A Ministry of Make and Deepen Disciples

The Importance of Imagination in Discipling Children

 

When I look, really look, at the immensity of God’s creation from the most distant stars to the smallest seed and everything in between, I am filled with wonder. And when I consider all the intricate interconnected elements of the human body, and the vastness of all the creatures God has made, I am awed by God’s imagination. It is then that I fall to my knees and give thanks to God for bestowing the gift of imagination upon us.

As children we excel at imagination. But as we grow older, we can form patterns of living that may thwart imagination and fresh ways of expressing and responding to Christ’s love and call.

Sometimes, as we disciple our children, we get so caught up in the facts of God’s Word that we leave no room for imagination. Some may even consider imagination a slippery slope leading to ideas not present in the Word. However, I’m not talking about adding to the story, but rather helping children imagine being in the story, and imagining how they might respond and live into its truth.

When children illustrate the story through drawing or modeling clay, there may indeed be added elements not present in the narrative. When this happens, I ask children to explain their creation. It’s not uncommon for them to add something from other stories they have read or watched. For the younger ones especially, it’s developmentally difficult for them to distinguish between reality and fantasy and one story can blend into another. When this happens, we can help children enter into the biblical narrative.

This is not a new concept: Ignatius encouraged everyone to imagine themselves in the biblical narrative, asking what we would see, smell, taste, feel, and hear. Or we might imagine which person in the biblical narrative we identify with and reflect on the reasons why.

Even more importantly, we can encourage our children to imagine how they might live out the truths of the story. It won’t look the same for every child and we may be surprised by the nature of their imagination and how it can lead to a lived-out faith in ways we would not have thought of.

This can be followed up by encouraging children to live into their responses and telling children we look forward to hearing how they will live into what they learned. These responses can be introduced through multi-mediums. Giving children an opportunity to reflect on how they are living out their faith and then providing space for children to share.

If we don’t encourage children to use their imaginations, we may thwart the ways they could respond to God’s Word. Without imagination, the biblical narrative just stays a story. With it, it become a living reality.

Steve Burger

Steve is the Director of Children, Family and Intergenerational Ministries for the Evangelical Covenant Church. He has served churches in New York and Minnesota with his wife Marti, prior to serving in his present position. Their daughter Melissa Wall serves as Pastor of Deer Grove Covenant Church, Palatine, IL, son-in-law, Fredrik serves in the ECC Denominational Offices, and their son Paul and his wife Britta are pastors at Bethany Covenant Church in Mt Vernon, WA. Steve can recall moments from infancy and feels closest to God when he is with children. He is committed to supporting and partnering with those who minister with children, families and intergenerational communities of faith.

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