The Bible is so much more than yet another school subject, yet we often shy away from teaching our children the Bible because we’re just not sure how to go about it. But, it’s not as hard as we think! One great way to both take the challenge out of teaching and make learning Scripture personal and effective is to simply expand on what we are learning ourselves. Bible lessons do not have to take hours and be incredibly in depth to make a difference. Sometimes a five minute story can have a huge impact. Here are some suggestions and tips for creating lessons for multiple learning stages.
Starting Out: Preschool - 1st Grade
Bible stories are the ideal teaching tool for these early years. If you have not already introduced your child to the timeless stories of Scripture, now is a perfect time to start! Even if you have been reading Bible stories to your children since infancy, keep it up.
The key at this stage is to begin to show your child that all of Scripture ties together. This can be done using some fun activities.
Choose a series of stories that repeat characters. Create puppets, find coloring pages, or use other visuals to help show that the people are the same across the different stories.
Choose a story Bible like The Jesus Storybook Bible or The Gospel Story Bible that ties all of Scripture together and read it together.
Create a simple Bible timeline, either in a book or perhaps even using butcher paper on a wall. Label it “The Bible Story.” Each time you read a story, put it on the timeline. You don’t have to use dates for a child this age. Simply showing chronology and unity accomplishes the purpose.
Getting Excited: 2nd - 4th Grades
This is the perfect stage for laying a foundation for the faith that will grow and develop in coming years. Take a look at what you are reading each day and find something that will introduce your child to the Bible’s over- arching theme of redemption. Focusing on that portion of your reading, use these suggestions as a springboard for discussing Scripture with your child.
If you are in a narrative portion of Scripture, read or retell the story to your child. Find coloring pages and let them color while you read. Use puppets, models, or role play to act out stories and truly personalize the events. Encourage your children to think about how they would feel if they were in the story.
As concepts such as grace, mercy, forgiveness, and justice come up in your reading, go ahead and introduce those terms and ideas to your children, even if they can’t be fully understood at this stage.
Match Your Theme
Find picture books, create a parable, or learn songs that match the theme of your current reading, especially for those portions that are not narrative.
Read aloud one chapter of Proverbs each day, starting over each month. For instance, read chapter one on the first of the month, chapter fifteen on the fifteenth, and so on. Choose one verse each day to focus on and discuss.
At the beginning of the week, choose a focal verse from your reading and memorize it together.
Remember, this is the foundation time! Familiarity with the Bible is key, and understanding will be built in coming years.
Beginning to Understand: 5th - 8th Grades
By this stage, many children are bridging the gap between enjoying Bible stories and seeing God work personally in their own lives. If they haven’t already begun sensing the Holy Spirit’s conviction and forgiveness, many will do so in this stage.
Many of the same activities that work for children in the Getting Excited stage will also work for your older children, allowing some adjustments for maturity. Here are some ways to expand on the ideas listed above.
Continue to memorize a Scripture verse from your reading each week, but be sure to dig a little deeper, discussing what the verse means and how it can offer guidance.
Remember that this is the time for digging deeper, preparing your child for the time when they will need to truly hash out what they believe for themselves.
After reading or acting out a story, encourage your children to consider the following questions about the story:
- How does God deal with sin in this story?
- How does God show His perfect love and mercy in this story?
- Did the people in this story need the forgiveness that we can find in Jesus?
- How does this story help us think about Jesus?
Be proactive about discussing theological terms. Not sure of them yourself? This is a great chance to challenge yourself to learn! Ask your pastor for some books geared toward theology for lay people. Or grab The Prince’s Poison Cup, The Priest with Dirty Clothes, or any other book from R.C. Sproul’s children’s book collection, all of which introduce deep theological concepts to children.
Learning to Reason: 9th - 12th Grades
Oh, what a glorious stage this is! Discussing spiritual truths with a spiritually hungry, growing teenager is a powerful experience, whether it leads to excitement or serious conversations.
During this stage, creating a unit study may no longer be the most efficient way to teach Bible. In fact, Bible “lessons” may become less formal and more relational than ever before. Consider these suggestions for changing directions a bit during the high school years.
Pick a Bible reading plan that you can share with your teenager. Each morning, pick something that you can discuss. It might be something new you noticed in this read-through that you’ve never seen before. It could be a fact or an idea. Perhaps it’s just a stray thought that came to you as you read. Whatever the case, find something to spark a discussion.
Take a year and memorize a large passage together, such as the Sermon on the Mount or a short epistle. Each day, discuss thoughts that have come to you as you’ve meditated on the passage. Once a week, quote what you’ve learned to one another. When you’re done, go on a special “date” to celebrate!
Challenge yourself and your teen to dig deeper by choosing an apologetics, biblical interpretation, or theology course that you can work through together.
Remember, this is the stage in which your students are learning to establish and claim their own belief system. Be a guiding force and communicative companion as they search Scripture for themselves.