June 29, 2017

What Are Kids Seeing When They See The Bible?

Cameron Tarrh

We all used to be children at some point. Some of us grew up in homes where we learned about the Bible on a regular basis whether it was taught through our parents reading Bible stories to us or through Sunday School, Vacation Bible School or other means at church. However, many of us can also say that we did not have a strong foundation in the Scriptures growing up.

Regardless of which place we fall into, there was probably a period in our childhood (and even sometimes in our adulthood) where we thought of the Bible as nothing more than a rule book that tells us how to live in such a way that God won’t be completely angry with us. Sometimes that mindset can be a product of the way the Bible was taught to us growing up (probably the biggest reason), but sometimes it can also be a product of growing up in our culture. What I mean is this – somewhere along the way, when we were growing up, there was a part of our conscience that realized God wanted us to live and be a certain way that we were not, and because of the influences we learned from family, school, children’s media and other things, the way we tried to cope with that feeling in our conscience was to resort to rule keeping and doing good things because it was communicated to us that we were supposed to be that way and that things will go better for us if we are good. We end up seeing the Bible as a burdening book instead of the primary way God reveals Himself to us and speaks to us. Even though every child, man and woman struggles with having this mindset in one way or another, it is something that can be fought against and restrained if we learn how to help children see the Bible not as a rule book for life, but as a book that ultimately leads to Jesus as their source and purpose in life.

More than Morals

Recently I listened to a sermon by Tim Keller called War Between Your Selves (Part 1). The main passage of Scripture he used for this sermon was Romans 7 and one of the key ideas he mentioned was how Paul became aware of his sinfulness through the commands of the Law. Keller used this idea and mentioned something that stuck with me. He mentioned how if children grow up hearing nothing but moral teaching from the Bible, all it is really going to do is awaken their sin nature. We’re not doing children any favors if all we teach them is that the Bible says we should be good because God wants us to be good, and oh by the way, if you ask Jesus into your heart then He will save you. To use something I heard from the creators of The Bible Project, the Bible’s key themes and stories find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus; we need to figure out ways to teach this idea to children.

The Main Ideas

Now, that being said, it is difficult to teach the Bible to children without giving some kind of instruction that helps them grow in their understanding of what it looks like to follow Jesus. Children can understand a lot, but we can’t expect them to understand abstract teachings from the Bible that adults understand; so when teaching children, lessons need to come from a more practical perspective. But the main ideas I’m trying to get across are that we need to help children first understand their need for Jesus and also help them understand that living for Him is not about being “good” but about trusting Him and choosing to love Him through the help of the Holy Spirit. It is also vitally important that we help kids connect key stories and themes in the Bible to Jesus – showing them how we interpret Scripture in light of what Jesus has done.

Resources Worth Looking At

I’m not being paid to advertise here, but I would like to leave you with some resources that have inspired this post, helped me understand the importance of this concept and resources that I believe can help children see the Bible as more than just a rule book or guide on how to be good:

  • Show Them Jesus by Jack Klumpenhower is a great book on how to connect the Old and New Testament to Jesus in every lesson you teach.
  • The New City Catechism comes in book form for adults and youth, but also comes in app form. The mobile app has a “children’s mode” that puts theological concepts in condensed form that are more understandable to kids and also comes with catchy songs to help them memorize and remember.
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible takes key Bible stories and shows how they all lead to Jesus in ways small children and comprehend.
  • What’s in the Bible is a video series from Phil Vischer (Veggietales creator) that goes through every book of the Bible and explores their key themes and ideas.

Transformed by the love of Jesus

When kids see the Bible, it comes down to them needing to see Jesus – His love, forgiveness, invitation to enter His kingdom, and how we interpret the Bible in light of all those things. When teaching the Bible to kids, we do not need to show it to them as a rule book, but as the way God speaks to us today. They need to see that our life and purpose is found in believing in and loving Jesus because He loved us to the point of death, but was raised to life so we can die to the power of sin and live for righteousness; we have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13-14) and life in that kingdom finds its source in being transformed by Jesus and His love.