Anyone who has tried to attend church with small children understands the enormous blessing of the church nursery and Sunday School. Not only does it allow us to participate more fully in worship, we've also come to rely on it to do some of the heavy lifting when it comes to teaching our kids about God.
Many of us are back to in-person church attendance, but in most cases, there is no Sunday School. Not to worry! You can do a wonderful job of teaching your children about God on your own, and you don't need a felt board or crafts--in fact, you don't even need to set aside a particular "Sunday School lesson" time. In Deuteronomy 6: 6-7, God's people are instructed to keep keep his teachings in their hearts, and teach them to their children throughout all aspects of daily life.
Regardless of your child's age, begin by speaking of God as the one who created everything--including us--and of his great love for us as his children. Whenever you get a chance, marvel with your child at the beauty of nature--clouds, flowers, animals, trees, stars, and all of the amazing variety and glory of it! There is no end to the wonder of nature!
This leads very naturally to the expression of thanks and worship in prayer. Make prayer a part of daily life--before meals and at bedtime are natural times to begin teaching your child to bow his head, fold his hands, and express thanks to God for his goodness and love for us in providing all that we need. As you encourage this, explain that we adopt this posture--bowed head, folded hands, closed eyes, and sometimes kneeling--because we want every part of us to show reverence to God--our words, our bodies, and our thoughts!
Nothing has a more significant impact on a child's faith than seeing and hearing their parents live and discuss their own faith. One of my most vivid memories is that of seeing my mother on her knees, Bible open in front of her, praying early in the morning. If you don't already, set aside a few moments in the day to read from the Bible and pray on your own; this will deepen your love for and understanding of God, and increase your confidence in talking with your children about him.
Nothing has a more significant impact on a child's faith than seeing and hearing their parents live and discuss their own faith.
Teach your child that because God wants us to understand and know him, he has provided his words to us in the Bible. You can help your child learn to value God's word by reading aloud from it. Mealtimes are a natural opportunity for this, and the Psalms are a good place to begin, but don't stop there! There is a multitude of amazing and wonderful stories, which you can read straight from the pages of Scripture: of course the well-known stories of Noah, Abraham and Isaac, Moses (as a baby in a basket, the plagues, crossing the Red Sea, etc.), Joseph (the coat of many colors, prophetic dreams, etc.), but also some of the less well-known ones such as Elijah and the prophets of Baal, Jael and Sisera, the "handwriting on the wall", and one of my favorites, Balaam's ass. (Look it up!)
You don't have to explain them, just read them out loud to your children! If nothing else, they will demonstrate God's power and faithfulness to his people throughout history, and let your children know there is a LOT of interesting stuff in the Bible (and no shortage of sinful people!)
A good Bible storybook can help with this. Some are better than others, of course--you want to be sure that the Scriptures are taken seriously, and that the stories clearly describe God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, without trying to explain the Trinity.
Which brings me to theology and doctrine. My advice is to keep it simple. Everyday life will provide plenty of natural ways to teach your children about sin--the sadness and separation that it brings, the need for repentance, the ever-present reality of God's mercy and forgiveness through Christ, and the joy of restored relationships.
There is no need to address the "why" of your child's particular transgressions--children don't know and/or can't express why they disobey, yell, lie, etc. and trying to assign a particular motive to sin adds unnecessary confusion. The important thing is to communicate that sin brings sadness and separation, but that through Jesus our sin is forgiven and we are restored to fellowship with God and others. Oh--and be sure you let your child see you repent of your own sin as well.
As your children grow older, they will probably have some pretty deep questions for you--don't hesitate to say you aren't sure, but also be open to finding answers for them, even searching the Scriptures along with them, or taking them to speak with your priest or minister. And be sure to share with them your own faith--tell them when you became a Christian, what God has done for you, how he has led you in various circumstances, and examples of answered prayer.
Last but not least is song. Children love to sing, and need to hear the sweet, simple melodies of songs like Jesus Loves Me and praise songs, as well as the more complex music and theologically rich words of the great hymns. You can find a multitude of wonderful recordings to help you learn them. Don't worry about whether or not your children fully understand the words--this will come in time, and all through their lives as they grown in Christ.
You see, the beauty of singing hymns and songs and spiritual songs is that the melody helps to embed the words into the hearts, minds, and souls of those who sing them, including your children. They (and you) will find these words returning in times of joy, stress, trouble, and sorrow, leading them to the throne of grace, and deepening their understanding of all that God has done for them..
The beauty of singing hymns and songs and spiritual songs is that the melody helps to embed the words into the hearts, minds, and souls of those who sing them, including your children.
Let's face it, they've probably already learned "I like it, I love it, I want some more of it", along with other not particularly edifying songs, and they'll learn many more with words that are much less benign--you should at least provide some balance!
So, while Sunday School is on hold, begin teaching your child about God on your own! And when Sunday School resumes, don't stop--make it part of the fabric of your family life.
What better gift could you possibly give to your children than an understanding of God's love, familiarity with his word, an understanding of how to approach him in prayer, and songs that express deep truths of God, buried deep in their hearts?