Amy Csoke, a colleague at Scripture Union, recently entitled one of her workshops, “Kids Can Read the Bible Too!” It’s a great title and I’m hoping it catches the attention of Christian parents and teachers who want to help children read God’s Word.
Before we get to the practical part of how kids can read the Bible too, there are three essential Bible reading principles we must teach children:
- We must read the Bible focused on Jesus. The principal reason why we read the Bible should be to know the One of whom it speaks (cf. Luke 24:27, John 5:39-40). Bible reading should connect children with Jesus as King so that they see themselves as citizens in His kingdom. “Our goal must be for kids to catch this rock-their-world vision of Jesus,” says author Jack Klumpenhower. So Bible reading should never major on gathering information or knowledge, developing biblical literacy, teaching Christian morality, providing answers for pressing needs, or changing a child’s behaviour.
- The Bible is read according to its conditions and context, not ours. When children read the Bible, they can’t read it like they read other books. That’s because the Bible “is living and active” (Hebrews 4:12a) and as such, reads us. God’s Word isn’t like our words. In fact God’s Word has authority over our words and even “judges the thoughts and attitudes of [our hearts]” Hebrews 4:12d.
- Bible reading requires the reader to enter into the Story. Children can’t read the Bible at arm’s length. They’ve got to read it intimately and engagingly. That’s because the Bible is a spacious realm that invites us to actively come in with imagination and faith, and once we’ve entered, to be participants who get caught up in it by receiving and reenacting it.
So with these three principles in mind, how do we help children read (listen, reflect, engage) the Bible dynamically? Here are ten practical suggestions:
- Sing it. When children sing the Word, it brings their hearts “into alignment with God’s heart, with God’s ways, with God’s plans, and with God’s personality,” says Stuart Greaves from the International House of Prayer.
- Draw it. Artistic reflection is a powerful way to focus attention on the text because it’s a process that provides creative space for children to linger in the Word. Using water-colours, stencils, markers, sharpies, crayons and such are tools that enable children to surmount spiritual, intellectual or emotional obstacles and meet with God.
- Act it. Drama can grip, shape, move and inspire. Especially for children who learn by doing, acting out a story enables them to own it.
- Write it. Using a pen or pencil to write out a Scripture passage or verse allows a child to slow down and mull over the words or phrases.
- Pray it. The best prayers are those birthed, informed and sustained by the Word. Bible reading and prayer go together. To read right, children must pray the Word; and to pray right, children must read the Word.
- Memorize it. When God’s Word is learnt by heart, it reprograms the heart. And more. Scripture memorization draws a child more fully into the Story and builds confidence in reading, reflecting, remembering and responding to the Word.
- Contemplate it. Children need to listen to the Word in order to be shaped by the Word. Children’s ministry specialist, Ivy Beckwith, says, “Without silliness and sometimes with profundity, children can do silence.”
- Question it. Asking questions, including tough ones, is an essential skill that every child should learn in order to interpret God’s Word. The six questions children must ask of the text is who, what, where, why, when and how.
- Enter it. Children should be invited to penetrate a Bible story more holistically by picturing themselves as one of the characters in the story or by stepping into it through the use of sanctified imagination.
- Live it. The main body parts for reading the Bible aren’t the eyes and brain, it’s the hands and feet. To read the Bible well, children must learn the Nike principle – “Just do it!”
And one more suggestion: We’re better together. Yes, kids can read the Bible too, but they need you. According to the African proverb, “If you want to go far, go together.” Children need you to journey with them in their Bible reading so that when they require help, lack discipline, or get discouraged, you’re there to support and help them persevere.
© Scripture Union Canada 2018