What Happened to the Bible?

by Karl Bastian Discipleship, Teaching Tips Add comments

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.

Isaiah 55:10-11

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.

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13 Responses to “What Happened to the Bible?”

  1. John Says:

    Excellent points. I must say, that is one of the reasons I love Discipleland since the kids actually need there bibles to use it.

  2. Todd McKeever Says:

    Wow!! Very good points and ones we need to pay attention to quickly.

  3. kbastian Says:

    Yes, that is true. What John means is that DiscipleLand student books are translation independant, which means only refernces are printed, never Bible verses, so your students need to look up the verses in their Bible.

    When my church switched to DiscipleLand, we had to get all new desks! Suddenly teachers were complaining that there wasn’t room on the desks for a student book AND A BIBLE! (Bible were not needed before DiscipleLand) We had to switch to using 8 foot tables and donated all the desks to another church, one I guess, where the kids didn’t need Bibles in Sunday School! ;)

    As long as I am speaking of DiscipleLand, let me mention that level 6 is powerful in that it teaches students how to do inductive Bible study so they are equipped to study the Bible on its own.

  4. Ivy Says:

    You made some very good points. I would love to see more kids value the Bible! Wycliffe Bible Translators offers some good free curriculum to help kids see the value of the God’s Word. (http://www.wycliffe.org/Kids/FreeCurriculum.aspx) It’s a great resource that I recommend checking out, but like you said, nothing replaces the need for the Bible ITSELF in Sunday school.

  5. Dorothea Lander Says:

    Wycliffe has a large Bibleless People Prayer Project, for those who have NEVER had the Word in their language. It saddened me and blew my mind to think of adding literate, Bible-possessing kids to the list of those growing up “virtually” Bibleless, simply because of the approach taken by most popular Sunday School curricula and parents who themselves do not use their Bibles. How can we “Think Like Jesus” as George Barna’s book says, if we don’t know what He said or devote ourselves to His Word?

    I whole-heartedly agree that DiscipleLand is the best Sunday School curriculum out there, bar none. It teaches children how to use their Bibles and gives them a complete Bible 101 foundation by the time they finish Grade 6. That’s why I recommended it to our church, too!

    Blessing,
    Dorothea Lander
    Wycliffe Bible Translators,
    Children’s Communication Coordinator

  6. Nate Cheeseman Says:

    Interesting to that there are over 2,200 language groups without even a verse of Scripture. We call these languages Bibleless languages.

    But for English speakers true we need to ground ourselves in the Scriptures as the source of truth. The Bible and the Holy Spirit need to direct our Christian walk with God.

  7. Joni Lum Says:

    It has become increasingly harder to encourage the kids to bring their Bibles, partly because the adults seem to be trending that way as well. My new church provides Bibles for adults, at my old church, people would bring their own. Now, hardly anyone brings their own. If the adults don’t bring one, it’s a challenge for the kids to bring one.

    I’m been rewarding them, and the kids are bringing theirs more often…but now my challenge is making sure they use it. It’s especially hard during the worship program, the younger kids are sooo slow…so, we’ve been trying to use the Bible during the small group time.

    It’s an uphill battle to fight this trend.

  8. Nikki Hinkle Says:

    Question?? Do you suggest the younger children using
    childrens bibles or using regular bibles. And if using
    bibles not child related what version would you suggest?

    Nikki

  9. Sandy DeHaan Says:

    Excellent article! We found this to be true a few years ago and implemented a way to get kids to bring their own Bibles. (We also have a box of Bibles available for those who forget, which actually happens very infrequently or for visitors.) We purchased rolls of double tickets and every Sunday we give a ticket to the kids for coming, for bringing their Bible, and then we have a time when they can look up verses(young ones have Care Group leaders who help them use the index if needed), also for listening during the Bible story time or for being a helper, or if we catch them doing something special for someone,etc. While we look up verses, we use a a beeper timer so it doesn’t get so long. At the end of our large group time, we draw from a can of all the extra tickets and call out numbers-usually 3- and they get to come up and pick out a gift from our prize box. They love it! It’s a really huge deal for them! I’ve actually heard kids that are upset for forgetting their Bible say to their parents, “Why did “we” forget my Bible??” It usually doesn’t happen again! Our Care Group leaders also implement them in their small group time. It’s actually working!!

  10. Mary Price Says:

    Thank you for your article, things get very busy preparing creative lessons & fitting in The Bible is time consumming yet it is vital for our children to be equipped to find out how amazing God is & how much He loves us & does amazing things for us.I am finding children from none church families want to have a Bible & follow up on the fantatic news they have been hearing about in our mid week group for 7-11’s.
    Our box of Bibles does need a revamp!

  11. Neal Gracey, Deacon (Ordained) Says:

    Fantastic Article!

    I was once reprimanded for teaching the youth in our church from the Bible because they, (the kids and “the Sanhedrian”) thought it was too hard. Can you imagine!

    God’s Word will never return void!

  12. Janette Says:

    This didn’t surprise me at all. In the past 4 1/2 years, we have started giving Bibles away to the Kinders – 2nd, and the 3rd graders get new Bibles and attend a class to learn how to use them along with their parents. For the younger kids, I purchase the NKJV Bible for right now, $1 each. These are simple Bibles, it helps them to have their own, use them on a weekly basis and we encourage daily reading. We use them during gathering time, class time, Wed. nights, and more. My hope is that God’s Word is so stuck that it can never be erased. I know it never returns void.
    We are on the mission field to make Disciples. I love this site!

  13. Sylvia Elrod Says:

    I downloaded a preview of Disciple Land a while back and it is exactly what I feel kids need. My goal is to use this in our childrens church ministry or possibly sunday school. Thank you for using a gift that God has given you, I desire to have the ability to draw so much out of the word of God and be able to inspire our childrens ministry.

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