Remember learning Bible stories as a youngster? Such wonderful, amazing stories. Adam and Eve in the Garden. Noah and the Ark. Sampson and Delilah. David and Goliath. Daniel in the Lion’s Den. The Nativity story found in Luke. They stick with us. Who does not know about Jonah and the Whale?
Unfortunately, for many these are just Bible stories. Certainly, they shape our faith and our understanding of God (as in the Trinity). But far too often we’ve not learned how these events (they are history, after all) impact our lives today. We teach the story, but we don’t teach the lesson in that personal way that has such a tremendous impact on our lives today. Although we view them differently, these events, taught through Bible stories, are like a lot of children’s literature. There’s lots of entertainment, but little guidance for living.
As Sunday School teachers, parents and grandparents we can easily get our kids personally involved in these stories. This is one way that they can learn the real life lessons these events can teach us. One way is to ask questions. I’ve found that children as young as 3 or 4 can really “get into” these stories when they are asked probing questions. Also tie things to our kids’ experiences. Here are some examples:
Eating the apple: “How do you feel, what do you do when you really, really, really want to do something and mommy says no?” See if you can draw some examples of where the child wanted to get or do something specific, but were told no by a parent.
Crossing the Red Sea: “How do you think you would feel walking between two walls of water?” This would be a great question to ask while walking along a shore where the child can hear, see, feel and smell the water.
David and Goliath: “Do you think David was afraid of the giant? How would you feel? Why was David brave enough to fight Goliath?” See if the kids have ever been picked on by bigger kid or bullied.
Noah building the Ark: “What would you think if God asked you something really crazy sounding, like building a huge boat where there wasn’t a place to sail it?” If you’re in a place far from a body of water, ask if you think this would be a good place to build a huge boat.
Abram and Sari: “What do you think your parents would do it they were asked to leave their home and not know where they were going? Do you think they would be afraid? How would you feel about leaving your friends and your home?” See if anyone knows of someone who has had to move. Perhaps they’ve done it themselves. What made the move so hard?
Joseph: “How would you feel and what would you do if your brothers or sisters beat you up and then sent you away with strangers? How do you think your parents would feel about that?” See if any of the kids think they’ve been picked on by their siblings.
A shepherd in the field: “Would you be surprised if a bunch of angels suddenly started singing to you? Would you be afraid? Would you believe what they told you?” Kids are often startled by new noises or sights. See if they can think of an example and explore how they reacted.
As important as Sunday School is, it is even more important that these Bible Stories be taught at home. As parents and grandparents, we can teach in little bites, exploring beyond the story alone and demonstrating how we, as parents, live the lessons.
The goal of these sorts of questions is to get beyond the mere learning of a story to seeing how the lesson applies to our kids lives, to bring Biblical history to life. This process can go a long way taking us beyond the flannel board learning of stories to making the Bible a living lesson for our lives. When I asked these sorts of questions to my granddaughters (ages 7 and 4) last week, I got some very thoughtful and insightful answers. Because they are being raised in a church, school and home environment where these sorts of questions are asked, they are learning the lessons and living them as well. It is amazing to see how deep the understanding, even for children this young, can be.
If you teach Sunday School, ask these sorts of questions as part of the lesson. As parents and grandparents, talk about their Sunday School lessons with the kids. Ask the questions. Share your thoughts. Most of us get involved with what our kids are doing at school and helping with homework. Learing the lessons of the Bible is at least as important!
The same thing also goes for all of us who study the Bible, no matter our age. We must ask ourselves what scripture means to us in our daily lives, what we would do, how we would react if placed in the position of Biblical characters. How can I use the wisdom of Proverbs or Psalms on a day-to-day basis? What is God telling me here? What am I supposed to learn and do to build my relationship with The Father and Jesus?
On its historical merit alone, the Holy Bible is a wonderful book. But it is so much more than stale, dead history. It can be and should be our guide to daily living… and a living document.
Alive in The Word