Teaching Worldview to Kids

This week I had the opportunity to give a chapel talk at Innova Academy. This opportunity presented two unique challenges. First, I had a young audience. Innova is currently a kindergarten-to-eighth-grade school, which means the material I presented needed to be accessible. Second, I had limited time. I had less than 15 minutes to give my talk.

To make matters worse, I was determined to talk about a substantial subject: worldview. That’s right, folks. My goal was to teach worldview to kids.

Of course, it would have been much easier if I just told a quick Bible story and wrapped up with personal application. And there would have been nothing wrong with that. However, I wanted to address a fundamental need—a need many of our students don’t even know they have. Many of our students lack a Christian worldview. But this doesn’t mean they don’t have a worldview. Everyone has a worldview. What this means is they have a non-Christian worldview that will inevitably lead to their disconnection from the church.

In his book You Lost Me, president of Barna Group David Kinnaman writes,

I think the next generation’s disconnection stems ultimately from the failure of the church to impart Christianity as a comprehensive way of understanding reality and fully living in today’s culture…. Our research shows that most young people lack a deep understanding of their faith.

Kinnaman pulls no punches. The church has failed to equip the next generation with a Christian worldview.

We need to do something about it. But what?  

Well, it may help if our students understand what a worldview is and why it matters. So this became my goal. Here’s what I did.

I began by asking the students a question: what is Christianity?

A question like this is going to get a plethora of answers. Some think it’s a religious system with commandments to follow. And that’s technically correct. Others might push back and argue that Christianity is a relationship. And that’s true too. Christianity entails a personal relationship with God. These are true enough. But they don’t go far enough.

Each of these looks at Christianity from the inside. That is, from the perspective of how a Christian lives out his personal faith.

But Christianity is more than that. What do I mean? It is not merely a view about personal faith and Christian living. It’s also a view of the world in general—a view about where the universe and human beings came from, a view about the meaning of life, a view about where evil came from, a view about where human value and rights come from, a view about what God is like, etc.

That is why I think Christianity is best described as a worldview.

Of course, this raises a further question: what is a worldview?

Simply put, a worldview is your view of the world. It is a set of beliefs that tell you what the world is like. It is your picture of reality.

To illustrate this concept, I had my six-year-old daughter draw a picture of the earth, and I placed it on a slide beside a photograph of the earth. The drawing is the picture of reality that my daughter had in her mind. So there is the drawing, and there is the actual earth. And we can evaluate the drawing—whether it’s good or bad—based on how well it matches up with the real image of the earth.

In the same way, Christianity is a description—or picture—of how the world really is.

Next, I went even deeper.

A worldview is a lot like geographical map. Think about the purpose of a map. A good map tells you the lay of the land. It attempts to inform you about what the world is like—where roads, rivers, lakes, and cities are located.

After putting a roadmap of Italy on the screen, I asked the students, “How do you know if this is a good map?”

One student responded, “A map is a good map if it describes reality accurately.”

He was right. We know we have a good map if it matches up with reality. Next, I showed them what Italy really looks like by using a satellite image taken from space. Each student could see that this was a good map.

But not all maps accurately describe reality. To illustrate my point, I placed another roadmap on the screen. This time it was Iceland, not Italy. Like the map of Italy, it contained roads, rivers, lakes, and cities. However, every student could tell that this map was not a good map of Italy. In fact, if you took this map with you to Italy, you would get lost.

In the same way, a worldview is a good worldview if it describes the world accurately. Conversely, if your worldview does not accurately match up with reality, then you have a bad worldview. And following a bad worldview—like following a bad map—will have consequences.

Just as a map makes claims about reality, the Christian worldview makes claims about reality. For example, the Christian worldview teaches that Jesus rose bodily from the dead. That’s what Easter is all about. In fact, this belief is fundamental to salvation. Paul says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

But all other major worldviews hold that Jesus did not rise bodily from the dead. He died and stayed dead.

So, how do we know which worldview is right? Check reality. If there is good evidence that Jesus actually rose from the dead, but your worldview holds that He didn’t, then you have a bad worldview. And this has serious consequences because believing in the death-defeating, resurrected Jesus is the only way to be saved.

If we want to help our students to successfully navigate this culture, they need worldview training. And we need to start early. How early? Well, both my four-year-old and my six-year-old were in that chapel. As a result, they are both in a better position of understanding the importance of having a worldview that matches up with reality. My prayer is that this will serve as a foundation as they come to see that the Christian worldview is true and put their trust in Christ. 

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Tim Barnett