Jared Martin shared an amazing insight a while back. I’ve reordered the question:
Are your kids stained or painted with the Gospel?
I think for many who teach children, we just teach kids the Bible and about Jesus and it sticks to them. It might stick for a long time or it might stick for a short while, but in the end, it doesn’t actually change them. It just appears as if they have been changed.
This is what Jared alludes to as paint. You can paint over something, but it doesn’t actually change what is underneath. It just covers that something over with something pretty (an often it’s only pretty at the time).
Jared goes on to advocate for stain rather than paint:
A better goal to strive for is stain. When you stain wood, that stain soaks deep into the wood itself. In fact, while the original integrity of the wood often shows through in this method, it is forever changed by the stain. It soaks into the wood and you can’t just scrap it away. This is more of what we should strive for. Rather than just covering things up with facts about Jesus, we need to allow the Gospel to soak our kids and saturate their very being. The beauty of a good stain is that, while the original texture of the wood is still visible, it is made more beautiful by the stain. This is the Gospel in our lives. It beautifies without hiding. It saturates and changes us without covering who we were meant to be. This is accomplished when those facts we learn are allowed to form a relationship with Jesus. It happens when instead of memorizing a verse for a project or to earn points, we allow that verse to shape how we live our lives.
I loved Jared’s metaphor of what we should strive for. It’s pretty easy both as a parent and as a children’s ministry leader to merely transmit information about Jesus, instead of transfer and model a relationship with Jesus. I got to tell you that it is much more difficult and more messy to stain the Gospel rather than paint the Gospel. In fact, it is sad to say that it is easier to paint than to stain. However, over time the cracks will show and it will be revealed for what it is.