How can I effectively teach preteens about the salvation plan? I would like some tips on activities in setting the mood so that when we do the calling they will truly understand what the sacrifice meant.
The beauty of God's message is that it remains constant, no matter to whom it is taught. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16). Hence, the knowledge of what one needs to do to be saved is taught the same as to anyone else.
The difference with pre-teens is that reasoning (what the Bible calls "understanding") is not fully functioning. Pre-teens are good at learning facts, but pulling separate facts together and uniting them is a difficult matter. For example, a pre-teen could recite the things God requires of us to be saved, but have difficulty internalizing it. What is faith? How do you know you have faith? What is sin? Am I guilty of sin? Am I going to heaven?
You see there is a time when children live without a knowledge of good and evil. "Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it" (Deuteronomy 1:39). They can parrot explanations or express concepts in simple terms, but they don't truly understand.
The danger a Bible class teacher faces is pushing for a response before a child is personally ready to respond. I have seen children that know you need to be baptized to go to heaven (or to participate in the worship), they want to go to heaven (or get to do things in the worship), so they tell their parents they want to be baptized. Yet, if you sit down a moment and ask them what does baptism do for them, or what does it mean to be saved (saved from what?), or have they sinned, then suddenly they are at a loss because answering such questions requires more reasoning than they have developed. It is these children who, when they reach adulthood, wonder whether they really knew what they were doing when they responded without understanding.
Therefore, teach pre-teens the facts about what is needed to be saved. Go over the stories of conversions from the book of Acts with them. However, express them as thing that they will be doing when they get older. If they are concerned about their place in heaven, show them that children are held innocent. It is only when they are old enough to understand that they will be held accountable. Don't put a date or age on it. Just assure them that one day they will know it is time.
In this I would like you to see that you are giving the children the building blocks of facts that will come together in the future. "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen" (I Peter 4:11). "Setting a mood" is just not the right way to express what is needed as that implies a pure emotional response without reason. Pure emotions are never long lasting, because our emotions constantly change. But a reasoned response that plucks the emotional strings of the heart is what is desired. A reasoned response will carry a person through the storms of emotion that are bound to come. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-15).
One thing that is often lacking are lessons on commitment. Everyone, including children, should see being a Christian is a lifetime covenant with God. Lessons from the Old Testament about why the Israelites failed in their commitment to God and God's anger at them should be taught. Lessons on Luke 9:57-62 will plant strong seeds for the future. As well as talking about the responsibilities and duties God expects from His people.
As I close, I would like you to consider one additional thing. You said you wanted to set a mood, so that when we call, they will understand the sacrifice. We don't call. God calls through His Word and we call upon God for salvation. "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For "whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:12-14).
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