Children’s experiences can sometimes lead them to a false perception of God, making him seem unlikeable or unappealing. When they are bullied, for example, they can’t reconcile that experience with the idea that God loves them - if he does, why did he allow that to happen? Or if they have seen drawings of God in a cloud, looking down on the world, they may see him as a distant figure, only interested in the big things, not the tiny things that make up much of their world.
Unwinding is the process of spotting and gently correcting any misconceptions your child may have about God. There are two stages to this: understanding what might have contributed to their wrong view, and then helping them unwind it.
Things to try
Common 'wound up' views of God
The distant, busy god: Far away, preoccupied and hard to talk to.
The jolly, optimistic god: Always happy, but happiest when we get things right!
The angry god: Easily offended, best left alone or you could be punished for a mistake.
The mysterious, eccentric god: Unpredictable and unknowable, best to let him get on with things.
The buddy Jesus: Our best friend... but mainly my friend - and can be a bit boring.
How to start unwinding
Understand what their view is.
Watch, listen & ask - What do they say about God? Which Bible stories do they like? Try asking them to draw a picture of them and God – this can be very revealing. Don’t worry if their views don’t fit neatly into one of the categories above!
Start to gently correct this view.
We're really just helping to broaden our children’s understanding of God – He can be mysterious, but He also loves to chat with us, promises to be close to us, and has good plans for us.
Try exploring Bible stories that show a different side of God’s character - keeping watching, listening & asking, and share your own relationship with Him.
What do I do if...
I can’t tell whether a child has a disconnected view of God?
Observing your child’s behaviour may give you a clue - for example, if they are reluctant to pray or they get very anxious when they get things wrong. Think about which Bible stories they particularly like - do they give a balanced view of God, or could you introduce some different ones? Asking a question such as ‘What do you think God is doing today?’ can bring out some interesting answers, and asking children to draw a picture of themselves and God can also be very revealing.
I can’t identify my child’s view of God - it just seems a bit wrong?
The five views here are very common, but they don’t cover everything. Children will always form their own view based on a mix of ideas and experiences. You could try to encourage a culture in your family of talking about God, wondering what he might feel or think about something. If you can’t see an obvious problem, don’t worry! Giving your child a broad view of God and encouraging them to talk and think about how God acts in the world will help them develop a balanced view of God in time.
I’m not sure what a balanced view of God should look like?
Everyone’s view of God balances out over time, so the most important thing is not to worry! However, it is never a bad thing to check whether you might have picked up some assumptions along the way. The bias exercise in Session 3 of the course is a useful way to check your own particular bias.