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Teaching the Bible to Children - Where to Start?


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#1 Ken Gilmore

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Posted 26 March 2011 - 03:56 AM

The OT scholar Peter Enns is perhaps best known for his influential book Inspiration and Incarnation, but he's also working on less arcane material, such as his Bible curriculum Telling God's Story. What caught my eye recently was his view on where in the Bible one should start teaching the Bible to children:

What are the first Bible stories that a child should know? Should you teach the Old Testament before the New—or the other way around? How about the really difficult parts—should you tackle those head on, or wait until the child is older? In this workshop, I suggest that the best place to start is not with “Bible stories” (Noah’s ark, David and Goliath), but rather with the Jesus. Jesus is the center of the Christian faith and the proper place to start a child’s Christian education. In grades 1-4, students should get to know him the way the first followers of Jesus did: through his teachings, healings, interactions with his opponents, etc. In grades 5-8, young students should take a huge step back and focus on the big picture of Israel’s Story, the Old Testament; this helps give a greater sense of how Jesus brings Israel’s story to its conclusion. In grades 9-12, students should focus on the historical setting of the Bible. The Bible was not written in a vacuum; knowing something about the cultures in which the Bible was written will help them develop a mature understanding.


Most Christadelphian children are taught in Sunday Schools that employ well-designed curriculums, so there's not a pressing need to adopt a modified version of his curriculum. What I did appreciate was his suggestion that the best place to start was with Jesus, rather than start at the beginning of the Bible. Certainly, from the first Adam to the second Adam, there is a narrative that needs to be taught, but as Enns says, that can come later.


I must admit that this does sound like an interesting approach. How many here think that starting Sunday school with the "stories of Jesus" initially, then stepping back to give the OT backdrop would be a better approach?


“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” - Galileo Galilei

#2 Jon

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Posted 26 March 2011 - 04:21 PM

Surely we should declare the 'whole counsel of God', but 'begin at Moses and the prophets' seems as good a place to start as any.

Edited by Jon, 26 March 2011 - 06:14 PM.


#3 Russell

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Posted 26 March 2011 - 04:45 PM

I don't see that it matters. Learning the Bible in children is not just serial, any more than learning language. It is immersion.

#4 Fortigurn

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Posted 26 March 2011 - 06:33 PM

I agree with Russell. Furthermore, I can't see how God doesn't come first.

#5 Richard

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Posted 26 March 2011 - 08:57 PM

Yes, Jesus' religion was God centred so ours should be too. Quite apart from the fact that as soon as you start reading the New Testament you've got to go through Abraham and David straight off the bat.

#6 Mercia2

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 03:39 AM

duplicate, sorry

Edited by Mercia2, 27 March 2011 - 03:50 AM.

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” = "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" = "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" Psalms (104:1) = "They saw what seemed to be flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2 - the secret is over, your ministering angel you need to be saved is the Holy Spirit.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/20950-holy-spirit-mercia/

Mark Of The Beast - his Name is the charachter/image of the medievil popes (now modern man)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/4997-mark-of-the-beast/page__pid__439951__st__120#entry439951

Historicists - Dual Fulfillment (seven thunders = more literal warning)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/14248-historicists-revelation-has-a-dual-fulfillment/

#7 Mercia2

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 03:49 AM

The Words of God need to be eaten, consumed internalized as we eat bread. If those words can get into the subconcious then God can work with that child on recollection at poignant times of those words and stories when applicable to deeper understanding.

Personally I would start with Jesus but just briefly, as it does not take long to read a gospel, but leave the gospel of John for the child to read when older as thats more about your personal relationship with Jesus and I am not sure would work unless read yourself, then link as much back as possible in what Jesus says to the OT as an intro and then go from the start. Then enourage the child to look for echoe or similarity having been introduced to the teahings of Jesus first. Otherwise we are going to give the impression the OT is this rigid literalist book and the NT is totally alien in its use of its more symbolic/non literalist style yet when appearances deceive. So I would plant the thought of Jesus starting His ministry by going 40 days, a day for year in the wilderness after the example of Israel, therefore internalising an OT narrative, presumably to teach us how we are therefore to interpret and internalise these stories in the OT to teach us about our own lives/walk with God. Perhaps show the child the parts in which the day for a year while in the wilderness key is given and encourage them to look out for these keys as that is what makes studying the Bible most fascinating, but then again perhaps the basics/foundations need to be layed first and I do not understand? I am not even sure it is possible to teach young chidren this, I did not go to Sunday school and have never taught children although I have a 4 year old to teach so will be considering your experience/replies carefully. At what age does Sunday school start?

Edited by Mercia2, 27 March 2011 - 03:54 AM.

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” = "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" = "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" Psalms (104:1) = "They saw what seemed to be flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2 - the secret is over, your ministering angel you need to be saved is the Holy Spirit.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/20950-holy-spirit-mercia/

Mark Of The Beast - his Name is the charachter/image of the medievil popes (now modern man)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/4997-mark-of-the-beast/page__pid__439951__st__120#entry439951

Historicists - Dual Fulfillment (seven thunders = more literal warning)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/14248-historicists-revelation-has-a-dual-fulfillment/

#8 Mercia2

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Posted 27 March 2011 - 03:59 AM

n this workshop, I suggest that the best place to start is not with “Bible stories” (Noah’s ark, David and Goliath), but rather with the Jesus. Jesus is the center of the Christian faith and the proper place to start a child’s Christian education. In grades 1-4, students should get to know him the way the first followers of Jesus did: through his teachings, healings, interactions with his opponents, etc. In grades 5-8, young students should take a huge step back and focus on the big picture of Israel’s Story, the Old Testament; this helps give a greater sense of how Jesus brings Israel’s story to its conclusion. In grades 9-12, students should focus on the historical setting of the Bible. The Bible was not written in a vacuum; knowing something about the cultures in which the Bible was written will help them develop a mature understanding.


thats what I mentioned about linking back Jesus to Israel by starting with Jesus.
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” = "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" = "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" Psalms (104:1) = "They saw what seemed to be flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2 - the secret is over, your ministering angel you need to be saved is the Holy Spirit.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/20950-holy-spirit-mercia/

Mark Of The Beast - his Name is the charachter/image of the medievil popes (now modern man)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/4997-mark-of-the-beast/page__pid__439951__st__120#entry439951

Historicists - Dual Fulfillment (seven thunders = more literal warning)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/14248-historicists-revelation-has-a-dual-fulfillment/

#9 daysha

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 08:49 PM

I see it as teaching about the gospel and all the things that are IN the Bible, rather than 'teaching-the-Bible' per se.

When I was a kid I found it helped me when Mum would chat away about the Kingdom and about Bible stuff and weave it into ordinary daily life.
That method helped me see that God is everywhere 24/7/365.
That way, the gospel and God wasn't just 'something you do on a Sunday' or 'doing the readings' in the evening - compartmentalising Him.
The Pharisees compartmentalised God - they'd participate in some ritual or other then turn around and forget Him and go about their real daily life.
Do all to the glory of God. Read His word prayerfully, think about it, meditate upon it and do.

#10 twoofseven

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 09:46 AM

Not Sunday School, but at home, when we do readings, we always stop and talk about what happened and particularly the confusing bits to make sure my 7 year old has a decent grasp on what it means. You don't know how much sinks in, but I love hearing him read words like righteousness, and Pharisee without any help. :)

This is particularly important when your entire family thinks you are heretics and tries to slip in orthodox teaching to your children. Or, in the case of my dad, a bizarre mish mash of traditional and pagan ideas that he believes is "in the Bible".

We were visiting my parents the other day, and my dad was teasing my seven year old about something he said that wasn't entirely truthful, so he could blame his sister. My dad said, "You know where liars go, right?"
Ben was confused and didn't answer, so my dad said, "Liars go to hell, and you don't want to go to hell, do you?" Ben doesn't have any idea of hell as the fiery abode of Satan, so he was even more confused as to what his Grandpa was talking about.

Then my dad went on to tell us that it's fascinating how if you're in hell, every direction is up! I joined Ben in confusion at this point. He continued, telling us that the Bible says hell is in the center of the earth, so, logically, every direction is up! Fortunately, Ben was oblivious to all of this, and while I did ask my dad where the Bible said hell was in the center of the earth, my mother intervened and told him that we "don't believe in hell", so he needed to stop talking about it. So, I didn't get to have the conversation I wanted about hell. :blink:

Edited by twoofseven, 31 March 2011 - 10:00 AM.


#11 Freckle

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 10:08 AM

what do you do with a child like my little sister who said "I don't like those Jesus stories, they're yucky!"?
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

#12 Fortigurn

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Posted 03 April 2011 - 11:05 AM

What does she find yucky about them?

#13 Freckle

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 02:23 AM

She liked stories about animals and adventures.

I think yucky equated to boring and moralising. Jesus is presented in quite a sappy way to children sometimes.
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.

#14 Fortigurn

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Posted 07 April 2011 - 02:34 AM

She liked stories about animals and adventures.


I think Jesus can accommodate that.

I think yucky equated to boring and moralising. Jesus is presented in quite a sappy way to children sometimes.


It's all about presentation, certainly. Who wants to hear about the story of the two naked people, the talking snake, and the poison tree?

#15 Greb

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 08:23 PM

She liked stories about animals and adventures.

I think yucky equated to boring and moralising. Jesus is presented in quite a sappy way to children sometimes.


Yes I think Bible stories are often sanitised for children and then the only stories left are ones where not a lot happens (as they may see it). My observation is that stories with violence and death bother children less than they do adults. My 4 yr old son's favourite at the moment is the story about the Egyptians getting drowned in the red sea. I normally try to read one story about Jesus as well as one other story, each day. I think Jesus is important as the only person who shows us perfectly how to live and act.

#16 Hudders

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 09:56 PM

Yes I think Bible stories are often sanitised for children and then the only stories left are ones where not a lot happens (as they may see it). My observation is that stories with violence and death bother children less than they do adults. My 4 yr old son's favourite at the moment is the story about the Egyptians getting drowned in the red sea. I normally try to read one story about Jesus as well as one other story, each day. I think Jesus is important as the only person who shows us perfectly how to live and act.

I understand where you are coming from here. When I was a kid/teen, I used to happily read stories about death and people being 'destroyed' without batting an eyelid. Towards the end of my teens, however, I gradually began to realise more and more that the people being 'destroyed' were in fact real people like you and me and that the stories should be read somberly rather than with a "woohoo, take that, sinners!" kind of attitude. There is a danger I think in presenting stories involving death too casually, as I have on a number occasions noticed the "woohoo, die evil ones!" attitude still present in people's minds later in life, which can be especially disturbing when this attitude is noticed by outsiders.

There are certainly good reasons why Song of Solomon or the rape of Dinah or the last two chapters of Judges are not usually discussed in Sunday School. It is a good idea to present positive stories, with the more negative stories presented with caution.

Edited by Hudders, 12 April 2011 - 06:48 AM.


#17 Greb

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 06:36 AM

I understand where you are coming from here. When I was a kid/teen, I used to happily read stories about death and people being 'destroyed' without batting an eyelid. Towards the end of my teens, however, I gradually began to realise more and more that the people being 'destroyed' were in fact real people like you and me and that the stories should be read soberly rather than with a "woohoo, take that, sinners!" kind of attitude. There is a danger I think in presenting stories involving death too casually, as I have on a number occasions noticed the "woohoo, die evil ones!" attitude still present in people's minds later in life, which can be especially disturbing when this attitude is noticed by outsiders.

There are certainly good reasons why Song of Solomon or the rape of Dinah or the last two chapters of Judges are not usually discussed in Sunday School. It is a good idea to present positive stories, with the more negative stories presented with caution.


Yes that is a good point. Kids do start life pretty self centred and not particularly considerate of others. One of a parent's responsibilities is to start teaching them to have a compassionate attitude, be loving, share, be gentle, etc. So the way the stories are told and presented is of key importance - that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, he would rather they repent.

#18 Mercia2

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 02:10 PM

Yes that is a good point. Kids do start life pretty self centred and not particularly considerate of others.


Im not so sure about that as a general rule?
"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” = "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" = "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" Psalms (104:1) = "They saw what seemed to be flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2 - the secret is over, your ministering angel you need to be saved is the Holy Spirit.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/20950-holy-spirit-mercia/

Mark Of The Beast - his Name is the charachter/image of the medievil popes (now modern man)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/4997-mark-of-the-beast/page__pid__439951__st__120#entry439951

Historicists - Dual Fulfillment (seven thunders = more literal warning)
http://www.btdf.org/forums/topic/14248-historicists-revelation-has-a-dual-fulfillment/

#19 daysha

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 04:16 PM

...God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, he would rather they repent.

:yep:
Do all to the glory of God. Read His word prayerfully, think about it, meditate upon it and do.

#20 Greb

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Posted 12 April 2011 - 09:01 PM

Yes that is a good point. Kids do start life pretty self centred and not particularly considerate of others.


Im not so sure about that as a general rule?


Children are without understanding, and as a result self centred. If babies want anything they cry until someone comes to attend to them. They don't give any thought to how convenient this is to mum or dad or how tired they might be. This is not counted as sin because they are ignorant. Children can start to learn at a young age, perhaps around 2 onwards, about right and wrong (Isa 7:16). So yes slightly older children are not necessarily self centred, if they have learned about considering others (Prov 20:11). This is going to be a long (life long?) process though. And real appreciation of suffering and loss often only comes with life experience.




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