When I was a preschooler, I remember watching Sesame Street and loving this cartoon about the letter “m.” “M” comes to dinner and eats everything that begins with that letter. A classic 70s clip: Sesame Street Video
The letter “m” in the month of March gets me thinking about what we measure at Weekday School.
Certainly one of the easiest things to measure is physical development. In the preschool years, a child’s physical growth is rapid and fairly obvious to discern. Children grow out of their clothes and their light-up shoes and they quickly climb up the growth chart in ways everyone can see. They grow in their physical abilities as well - mastering the monkey bars and moving the muscles in their hands to cut with mini-scissors.
But what about measuring spiritual growth? This is something that matters deeply to us as a school, but how do we measure it? It’s a little tricky. As Seth Godin writes, “Sometimes, the thing that matters doesn't make it easy for you to measure it. The easiest path is to find a stand-in for what you care about and measure that instead.”
When it comes to measuring spiritual growth in children, we often rely on the stand-in of spiritual behavior. A child participates in prayers. Sings songs to God. Obeys willingly (let’s clone that child, right?). These behaviors are vitally important - they are the outward expression of the life of a disciple of Jesus Christ.
But behavior is not the only thing that matters. Genuine growth in faith is also an internal and sometimes unseen process that involves a child’s will, mind, and heart. And unlike physical growth, spiritual growth isn’t always as rapid or noticeable. It’s more akin to using a crock pot to make dinner or taking a long road trip in the family minivan - it takes time.
How do you measure preschool faith development? One way we do that at Weekday School is by asking children open-ended questions and recording their answers. We recently asked our 4 Day students, “What is God like?” Here are some of their answers.
Super duper big up in heaven.
He looks like the pictures in my Bible.
He is handsome and wears a uniform.
He has a beard and a robe.
He loves everybody.
He wears white.
He likes the whole world.
A grown man. A brown man.
He has a beard and he’s old.
God is Jesus’ daddy.
He has the same eyes and hair as me and my Daddy.
Very tall and very powerful.
He would have a mustache, brown hair, and a blue shirt.
He is so big.
I love how these responses give us a peek into the mind and heart of the faith of a preschooler - God’s size, God’s wardrobe, God’s character, and the possibility of God having facial hair.
As we prepare to celebrate Easter in a few weeks, you may be interested in “4 Ways to Talk About Easter with Young Children.” The Easter story is a little harder to share with young children than the Christmas story because it involves talking about death - and death on a cross at that. I hope our preschool appropriate suggestions will be helpful for you.
My prayer for you and your family this month is that you “may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is love of Christ…that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:18-19)