The Bible is not an easy book. So if we want to teach young children about God, where should we start? How can we introduce the Bible to them in such a way that they don’t get frustrated and bored, but really learn something?
Start with the basics
All of the Bible is important. There is no single Bible book that we can leave out. But we can differentiate between “Bible basics” and more advanced topics. For young children, we should obviously start with the basics. They first need to know the core message of the Bible; the details can be filled in later. Starting with the basics will also help them to understand where particular stories fit in the larger picture.
The most essential themes are:
- God created the world and everything in it
- Humans and all of creation have been corrupted by sin
- God provided a way to be reconciled to Him: by faith in Jesus Christ
- One day, God will return to judge humanity and to create new heavens and a new earth
Focus on stories first
The Bible contains a lot of stories, and these are especially suitable for children – more so than prophetic books, detailed religious prescriptions, or letters. These stories help children to understand the basic story line of the Bible, but also teach them who God is. For example, the first chapters of Genesis record how the world was created, but also make clear that God is almighty, creative, and good.
They teach us that God communicates with humans, that the relationship with Him has been shattered by sin, but also that the Lord did not abandon humanity after their disobedience. Even when children don’t yet know difficult words like “omnipotence” or “salvation”, the stories will teach them the meaning of these key terms.
Use introductory or supporting materials
In many languages, so-called children’s bibles are available. These are not meant as a replacement of the “real Bible”, but as an introduction to it. Most children’s bibles offer a simplified re-telling of some basic stories, accompanied by pictures. That way, even very young children, who are not yet able to concentrate on large portions of text, get a first impression of the stories they’ll learn in more detail later. Some children’s bibles also contain questions or songs to involve children even more.
Another option, more suitable for somewhat older children, is to support the reading of a simple “normal” Bible translation with pictures. On the website of FreeGospelImages, for example, you can find many great pictures for free. These can help children follow the story line as they listen to you reading. Of course, these pictures and re-tellings always contain a certain amount of human interpretation. Make clear to your child that only the Bible itself is the infallible Word of God, and that all other materials are just meant to help us understand the Bible better.
Incorporate Bible reading into your family life
Many families have more than one child, and not all children will be at the same level. So when you are reading the Bible together as a family, sometimes the older children will hear (simplified) stories they already know by heart, and sometimes the youngest will not understand everything. That is no problem, if you adapt to their specific needs at other moments.
Moreover, try to take time to answer your children’s questions and to talk together about the Scripture portion read. Maybe you could learn some key Bible verses by heart! Even if young children do not understand everything that is read and discussed, they will learn from your reading habits. If they see you taking time to read the Scriptures daily and with reverence, this will teach them that God’s Word is important and relevant for them too.
Help your children grow in Bible reading
Once your children know the basic Bible stories, encourage them to move one step further and also read other Bible portions. These might be more difficult to understand, or more difficult to process and obey. But God’s Word is worth studying. It is a rich and diverse resource containing so many valuable lessons! And of course, we should not stop once we have read the whole Bible once or twice.
The Bible is not an encyclopedia that we can lay aside once we know the stories. It is God’s living and powerful Word that transforms us as we read, and that helps us to get to know the Lord better as we grow in faith. Both adults and children need to hear it over and over again.