Why Do I Write for Kids?
I never planned to write for kids. Yet God had other plans. By training and vocation, I’m a pastor, not an author. Yet over the last decade, the Lord has opened opportunities to write theological books for children—a Bible storybook for preschoolers (God’s Love), a seminary-for-upper-elementary-students book (The Radical Book for Kids), a middle school worldview curriculum (Radically Different), and a picture book for children who are afraid at bedtime (Why Do We Say Good Night?).
In his providence, the Lord has put doors of opportunity before me (and then pushed me through). In his kindness, the Lord has also been cultivating in my own heart a strong desire to shape the coming generation. Here are four reasons I think it’s incredibly important to bring the biblical and theological training we’ve received to the next generation.
I Want Kids to Live in Reality
That’s the short answer of my big aim. A more nuanced reply would be that I want the next generation, my own three children included, to have the entirety of their lives shaped by what is actually true within the world — a truth we discover, as Luther wrote in his Small Catechism, “partly through his world, mainly through his Word.”
I want them to be theologians. Strong and deep theologians who stand with courage and humility in the face of opposition. However, we must seek to train children to comprehend and contend for more than mere theological categories. We should seek to raise little theologians who are more concerned with the realities toward which theological words point than with simply understanding the definitions of those words.
John Owen would agree. The writings of this Puritan are not always the most accessible, even to theological students, much less to children. Yet I find this long sentence by Owen, in which he stresses the important yet secondary place of theological terminology, compelling. “When the heart is cast indeed into the mould of the doctrine that the mind embraceth,—when the evidence and necessity of the truth abides in us,—when not the sense of the words only is in our heads, but the sense of the things abides in our hearts,—when we have communion with God in the doctrine we contend for,—then shall we be garrisoned by the grace of God against all the assaults of men.” (John Owen, The Glory of Christ, p. lxiv)
As a big-picture goal in my writing and parenting, I want all of our kids to live in harmony with the Word-informed reality of God’s universe. As someone has quipped, “If you go against the grain of the universe, you get splinters.” Yet, how do we practically take steps toward this goal for the next generation?
I Want Kids to Become Curious
If God created this amazingly brilliant world, if his Word is an inspired masterpiece of literary genius, then what do we communicate about God, and his world, and his Word, when we talk about him in flat, colorless ways? I hope that the next generation not only enjoys learning about God, but wants to learn more. As a writer, I want kids to become curious.
Curiosity, while an intellectually weak substitute for mature, devoted study, is an ideal learning tool for children. If our 12-year olds come to think of Athanasius as a hero on the level that they view Spiderman as a hero, then they will likely want to learn more about him as they get older. If they learn how to summarize the whole Bible in four words (“good, bad, new perfect”), they may want to explore this drama for themselves. Or if they realize that the doctrine of election is like the most amazing love story, where God loved us before we even knew him, they may want to study this doctrine in years to come. Therefore, we should all seek to communicate with children in a way that they grasp and that fires their imaginations. And this means work. As a writer, it means hundreds of hours at a computer. As a parent, it means time and thought and prayer about how to share God’s truth. It takes effort. Thankfully as parents, this task does not fall on our shoulders alone.
I Want Kids to Develop Bible Habits
We live in a golden age of children’s books. It seems that every year Christian publishers are churning out dozens of books for children of all ages. And as an author, it’s a privilege to lend my voice to that swelling chorus.
With this abundance of resources, there is no reason why parents can’t help, encourage, model, and even require our children—at various stages and ages of development—to spend time each morning reading something about the Lord. For my own family, I don’t really care whether my 10-year old takes a few minutes each morning to read the Bible itself, or Gospel Story Bible (by Marty Machowski), a mini-book of Christian biography (such as Everyone a Child Should Know by Clare Heath-Whyte), or Best News Ever (a brilliant middle school study of Mark’s Gospel by Chris Morphew).
Furthermore, I don’t mind if they catch only a portion of what they’re reading. While I want them to grasp the depth of God’s reality, I also want them to establish life-long habits of seeking the Lord and spending time with him. Regular, faithful deposits in this account, will reap long-term gain, with benefit not only for the next life, but also for the next decades.
I Want Kids to Change the World
They say that culture “lies upstream of politics.” But what lies upstream of culture? The next generation.
In one sense, we can spend a vast majority of time on Twitter, engaged in vital conversation about society’s problems with today’s thinkers and influencers. But the most significant cultural change agents that we, as parents, encounter on a regular basis are those we tuck into bed each evening.
As an author and a parent, I want the next generation to live faithfully and fruitfully for Christ in their time, in their generation. My children, like yours, are a quiver of arrows, making a dent in the target of life, as we fire them where we cannot ultimately go: the future. Who knows the challenges they will face? How they may influence the world? And how the Lord will use them?
In the mean time, and in confidence that the Lord is already preparing them for the good works that he has also been preparing for them to do (Eph. 2:10), we pray for them. We pray with them. We talk to them. We read to them. And we write for them.