Me: Hey, Audrey! How are you enjoying your new Action Bible?
Audrey (making a scrunched face): It’s awful!
Me (finding it worrisome that this 1st grader isn’t enjoying reading her Bible): Oh no…what’s going on?
Audrey: It’s horrible how people don’t listen to God. They ask for God when they need help, but when God helps them, they forget about Him, and they sin again! And then when they need help again, they ask for God again…it’s like they never learn!
Me (relieved and with a big grin): Audrey, I don’t think Israelites are the only ones who do that. We do the same thing! And we even have the Bible, God’s Word, with us. We sin over and over then ask Him for help when we feel desperate. We’re exactly like the Israelites…and we never learn either!
Audrey (eyes widening): Oh no…you’re right! We’re just like them! But God forgives us too…over and over and over.
Kids Are Capable of More Than We Realize
I knew that Audrey was an avid reader, and I had given her The Action Bible for her 6th birthday a week earlier. Her mom told me that she took her new Bible to every room in the house to read.
One of the things I loved about my conversation with Audrey was the fact that she was already couple hundred pages into the Bible in just one week (she was already on 1st Samuel at this point).
When was the last time you heard of a kid—or even an adult for that matter—get that far in the Bible in just one week? But what’s even better is that Audrey’s wide-eyed ah-ha moment told me that she understood the bigger story of what was happening in the Bible. She understood what adults don’t even often understand. She realized her own cycle of sin, and God’s unending forgiveness.
Understanding the Heart of God’s Word
When I think of Bible literacy, it’s not just knowing facts about the Bible. I grew up in the church from birth, and I was the kid who knew all the answers about the Bible (at kids’ level).
Name (or sing) all the books of the Bible in order?—check. Recite the Ten Commandments?—check. Recite the Lord’s prayer from memory?—check. Name the 12 disciples?—check. Recite countless Bible stories?—check. Be the first to find Bible verses during Bible drill contests?—check. I could even spell Nebuchadnezzar. And let’s not forget all the verses I memorized in Sunday School…
The problem is that all of that knowledge didn’t change my heart—God’s grace and forgiveness were not personal to me, and I didn’t love God’s Word. I went through all the motions, but I didn’t find excitement, nor did I really understand God’s redemptive story.
My desire is to help kids see why we have the Bible, and to see God’s big plan of redemption sprinkled throughout all the stories. Ultimately, I want kids to see God’s big love for each one of them. That to me is Bible literacy—understanding the heart of God’s Word.
Reading God’s Word
When I first started in part-time children’s ministry 25 years ago, I tutored middle school and high school students on the side for extra income. I had a hard time getting these students to read their required books for English class.
I sought help from a friend who was a middle school English teacher at the time. She told me that you have to help kids fall in love with reading…even if they’re only reading comic books. She told me that love of reading itself will eventually lead to reading other genres because they will fall in love with stories.
That’s when I started reading the Redwall and Harry Potter series with my students—and that’s when they started to actually like reading. That conversation always stayed with me…and as I got deeper in kids ministry, I kept wondering “how do I help kids fall in love with God’s Word?”
Finding God’s Word Exciting and Irresistible
As a children’s pastor, I always try my best to make the Bible stories come alive. I pour hours into making each weekend’s lesson experiential and memorable.
I want kids to not just hear and know Bible stories at face value, but I want them to find God’s Word exciting and irresistible!
God’s Word is amazing, and I want kids to experience that for themselves. I want their curiosity to be aroused and for them to ask questions. I want them to see how every part of the Bible is a piece of God’s overall redemptive story.
It’s important to me that kids want to read more of God’s Word. I want kids to know that, while “the grass withers, the flower fades, the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).
I want kids to fall in love with the Bible. This feels especially urgent to me when it comes to preteens—the transition from elementary to student ministries is one of the biggest drop-offs in church attendance.
Reading the Bible at Home
Each week, I challenge the kids to read at least one verse each day…but I also remind them that they can read exciting stories. Each month, I challenge our parents to invest their time in the faith of their kids through monthly newsletters and emails. (Here’s what one of our emails looks like.)
Partnering with parents—equipping, supporting, and resourcing parents with the right tools—to encourage them to invest in the faith development of their children is extremely important to me. After all, most of us get 1–1.5 hours/week with children in our ministries, and despite all their extracurricular activities, children still spend most time with their own parents in a typical week. In addition, parents are the most influential people in their children’s lives.
One approach to investing in kids’ faith is to encourage families to read each week’s lesson in the Bible and discuss what they’re learning. Kudos to those kids and parents who have taken on the challenge. But the reality was that this often felt like an uphill battle. And if I’m honest, I understand the struggle.
Choosing the “Right” Bible
There is a big gap between early childhood storybook Bibles and a full-text 66-book Bible. We all have preferred translations to use with our kids, but even NIrV® is often difficult for elementary kids—including preteens. A second grader once told me that he tried to read the Bible every day…but he just didn’t understand what he was reading.
The Bible is not an easy read even for adults, let alone kids. In addition, parents often don’t feel equipped to teach the Bible to their own children. I felt deflated. Once again, I came back to “How do I help kids fall in love with God’s Word?”
The Action Bible’s Biggest Fan?
In 2012, a friend introduced me to The Action Bible. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the idea of the Bible portrayed as a graphic novel. But I kept hearing stories of how kids just loved it. And my friend’s advice from 17 years ago about helping kids love reading kept creeping back into my mind. If this will help kids love God’s Word, I’m all in!
I ordered a case of The Action Bible, and I initially gave them to the preteen children of our church staff. Within the first month, I started getting feedback:
- “I saw the light on in Nathan’s room past midnight on a school night…I went into his room angry, but he was reading The Action Bible, and he told me he just couldn’t put it down. How do I get angry at my son who can’t put down the Bible?” —Mom of a 4th grader
- “Pastor Gloria, I read the WHOLE BIBLE. I didn’t know the Bible was so fun and exciting. I think I’m going to read it again.” —5th grade boy
- “I’m already reading the Bible for the 3rd time.” —4th grade girl
In all my years of being in ministry, these are words I had never heard before. I got excited, and I started reading The Action Bible myself. Though I have never been into graphic novels, The Action Bible captivated me.
I had always told adults that they need to read the Jesus Storybook Bible. Now, I was telling everyone I knew including adults that they needed to read The Action Bible—I became a walking, talking poster girl for The Action Bible.
I See The Action Bible Helping Kids Fall in Love with the Big God Story!
I don’t write this to be an advertisement for The Action Bible…however, I have to say that this Bible has really helped my help kids fall in love with the Big God Story.
I am quick to point out to the kids that The Action Bible is not a substitution for the full text of the Bible we use on Sundays. However, it’s a great supplement to help us understand the Bible better.
Just as I consult commentaries when I have difficulty understanding a passage in the Bible, The Action Bible can help us understand the narrative better. Not to mention, it helps us understand that all the stories are part of Big God Story. My kids are able to connect the story of Abraham to the story of Samuel, David, Daniel, and Jesus.
Resources that Catapult Kidmin to the Next Level
I often find that there are hundreds of resources for children’s ministry workers…but filtering through all these resources can be daunting, time consuming, and overwhelming. Finding resources that have catapulted our kids’ ministry to the next level is precious to me. Finding resources that help kids read and understand the Bible is priceless.
The Action Bible
Whenever I recommend The Action Bible to my friends, parents, and colleagues, I keep hearing amazing feedback on how kids are reading, understanding, and loving God’s Word. And honestly, this was an easy win!
I have received countless words of gratitude for sharing this resource with the families in my church. This became a resource that I believe in…and is worth investing in.
In my current ministry, we have a Faith Foundations class for preteens. 4th and 5th graders are invited to a 4-week class on Knowing God, Growing in God, Serving God, and Sharing God. The Growing in God session talks a lot about how to read the Bible.
This year, I decided that I really wanted our preteens to see how exciting the Bible can be. Therefore, we gave out The Action Bible to preteens who wanted a copy. It’s been only a month since the end of Faith Foundations, and, once again, I’m hearing from parents and kids about how much they’re loving the Bible.
Preteens Love The Action Bible
- “Thank you so much for The Action Bible. It is awesome! I love it so much. Thank you for teaching me more about God through this Bible.” —5th grade boy
- “I started reading the Bible in the car as soon as I got it. I finished the whole Bible in one week.” —5th grade boy
- “This is better than the Lego Bible. It’s so cool” —4th grade boy
- “I’ve read it every single day since I got it.” —5th grade girl
And why limit the Bible to preteens? I always have extra copies in my office, and if a parent is unable to afford a Bible or if I feel lead by God, I am quick to share this resource with kids. In my opinion, this has been one of the best investments in our ministry.
I have heard of more kids (and even parents) reading the Bible and falling in love with God’s stories when I recommend this Bible. Kids are eager to tell me what they have read and learned from the Bible when they see me on Sundays. They are emotionally engaged in the stories.
Kids are understanding God’s love for them. And this is happening in their homes. This is a children’s pastor’s dream, and it’s now it’s my reality!
Their Parents Love The Action Bible Too
Just last month, a parent emailed me after her 2nd grader started reading The Action Bible:
“My son just finished reading the Bible, and he started again from the beginning. Tonight, he came to me and said, ‘Mommy can you tell me more about the Pharaoh and Persia and about Baby long’…he meant Babylon. Thanks again so, so much for this Bible…it has been such a blessing to us.”
I’m thankful for this amazing resource…to help kids read, understand, and love God’s Word…and it makes it much easier to lead to focus on helping kids live out God’s Word. For more ideas on that, check out 21 Ways to Love, Learn, & Live God’s Word.
More Resources I Love
- The Action Bible
- The Jesus Storybook Bible (for bedtime stories or to read with early childhood)
- The Hands-On Bible (great trivia and devotions; New Living Translation–readability of 3rd grader)
- Spiritual Parenting by Michelle Anthony
- Trophy Child by Ted Cunningham
- The 5 Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman
- It’s Just a Phase by Orange
Want a page of resources you can share with parents? Download Menlo Church Mountain View’s GREAT DATES: Suggested Resources for Parents.