I had a lot of fun this summer leading a Bible study for a group of teen girls. At the end of the summer, I asked what they wanted to study next. Their answer surprised me. They wanted to learn the “rest of the Bible stories”.
I realized after talking with them for a few minutes that we are missing a big part of spiritual training with our children. Parents who are trying to raise their children in a Bible based environment usually make sure their children learn all of the basic Bible stories. Our children are familiar with Adam, Noah, Moses and the major stories of the Bible. When they reach the older years though, they usually start more topical studies which may or may not involve Bible stories. But what about “the rest of the story”.
My small group Bible study has been reading a book about Jewish customs during Jesus’ lifetime on earth. I found it interesting that during this time period the Jewish people used every opportunity to discuss God’s words. In fact it was not unusual for a small group of people to break away during a wedding or other celebration to talk about the Torah or other teachings. This week we even learned that one of the main focal points of meals was to use them as an opportunity to teach their children about God, the stories of the Bible and the lessons to be learned from them.
I have grown to love the Jewish holidays over the last few years. My husband and I were teaching a class of boys in Sunday School who were famous for being “a handful”. I was trying to find material that was challenging, but would keep them active and fed. Learning about the Jewish holidays turned out to be the perfect topic.
As I studied the holidays to prepare my lessons, I became enthralled. I had no idea the Jewish holidays were often looking for the Messiah as part of their celebration. Many of the holidays aligned with events in the New Testament in ways I found amazing. The more I studied, the more I appreciated how intricate and detailed God’s plan was from the very beginning.
Learning about God and understanding His words sometimes means trying to understand some abstract topics. I think one of the reasons parents shy away from teaching their children more Bible at home is the fear of trying to explain concepts like eternity when we don’t totally understand them ourselves.
While I believe it is probably impossible for the human mind to totally grasp some of these concepts, there are ways to help your child begin to understand them in a simple fashion. Young children tend to think only in concrete terms. This means they can understand things better when they can use their senses to examine them. That is why for a small child “love” might mean hugs and kisses. It is also why young children often say “I hate you” when they really mean they are very angry with you. To them anger and hate look alike.
One of my concerns as a Bible class teacher of little ones (and as a parent) is for the children I teach to understand the Bible as history and not as fiction. Unfortunately, there are many people in the world, even some who consider themselves religious, who would argue that the stories in the Bible are fables. To counteract the influences of people in my child’s world who may try to undermine the Bible, I have done everything I could think of to reinforce the reality of the scriptures.
One of the easiest ways to help your child understand that the Bible is about real people, places and events is to continually tell them before you read or tell them a Bible story. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I even separated Bible story time from picture book reading times to create a boundary between the two types of stories.