When I was a teenager, our church had a little Christian bookstore in it. One summer I received a gift card for the store, so I went in and bought myself a big old concordance. It was so heavy I had to carry it with two arms. My friend thought I was crazy, but I knew it would help me understand the Bible better.
What Is An Intellectual?
Some children share my deep curiosity and find it easy to dive deep into topics that interest them.
(Read about my experience with being an Intellectual in this article on how to love God with all your mind!)
The topics may not appear to be “intellectual” as an adult sees them, though. In fact, it may look more like an obsession with dinosaurs or bacteria, but children who love to learn often connect with God in the same way. These kids may find that it’s easiest to connect with God when they’re learning new things about God and the Bible.
As a parent, your job is to feed your child’s intellectual fire with challenging material and thought-provoking questions. It may be books that make him think deeper about faith, Bible studies that you do together or even buying him a concordance for his birthday. Many intellectuals also make excellent teachers because they love to share what they have learned.
How to Recognize an Intellectual Child
- A child that leans toward the intellectual sacred pathway might get very focused on certain topics and want to read or research about it.
- They might be the child that always wants to know “why” or “how”. This child has questions upon questions!
- An intellectual child might also enjoy teaching others what she has learned, although this could often look more like showing off her knowledge!
- Overall, this is the child that LOVES to learn.
Helping An Intellectual Child Worship God
My eldest son loves to learn about specific topics. He goes through phases of obsession (one time it was sharks, another time, magic tricks.) There was also the time he totally freaked out about germs, so we went into the “learning about the immune system” phase.
While it’s easy to just let him direct his own learning obsessions, I can point out how his interests relate to eternal things and give him material that piques his curiosity.
If you have a child like this, it’s important to feed their curiosity about God, not just their curiosity about the world.
How can you encourage kids to connect with God in ways that feed them both spiritually and intellectually?
Read to them, with them, and help them find appropriate material for reading on their own. What kinds of books could help your child delve deeper into God’s Word? Would biographies of faith heroes be the thing to catch their attention, or would the fantasy novels of Stephen Lawhead inspire new thoughts instead? Here are some more studious ideas:
a) A Study Bible.
b) Bible Dictionaries or atlases. These can be really helpful for children who love maps and/or non-fiction books. Discovering that the Bible happened with real people in real time with real artifacts is life-changing, particularly for logical thinkers!
c) Another thing you might take a look at for upper elementary/teens is some of the material by Ray Vanderlaan, who takes his Bible studies on location to Israel and shows how understanding the culture of the Bible can make the Bible SO much more meaningful!
2. Find fun (yet deep) Bible teaching videos
“What’s in the Bible” is my favourite for elementary-aged children. You can purchase them on DVD, subscribe at Jelly Telly, or find them on RightNow Media. I used the videos one summer for our elementary children’s program and even the adults learned from them!
3. Encourage questions
Let your child discuss, debate, and talk about REAL spiritual questions that they wrestle with.
With my intellectual child, we’ve talked about a surprising number of controversial topics together, and my husband and I ALWAYS encourage him (and his brothers) to ask their questions. If our kids aren’t allowed to wrestle with their faith questions at home, there’s probably no where else they’ll be able to do this.
And no, you don’t have to have the answers. Simply say, “wow, that’s a great question”, and wrestle through it together. You can just talk, or pull out a Bible and concordance and see if the Bible has clear answers.
But maybe you won’t even find an answer at the end, and that’s ok. There are some faith questions that have been debated for centuries, and you’re not going to solve them in your living room. However, leaving room for intellectual kids to ask, discuss, debate, and research their questions will have a HUGE impact on their faith formation.
(Here’s a related article on the topic of encouraging our kids to ask faith questions.)
4. Listen to the sermon together
Highlight this section friend, because you may not see this again.
I, Christie Thomas, former Children’s Ministry Director, am telling you to bring your child to “big church” instead of going to Sunday School. Seriously though, some kids are just ready, and will get more out of the sermon than they will out of Sunday School.
My 7 and 10 year olds both sit in the service a couple times per month (of their own volition!), and I’m often surprised at what they catch from the service.
5. Teach Sunday School with your child
When I say “with”, I don’t mean having them just pass our crafts and play hangman. I mean let your child actually do some of the teaching. One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to someone else! If your intellectual child also happens to have younger siblings, he/she can also participate in teaching at home.
There is really no limit to what your child can be learning. I believe that if you take the time to find out what truly interests your child, you can help them find ways to tune into God through that interest.
Astronomy, dinosaurs, history, graphic novels, math…because Christ is in all things and through him all things were created, he can be found in all intellectual pursuits, if you are truly seeking.
More on Sacred Pathways
This article was specifically about the Intellectual worship style and seeing God through nature, but did you know there are actually 9 worship styles for kids?
I have a downloadable quiz that you can take which will help you determine which of the 9 worship styles your child leans toward. Take the quiz here.
The concept of Sacred Pathways comes from Gary Thomas’ book by the same name. Check out Sacred Pathways on Amazon.
Other Sacred Pathways for Kids
- The Traditionalist Pathway
- A longer article: How to help your child grow spiritually
- A shorter article and video: One practical tip for teaching children about Jesus
- The Sensate Pathway
- A longer article: God gave us 5 senses: Here’s how our kids can use them to worship God
- A shorter article and video: Helping our kids engage God with all 5 senses
- The Naturalist Pathway
- A shorter article and video: Seeing God Through Nature
- The Intellectual Pathway
- This longer article on 5 ways to help an intellectual child grow in faith
- A shorter article and video: How to help your intellectual child with God through this one simple question