The Bible can seem intimidating. Its mere size and vocabulary can be a barrier even to the most learned adult picking up and reading it. When you include the scope of literary genre and complexity of spiritual dynamics as a whole, the Bible seems vastly unapproachable to just about anyone, but especially to preteens and younger.
As great as those obstacles seem, the Bible and its message is not something that should be avoided until a person reaches adulthood. We don't simply need more Bible storybooks (though they are helpful, as we will note later)—we need kids actually reading God's Word in its full form.
At the very center of Jewish family life was the importance of teaching children the Bible. The call to Israel was to take the Word of God and, "Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deut. 6:7). For Jewish families, being faithful to God meant teaching their children the Bible and all that it teaches. Passing the stories of God's greatness and goodness from one generation to the next were paramount to ensuring trust and faith in God. For example, Israelites who weren't even born during the Exodus still identified with the story of God's work there as it was passed down first by oral tradition, and then in the pages of the Hebrew Bible itself.
All of this to say, the people of God have always believed that the Bible is something we should teach and impart to our children. Jesus taught that unless you become like a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of God. He furthermore welcomed little children to be near and be blessed by Him (Mark 10:13–16). Taking Jesus's lead, then, we should be sure to teach our children the Bible so that they can know Jesus and be rescued from their sin by Him. We should be carrying on His example of pointing even the little children to Him.
Tell Children the Bible Stories
While some may pause at engaging the Bible because it seems so difficult, often we are surprised by how plain the Bible's stories are. By God's grace, His revelation to us is both simple enough that a child can engage it, yet profound enough that the most educated adult can still ponder and grow from the Bible. The Bible was written largely in historical reports, biographies, poetry, and letters to common people. It was never meant to confuse people.
Woven within all of these genres, the primary format of the Bible is storytelling. The biblical writers were committed to telling the story of God and His people. Instead of giving just data and facts, the biblical writers told vivid and wonder–inducing stories. They told of a great Creator God who made all things, including us, for His glory. They told of God's power and His faithfulness to His people. They told of God's unending love and His justice against evil and sin. They were constantly drawing on past stories and then-modern illustrations to bring their stories to life. The Bible stories capture hearts and imaginations by engaging our sense to hear, see, taste, and feel the life experiences of people in need of God's work to rescue them from slavery, sin, and death.
Families today are no different; they can still teach and make their young children familiar with the Bible through telling the stories of the Bible from cover to cover. Many helpful and engaging storybook Bibles have been published recently to help equip families to teach their children the Bible stories. By using a children's story Bible, kids become familiar not merely with the content of the Bible, but also with the structure and flow of the Bible as well. However, we must help our kids graduate to the Bible itself.
Show Children the Truths of Salvation
More than just telling the stories of the Bible, children must be engaged in the truths that the drama of Scripture unfolds. It's one thing to tell a child that Jesus died on the cross. It is another profoundly important thing to explain why He died; to save us from our sin and reconcile all things broken by sin. Understanding the gospel message and being able to communicate that message from the stories of Scripture will help children respond to what God has done for them.
A simple outline of the gospel will be useful to connect the stories of the Bible to the overarching doctrines of salvation so that children can directly respond through repentance and faith in Christ.
- God Rules. He is the creator and king over everything. The stories of the Bible demonstrate to children that God is the all-powerful King of heaven and earth.
- We Sinned. Our place in the story is our failure. We have disobeyed God. Every story in the Bible illustrates humanity's sinfulness and rebellion against God. The biblical stories show the penalty of our sins as well.
- God Provided. God has been kind, making one unique way for us to be rescued from our sin and its penalty. Even the Old Testament stories point forward to God's rescue and provision for sinners.
- Jesus Gives. Jesus's life, death, and resurrection is the basis of our hope. He did this as a substitute in our place. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John clearly retell the story of Jesus and His gift of salvation for all who believe.
- We Respond. The Bible can often be seen as a moral instruction book on how to live. But the moral directions can only be obeyed as a result of the grace of God. We can show children how to turn from their sin and trust in Christ, as well as showing them how God helps us to obey Him in all things.
Memorize Key Bible Verses
Kids have an incredible capacity to remember and lodge verbatim truth in their minds. We can help children encounter the Bible by encouraging and equipping them to memorize key verses in the Bible. These key verses will point them to the truth of the gospel, equip them to obey God's commands, and enable them to live for His glory in their day-to-day lives. By memorizing Scripture, kids can take the wisdom of God's Word and be enabled to live for God's glory. Let's help them learn this truth: "I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you" (Ps. 119:11, CSB).
Read God's Word Regularly
If nothing else, the simplest and most efficient way to help children engage, apply, and love God's Word is to read it with them regularly. By sitting together as a family and reading and discussing the Bible daily, you will, over time, build a familiarity with the Bible and a growing love for God through His Word.
We must remember that God promises that His Word will accomplish what He has intended for it to do: "Just as the rain and snow fall from heaven and do not return there without saturating the earth… so my word that comes from my mouth will not return to me empty, but it will accomplish what I please and will prosper in what I send it to do" (Isa. 55:10–11, CSB). This promise should encourage and motivate us to make sure our children hear, read, and understand the Bible. God's word is sufficient to save, change, and grow our children to love Him forever!