Miss Ruth Potter is on the Music Faculty at BJMBC.
How can we teach Bible stories in our Sunday schools and Bible Clubs in a way that remains true to God's intention for each story and also makes direct application to a child's heart?
Sabrina is probably the brightest little girl in our Sunday School. Her intense brown eyes watched closely as I told the story of Adam and Eve one Sunday morning. Finally, I showed a picture of a broken Adam standing next to an animal sacrifice.
"God requires a blood sacrifice for sins," I explained. "Are we still sinners today?"
"Then why don't we offer animal sacrifices any more?"
Her eyebrows knit.
The next picture was of Christ on the cross. Her gasp was audible, and the light of understanding flashed in her eyes.
It was a rewarding moment for me as a teacher of young children. But not every week is that exciting! Like most teachers, I sometimes grope for a simple way to explain a difficult concept or even have trouble figuring out what concept I need to communicate in the first place. I want to be true to what God intended by each unique story.
Here are some questions I try to ask myself when preparing a Bible story for children:
1. Where is this story in the big picture of the Bible?
Did it take place before the coming of the Messiah or after?
Was this story part of God's preparing the world for the sending of His Son or His shaping of the church, His body?
2. What is God Himself doing in this story?
Before examining any of the characters' wrong or right choices, we must point children to God's qualities displayed by His working in the story. Is there inspired commentary about His perspective throughout the plot? Is the story about brave David who killed a giant or is it actually about a magnificent God who can enable a shepherd boy to do something beyond his ability?
3. What can we learn from the main character's actions?
Were they wise or foolish? If the passage doesn't explicitly say it, are there other passages that address those choices that would shed some light on God's mind about it?
4. What does this story show about man's plight before a holy God?
Just because you are not telling the story of the crucifixion does not mean that aspects of the gospel are not shown every week as we teach the Bible.
5. What main principle is seen in this story that applies to a child's everyday life?
Expanding a child's understanding of the size and holiness of God must be our first passion, but leaving them with a principle they can live that week is also valuable. Keep in mind that all children have the roots of adult-size struggles and sins in them. Teaching them early how to recognize their own flesh and declare war on it could save them a lot of heartache later.
What motivated the Bible character to choose right or wrong? Were they selfish, jealous, disobedient, or hopeless? Did they lie, steal, or disrespect their neighbor? Were they proud, humble, lazy, or unfaithful? Children often struggle with these same sins in their home or school life. Don't be afraid to point out the obvious application to a child's life; the Holy Spirit will take that and use it in the children's hearts.
Teaching and ministering to children is a blessing and a privilege. It is a wonderful way to impact the next generation for the Lord. It requires study and a thorough contemplation of the passage you are teaching. But the results can make a difference for eternity!
Would you like to print a copy of these questions to share with your Sunday School teachers and children's ministry workers?
Dr. Philip Kamibayashiyama is the Director of BJMBC.
How can you find genuine happiness in the new year?
Are you happy this new year? We wish people a happy new year, but are we fully happy ourselves?
Actually, relatively few people are happy, even those who seem to be full of fun and excitement.
Why is this?
Often we are unhappy because, as we look back over the past year, we see that things in our life have not improved the way we wanted them to. Your circumstances have probably not significantly changed. Your pressures and problems are still there. Even if your circumstances have changed somewhat, many people in your life remain the same. Most of all, you yourself have not changed much in a year. If you admit that, at least you are humble and honest about yourself. That humility opens the door for change. God does give grace to the humble – those who honestly admit that what God says about their sinfulness is true.
What is the root reason why people are unhappy?
It is because a person becomes like his god. Emptiness is the nature of idols, and our hearts are idol factories. This is why not only pagans but also God’s people worshipped false gods and idols. OT history repeats over and over as if in a loop that people want a god besides Yahweh. Idols can be in the heart; therefore, John wrote near the end of the New Testament: “Brethren, keep yourselves from idols.” The point is that idols are empty (“vain” tôhû; see 1 Sa. 12:21). Therefore, those with idols in their hearts become empty and unhappy in heart.
But it doesn’t have to stay this way! This new year can be different. You can be different. But how?
First of all, realize that the answer is not ultimately in removing problems and pressures from your life. You should avoid overextending yourself, but your God can also do miracles beyond imagining. Secondly, the answer is also not in reforming yourself by your own willpower. You probably know that many New Year’s resolutions--even good ones--do not last past January, because our flesh and our heart fail.
Surprisingly, the answer and means to change is renewing your mind. Your mind includes the thoughts of your heart – having different desires, different values, a different view of life, and a different response to what you will face this year.
Biblically speaking, we cannot change ourselves. But God changes us when our heart is focused on Him. Isaiah 26:3 sings to the LORD, “Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusts in Thee.” God keeps us in peace (shâlôm: wholeness; contentment; happiness) when our minds are on Him. Our minds stay on God when we trust in Him. Where our thoughts dwell tells us where our hearts are.
Consider this application: when you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you want to see? The honest, humble answer of many people would be posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media. What you set your mind upon indicates where your heart is. When it is on vain or empty things, that moment of pleasure will end with an empty, unhappy heart.
Instead, to truly find joy, we need to set our hearts and minds on our glorious God and Savior Jesus Christ. Set your affection on things above. This means to delight in God’s Word and meditate on it day and night. If you do that, this year will be significantly different because you will be changed. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed…” (2 Cor. 3:18a).
May you have a truly happy new year.
A Free Gift for you: 12 Resolutions for Glorifying God this year.
Reading, learning, growing. God calls us to be changed through His Word. At BJMBC, our goal is to speak truthfully and clearly about that Word, while we prepare a future generation of students to proclaim it.