Telling Bible stories to our children is a wonderful opportunity to teach them of God’s love. Telling these stories with love and enthusiasm will ensure the children want to hear more. Because despite all the electronic gadgets available, children still love to be told a good story. And what better stories to be excited about than those from God's Word. So let’s get our children enthused to listen and learn with the following six tips:
1. Imagine yourself in the story
Step into the story so that you can feel what is going on. Every time I read or tell the story where Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers, I get goosebumps. Hannah’s prayer for a child brings tears. I feel how alone Jesus was in Gethsemane, and amazed when he says ‘Mary’ on that first Easter morning - how special that moment must have been for Mary, especially as she thought Jesus was dead. That one word ‘Mary’ sends shivers down my spine.
2. Choose the level of language
Understand the age and maturity of your audience and tell the story accordingly. Also, assess what facts are relevant for the age group. For example, younger children don’t need to know that Rahab was a prostitute (Joshua sending the two spies to Jericho). Nor would they necessarily understand that the big fish disgorged its stomach contents (Jonah) onto the beach. They may be familiar with ‘vomit’ but for most, ‘spewed’ would capture their imagination.
3. Choose the level of drama
Many of the well-known Old and New Testament stories of giants, shipwrecks and escapes from prison are wonderful to tell (be careful though - if it is a bed-time story, you don’t want the children having nightmares about being eaten by lions or chained up in a jail). To emphasise the drama, put the stones in David’s (imaginary) sling and make the circles with your arm faster and faster before letting go. Pretend to be a lion with its mouth closed and try to talk – that was how God kept Daniel safe all night. Whisper slowly the story as Peter escapes from prison. Look up and (pretend to) spit out and cough and brush off pieces of roof as the paralytic man’s friends break through the roof above you.
4. Involve your audience
Ask the children to suggest what the boy might have said when he produced the five loaves and two fish. Ask what happens when you have something in your tummy which makes it really sore – you spew – that’s just what the big fish did with Jonah. How many lepers did Jesus make better? How many came back to say ‘thankyou’? What might that mean?
5. Teach them about God's character
You do not need to preach at your children – what a turnoff – but during a story, point out how God was there for that person. For example, in the story of Joseph, did he really deserve to be sold as a slave? When all was going well, did he deserve to be thrown in prison and forgotten? God was with Joseph and in his case, there was a happy ending. That doesn’t always happen, but helping kids understand that God is with us always (even when things don’t work out how we anticipated) is a great promise to always remember. Jacob thought he was on his own once he left Canaan, but God told him otherwise. Just telling that part of the story in a positive way is enough to get the message across that God is always with us. Gideon was afraid to do something he had never done before – lead an army – but God was not angry with him when he asked for reassurance. Often, just the tone of voice and a smile can convey the message without the need for further explanation.
6. Tell stories as a serial
This is a really fun way of making a Bible story exciting. Where possible, I finish a story with a question. For example, 'what was going to happen to Joseph in Egypt?' 'would Daniel be safe all night with the lions?' 'would the paralysed man’s friends manage to get him to Jesus?'. I then follow the questions with 'I’ll tell you the answer next time'. Kids love it.
I cannot underestimate the importance of teaching children the stories from the Bible. It gives them the grounding for knowing what God is really like, not what we want or imagine him to be. In whatever situation our children find themselves, it's great for them to know that God loves them and is with them throughout all the ups and downs of life.
About the author: Karina Shim’s passion for sharing the Bible (in particular the Old Testament) with teens and adults was the motivation for her writing Bible Stories For Big Kids.
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