I was asked recently how to talk about God with children and godchildren. Here are three reflections.
Talking about beautiful things is a great way to point to God as reflected in all things beautiful, as well as to suggest that God is at work behind every sunrise and sunset, behind every bird, or animal, or flower. But birds fall, and the earth quakes, and darkness falls. It is important to be honest about illness, war and natural disasters with children, and share some of our confidence in God - that such suffering is held by God and we must never fear that we will be alone - as well as our lack of understanding.
Many smaller children love holding hands and singing. This is when you could encourage children to imagine themselves as a link in a hand-holding ring that reaches around the world. The God we cannot see is somehow, somewhere at the centre of the circle - looking out, listening, smiling, reaching out to us. Whose hand are we holding? Is the hand big or small? Does the hand belong to a footballer, a TV star, a friend, a farmer, a factory worker?
We have to be ready to talk about who God is and what God means in our own lives, as simply and honestly as possible, as we listen to our children. The question "What does God look like?" opens up a particular Christian way of reflecting that encourages us to talk about Jesus. Ever so gently, children can be helped to see God suffering in other human beings who suffer. If we are really listening to our children as we talk, we'll find that there will be growth on both sides.
How do you talk to your children about God? Do you have any memories from childhood of conversations about God?
The Very Revd Peter Bradley