Planting the Gospel in children’s hearts often involves becoming the role-model for them which means you become the authority figure, and one who teaches them what being a man or woman of God is really about. In other words, you teach them a whole new worldview, or way of thinking about life.
Changing their worldview with the Gospel is obviously going to be very difficult (especially since this role would normally be filled by their parents) so I started by looking for complicated programs or strategic plans to help change their thinking. While there’s definitely a place for this, I’ve replaced those strategies with a peanut butter sandwich.
Monday afternoon as the kids came they found not only the customary juice and Bible story but a toasted peanut-butter sandwich on the table. I carefully explained that the boy or girl who behaved best during story time and our game time playing red light-green light would get the sandwich.
There was a bit of confusion (and some annoyance) when I gave the sandwich afterwards to a little girl who hadn’t won at the game. More than one of the boy explained that they deserved the sandwich after winning two times.
Of course this confusion comes from a culture that rewards success (the fastest, and strongest) instead of a person’s character. This is why most of the boys who come over will cheat at a game every time my back is turned, and get into a heated argument if they don’t win.
The Gospel instead looks past a persons achievements focusing on the character of their heart. And I must make that heart focus a part of all the time they spend at Mr. John’s house (not just during the Bible story). In the future everything I offer; from the juice, to tablet time, or who starts a game will be given out not on the basis of who is the strongest, but who has the most character.
The true reason for the peanut-butter sandwich is it gives me teachable moments for the Gospel with these children. One boy yesterday in particular (the best athlete) was pretty frustrated because winning not one, but two competitions didn’t earn the sandwich, I explained after losing the last competition (a race) he got angry and said it wasn’t fair.
The idea of rewarding character instead of achievement is still foreign in his mind, but I’m looking forward to the moment the Holy Spirit allows me to explain God doesn’t care about all the things he can do…God cares about the heart. And winning all the races in the world couldn’t pay the price for his sin.
In a culture where children of all ages find their identity and self-worth in achievement may we create a worldview one peanut-butter sandwich at a time that emphasizes character over success, and by doing so point their eyes to a God who sees their heart.