Answering children's questions about God

Steve Hutchinson offers his experience and expertise.

Children love to ask questions about almost anything. They ask ‘Why? What? Who? How?’ very often. It’s only natural for children, and is part of their trying to make sense of their world.

Principles

These notes deal primarily with 'God, Jesus and the Bible' questions, although the principles apply generally. I think there are two stages in answering children's questions:

  1. Find an answer that we understand and believe (the latter especially where faith questions are concerned).
  2. Work out how to say it so that the child can understand. This will depend on the child, but think about:
    • Words: simple, within their vocabulary.
    • Concepts: concrete, not abstract or beyond their experience. Children are literal thinkers.
    • Their world: take examples from school, home, TV, pets or friends to illustrate your answers.
    • Short answers: or risk losing their interest, their understanding, or both.

If you are not sure what they are asking (or you need time to think ), ask them what they mean, or some other question that makes them say their question in another way. If you are with a group of children, sometimes it is good to let other children say what they think (they will probably tell you anyway).

If you don't know the answer or can't explain it, say that you'll have to look it up, or ask a friend to help. Be sure to write the question down, and don't forget, or you'll be like the person one child wrote to me about...

Dear Steve, Who made God? I have asked the minister at the Baptist Church and he does not know.’

I try to come up with a verse from the Bible to answer the questions. In this way I hope to encourage children to look to the Bible for answers to deep questions of life (2 Timothy 3:14–17).

Questions

Children have asked me all the questions here. I have been involved in running Bible-based activities for years. As part of this, I have visited schools for assemblies and RE. I have led circle question times, when a class of children may ask any questions about God, Jesus or the Bible. My answers here are generally suitable for children aged 7 to 11 years old.

Steve Hutchinson is a Scripture Union Development Worker in the UK, and describes himself like this: ‘I love God and I love children, and I am so grateful that my work with Scripture Union allows me to combine these two.  In particular I long that more people will help children to meet God and become friends with Jesus.  So I work to help people develop all kinds of outreach ministry to children and their families.’

Who made God?

The Bible says: ‘In the beginning, when God created the universe…’ (Genesis 1:1) and: ‘Before you created the hills, or brought the world into being, you were eternally God, and will be God forever’ (Psalm 90:2).

So the Bible says God was always there. No one made him. If that‘s hard, try this: Say someone called Joe made God. Who made Joe? Perhaps Jenny made Joe, but who made Jenny? And so you could go on. If you think it had to start with someone who was already there, I call that person God.

The other explanation I use is: You are greater than anything you make, out of Lego, paper or card. So if anyone made God, they would be greater. But God‘s the greatest ever, so no one can have made him.

What does God look like?

The Bible says: ‘Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God' (Colossians 1:15) and: ‘... what looked like a human being, wearing a robe that reached to his feet, and a gold belt round his chest. His hair was white as wool, or as snow, and his eyes blazed like fire’ (Revelation 1:13,14).

We can‘t be sure what God looks like, but Jesus came partly to show us. The Bible gives us some hints as shown in the verses. When Jesus was on earth he probably didn't have blue eyes and fair hair, but typical Middle Eastern colouring.

Is God God, or is Jesus God?

The Bible says: ‘Before the world was created, the Word already existed; he was with God, and he was the same as God’ (John 1:1). (NB Explain to children that ‘the Word’ here means Jesus.)

God is God and Jesus is God. Actually the Bible talks about three people who are God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It’s hard to understand, but the Bible says it’s true. We must decide whether we believe it, even if we can‘t understand it.

So the Bible says: ‘As soon as Jesus was baptised, he came up out of the water. Then heaven was opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and alighting on him. Then a voice said from heaven, “This is my own dear Son, with whom I am pleased”’ (Matthew 3:16,17).

How did God make things?

The Bible says: ‘Then God commanded, “Let there be light” – and light appeared’ (Genesis 1:3).

This seems to say that God made everything just by commanding it to appear. He‘s much greater than us. He made everything out of nothing. When we make something, we have to start with things, and then work hard to finish it. God just said the words and it was done. We‘re not really sure exactly how they all happened – maybe God used natural processes, or maybe he used the ‘Big Bang’ to make the universe.

Which came first, dinosaurs or men?

The Bible says: ‘Then God commanded, “Let the earth produce all kinds of animal life; domestic and wild; large and small” and it was done’ (Genesis 1:24) and: ‘Then God said, “And now we will make human beings.”’ (Genesis 1:26).

So God made all the animals, including dinosaurs, before he made human beings. (Verse 24 comes before verse 26). Try Job 41:15,16 for a possible dinosaur description.

How did God make men and women?

The Bible says: ‘Then the LORD God took some soil from the ground and formed a man out of it; he breathed life-giving breath into his nostrils and the man began to live’ (Genesis 2:7) and: ‘Then the LORD God made the man fall into a deep sleep, and while he was sleeping, he took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the flesh. He formed a woman out of the rib…’ (Genesis 2:21,22).

It’s a lovely story how God made man and woman. He made us to be like him. He made us to be friends to each other.

Who is really Jesus' Dad, God or Joseph?

The Bible says: ‘So when Joseph woke up, he married Mary, as the angel of the Lord had told him to do. But he had no sexual relations with her before she gave birth to her son. And Joseph named him Jesus’ (Matthew 1:24,25).

Jesus’ real father is God. Joseph was the man who helped to look after him when he was born, so he was father in a way. He was married to Mary, Jesus’ mother. This was important to Jesus, I expect. But the Bible clearly says that Joseph was not his biological father.

If God loves us, why does he let bad things happen to us?

God gives us all the choice of doing good or bad things. If you get hurt in the playground by someone hitting you, was that God‘s fault for not stopping the other person? No, because God allows the other person to choose whether to hurt you or not. The same is true for all of us. If we could not choose in this way we would be like robots doing what God says is good all the time.