Sally Lloyd-Jones on Teaching Children the Bible

I have posted before on what a wonderful resource Sally Lloyd-Jones’ The Jesus Storybook Bible is. However, I was reminded again this past week what a great lesson the book holds for adults as well as for kids.

Last week I had the opportunity to talk to a preschool Mom’s group about reading the Bible to their children. The Jesus Storybook Bible is one of the resources I strongly recommend for young families. I recommend it largely because it presents the biblical story as one story about One character, rather than a collection of random stories and cautionary or moralistic tales. One of the tips I always offer in this teaching to young parents usually comes as a shock: “Resist the urge to jump immediately to application!” I tell them.

I usually get perplexed looks when I say this. The response is understandable. After all, “don’t we believe that the Bible is applicable to life?” “Shouldn’t our kids see how they can live differently on Monday based on what they learn on Sunday?” “Kids need to see just how relevant God’s Word is in day-to-day living.” These are typical responses to my suggestion. Undeterred, I usually follow up by explaining the power of the biblical story and to let the kids “sit in the story” and have them marvel and wonder at the God of the story.

After one such presentation, during a question and answer time, one father related that his teenage daughter wasn’t interested in the family Bible reading anymore. He shared that after he invited her to join in reading the story of David and Goliath the teenage daughter said, “Dad, I’ve already heard that story…its about being brave in the face of our giants.” I won’t soon forget what the father said after sharing his story: “I realized that she has permanently associated that Bible story with a childish application.”

Over at The Gospel Coalition’s website, Lloyd-Jones shares a similar experience concerning another children’s Bible story favorite: Daniel and the Lion’s den. In the post titled, “Teach Children the Bible Is Not About Them” she writes:

One Sunday, not long ago, I was reading the story of “Daniel and the Scary Sleepover” from The Jesus Storybook Bible to some 6-year-olds during a Sunday school lesson. One little girl in particular was sitting so close to me she was almost in my lap. Her face was bright and eager as she listened to the story, utterly captivated. She could hardly keep on the ground and kept kneeling up to get closer to the story.

At the end of the story there were no other teachers around, and I panicked and went into automatic pilot and heard myself—to my horror—asking, “And so what can we learn from Daniel about how God wants us to live?”

And as I said those words it was as if I had literally laid a huge load on that little girl. Like I broke some spell. She crumpled right in front of me, physically slumping and bowing her head. I will never forget it.

It is a picture of what happens to a child when we turn a story into a moral lesson.

When we drill a Bible story down into a moral lesson, we make it all about us. But the Bible isn’t mainly about us, and what we are supposed to be doing—it’s about God, and what he has done!”

This is an excellent reminder, not only for children but for adults as well: The Bible is not primarily about you. Of course the Bible is concerned with moral issues. God’s Word does not shy away from mentioning the devastation and pervasiveness of human sin. Most certainly the Bible’s stories are for our instruction (cf. 1 Cor 10:1–6). And of course God is interesting in bringing a wayward and unrighteous humanity back to righteousness. However, God does not do so merely by offering a moral code for humans to follow so as to right their own ship. The Bible is not a principally a handbook on how to be good and live for God. Rather, it is the story of how God has redeemed a fallen humanity through the life, death and resurrection of his Son and has opened the door to life and righteousness through faith in him. That is what – or rather, Who – this story is about. It’s not primarily about you – it’s about Him. As Lloyd-Jones’ subtitle suggests: “Every Story Whispers His Name” … the name of Jesus.

You can read the rest of her post here.

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One thought on “Sally Lloyd-Jones on Teaching Children the Bible

  1. Love this post, Aaron! ..and what a great reminder to resist the “how about us” talk which I am so guilty of. Thanks for this important reminder!

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