Posted by: angiefm | January 17, 2009

How We Teach the Bible

After “How do you teach English”, this is the most often asked question.  And honestly we don’t have a mind-blowing answer. 

First up some Bibles and devotionals we have used/are using.  Then later a list of what we do … followed by a list of what we DON’T do …

To “teach” the Bible, we READ the Bible.  We believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to convict and do not feel that we have anything else to add apart from presenting the Word of God to our children.  Of course at different ages, we read the Bible in different forms and formats.  Here’s what we have used in the past:

Ages 0 to 4

The Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers and The Rhyme Bible.  These were good fun to read at this age when their ears are so tuned in to rhyme!  We still remember Alethea at 1-plus years repeatedly requesting the story of Zacchaeus from the Toddler version of this series!

Ages 4 to 6

The Step-By-Step Bible: A Panoramic Journey Through God’s Word by Gilbert Beers (ISBN 9780781433075).  This title is sadly out of print.  It was very enjoyable to read, not only because it covered many people and events which other children’s Bibles leave out, but placed end-to-end, the illustrations were one continuous drawing, showing children visually that the Bible was one long and continuous story of God’s dealing with His people.  

I have just ordered these to check out but haven’t reviewed them yet, but they are from the same author:  The Toddlers Bible & The Preschoolers Bible.

An alternative to this, which is a Sonlight curriculum recommendation for the Kindergarten level, and which we used with one child (Alethea) at 4 to 5 years is Egermeier’s Bible Story Book.  These are lenghthier stories for the child who can sit through books with very few pictures.  You have to go through 2 to 5 pages of text before you come to a full-page illustration and there isn’t an illustration for every story.  The same Bible is available in paperback.

For devotionals we have used and loved Big Thoughts for Little People and Right Choice.  We have also used God’s Wisdom for Little Boys and Girls, focusing on one character trait each week.  It was very good to be able to focus on training them in ONE thing – reinforcing correct behaviour or disciplining as the case may be – instead of being all over the place and having no focus.

Ages 5 to 7

The reading and comprehension levels of children in this age group vary greatly, so you have to be prepared to try different Bibles at this stage and put those that don’t seem to “work” aside in favour of something else.  Here are our top picks:

By far our family’s favourite story Bible is the Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos.  Her language, her thoroughness in re-telling the Bible stories and her little “asides” in the text are a delight to read.  There are still full-page illustrations, but they are few and far between.  This is a lovely Bible to get children to start narrating from because the language is fabulous.  And it’s not just for children.  I have recommended this to adults who are new to the Christian faith and they have found it invaluable in gaining an end-to-end understanding of what the Bible is about.  I myself have learnt a few things from this Bible.

For devotionals – We have never used Leading Little Ones to God, but have heard rave reviews about it and know that it is a widely used, systematic guide to presenting Biblical truths to young children.  Alethea (she seems to be guinea pig of sorts in this family) worked through one of the One Year Book of Devotions when she was 7.

For Readers

If you want to have your child read the Bible independently but are wary of them reading the more … er … “explicit” parts with your children, you may want to look up the Day by Day Kids Bible.  Alethea used this when she was 6, but it is recommended for children up to 10.  It is divided into 365 daily readings and cuts out the less “child-friendly” parts like some of the Levitical laws, genealogies, and passages with sex and violence. 

Alternatively you may want to check out these links.  They have what is called the “storied” Scriptures – all the stories you want to read to your children, but which you can read directly from the Bible using these references.

http://pennygardner.com/oldtest.html

http://pennygardner.com/newtest.html

Our family reads the New International Version (NIV) and the Today’s NIV (TNIV) versions of the Bible and when our children have reached Primary 1 and started attending Junior Sunday School in our church, we have bought them the following personal Bibles: Alethea was given the Young Women of Faith Bible and Timothy was just given the Adventure Bible, which he is still oo-ing and ah-ing over. 

This year we are ALL reading through The Narrated Bible.  It is the NIV presented CHRONOLOGICALLY and is broken down into 365 daily readings with commentary.  We are not reading the commentary this year, but certainly will in the years to come.  This is definitely a keeper!  🙂

What We Do Daily

We read the assigned passage of Scripture (from whichever Bible we are currently reading).  We (Daddy on the weekends, Mummy, Alethea, Timothy) all take turns to read.  Nathalie sits and listens.  The two older children (ages 8 and 6) are called upon to narrate what has been read.  When we were reading the story Bibles, they would typically be asked to tell back part of the story (when they were first learning to narrate) or the whole story.  Now, because our readings from The Narrated Bible are longer, I ask them to tell me what impressed them most, which Bible verse spoke to them (they each have a dry highlighter next to them when we read and are encouraged to mark in their Bibles), or what they feel the Lord is trying to tell them through the reading of the passage.  They can also ask questions about things they didn’t understand. 

We memorise a verse a week.  The verse for the first week of the month is the same as the verse they are memorising in Sunday School.  For the other weeks we pick our own verses.  This year we have started with 1 Corinthians 3:16 (Sunday School verse for the month) and Matthew 7:12.  This I will read (reference, verse, reference) and whatever they can remember, they follow along to say.  You will be amazed at how effortlessly they memorise Scripture this way.  Just by daily repetition.  By Thursday they would have got it down pat!  Even Nathalie (just turned 4) manages good chunks of it.

We sing a hymn, beginning with one verse then adding one more verse each day till we have learnt the whole hymn.  I explain any turns of phrases or words which they don’t understand.  Hey, even *I* don’t understand them sometimes!  Our church sings hymns during our morning worship sessions, so these are doubly meaningful for us because our children can worship with greater understanding on Sundays.

This year we are also going to be working with another family on a lapbook project covering the Old Testament.

What We DON’T Do (or try not to anyway)

We do not ask specific questions after a reading.  For example, there is little value in asking “where did Abraham live before the Lord called him to go?”  or “What was the name of Jacob’s youngest son?”  or “what was Moses’ father-in-law’s name” or “all in, how long were Noah’s family and animals in the ark?”.  If they remember it, they remember it.  If they don’t they can always look it up later if they remember the story and where in the Bible it is recorded.  We don’t want our children to have head-knowledge about the Bible.  We want them to take it to heart.  Literally. 

Instead we just have them narrate.  When they read the Bible or have it read to them, then are asked to re-tell it to us, it is more likely that they will tell what was meaningful to them and what impressed them.

We do not draw conclusions for them.  My pet peeve with lessons which end with specific conclusions is that you presume to know what that lesson should be.  How many times have you personally read a particular Bible passage only to have the Holy Spirit show you a different thing each time you read it?  Do not take that privilege from your children. 

Let me give you an example.  When the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is retold for children, the emphasis often is on the boy who had the five small barley loaves and two small fish, and invariably the “lesson” is that we have to share what we have and we will be blessed.  Or some variation on that theme.  But what about the wonderous miracle!  What about the eye-opening lesson for the disciples!  What about all the other thoughts about the majesty and power of our God we have had after reading about the miracle!  And does it even say that the boy VOLUNTARILY gave up his food?  We take all that WONDER away from our children when we tell them what they are to think is the point of the story.  So every time they think of the feeding of the five thousand, they are going to think … ah … that boy saved the day.

Be careful how we handle the Word of God.  Do no take away from it, or add to it.  Remember that … “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”  2 Timothy 3:16.  Trust that the Lord will speak to your children in His own way and in His own time through His own Word.

Be blessed!

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Responses

  1. Thanks so much for sharing how you teach your kids about God through the Bible, Angie. I love reading the things to do and not do and shared them with Tim. We’ll definitely strive to do these things as we read the Bible with the girls and as teach SS and lead Bible Study. I’m also going to check out the Leading Little Ones to God devotional. 🙂 YAY! Thanks again for all the fresh insight and ideas. You are such an invaluable resource!

  2. […] if you are wondering what to do for your own child, I suggest reading this post […]

  3. Hi Angie,

    Hope you’re all enjoying Montreal!
    Yup, revisiting the blog pages….they’re very informative and Holy-Spirit inspired!

    Take Care!

    Love,
    Sarah xx


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