The higher the walls the taller the ladders: How to teach a biblical worldview to your elementary-aged kids

Written by Kate Stevens
Published on April 16, 2021

The Lord has given me a unique perspective as a mother of three elementary-aged girls. I’ve been teaching high school English and Bible for fourteen years, so I get to see how teenagers view the world. 

When we read Whitman’s “O Captain, My Captain” some beam with pride because “he’s right! I am the captain of my own soul.” When we read The Great Gatsby some cannot come up with a single vote to cast when I ask who is the most admirable character—”Stevens! They are all so empty and proud and materialistic!” And during times of individual Bible reading one has looked up from an Old Testament passage to say, “God killed everyone there—the OT is a serious mood.” 

Students have never been short of opinions—and I love it.

Exposure to dark things

Likewise, I see how their parents view the world. 

I have truly been blessed to work with some incredible parents—very few have played the role of conductor on the censorship train. 

However—the ones who have, did it because they wanted to keep the darkness out completely. 

I remember teaching Edgar Allan Poe to some juniors years ago. I got an email from an irate parent that went on for an unnecessary amount of pages. The gist was: “Mrs. Stevens. Do you read this to your infant daughter at night? Do you console her as you recount the dead people under floorboards and behind walls?” (I wanted to reply: “Yes. I dress her in a black onesie and a veiled, black laced bonnet. We gather at midnight for our weekly Poe readings while we summon the ravens to our doorstep.” But alas, I simply told her I would reconsider my selections.)

In teaching a worldviews course to juniors, we studied the six largest: Christianity, Islam, Secularism, Postmodernism, New Spirituality, and Marxism. One mother allowed her son to cheat on the Secularism test because she didn’t want him to memorize the information—she said it would taint him. 

I could relay other stories of the same fashion. And I get it. We don’t want our children to be exposed to dark things. We want them to skip from an innocent mind to one that can immediately spot evil and resist it. 

But it doesn’t work that way. 

We have to train and discipline

Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” 

It’s an age-old analogy, but it holds true. No one can simply show up to a wrestling match and win. They have to train, discipline their body and mind, practice, and be coached. And this is all especially true when you consider who it is you will be wrestling—the Enemy. 

You see, the darkness is not going away as long as we are on this side of the glorification of Christ. The condition of the world is not getting better, and none of our children will be the exceptions to the harsh climate that is the postmodern world. 

The higher parents try to build the walls, the taller the ladders and deeper the tunnels become.

Yes, we will never fight against these things alone (Exodus 14:14). Yes, the Lord is near (Philippians 4:4). And yes, you still have responsibility to diligently teach your children the way of the Lord so that they will be prepared to make their own defense, to claim their own faith in the Lord, and to raise up the next generation likewise (Deuteronomy 6, Ephesians 6, 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Three ways to train children for their cosmic wrestling matches:

1. They need friends outside of church.

Children need to know how to navigate social interactions that may take a weird, left turn as conversations typically do when a bunch of third and fourth graders get together. 

Our girls come to us from playing with kids at school and in the neighborhood with all sorts of new “facts” they have heard— like when one kid told our oldest that doing yoga meant you were trying to talk to Satan. 

We’re teaching them to listen carefully, speak only when they have the authority to do so, and to test everything with scripture (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Our dinner times are full of Clint and I listening to what our daughters are hearing and seeing from their friends at school and in the neighborhood. It’s an intentional “training session” of speaking and exposing truth where there was once doubt, questions, and frustrations. 

Very few people in life will choose to serve rather than be served, be quick to listen and slow to speak, or honor with their lips rather than curse. Children need to be able to make the distinction of obedience in their own lives, even when they see something contrary to it in another. 

2. Expose them to current events.

Choosing age and content appropriate current events in the news, both nationally and globally, and in pop culture is necessary in teaching kids how to view a world that is much bigger than us. 

From the race riots, to the Equality Act, to saving the turtles and the bees. . . we have the responsibility to show how the gospel is our only hope, and this is the opportunity to do so while removing the theoretical temptation. 

The world is a fallen place that we must reckon with. We are to build houses and plant gardens and salute King Jesus. Even when our country is in social and political turmoil, we obey our King. 

We admonish, encourage, help, and be patient with everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

3. Be involved with their entertainment and education.

I know what Disney is made of, especially lately, so we turn their films into more training sessions for wrestling matches. 

Take Mulan, for instance. We watched the new live-action version with our three daughters. They loved it. The music and the huge, sweeping landscapes had their full attention. But once it was over, they knew we would ask them: “So, how is a Christian supposed to view this movie?” 

It’s been a practice of ours from time to time to ask this of what we watch, read, or listen to on Spotify. Mulan, in all its girl power, feminism-pushing propaganda ways, was certainly going to be one we leaned into. 

They picked out that we should not pray to any gods but the one true God, but they missed the fact that she disobeyed her father (so did Ariel, Merida, and Moana) yet was blessed. It was a good teaching time of what it means for them to respect their dad and what God says about it. 

Did this cause an immediate undying devotion to Scripture and obedience in our 9, 7, and 4 year olds? No. But it is part of the steady diet we are aiming to provide. 

Our hope is that showing them how to see what is around them from a biblical worldview will become so natural and yield such beautiful fruit that they will learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates.  

An unchanging standard

I can’t even tell you how many of us adults keep shaking our heads at the newest legislation that takes away religious freedom, at the many pastors abandoning the gospel for higher attendance rates, at continued genocide and oppression overseas, at the newest social gospel movement, and whatever else that happens in an instant. If we as adults have a hard time making sense of it all, then think of how our children are supposed to land. 

He tells us in 2 Peter 1:3, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence.” 

It’s hard to live in a world that keeps changing the goalposts. And maintaining a biblical worldview is not natural for any of us. 

We have to train, discipline our bodies and minds, practice, and be coached. In all these areas, we get to point to a God who never changes—and neither does his standard.

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Kate Stevens

Kate Stevens is a worshiper, wife, and mom. By vocation, she teaches high school students English, Bible, and debate, and has been doing so for fourteen years.  In addition, she serves as a freelance editor.  You can read more from her as she develops her newly published blog: “HEM-ology: Somewhere between zoology and theology.”

Read more about Kate

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