures—refer to these as special revelation and natural revelation.
Special revelation is God’s inspired, living and active Word. Scripture is the primary way God communicates with us. Natural revelation is what we discover about God through what He has made. Romans 1:20 says, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Natural revelation complements Scripture and helps us understand biblical truth through tangible materials. Like Jesus, we can use the beauty and wonder of nature with all its intricate designs to teach our kids biblical truth in memorable ways.
I practiced this one day with my nine-year-old son as our family drove through Colorado’s desert. It was October, and the land was parched. It seemed like nothing was living except sagebrush and juniper. Yet wherever the Yampa River ran, tall, majestic cottonwood trees clung to its banks. It was a ribbon of life winding through the arid land. My son spoke up from the backseat, “Mom, I understand why the trees grow by the river, they need the water for their roots.”
I agreed with him and told him it’s like Psalm 1:3, where we read about the person who meditates or studies God’s Word day and night, that they will be “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” We find a similar nature analogy in Jeremiah 17:7-8, where we read the person who trusts the Lord “will be like a tree planted by the water that extends its roots by a stream, and does not fear when the heat comes; but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit.”
When my son encounters difficult life seasons, he can picture those trees rooted into the Yampa River and remember that we don’t have to be anxious in drought. Instead, we can root ourselves into the living waters of God’s Word.
God wants our children to discover Him in nature. It’s why He left so many hints about who He is, like fingerprints embossed on everything He’s made. Then He tucked curiosity into our children’s hearts and intelligence in their minds. Your children are naturally inclined and equipped to see God in creation. Your job is simply to explore alongside them through God’s Word and world.
3 Ways to Help Your Child Engage with God’s Creation
1. Finding Reflections of God
You can take your child outside and have them pick out something they see, such as a flower, insect, bird or tree. Ask them what it reflects about God. Can we see His beauty, wisdom, strength, or how He provides and cares for His creation? Ask your child what they think God was thinking about when He made these things.
2. Searching for Hints of New Life
In the spring, you can take your child on a scavenger hunt for new life and help them write down or draw every hunt of new life they can find, such as birds building nests, buds on trees or flowers shooting up from the soil. Talk about how God is the creator of life as we see in Job 12:10, “In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”
3. Taking Inspiration from Creation
We can be intentional with the language we use outside to help our children reconnect the dots between creation and Creator. Consider talking about “creation” rather than “nature.” Talk about God painting the sunset like an artist or designing the rivers like an engineer. You can share with them how God created everything out of nothing, as we see in Hebrews 11:3, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Talk about the colors, aromas, textures, sounds, shapes and flavors God invented, and ask your child what their favorites are. Let them create art with natural items such as leaves, pine needles, feathers, grasses and flowers and discuss how God’s art inspires everything we make.
You don’t need to be a naturalist, have a degree in biology or theology, or even consider yourself “outdoorsy” to teach your child by these methods. All it requires is a willingness to step outside and get into God’s Word alongside your child. Isaiah 55:10-11 tells us that God’s Word goes forth and does not return void. Just as His written Word, the Scriptures, always produces fruit, His revelation in nature does not return empty. He wants our kids to know Him, and He will bless and use our experiences as we seek Him in creation.
Eryn Lynum is a certified master naturalist, Bible teacher, speaker and author of Rooted in Wonder: Nurturing Your Family’s Faith Through God’s Creation. Eryn lives in Colorado with her husband and four children. She has been featured on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Radio, Proverbs 31 Ministries and Christian Parenting. Download her free Bible lessons and activity guides at www.ErynLynum.com.