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?
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.