Bringing the Bible to Life
We know that the Bible is anything but boring, but how do we communicate this to children, encouraging them to read it for themselves? Author and storyteller Andy Robb gives us some tips for bringing the Bible to life, with the help of one of his creations…
Let’s begin with the story of David slaying Goliath. We grown-ups are more than likely to be drawn to it by the lessons we can learn from David’s fearless and unswerving trust in God, and the recognition that these worthy qualities were honed through years of adversity tending his father’s flocks on the lonely hills of Bethlehem. But if you want to get a child hooked on this story, from my experience, you’re probably best off zeroing in on the bit where David slices off the giant’s head. It’s the same biblical account for both young and old but what grabs the attention of each is going to be very different.
The good thing about writing books to bring alive the Bible for kids, is that I get to have a go at seeing things from the perspective of people who are considerably younger (and invariably shorter) than me. What floats the boat of someone my age (I will leave you guessing on that one), and that of a child between the ages of seven and 11, is very different.
The question I get asked more than any other regarding helping children move on with God goes something like this: ‘How do I get my child to read the Bible?’ As the father of two children I understand the heart cry inherent in the question and it’s something that I’m passionate about resolving. So, with that in mind, I thought that it might be helpful to let you in on how I seek to bring alive the Bible to children, in the hope that it might assist the invaluable work you do. Let me introduce you to Professor Bumblebrain – a character from my books who unpacks meaty biblical themes in a digestible way for kids. He’ll be guiding us through the rest of our quest to bring the Bible to life.
Over to you Professor...
Prof B: And about time too! I haven’t got all day. On with the task at hand. Here are my top five tips to help you bring alive the Bible to young folk.
1. Establish the overarching message that you wish your Bible story to convey.
Allow me to give you a ‘for instance’.
In the well-known account of Peter walking on the water you could be tempted to major on his failure to stay afloat, but the stronger message (in my humble opinion), is that when he kept his eyes on Jesus his faith shot up to the degree that he was emboldened to do something which was seemingly impossible.
If you had a brain the size of a large cabbage (like I do) you’d of course also want to look at what made Peter take his eyes off Jesus in the first place (the circumstances around him) to help understand what can scupper our faith.
2. Give the young person a hook to grab their interest - something unusual or funny (depending on the nature of the passage obviously!).
I can take no responsibility whatsoever if you decide to slip in a cheap joke about copious mother-in-laws during the story of Solomon and his many wives. Most unwise!
In fact, let me give you an example of what I mean. In Exodus 34 there is the account of how Moses went back to God for a pair of replacement ten commandment tablets (the world’s first returns policy). Now obviously that’s jolly interesting but what’s even more fascinating is that when Moses returned with the goods his face looked like he’d eaten a weeks-worth of Ready Brek and was glowing big time. To avoid freaking out his fellow Israelites he took to covering his face with a veil. Not only is that fact rather good but it points to the amazing transformation that an encounter with God can have on any one of us.
3. View God’s word as seed that you’re planting in children’s hearts.
Before you reach for your trowel and watering can perhaps I had better explain.
The Bible helpfully informs us that God’s word is seed (Luke 8:11 if you must know). If you sow seed with little care for how and where it is planted then there’s every chance that you’ll not see great results. Take the time and effort to creatively work the seed (God’s word) into a child’s heart through active engagement and involvement with them, and the chances are it will take root and bear fruit.
4. Zoom in on the characters (not just the events) of the Bible passage you are using.
What do I mean by that? Simple! We all relate to people (unless you happen to live on your own in the South Pole) so bring out the latent anthropologist in you and have a go at unpacking what makes the people in the story tick. Okay, some of this might be a bit of guess work but it’s fun trying to get under the skin of Bible characters. And why not let the children have a go at this as well? When they see that these aren’t fictional characters but real people who lived long ago it will help them better connect with the Bible passage.
5. Make sure you leave room for the child to come to their own conclusions about the story.
Much as we grown-ups like to have things all sewn up because we think we have the final word on wisdom and understanding (unless you’re me of course, because I do), we would do well to allow a little room for manouevre when it comes to the young folk processing Bible stories. This will serve them well as they grow up, training the youngster to learn to understand God’s word for themselves.
While the very thought of this may scare the pants off you dear children’s worker, interaction and opportunity for questions is essential.
And that concludes my top five tips. I trust that my great intellect did not bamboozle you too much.