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.
As part of my teaching reading class in college, we had to teach an adult to read. I learned there are books written especially for older children, teens and adults who struggle with reading. They are called “high interest” books. The vocabulary is easier but the subjects are more interesting to adults than what Dick, Jane and Spot are doing.
The Bible can seem like a very intimidating book to introduce to your child. We think about all of the difficult words and concepts. We remember all those laws and begats and we start to feel a sense of despair. How can we get our child to read all of the great things God has to say to us, if he gets bogged down and never wants to open it again?
I have vivid memories of my third grade Sunday School class. My teacher was a sweet older woman who took scripture memory work very seriously. She would make us write long passages like John 1:1-14 in a special notebook and then take it home and memorize it. Did I mention it was in King James English? (I think I had to walk five miles in the snow to do it!)
I have to admit I probably memorized more long passages of scripture in those few months than I have at any other point in my life. However, I still feel a slight chill when someone says to turn in your Bible to John 1:1-14 or any of the other passages we had to learn.
As our daughter became older, I wanted to find a way to help her start reading the Bible independently on a regular basis. She was a strong reader, so at first I encouraged her to read Genesis in her new student Bible. I soon realized that was a mistake. As with most people, she quickly got bogged down with the “begats” and other concepts that were not stories she could follow.
After numerous trips to Christian book stores, I finally found the perfect transition “Bible” for her. The Student Discovery Bible: A Journey Through God’s Word (Thomas Nelson), pulls over one hundred stories directly from scripture. What I really liked about it, was that in the margins it provided definitions for key vocabulary words, answers to common questions, archaeological discoveries and cultural and historical notes.