JumpIntoTheWord

Bible Engagement Blog


1 Comment

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


Leave a comment

Family Bible Engagement

Many Christian parents want to raise their children in the way of the Lord, but see it as a daunting task – especially when they don’t know what to do or how to do it. So here are some suggestions concerning family Bible engagement:

  1. Make the Bible accessible. Remarkably, in many Christian homes, the Bible isn’t readily available. Children are naturally curious. If the Bible is left sitting on the kitchen table and they see you regularly opening and reading it, they’ll be more likely to open and read it too. “We will not hide these truths from our children; we will tell the next generation about the glorious deeds of the Lord, about his power and his mighty wonders” Psalm 78:4 (NLT).
  2. Draw them into the Story. Children love stories and the Bible is full of them (80% of the Bible is narrative). With children up to 12 years of age you should mainly share the Gospel stories and aim to help them see Jesus and His phenomenal love for them, because this is where Christian faith begins. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple” Psalm 119:130 (NIV).
  3. Be enthusiastic. Many years ago our family was invited to dinner with another family. When we’d finished eating the father pulled out the KJV and began to read. He read for about 10 minutes in a way that had me praying for the agony to end! Since then I’ve always told parents to use a version of the Bible with contemporary language and to read it with a voice that suitably dramatizes the text and gets the children wanting to hear more.
  4. Lead them to Jesus. Above all else, family Bible engagement should be Jesus engagement. When you open the Bible, do so in a way that opens a window through which your children can see Jesus. The primary aim of family Bible engagement should be nothing less than to see the beauty, glory, grace, and awesomeness of Jesus.
  5. Share the adventure. Jump in – boots and all! Think of family Bible engagement as a quest, i.e. the pursuit of Jesus. There’s no perfect way to do family Bible engagement, but when imperfect people journey together in the Word, amazing and exciting things happen. “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” Luke 11:28 (NIV).
  6. Incorporate object lessons. Jesus constantly used familiar examples from everyday life in His preaching and teaching. Object lessons, properly used, capture the children’s attention and helps them connect the dots to a biblical truth. Here’s where Google is helpful – simply search for “Kids object lesson on …………. (insert topic)” and you’ll discover lots of ideas.
  7. Engage the senses. Family Bible engagement should incorporate all five senses. Sight and sound are more commonly used in Bible engagement, so it usually requires a little creative preparation to integrate taste, touch and smell. For example, when reading about Jesus being the “bread of life” (cf. John 6:35) you can employ all the senses by eating some freshly baked bread.
  8. Look for teachable moments (unplanned opportunities to provide insight and understanding). Keep your eyes peeled and your ears open to what’s happening in the lives of your children. God’s Word will come alive for children when you sense and seize on everyday happenings in their lives as openings to instruct and apply biblical truth.
  9. Rely on the Holy Spirit. Bible engagement isn’t a solo affair. The One who is the Word teaches children the Word. He will also direct you as you connect your family with the Word. So make it your responsibility to draw your children to the Word, and trust Him to open their hearts and minds to Him. “The Spirit shows what is true and will come and guide you into the full truth: John 16:13 (CEV).
  10. Pray the Scriptures. Children should pray the Word as naturally as they read the Word. When children pray the Word it transforms their hearts. Which is why prayer should never be rushed and the content should be closely aligned with what’s been gleaned from a text/passage.

While much more could be said, there’s probably enough in the points above to help you and your family meet with Jesus in and through His Word. Regardless of whether you incorporate all or some of the suggestions for family Bible engagement, don’t hold back from doing everything you can do to help your family grow in their love for the Word and for the One who is the Word, Jesus Christ.

© Scripture Union Canada 2018

2 Corinthians 4:5


Leave a comment

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