Did you know that a child's heart is a very precious thing? Look into a small child's eyes and you can see the openess and innocence there; and the deep level of trust they have for those that care for them.
In my extensive experience of working with children of different ages and in different settings I've found they often have little difficulty in connecting with Jesus; seeing, hearing, sensing him. However they do need our encouragement and validation as they journey into adventures with him.
Jesus was very clear about the high value he had for children and for being childlike:
About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven." Matthew 18:2-4 (New Living Translation, The Bible)
Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Luke 18:16 & 17 (New Living Translation, The Bible)
I believe it's vital for us to value what Jesus values and not miss out on the benefits of having a childlike heart ourselves as we seek to nuture this in our own children or the children we are leading. You can help their heart to stay childlike and open to Jesus!
Here are some ideas:
Chat about what it means to be open hearted to Jesus. Look at open doors and windows. Create and decorate hearts with doors that open and shut, with a 'Welcome Jesus' doormat.
Share what it means to you to believe and trust in Jesus in your own life. And show them your faith in action; this can mean making them aware of how your trust in Jesus impacts your thoughts, choices, responses, behaviour, beliefs and more.
Tell them how precious their heart is to Jesus and declare that it is open to him.
Pray and ask Holy Spirit to be with you then imagine your heart is like a home with a door, windows, roof, and so on. Invite Jesus to walk up the path to the door to your heart house and knock on it. What do you do?... Do you invite him in?... What happens next?... What does he do, say, show you?... Give time to connect and time to share together. (This is an Adventure Time)
Write about or draw your heart home in a special book (an Adventure Book) and what happened with Jesus.
Ask Jesus for his ideas on how to keep your hearts open to him and trusting in him.
Quickly deal with sadness, disappointment, anger, unforgiveness and anything else that would try to lock up the door to your hearts, by being open about these things, bringing them to Jesus and seeing, hearing or sensing his way forward to freedom and joy.
Learn bible verses like Luke 18:16-17 with your child to get God's truth in your heart and mind. You can use different voices (such as silly, robot, super slow motion, squeaky) or make up actions and challenge each other to say them. Or you could encourage your child to make a fridge magnet, bookmark or door hanger with their favourite verses on to remind them how important their childlike heart is.
Don't forget to stay open hearted!