One of the most important gifts you can give your children is the ability to see God is alive and working in our world today. Some parents struggle with how best to show God to their kids. They get wrapped up in the difficulties of explaining God when He isn’t visible in the room. Sometimes their children will grow up to reject God because no one ever taught them where to look for Him.
The funny thing is the Bible tells us exactly where to show our kids God, so they will believe – in His creation. “Ever since the world was created it has been possible to see the qualities of God that are not seen. I’m talking about his eternal power and about the fact that he is God. Those things can be seen in what he has made. So people have no excuse for what they do.” (Romans 1:20 NIrV)
What’s more, God’s creation can also help your kids learn and understand more Bible stories and a host of other Bible skills. And what better place to see a great variety of God’s creation than a zoo? There are probably a lot of things you can teach your kids about God at the zoo, but here are some of my favorite things to do:
- Admire the beauty and diversity. The sheer overwhelming beauty and diversity of the large variety of animals at many zoos, point not only to God’s tremendous power and creativity, but to His love for us. Not content to create just one type of flower or animal, God has covered the world with incredible beauty and diversity.
- Notice the intricacy and delicate balance. Most scientists – even many atheists – have now had to concede the sheer intricacy of life and the incredibly delicate balance between life and disaster point to a creator. (Granted atheists point to life from another planet as the creator – no kidding – watch the documentary Expelled with Ben Stein or read current interviews with even people like Stephen Hawking.) Read all of those neat facts near the animals. Attend some of the talks given by zoologists. Research some of the animals you see your kids had never heard of before your visit. God made His creation so intricate and so delicately balanced, it could be no mere accident.
- Have a bible animal treasure hunt. There are over 90 “animals” (in the strictest sense of the word – some are insects, etc.) mentioned in the Bible. With older children you can teach them how to find things in the Bible before you leave home and have them create a “Bible” animal scavenger hunt at the zoo. Can they find all of the animals in the bible at your zoo? Can they find the three animals mentioned in the Bible that weren’t originally found in Israel? (Apes and peacocks were gifts from the Queen of Sheba and scholars think Deuteronomy 14:5 is about a giraffe which would have been a gift from Africa.) Can they figure out which animals in the Bible are no longer found wild in Israel (hippos, hartebeest, cheetahs, bears and lions) and which animals in modern Israel were not there in Bible times. (Mynah birds, nutria and brown rats!) Others from Bible times had died out and have been bred and reintroduced into the wild. (Ostriches, and certain species of deer and antelope.) You may even want to go back and read why some of those animals are mentioned in the Bible. Were they possible food God encouraged or forbade them to eat? Did they feature in a story, like Elisha and the bears?
- Learn how to be good stewards of what God has given us. Share passages like Genesis 1:28 and explain how dominion implied to not only care for, but to help thrive. Or discuss passages like Proverbs12:10, Deuteronomy 22:6, I Timothy 5:18, Luke 15:3-7 and others. What messages does God give us about taking care of the gifts He has given us – including animals? What is the balance between caring for them and at times eating them, that God showed us in scripture?
- Express gratitude for God’s gifts. After a day admiring God’s creation at the zoo, your children should be overwhelmed at the exciting gift God gave us of animals to enjoy. Encourage them to thank God in prayer and song as you return home. Remind them they don’t have to go to the zoo to see God’s creation of animals. Spend some time looking for those same gifts in your neighborhood. Teach your kids to be grateful for something as “normal” as the huge variety of breeds of dogs and cats or the deer or woodpecker that come to eat in your yard.
Taking time to “invite” God along on your next visit to the zoo is a great way to reinforce the amazing power of God, the beauty of His creativity and His amazing love for us. It’s definitely worth the time and effort.