One of my favorite books is Pride and Prejudice. I enjoy getting lost in the story, whether it’s the book or the mandatory BBC version (Let’s be honest. Collin Firth was born to play Darcy!) I couldn’t wait to introduce my daughter to the world of Jane Austin. Even though she could have read the words at a relatively young age, I waited until she was much older to let her read it. Why? Because until then, she had not lived enough life to really understand the beauty behind the story.
Children are concrete thinkers for much of their childhood. They understand the things they can see, touch, taste, hear, smell and experience. Abstract concepts or things outside of their experience are difficult for them to comprehend. This makes teaching them the Bible a unique challenge. Oh, they can remember the details they are told. They may even have memorized what they are supposed to learn from the story. Comprehending those same ideas is almost impossible for most children. Especially with the current ways we teach children the Bible in many places.
I am a big proponent of hands-on learning at home and in our churches. Children understand concepts better when we can make them more concrete. Every summer, I try to take basic Bible concepts and stories and make them more concrete for our children.
Yesterday we did that with the story of Noah. Our theme this summer in Bible School is “God’s Plans”. The children will be learning about various prophets and how many of the events and the prophecies in the Old Testament pointed towards Jesus. (They are also learning God’s Plans for their own lives.)
We had someone mark off the size of the Ark with four large stakes. Even the adults were amazed at how large the Ark really was. Mentally, you know it is large, but seeing it is overwhelming. As the children walked the length of the Ark, they encountered Noah and his sons getting ready to start building. Noah relayed God’s instructions to his sons, who made him repeat them to make sure they were hearing him correctly.
Once we reached our destination, the children were able to see real dinosaur fossils and hear from a PhD in science how dinosaurs were on the Ark and various other facts which will arm them against any anti-Bible attacks they may hear in the future. (For example, lions and lambs could be next to each other because people and animals were vegetarian until after the Flood. Animals and people were not afraid of each other until after the Flood, etc. Genesis 9:1-3)
Finally, we had a group bring in unusual animals to teach the children the wonder of God’s creation. The children learned wondrous things about the various animals that were too complex and intricate to be from merely chance. They touched everything from a monitor lizard to a baby wallaby to a hedgehog. They even got to see a dove similar to the one Noah released from the Ark.
You may not have all of the resources we did (the only cost was the animal group), but you can mark out the distances for the size of the Ark with your children in your neighborhood. Take them to the Creation Museum or find museums that have fossils of baby dinosaurs. Go to the Answers in Genesis website and learn some Ark facts. Take your children to the zoo and read the facts on the exhibit or attend one of their programs. Point out rainbows in the sky. Make the story concrete and real for your child.
Our children certainly have a new appreciation for Noah and the Ark. They may even remember the symbolism behind the Flood. I am guessing they will never forget touching a baby wallaby at church! The added bonus is that these children now associate one of their most vivid, happy, exciting childhood memories with church. If they ever leave, it may be that memory that helps give them the courage to return. Take a chance this summer and make the Bible concrete for your kids. I will give you several ideas every week of things you can do at home or with the children in your Bible classes.
How do you make the Bible concrete for your children? I would love to hear what you have done in a comment below.