I return to this quote from Pastor Tim Keller over and over again:
The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
The truth that I am loved and accepted in Christ is made even more beautiful when I realize that I am way worse than even I can comprehend. So how do we talk to preschoolers about sin in a way that does not crush them but points them to the great gift of a Savior? Here are some tips:
1. Couch discussions of sin in the care of God. Be careful not to paint God as a divine bully who doesn’t want anyone to enjoy life. Rather point preschoolers to a loving Father who wants their child to experience maximum joy. Remind preschoolers that God made them, and He knows how life works best. The rules God gives us are for our good.
2. Call a sin a sin. Most preschoolers have not come to a saving knowledge of Christ; therefore, they are unregenerate sinners living in rebellion to God. When they sin, tell them. It is okay to say, “You broke God’s law. What you did was a sin. Doing that is not what’s best for you.
3. Turn preschoolers’ attention toward their own sin. Start talking to preschoolers about sin and they will quickly tell you how their brother or sister breaks God’s law on a regular basis. Preschoolers are still forming an understanding of personal sin. Be patient with them. Gently redirect them toward their own sin when they want to tell you about someone else’s.
4. Point preschoolers to their need for a Savior. When a child sins, gently remind them that they cannot keep God’s rules on their own. They need Someone to change their heart to want to do the things God wants them to do.
5. Confess your own sin. Remember we are ALL sinners. You are as much a sinner at the most disobedient child in your class. Model for preschoolers what it looks like to confess and repent of sin. Don’t be afraid to share a time you messed up during the week or even a time you messed up that very morning in class. Let them see you ask forgiveness. Preschoolers need to see that their teachers are sinners in need of a Savior, too.
6. Know your preschoolers. God deals with each of us as individuals, and we should imitate that care with our little ones. For the rebellious child who pushes the limits at every turn, give them the law. They need to know God does not accept their behavior. For the rule-keeper in your class, shepherd their heart toward the spirit of the law. Help them see that the motive behind keeping the rule is even more important than keeping the rule itself. For the people-pleaser in your class, give them grace. They can easily be crushed under the weight of their sin and fear of God’s disapproval (and yours), remind them that they are incredibly loved and accepted.