Let The Children Come

“Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.””  (Matthew 19:14 NLT)

let the children come- Bible no footer

As someone who came to faith in Jesus as a child, and who now works with children and young people, often helping them explore the Bible for the first time, this verse is important to me.  Children need to have the opportunity to hear about Jesus and respond to him, and we shouldn’t underestimate their ability to do so.

This is the first in a 3 part series in which I am going to share my own testimony of coming to faith as well as a few insights from my work with children.  This first post focusses on using the Bible with children.

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I remember vividly my excitement and anticipation as I entered the church hall each week, eager to hear the next part of the story.  At the club I attended, we would spend several weeks following the story of one Bible character and, whether it was Joseph left in prison, forgotten once again, or David hiding in a cave from King Saul, I couldn’t wait to hear how events were going to play out.

There was nothing flashy about the presentation- it was quiet and understated with felt figures on a board to illustrate the stories- but God used these times powerfully.  The stories themselves gripped my imagination and, as a child hearing them for the first time, they were full of surprises.

I remember wondering why life had to be so difficult for Joseph.  He was constantly doing the right thing, yet he faced so many trials.

I remember my shock on hearing of David’s encounter with Bathsheba.  Did David, the faithful giant-killer, really do that?

I longed to be able to read the Bible for myself.  I had one I had received as a baby and I tried to read it, but the language was too difficult and old-fashioned.  I didn’t even make it to the bottom of the first page before I had to give up and accept that it would need to wait until I was older.

Then one day, in the church, I happened to pick up a Bible and I began flicking through it.  It was a more modern translation, and when it opened to the story of Joseph, I was excited to discover I could read it!  I asked for a Bible for Christmas that year and never looked back.

As I remember that club, I’m grateful for the love of the Bible that was instilled in me as a child.  Yes, the stories were captivating but, more than that, I began to learn who God was.

Life was not easy for me at the time, but from Joseph’s story I learned that God had a plan, that he could cause challenging circumstances to work together for good, even though it may take a while to see.  It gave me hope and reassured me that bad things happened even to people who were doing their best, but that in the midst of it God was there.  David’s story showed me God’s grace- I couldn’t quite get my head round it but it gave me hope that God could use flawed and imperfect people.

I’m grateful that I had these opportunities, and that now I have the privilege of paying it forward and telling children Bible stories as part of my work.  I love to witness their responses as they hear the stories for the first time- to see their amazement, to listen to their insights and questions, and to see God use it to grow understanding and faith.

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned over the years:

  • God’s Word is powerful.  When I share in schools, it is as part of the curriculum.  Children are learning about what Christians believe, just as they learn about what people of other faiths believe.  I used to find it frustrating not to be able to explain more, but I hold to the verse in Isaiah which speaks of the amazing power of God’s Word and I have found these words to be true: “I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.”  (Isaiah 55:11 NLT)
  • The stories in the Bible are gripping and exciting.  They don’t need to be dressed up with gimmicks.  They just need to be told faithfully and well.  I have seen for myself how Bible stories captivate children and I love when they make comments like, “I thought the Bible was boring but now I see it’s not.”
  • Children need to see how the Bible connects as one big story.  While there are benefits in learning individual Bible stories, even children who are brought up in Christian families can easily end up knowing the stories of David and Goliath, Joseph’s Dreams, Jonah, and Jesus’ Death and Resurrection but have no idea what order they come in or how they are related.  Using a Bible timeline or setting the stories in context helps a lot.  The Jesus Storybook Bible is a good resource.
  • It is helpful to think about our approach in teaching the Bible to children.  In her book “The Seed And The Soil,” Pauline Hoggarth identifies two approaches we can easily fall into:

    “Either the Bible is handled like an important school textbook, a source of information and data to memorize, or it is “managed” as a problematic and dull text that needs to be mediated to children through entertaining activities.”

    While education and entertainment are both good, Hoggarth proposes that our ultimate aim should be for children to encounter God and be transformed, and she suggests a third approach: “an approach that encourages our children to enter with mind, heart and imagination into Scripture as God’s Story.”
    (I’d recommend this book for further exploration of the topic and it is very cheap on Kindle at the time of posting.  You can find it here: UK, US.)

What about you?  I’m aware that I’m scratching the surface of a huge topic here.  I’d love to hear your insights, either from your experience of hearing or reading the Bible as a child, or from your experience of teaching the Bible to children.

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30 thoughts on “Let The Children Come

  1. Was your club a Good News Club?
    I was a teen when I came to faith, and it was the opportunity to teach “clubs” that really discipled me in the faith. What I missed as a child in stories and foundational doctrine, I gained as a teen and young adult through the privilege of teaching kids. Really looking forward to this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was called CE, which stood for Christian Endeavour, and makes it sound really old-fashioned! I just looked it up and apparently it started in Maine!
      I agree, we can learn so much through teaching children. We have to really understand it ourselves to communicate it to them on their level.

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  2. I have such fond memories as a child hearing the Bible Stories told again and again. “The stories in the Bible are gripping and exciting. They don’t need to be dressed up with gimmicks. They just need to be told faithfully and well.” So very true. I have concern that we are so obsessed with making these stories flashy that our children are missing the powerful simple truths which form a foundation for a life of faith. Looking forward to the series!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Joanne. I agree, however the stories are communicated, it is the truths of them that matter and flashy presentation can enhance that at times but shouldn’t be the main focus.

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  3. You are so right about children needing to have a vision of the whole bible. A perfect way to do that is to pull principles out of many stories as we review them with children. Joseph had many adversities but he also had many blessings. Who else in the bible had a pattern of struggle and outpouring of blessings.

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  4. These are great tips for SUCH an important ministry, Kelly. Thank you. It’s true, Bible stories are NOT boring! I teach about once every six weeks are our little church. Really not my ministry, but I do it to serve and enjoy the kids so much!

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  5. The first Sunday school class I taught was 3-4 year olds and I loved it because they took everything as if it was truth. I remember we planted little flower seeds and each week waiting for them to pop out, then watch them grow into a flower. Those kids talked about that to anyone who would listen. Great lesson faith, waiting, God’s provision. I think I got more out of the class then anyone. It’s worth every bit of time one spends with children teaching them God’s Word. I did not get saved till I was 35 so I know how much I missed out on not knowing the bible stories at an early age. I bet most church children know more bible stories then I do.

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Betty! I love how open and receptive children are, and I agree, we can learn so much from them too- both as we prepare to teach them and as we see how they respond.

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  6. Lesley, I LOVE the Jesus Storybook Bible. I’ve used bits of it in writing Advent readings for our ministry (so many have no bible/church background). And I spent years working with kids the group I know was my mom’s favorite to work with. Thanks for sharing your personal story here. It gives much encouragement.

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  7. So good! I fell in love with Jesus through the Bible as a child. I still have the “Precious Moments” edition that my parents bought for me when I was 7. It’s so, so important for all adults in the church to nurture the children’s love if Scripture.

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  8. I love hearing your experience as a child and how you are carrying it forward. I can’t wait for the next post. I remember having a big tan color Bible for kids. I loved looking through the book at the pictures, and when I was old enough, I could read it myself. I agree we don’t have to make it fancy however sometimes the skits really help get to remember the story.

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    1. Thanks, Maree. Yes, I agree, it’s good to be creative and tell the stories in different ways as different things make it memorable for different children. I just think people worry sometimes because they don’t have a lot of resources when a simple approach is often just as effective.

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  9. I didn’t come to Christ until adulthood, but I’ve had the privilege of teaching very young children the Bible. I love their excitement for the Word. They never question anything and take it all as truth. Our favorite time in Sunday School was Bible Character dress up where we acted out the stories. So fun!

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    1. Yes, I love children’s enthusiasm and how much they take in, which means it’s a big responsibility to get it right! And I agree, dressing up is lots of fun and really brings it to life for them.

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  10. So much comes up thinking about this topic, Lesley! I’m looking forward to the other “parts” of you sharing about this. I think what stands out most to me today is your mention of explaining how the Bible is all connected. My husband and I once had to change curriculum and focus for a bit teaching middle school Sunday school because we realized the kids knew about Jesus and then knew about a ton of OT stories and characters, but they didn’t realize any of it was related! So important. Thanks for this thought-provoking post and topic!

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  11. Great points and beautiful testimony, Lesley. Love the idea of showing children how the Bible connects itself. It’s still intriguing to me today, as an adult! 🙂 Thanks for sharing. ((hug))

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  12. I’ve been hearing Bible stories all my life, but I still don’t tire of them. There’s always something new to gain by re-reading an old story fresh from its source. I love how God continues to breathe life into these words! Thanks for sharing this encouragement to stay in the Word, Lesley.

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