Let me ask you a few questions related to children at your church, and the Bible. After each, please pause and reflect on the answer.
RE: Children and the Bible
- Do your children bring their Bibles to church?
- Do your children USE their Bibles at church?
- Are Bibles needed by your children during your programs?
- Do you have Bibles available for children who don’t bring or have one?
- Are there a bunch of battered, torn, and coverless Bibles laying around your church?
- When is the last time you saw a child reading their Bible on their own?
- When is the last time you saw a child reading the Bible?
- Do your lower elementary children know the books of the Bible by memory?
- Can your upper elementary children look up a Bible verse without help or the table of contents?
- Do you have any children who have marked up, underlined and well worn (from use) Bibles?
RE: YOU and the Bible
- Do you read your Bible often? (outside of lesson preparation)
- Do you use a real Bible when you teach? (other than as a prop you hold up)
- Are your lessons birthed out of the Word, or out of a box or disc?
- If all Bibles in America were banned and confiscated, but any electronic version or use was still allowed, would there be any noticeable change in your lessons and/or program?
- Do you have a marked up, underlined and well worn (from use) Bible?
These questions are meant to stimulate thought, not guilt – though my asking gives away a serious concern I have with what I would call the growing Bibleless Trend in Children’s Ministry.
I travel to many churches as a guest speaker or trainer and am very often stunned by how little need there is for Bibles in most children’s ministries. I consider teaching with and out of a Bible to be the FUNDAMENTAL BASIS of my teaching. I use puppets, object lessons, media clips, illusions and you-name-it, I’ve used it, to creatively teach and engage children, but never as a replacement or substitute for teaching with and out of a Bible. ONLY THE BIBLE HAS GOD’S PROMISE OF EFFECTIVENESS. And yet, the Bible is a rare object in perhaps most children’s ministries today. This is a tragedy!
I have seen churches where none of the kids had Bibles, and when I tried to find some to pass out, or at least to use with 5-6 kids on stage for a Sword Drill – NONE COULD BE FOUND to use. Not in the well-equipped resource room, not in the library PACKED with books ABOUT the Bible, not even battered shameful looking Bibles on shelves in the back of the room. And this has happened over and over in churches around America.
Yes, the Bible is quoted in the PowerPoints, illustrated in the videos, taught through object lessons, acted out in puppet shows… but the Bible itself is mysteriously MIA in many churches! (Missing IN ACTION!)
I don’t care how attractive your ministry facility is, how innovative your program, how creative your teaching – if you are neglecting to teach kids the value of God’s Word by example (teaching with and from it) you ARE TEACHING THEM A LESSON: that the Bible really isn’t that important.
Kids learn by what they SEE – they need to see you teaching with and from an ACTUAL Bible. And the learn by what they DO – reading in and from an ACTUAL Bible.
If the only Bible they see are PowerPoint slides and cartoon re-enactments it is no wonder when they outgrow children’s ministry they outgrow the Bible too.
STEPS FOR ACTION: (If you are feeling even slightly convicted)
- Start reading your own Bible regularly, outside of lesson prep. (If you don’t already) As it impacts your own life, you will have a passion to share its wisdom and insights and power with those you teach!
- Teach with and from a Bible when you teach. You can even print your lesson plan on a half sheet and keep in the Bible so the children constantly see you picking up and looking into the Bible. Even if you are reading notes, the visual message is that the Bible is guiding your lesson.
- Encourage kids to bring their Bible to church. Reward occasionally with a treat – not every week – but occasionally so they know that bringing the Bible is important.
- HAVE KIDS USE THEIR BIBLES as part of your teaching. Don’t put every verse on the screen, just the reference or first half of the verse. Have them look it up. The awkward silence or pause in your “momentum” is worth it!
- Have kids stand up and read passages for you. Have someone there with a microphone if you have a large group.
- Do Sword Drills on the topic of your lesson. If you have a very large group, choose 8-10 kids to come on stage to participate. This not only gives them practical experience looking up verses it shows them that the Bible has a lot to say on the topic. You can give 4-5 sentence teaching moments after each verse read.
- Give Bibles to visitors or any child who doesn’t own one. Personalize it with a message from you about the importance of this book.
- Talk about things God taught you through the Word in your quiet time.
- Encourage kids to ask you questions about the Bible as they read.
- Provide reading plans or bookmarks to the children, reward progress as they read.
- Make the Bible something you and the children USE, not something you talk ABOUT.
- PRAY and ask God to give you creative ideas on how you can make the Bible more central to your teaching and programming.
If you have neglected the Bible in your passion to better reach and teach kids, don’t feel bad – but do something about it
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
So is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
The best way to get God into the hearts of kids, is to get His Word into their hearts!
Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? Jeremiah 23:29
If you truly wants God power in your teaching – don’t just quote His Word – USE His Word!
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
We live in a day and age when there is no end to the new and innovative resources for children’s ministry (and that’s a good thing!) but it may just be the next best thing for your children’s ministry is to return to an emphasis on the Word of God – in practice – not just in word.