At dinner one night, my husband and I were getting our daily updates on life in preschool. Our youngest child, Benjamin, always has a story to share and has provided Matt and me with plenty of opportunities to guide him in conflict resolution. On this particular evening, Benjamin threw his hands in the air as he was trying to convey to us just how tough life on the playground is for this four-year-old.
In exasperation, he blurted out, “I was so fwustrated! Fwustrated just like Moses!”
“Like Moses?” Matt and I looked at each other surprised. “Is Moses a boy in your class, or are you talking about Moses from the Bible?”
“Moses from the Bible. The people were always whining and complaining …” and Benjamin continued as he tried to get us to understand how his frustrations were on par with those of the leader of the Israelites.
That following Sunday, I made sure to find his preschool director at church. I wanted her to know that, not only had Benjamin remembered the Bible story for the week, but he was also able to connect this story to his life.
As kids’ ministry leaders, that’s our dream. We want the kids who spend time with us each week to know the stories God has given to us and to understand they are relevant to their lives too. We can help the kids in our ministry have this experience. However, as leaders, we need to first define exactly what we want our kids to know.
Biblical Knowledge or Practical Application?
Before beginning to teach the Bible to kids, you need to have in mind the big picture. As followers of Christ, we are called to both love God’s Word and live His Word. How different churches teach this idea can look very different. Some place a high priority on biblical knowledge. Others might place a higher priority on practical application.
There is also a plethora of sound, biblical children’s ministry curricula that can help with biblical knowledge and/or practical application. As such, it’s always a good idea to know what the emphasis of your church is and to allow this emphasis to guide your curriculum choices and instruction.
Bring your church leadership into the discussion to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding the goal for children’s ministry at your church. Consider these helpful questions: When a child moves from children’s ministry into youth ministry, what do you hope he knows? What do you hope she can do or has done?
What Kids Should Know About God
As you teach the Bible, the truths you want to teach kids about God should be apparent. These truths should drive your decisions regarding curriculum resources. The following are ideas about God that you can communicate in your children’s ministry:
- There is no god but God
- God’s ways are perfect and good
- God loves us and created us
- Jesus came to save us
- Because of Jesus, we can have a relationship with God
- God has a plan for our lives
- We can live out God’s plan by the power of His Holy Spirit
When you know the truths about God that you want to communicate, you can find and teach these truths in each Bible story you share.
Age Is a Factor
As you choose the stories you want to teach, consider the ages and maturity of the kids you are teaching. While all Scripture is God-breathed, some Scripture is more accessible for kids than others.
Children typically cannot grasp abstract concepts until around middle school age which is why many of the Bible stories shared in children’s ministry have a Bible character around which the story is focused. Kids can see this character, understand his actions, and learn the Bible lesson.
As you move from preschool ministry to upper elementary ministry, the way you teach the Bible should progress as well, moving from concrete examples and lessons to more open-ended questions and abstract concepts. You may use the same Bible story for different age groups but teach it differently as you consider what is developmentally appropriate for each group.
Time to Teach
Once you have determined the values of your church, the truths about God you want to teach, and the stories you plan to cover, how do you actually teach the Bible? Consider these steps as you invite kids into a journey through God’s Word:
- As you read stories together, emphasize why they matter. These stories are not just another story; they are true stories from the Bible, God’s Holy Word.
- When possible, allow kids to hold and open the Bible themselves.
- Point out the Old and New Testament as you read each story.
- Ask kids where they see God in the story. It’s important that from an early age kids know that the Bible is primarily about God and His great love.
- Ask kids what we can learn about ourselves from the story.
- Involve parents and caregivers-they have more time with their children than we do. Give them the tools to reinforce the lessons learned at church.
At the end of the day, no matter the curriculum resources you use or Bible stories you choose, your goal is that children become fascinated with Jesus and the Word, that the stories in the Bible leap off the pages at them and point them to a relationship with God.
How do you know if you are accomplishing this goal and effectively teaching the Bible?
Here are some questions you can consider:
- During the Bible story lesson, do kids ask questions? Do kids participate in a discussion about the story itself or the lesson that accompanies it? Kids asking questions shows that they are thinking. When kids engage in a discussion about a topic related to the Bible story, they are moving beyond surface-level comprehension to a deeper understanding of the lessons and values derived from the Bible.
- Do kids demonstrate that they know the truths about God that you are teaching? Listen to the conversations kids have with their leaders and each other. Are they communicating the truth and values you want them to know?
- Do kids tell you about their life experiences in terms of the Bible? Consider the story of Benjamin. While he didn’t fully appreciate all the details recorded in Exodus, he understood the lesson. Benjamin connected an experience in his life to one in the Bible and was able to share it with his parents.
- Do parents share with you during the week? Parents love to share about their children, so make sure you are visible to parents to receive this informal feedback. Do not be afraid to request this feedback either. Ask those parents with whom you have a good relationship if their child shares the lessons. If you provide tools or resources for parents to use with their kids, ask them if these resources have been beneficial in guiding their children through the Bible.
Sharing the Bible with children is fundamental to their growth in faith. Let their journey fill you with excitement as you accompany them on this adventure!