JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


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Connecting Children with the Bible

Story is the fundamental instrument of children’s thoughts. They dwell in stories all the time, inside their own heads. It’s what helps them know who they are and why they’re here – their building-blocks for life and living.

By God’s design, most of the Bible is narrative in character – making it a spiritual playground for children. As the Story of stories, the Bible invites children to enter in and enjoy it. As children enter in, they soon realize that the Story wants them to meet the Storyteller!

No two children enter God’s Story in the same way. They enter arbitrarily – making unique connections that uniquely join their lives to His life. If we try to make children fit in with how we think they should become part of the Story, we do them an injustice. God’s Story must speak for itself.

While we should never tell children how their stories should connect with God’s Story, we should ask questions that help engage their imaginations. By entering God’s Story with their imaginations, children make links to their experiences. When the Bible connects with their experiences, it has meaning and value.

German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” When we connect children with the Bible, the aim should never be solely Bible knowledge. Transformation, not information, is the goal. When information is the goal of a child’s interaction with the Bible it results in death, but when transformation is the goal, it results in life.

There’s something in every child that seeks relevance. Children want to be raised-up – set on the path to being all they’re meant to be. Spiritually, they’re looking for redemption, desire deliverance, and want to see what falls being restored. As Christian educator Dorothy Furnish says, “Only if the Bible has meaning now will children look forward with expectation to the discovery of Bible meanings in the future.”

Sometimes our efforts to help children find meaning in the Bible, while well-intentioned, are counterproductive. The Bible study method that equates Bible characters with superheroes is a good example. How can children find meaning in their lives when they’re taught that men and women of the Bible are like Superman or Wonder Woman? Scripture Union’s children’s ministry specialist Wendy Strachan aptly says, “The Bible comes alive to children when we help them to realise that the people in its pages are people like them. Not heroes. Ordinary people.”

Furthermore. Since every child connects with the Bible distinctively, they likewise respond to the Bible distinctively. We should never expect children to react to God’s Story in set ways. Rather, our task is to invite children to engage with the Story in ways that encourage and respect their interaction – however unexpected their questions, comments, or responses may be. By inspiring discussions and valuing children’s responses, we pave the way for a lifetime of Bible engagement.

Along with verbal responses, multi-sensory reactions to God’s Story should be encouraged. Children should have opportunities to connect with the Story through journaling, singing, acting, Godly Play, drawing, painting, writing, reflecting, and celebrating. Helping children connect with the Bible using all their senses enables them to engage their hearts, heads, and hands.

The Nike slogan, “Just do it!” should be the visible outcome of children interacting with the Bible. Children should respond to the Scriptures by helping others, caring for creation, doing what is fair and just, being compassionate, and interrelating with the world in a way that points people to Jesus.

This can’t and won’t happen if the Bible isn’t the window through which children view the world. It’s only when the Bible takes root (in a child’s life), that it produces fruit. In other words, when children are besotted with the Storyteller, they’ll live out His Story.

Finally, while children will connect with the Bible on their own, they’re far more likely to connect with the Bible when they do it with others. Bible engagement happens best in the context of community. Children need their parents and a faith community to “impress” the Scriptures on them (cf. Deuteronomy 6:7). Loving relationships are a big part of connecting children with the Bible. When we appreciate the biblical insights and contributions of children, their connections with the Story and the Storyteller are enriched.

© Scripture Union Canada 2021

2 Corinthians 4:5


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How to help children understand and apply the Bible themselves

Lewis Foster, a professor at Cincinnati Christian University and one of the translators of the NIV and NKJV, once said that the Bible is simple enough for a child to wade in the shallow end, yet profound enough for scholars to spend a lifetime exploring its depths. That’s true, but it doesn’t mean that children should only wade in the shallow end. They should also learn to swim in the deep end; to study, understand and apply the Bible themselves.

So how do we help children learn how to understand and apply the Bible themselves? Here are five suggestions:

Be a swimmer. We (parents and Bible teachers) must first be seen to be swimming in the deep end if we want to teach our children how to swim. Sharing a Bible story or teaching a child a biblical principle, but not living out the truth of the story or applying the principle to our own lives is hypocrisy. This is foundational – the precepts of the Bible must be seen to be informing every facet of our adult lives.

Start with the basics. Swimming lessons should begin with the basic strokes. Teach the major themes of the Bible and how they fit together. Help 4-8 year olds learn how God made them (creation), loves and wants to know them (birth and death of Christ, Gospel) and has a special place prepared for them (Heaven). Teach 6-12 year olds the essential stories of the Old and New Testaments and how they fit together. [The beautifully illustrated 5Series is an excellent resource for 4-8 year olds and the award winning, Big Bible Challenge, is ideal for teaching the major themes to 6-12 year olds]

Use swimming aids. Floatation vests, kick boards, goggles and other devices are helpful when someone is learning to swim. Similarly, use biblical games, dramas, films, music, and online resources to help facilitate a core understanding of the content of the Bible. [Highly recommended: Guardians of Ancora, Max7 and the Bible App for Kids]

Float. Swimming can be tiring. Children must also learn how to rest/relax in water. In other words, we must teach our children how to contemplate/meditate/reflect on the Scriptures. Children must soak in the Word until they get wrinkled! For this to happen we must explore creative ways to help children open themselves to Scripture, to really listen (Lectio Divina for kids), to be spiritually transformed.

Dive in. When our children have learnt how to swim, it’s time for them to jump into the deep end! If the elementary schooling system can expect children to master mathematical theories and computations that many adults cannot do, then we should push the limits with our Christian children. Challenge them with basic theology (Theo Presents Big Theology for Little Kids), apologetics (Childsize Apologetics: A New Approach), ethics and other biblically related studies.

There’s much more that could be said about how to help children understand and apply the Bible themselves. When I started drafting this post I jotted down the importance of teaching children how to ask the right questions of the text, how to encourage biblical exploration, wondered about if and at what age we should teach them doctrine, wondered about how we might teach them to use basic research tools (Bible dictionary and commentary), how to equip them to do basic exegesis and hermeneutics (without mentioning these two words), and I also mulled over how we can do all these things in a way that inspires our children to act on the Word, i.e. put it into practice.

So what would you add? Please make a comment …

© Scripture Union Canada 2016

2 Corinthians 4:5


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How To Help Children Get Into The Word

Parents sometimes ask me, “How can we help our children get into the Word?” This is a great question. It recognizes that one of the most important things we can do for our children is help them meet with God and learn His ways. And more, when children get into the Word they develop a biblical world view that informs and directs their beliefs and actions.

What follows are three essential things my wife and I did to help our children get into the Word:

  • Be seen reading the Bible yourself. More is caught than taught. When our children were younger it was evident we were reading the Bible because it was in a book form. Morning or evening, or some other time during the day, our children would see one of us sitting in a chair or lying on a couch with a Bible in hand. Now I mainly read the Scriptures on my tablet or laptop, so what I may be reading or doing isn’t evident. That’s why we recommend, if you have younger children (ours are adults), using a hard copy.
  • Read the Bible with your children. A joy shared is a joy doubled. One of the greatest gifts you can give your children is a love for God’s Word. But it doesn’t happen through osmosis. Children need to regularly hear the Bible read by their Dad or Mom. Why? Because when they hear and chat with you about the Word they’ll understand why you treasure it and why they in turn should likewise value and live by it.
  • Capitalize on teachable moments. There are countless unplanned events you can use to connect your children with God’s Word. Bible engagement shouldn’t be compartmentalized – it should be part and parcel of the things we say, do and experience every day. So a difficult day at school becomes an opportunity to read about how God cares for us, or seeing a beautiful flower sparks a conversation about the wonder of creation and reflecting on Genesis 1. And when your children are older the teachable moments ramp up to include theological discussions (informed and rooted in the Word) on all manner of subjects, musings, ethics, philosophies, moral dilemmas, perspectives and such.

There are many other basic things that we did to help our children get into the Word. But most importantly, we also prayed – trusting God to stir up a desire and love for His Word in their hearts and minds. And He did. And now they are adults, with their own children, and they have not departed from it (cf. Proverbs 22:6).

© Scripture Union Canada, 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5