How do you explain in terms young children can understand what it means to ‘bless’ someone in the name of God?
The word “blessing” can be difficult for children to understand. One reason we struggle is because there is a lot going on with that word. We remember that when Jacob tricked his father, Isaac, into giving Jacob his brother’s blessing, Isaac couldn’t just “take it back.”
David Stubbs writes in A More Profound Alleluia that a blessing is “a calling for the Holy Spirit to come and transform us.” Being blessed by God means “that we become holy, reflective of God and the purposes of God.”
Our understanding of a blessing seems to have been diluted somewhat over the years. We don’t really expect God to transform us because someone speaks certain words over us. But blessings given in the Bible suggest that these words are more than just something nice to say. On Renovare.org, Dallas Willard wrote, “Blessing is the projection of good into the life of another. It isn’t just words. It’s the actual putting forth of your will for the good of another person. It always involves God, because when you will the good of another person, you realize only God is capable of bringing that.”
When we are blessed, God is working in our lives to transform us. We aren’t blessed just so we’ll be happier. We are blessed so that we can bless others. Because being blessed carries with it a responsibility, the words of blessing at the end of our worship are often coupled with a charge, calling us to go out into the world as God’s servants. God commands us to go out into the world, but also to know that God goes with you. Just as God calls us and welcomes us into worship, God also sends us forth ready and able to do God’s work.
So how do we explain all that to children? Sometimes for young children, definitions of complex words will lose some of their nuance. We’re OK with that. The nuance will come later. A simple definition for blessing won’t explain all the things wrapped up in that word. With that in mind, we might say, “When we bless each other, we are praying that God will walk along with that person and be right next to them, protecting them, and helping them to do God’s work.”
About the Authors
Laura Keeley is a regional catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in the CRCNA and director of childrens ministries at 14th St. CRC in Holland, Mich.
Robert J. Keeley is Professor of Education Emeritus at Calvin University and a music leader at 14th St CRC in Holland, MI.